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.

Cricket Captain 2018: Suggestions for 2019

In previous versions of Cricket Captain, I’ve flirted a little with Career Mode at domestic level but on the 2018 version, I’ve focused exclusively on my England Career (International Only). I think it’s relevant that I point that out and that the following suggestions are based on my experiences of playing the game in that way…

County Championship Averages Separated by Division.

Having this as a filter option would be a really useful tool when selecting the England team. Obviously runs and wickets etc scored in division one are a better indication of a player’s ability to adjust to Test cricket than contributions made in division two. The same split could be applied where appropriate in the domestic competitions of other countries as well, for example: I think that Sri Lanka has three tiers in First Class cricket.

Women’s Cricket

Even if it would be too much to ask for a full Women’s career mode to be implemented, surely World Cups and Custom Series could be playable options. All that is required are the names of women and maybe some long hair where appropriate. Career records are of course a pre-requisite.

Player Editor

In the early versions of the game, you could at least change a player’s name, I think that the players even had pen pics. It would be great if you could create a player from scratch,  choose their name, age, batting/bowling hand/style, nationality, ethnicity, at the very least their hair colour/style and maybe even which team they begin their career with. You could then for example play an England career, make yourself captain and follow your performances as you soar the run/wicket charts as the years go by. If you could edit as many as twenty players then you could even make up your entire national side out of friends and family.

Stop Early Retirements

I appreciate that early retirements happen (e.g. Fabian Cowdrey) but Delray Rawlins has disappeared from the last two versions of the game aged about 21. In the previous version he did this despite the fact that he had been capped in ODIs. What’s additionally weird about this is that in my current game, there are players that are as old as 36 who have never even played a domestic game but they can still be selected for England!

Squad Injury Replacements

If a player gets injured on tour, it’d be great if you could be provided the option to call-up a replacement. It’d also be good if even when playing at home, occasionally a player might get injured on the morning of a match, so in a Test match for example, your options would drop from thirteen to twelve.

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A-Teams

Tying into the injury replacement, it would be hugely beneficial to have A-Teams/England Lions squads in the game. You could have three options:

  1. Select and play
  2. Select and simulate
  3. Auto select and simulate

This would be hugely beneficial during winter tours when it can be difficult to get the best out of players that are out of form.

More Tour Matches

The tour match feature is half-baked, it’s an unreal element of a game that’s good because it seems real! It would be really helpful for the same reason as mentioned previously. When players are out of form on winter tours you need some way to get them back into form. Currently some tours have warm-up matches and some don’t. If gamers don’t want to play them they can simulate them or, similar to my A-Team suggestion, it could be an option at the start of a career to either have them in your game or not.

Breakdown of Dismissals

Let’s say that my best bowler has taken 500 Test wickets. I’d like to know how many were  bowled, how many were LBW, how many were stumped etc. Also, it’d be great to know how many left to right handers have been dismissed by the bowler. This information could be presented in pie chart form similar to some of the graphics already in the game. Similar stats would be welcome for batsmen too. How many times have they been dismissed caught etc, how many times have they been dismissed by a left-arm bowler or by a spin bowler. This information could be used when selecting a team.

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Cap Number

In each player’s personal section, it could list which cap number the player is in each format. In Player Records it would be great if you could arrange each match Type (Test/ODI/T20I) by cap number.

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Jack Leach to be Bald!

As it says on the tin, Jack Leach to be bald.

Captaincy Record

It’d be great for a record to be kept of how many matches you’ve played in each format and how many you’ve won and lost. If this was also recorded for each player in the game as well as the gamer then that’d be great. What I mean by that is that there’s an overall record for me playing the game but if for example I’ve had Max Holden and Sam Hain both captain my Test side, I can see their individual captaincy records by format.

Medium Difficulty Level

Currently, the only difficulty levels are Easy and Normal. I’ll be honest, I don’t exactly dominate at Easy level and based on previous experience the less said about hard the better. Having three difficulty levels: Easy, Normal and Hard could really help some gamers stick with the game.

Have you played Cricket Captain recently or in seasons past? Do you have any viable suggestions to enhance the game without compromising its core qualities?

Telegraph Fantasy Cricket: CC/ODC 2018

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The above is my first XI. It’s in the all-rounder roles that I’ve gambled with Rhodes and Rawlins. Rhodes has moved from Yorkshire to Warwickshire so should see increased game time and will be keen to show what he’s capable of. Rawlins made an impression in the North v South matches and this should be his breakout season. Simpson is a reliable wicketkeeper and I think there is real logic in the stumper being captain. I’ve plucked for a possibly slightly under the radar bowling attack and expect Mennie and hopefully Hutton to contribute runs too. I’ve very deliberately selected batsman that will at least occasionally bowl and should get opportunities in both formats of the game.

