Cricket 19: North Western Hemisphere Test Championship – American… AmeriCan’t!

By the time USA, having won the toss and chosen to bat reached 41 without loss, our frustration was growing. We’d conceded unnecessary overthrows and failed to review an LBW shout that would’ve gone in our favour. Eventually Stuart Broad delivered the pink orb on target with the stumps before they too lit up a shade of pink, fluorescent pink. What the Edgbaston faithful made of such modern gimmicks one can only wonder! The wonderfully named John-James Morrison’s knock of 12 was double his Test average but his end meant that Stuart Trujillo, averaging north of fifty, strode to the crease. Moeen Ali soon put the paid to those numbers however. After a difficult game in Canada, Moeen was on the mark straight away. Jonny Bairstow, who hadn’t exactly covered himself in glory upto that point in the innings, claimed a sharp catch to remove Trujillo. Replays were inconclusive as to whether or not the left-hander’s bat actually connected with the ball. Following the LBW reprieve earlier in proceedings, maybe we could call it evens. The anticipation of precipitation then proved correct. Sky water descended with USA 57-2.

By the time the heavens opened for a second time, the visitors had reached 73 still only two wickets down. Then, after James Anderson completed his over, Sam Curran struck with the first delivery of his. Martin Potter (45) was the victim, trapped LBW. Potter had benefited from a few overthrows early in his innings but cast a spell on our bowlers, displaying the sort of wizardry that his namesake Harry would’ve been proud of. The interruptions in play may have unsettled him and contributed to his demise.

Next man Tahla Pittman struggled against Curran from the get go and was soon excellently caught and bowled for 6 off a leading edge by the Surrey teenager. Curran then sent Jackson North south for a duck, rearranging his timber in the same over. Another left-armer, the recalled Liam Dawson then snaffled Henry Wilks for just 1. Dawson was benefiting from the long term injury absence of the unfortunate Jack Leach. The wicket was courtesy of more sharp work behind the stumps from Bairstow after he and Daws had already gone close in the same over. The baton then passed back to Curran who outed Ayan Jeffries (14) as the American procession continued at pace. Shaurya Napier (4) was next to have his woodwork remodelled as Curran claimed a second five-wicket haul in as many matches. After some brief resistance James Anderson terminated Rufus Suarez’s 29-ball vigil on 5 before Asher Kennedy (4 from 47) and Niall Kerr (14 not out) dug in to haul the Americans to 113. Fittingly, it was young Curran who claimed the final wicket of the innings not long after the floodlights had been switched on. It had been an outstanding effort by our bowling attack after USA had reached 77-2 only to lose eight wickets for just 36 runs. Our spinners dried up the runs (Moeen 8-5-4-1/Dawson 8-3-8-1) but it was Curran (6-26) who was on fire for the second Test in a row. Take out the overthrows and USA wouldn’t have even reached three digits.

Buoyed by their performances in the previous match, our opening combo of Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed had reached 70 without loss when Burns drove gloriously through the covers for four. The very next ball however he pushed at a Rufus Suarez delivery that was a bit straighter and pitched up resulting in a nick to the ‘keeper. Replays suggested that the ball didn’t carry but in truth it was a poor shot and Burns’ innings was extinguished. Like Burns, Ben Duckett looked set for a big score but dragged onto his stumps having amassed 23 to leave us 111-2, two runs from parity.

Hameed went onto record his first fifty of the competition and at the close of play on a rain affected first day, had helped guide us to 159-2, a lead of 46.

Following further sky streams on the second day, the start of play was delayed by over an hour. A shortened session though it was, Hameed and Root played low risk cricket against a disciplined bowling unit and improved field placings to progress to inversions of each other’s score, 83 & 38 respectively.

Hameed would go on to register an emotional maiden Test hundred. There were surely times when the Lancastrian thought another opportunity at the highest level wouldn’t present itself but having been given the chance he’s made the most of it.

Hameed and Root compiled a partnership of 123 before the skipper was out caught behind off the bowling of Jackson North. The fall of a wicket came as a surprise to everybody but credit to North for a probing delivery. Having reached fifty exactly, I know that Joe was disappointed not to kick on and emulate Hameed’s efforts.