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For my second XI, I’ve gone for the two all-rounders that I consider guaranteed runs and wickets. I’ve opted for a reliable batting unit and expect Fell to return to form this year. Though my bowling unit may not be guaranteed outings in both codes, Coad and Footitt are wicket takers in the First Class format. Mahmood is coming into the campaign off the back of impressive performances in North v South and Nijjar, a useful spin bowler, has been opening the batting for Essex pre-season. What happens to Alastair Cook with England may determine Nijjar’s opportunities. If Roderick is available throughout the season, he should be steady away behind the stumps and with bat in hand.

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Have I ever mentioned that I like Ben Duckett?

Mitchell is as consistent as they come and bowls too. Smith has returned to Durham and I expect plenty of runs from the experienced head back up north. Alongside him, Brook is primed for his breakthrough campaign after debuting last term. Kuhn may not keep wicket but is a solid performer at domestic level. My bowling attack may receive England and England Lions call-ups but have runs as well as wickets in them in both formats. Bresnan is as solid an option as Patel and Bopara and van der Merwe is a destructive player.

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In my fourth XI, I’ve gone Warwickshire and England veteran heavy in my batting line-up, messrs Trott and Bell leading the charge. Bell-Drummond will be looking to kick-on and fingers crossed for a run-filled renaissance from Nick Compton. Like Kuhn, Pope may not always keep wicket but will be playing regularly and in the runs this year. Berg is as reliable as anyone with the ball and Procter prospered last term having relocated to Northamptonshire. I want a bit more from Barker and Rayner this year. Fletcher is back from injury and if Overton, rated 3!, can stay fit then he’s a shrewd selection.

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In my fifth XI are the other players that I like who I couldn’t squeeze into my first four teams. Northeast has moved to Hampshire but is as reliable as they come with the bat. Wells is solid in the First Class game as is Burns. Dent is an under rated player too. McManus gets the gloves with the experienced Clarke, back at Surrey, and less experienced but quick Chappell in the all-rounder roles. Hopefully Norwell has shrugged off any injury niggles. Ball will be left to play county cricket this term whilst Patterson is another of my reliable picks. Qadri made an impressive debut last year and will look to back it up.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve avoided selecting players that will be on England duty. It’s steady away county pros that you need sprinkled with one or two yet to be discovered gems just primed to be this year’s Ben Coad.

Let me know what you think about my teams and which one is likely to win me the massive cash prize of……….. £3,000!

https://fantasycricket.telegraph.co.uk/county

Disclaimer: I’ve since been tinkering away, so my teams don’t look quite the same as above. I’ll keep you up to date once the campaign commences!

Six to Watch: 2018

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It’s that time again. With the 2018 English county cricket season rapidly approaching (No it is, honestly!), Silly Point profiles six players to, as the name of the article suggests, watch this term.

Tom Fell (Worcestershire)

The one man on this list who was actually included in the 2017 edition of ‘Six to Watch’. Having battled back from cancer, Tom Fell sadly had a batting horror show in 2017. I guess you could say that his form rather ‘fell’ away! This year will surely be different for the Worcestershire right-hander. Still only twentyfour-years-old and with over 3000 First Class runs to his name, Fell’s most productive years should lie ahead.

Ollie Pope (Surrey)

Having dropped an extremely costly dolly off Alex Hales in the One-Day cup final last year, nineteen-year-old Pope bounced back to record a maiden First Class hundred at Hampshire before the season’s close. Highly regarded by those at Surrey, he should now expect more regular first team opportunities. Whether or not he’ll be required to do much wicketkeeping remains to be seen. That vocation may lie in whether or not Ben Foakes can squeeze into the England XI.

Hamidullah Qadri (Derbyshire)

Afghanistan born off-spinner Qadri arrived with an economical bang in 2017. His first 15 overs in First Class cricket cost a miserly 16 runs and he followed up that introduction with a five-wicket haul in the second innings of his debut match. Derbyshire may do well to retain his services but if they can and he can back up his early performances then the barely seventeen-year-old could help haul the unfashionable county out of the doldrums. Hopefully with him on board, they can avoid going another two years without a County Championship victory. No pressure Hamidullah!

Delray Rawlins (Sussex)

Having represented Bermuda, precocious talent Rawlins is now very much on England’s radar and having flirted with Sussex’s first team last season, will hope to cement a regular spot this term. He’ll want to be recognised as a specialist top-order batsman as well as offering plenty with his slow-left-arm bowling.

Will Rhodes (Warwickshire)

A former England junior captain, it never really worked out for Rhodes at Yorkshire. There was a brief stint as a stoic opening batsman but maybe a lack of clarity over what exactly his role was. A capable all-rounder, Rhodes will hope to rekindle his career, like a few others, with Ashley Giles and co. at Warwickshire.

Olly Stone (Warwickshire)

Hopefully fully recovered from injury, Stone, another Warwickshire recruit and one of those players mentioned in dispatches as being a genuine pace bowler and even future Ashes tour candidate, will be desperate to get playing regularly and be amongst the timbers. Having returned from injury last year, the former Northamptonshire man conceded a half-century of runs in the T20 cup final and will be eager to put that performance and his injury hell firmly in the past.

Silly Point will revisit ‘Six to Watch’ both during and come the conclusion of the 2018 county cricket campaign to see how the sextet have performed.

Cricket Captain 2017: Summer 2018 Report

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We commenced the summer with a comfortable win against Pakistan in the first Test before following it up with an uncomfortable defeat in the second. In the absence of IPL duo Ben Stokes and Chris Woakes and following the decision to omit Stuart Broad and James Anderson from the Test squad, there were mixed performances from the likes of Sam Curran, Liam Plunkett, Jofra Archer and Ben Coad.

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Yorkshire’s Ben Coad struck with his first delivery in international cricket.

In the second Test both opening batsmen, Surrey duo Mark Stoneman and Rory Burns were fighting to save their international careers following lean Ashes series and appalling first Test performances. Having made 9 in the second innings Burns broke his rib and was understandably forced to retire hurt. Stoneman however dug deep to pass 1000 Test match runs. The former Durham left-hander reached fifty (74) for the first time in seven Tests to preserve his Test career.

After losing the first ODI we hit back to record a 4-1 series win. The leg-spin duo of Adil Rashid (10 wickets @ 17.90) and Liam Livingstone (8 @ 21.25) shared plenty of wickets and a rejuvenated Liam Plunkett (9 @ 15.33) claimed a healthy amount of victims too. Bermuda born Delray Rawlins made an impressive 60 on debut.

Despite Somerset’s Craig Overton striking with his first ball in international cricket, the sole T20I ended in defeat.

At the end of Pakistan’s visit we had maintained our unbeaten series records in Tests and ODIs since the start of my tenure but following the New Zealand series, had lost back to back T20I series.

Next up came India and the first Test has gone down in history as one of the greatest of all time. Unfortunately for Liam Plunkett, he’ll be remembered as the man who dropped the match. The Yorkshire quick failed to grasp a straightforward match-winning caught and bowled chance in the penultimate over of the final day’s play before the visitors held on by just one wicket. By the time the series neared its end we led 1-0 but promptly lost the last match of a Test series for the third series in a row, resulting in a series draw for the third straight series. There were positives however, most notably Mark Stoneman’s return to form (418 runs @ 41.80 including 160 in the fourth Test) and Gloucestershire pacer Liam Norwell’s debut match figures of 7-89.

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Debutant Liam Norwell (7-89) made the most of good domestic form to lead England’s charge to victory in the third Test.

Others found things harder though. Having replaced the injured Rory Burns at the top of the order, Kent’s Daniel Bell-Drummond made scores of 98 and 54 on debut at Lords but failed to pass 21 in the next four Tests. Durham pacer James Weighell claimed 4-99 in the fourth Test but his 12 series victims came at more than 60 apiece with a strike rate in excess of 100!.

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Durham’s James Weighell found the step up to international cricket a big one.

The ODI series would prove frustrating as despite leading twice we failed to defend 331 in the final match thus resulting in a 3-2 series loss and our first ODI series defeat in nearly two years. Captain Chris Woakes found the going particularly tough.

Despite the defeat, there were plenty of positives to come out of an extremely competitive series. These included Sam Curran’s consistency with the ball. At just twenty-years-old, Curran already has 31 ODI wickets to his name at an average of just 25.90. On reflection, the decision to rest him from the fourth ODI was probably a misguided one.

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Surrey’s Sam Curran has taken to international cricket like a duck to water but may have to focus solely on ODIs for the immediate future.

Another positive was Liam Livingstone’s contribution to the cause. After performing tremendously well with the ball against Pakistan, Lancashire’s Livingstone, after a few cameos, upped the ante with the bat. This was more evident than ever in the fourth ODI when Livingstone produced a marvellous innings of 127 not out, his maiden international hundred.

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Lancashire’s Liam Livingstone (127 not out) showed he’s right at home in the international arena.

Kent’s Sam Northeast struck 72 on debut in the fifth ODI after replacing the struggling Delray Rawlins. Sussex’s Rawlins was twice run out in single figures during his four innings in the series and failed to pass 22. It was a disappointing follow up to the debut 60 he hit against Pakistan and he may be well served to return to domestic cricket to further his education before donning England colours again. His time will come.

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Adil Rashid: Best bowler in the world but can’t get a game!

It was also a frustrating summer for Adil Rashid. Having topped the Ashes bowling averages the Yorkshire leggie had to make do with 12th man duties for many of the Tests (Jack Leach the preferred spinner) and despite being ranked the number one ODI bowler in the world, he was unable to force his way into the limited overs XI against India. In truth, the pitches were not really crying out for spin. His frustration was probably exasperated when Hampshire’s Mason Crane claimed four wickets in four balls on T20I debut. Having gone around the park (0-33) in his first two overs, captain Eoin Morgan made the brave call to stick with Crane and the decision paid dividends. Crane finished with figures of 4-48 to display the sort of character and temperament required to prosper at international level. Cynics will say that the tail were slogging but Crane prevented India from getting away before the team classily chased down 186 to win the sole T20I and finish the summer on a high. At just twenty years of age, Crane should have an important part to play for England in all formats for the next decade or more.

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Hampshire’s Mason Crane (4-48) took four wickets in four balls on T20I debut!

Another youngster who impressed on debut was Worcestershire’s Joe Clarke. Coming into international cricket off the back of outstanding domestic form, Clarke hit 26 from just 9 deliveries to seal victory following Crane’s heroics.

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Joe Clarke: 9 balls, 26 runs. International Cricket: Easy!

The contributions from the likes of Crane and Clarke will have been of huge relief to T20I captain Eoin Morgan. Speculation about his position had been mounting following back to back series defeats and no win in four matches but Morgan led the charge both in the field and with the bat on one of English cricket’s greatest nights.

Next for the team is a tough tour to Sri Lanka. The Test squad will be announced exclusively here at Silly Point later today!

Robbed!

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At the commencement of the 2017 county campaign, Leicestershire ruthlessly decided that they wanted opening batsman Angus Robson out of the First XI. They opted to pair young Harry Dearden with not so young Paul Horton at the top of the order and so Robson departed in rather unceremonious fashion. Leicestershire appear to have since given up on Dearden, temporarily at least. They’ve snapped up Surrey stalwart Arun Harinath on loan. No disrespect to Harinath but that doesn’t really add up does it?

The early season headlines seemed to suggest that Robson had joined Sussex but it soon became clear that it wasn’t quite so straight forward. Robson had joined the Hove outfit but only on a season long Second XI trial. If anything that was probably a bit embarrassing for a determined twentyfive-year-old with just shy of 3000 First Class runs. Anyway, it looks as though Robson might get a chance in the Sussex first team in 2018, possibly at the expense of Chris Nash. Nash has been a good servent to Sussex but hasn’t hit his straps this year when opening alongside young Harry Finch. Bermuda born Delray Rawlins is also part of the equation now.

Back to Robson, his recent outings for Sussex 2s have been pretty productive:

97, 15*, 34, 31*, 0, 66, 70*, 63*, 110*, 35, 59*

That first score of 97 may confirm why he finds himself in his current predicament. In the First Class game he has 27 half-centuries but only two hundreds. That’s possibly the difference between his average of 31.52 and maybe 35 plus. To be fair, reviewing those Second XI scores shows us that he’s finished undefeated on quite a few occasions as well as registering a century.

We’ve recently seen his brother Sam get back into the England Lions fold, hopefully next term we can see little brother Angus can regain a place on the First Class circuit.

Also at Sussex, former England paceman Ajmal Shahzad has left the club. I met Shahzad earlier this year outside of cricket and he was kind enough to ‘talk cricket’ with me. Hopefully he’ll find a new home, stay fit and have three of four years racking up the wickets.

Could he go to Surrey?

I’ll admit it, I’ve given up hope of Mark Footitt playing for England. Going to Division Two won’t help his chances though to be fair, returning to Nottinghamshire he’ll be surrounded by internationals. With Luke Fletcher out for the season and Stuart Broad and Jake Ball in the England reckoning as well as James Pattinson’s future uncertain then Footitt will have a part to play. Hold on! Surrey are well stocked with quicks so could Shahzad even return to Notts?

English county cricket becomes more like the Premier League everyday when it comes to transfers. Maybe Footitt and Shahzad could be opening the bowling at Trent Bridge before the summer is out!