Like Burns and Duckett before him, Jos Buttler looked in insatiable touch (Not surprising after his ton in Canada), effortlessly reaching 30 from only 23 deliveries before falling to Pittman. Buttler made a horrible misjudgement, leaving a delivery that pitched in the rough and spun back in. Moeen Ali continued the trend of looking in excellent rhythm and soon after the illuminations had been turned on, headed off to tea alongside Hameed who was just one shy of 150.

Following the interval and having added 94 with Moeen, Hameed finally fell for a marvellous 154 from 189 deliveries. It was an epic innings that should serve as the template for our top order batsmen.

Jonny Bairstow (23) also got a start but the thinnest of edges saw him caught behind off the bowling of Pittman. Before long Moeen brought up a majestically mastered hundred but Sam Curran (16) was caught and bowled by the persistent if inconsistent Jackson North. Immediately after bludgeoning the premier six of the match, Moeen (125) was caught off a full toss off the bowling of Asher Kennedy. We declared on 493-8, a lead of 380 runs and welcomed the visitors to bat again under lights late on day two.

A word again though for messrs Hameed and Moeen. Hameed built on the starts he’d made in the previous match and was unaffected by any wickets that fell around him. He didn’t just pass 100 either, he went big! Moeen was assertive but measured. He struck some stunning boundaries but worked the gaps too. The rest of our batting order, all of whom made starts, should learn from their peers.

We were unable to claim a wicket in the five overs before close and lost over an hour to the showers again at the start of day three. By lunch however James Anderson had dismissed first innings top scorer Martin ‘The Wizard’ Potter for just 4. There’d be no magic shows from him this time. Abracadabra!

JJ Morrison defended stoically (And at times painfully!) meanwhile Stuart Trujillo took the attack to our… attack and was undefeated on 37 when the kettles were boiled.

JJ Morrison’s resistance soon came to an end. Thoroughly worked over by Moeen, he was put out of his misery when his stumps were demolished and his torturous 78-ball 9 was over. Jeffries (14) hung around but was out to Broad before Moeen thought he had Pittman LBW second ball but the decision was correctly overturned. Moeen kept his head up though and terminated top-scorer Trujillo’s bold knock of 75. Liam Dawson then got in on the act and deservedly so. Tahla Pittman was the victim, nicking behind on 21 when you could smell that tea was ready! USA sat down for their platters on a respectable 135-5 but still a mammoth 245 runs in the red.

In the final session, Stuart Broad knocked over the American batting line-up like the proverbial deck of cards. Sadly for the visitors, it was Broad who held the ace up his sleeve! Wilks (8), North (26), Napier (4) and Kennedy for a golden duck were all victims as Broad claimed 5-50 as a result of some high class bowling. Moeen Ali claimed the other remaining wicket to finish with fabulous figures of 3-45 from 16 overs of consistent probing. it was an excellent response in the face of criticism from some quarters following his performance in Canada. Jonny Bairstow added five more victims in the innings to what now stands as a tournament topping tally of 22.

In the end the margin of victory was a whopping innings and 209 runs. Credit to the USA who stuck to task with the ball and improved second time around with willow but it was never going to be enough against our most complete performance so far.

Scotland remain top of the tree after thrashing the Dutch. A Kyle Coetzer century and yet more wickets for Mark Watt paved the way for a win.

Next up for us we entertain Ireland at Old Trafford. Like us they’ve won two matches and lost one so it’s a huge game as we try to stay within sight of the Scots. Look out for our squad announcement tomorrow afternoon.

Cricket 19: North Western Hemisphere Test Championship – Squad Announcement

Following our hugely encouraging win away against a competitive Canadian outfit, it’s onto Edgbaston for a pink ball day/night affair against the United States of America. That’s not a Test match encounter that many would’ve envisaged until recently but herein lies the beauty of the recently formed North Western Hemisphere Test Championship, something we’re immensely proud to be part of.

Our squad for the match is as follows:

Joe Root (Captain)

Rory Burns

Haseeb Hameed

Ben Duckett

Jos Buttler

Moeen Ali

Jonny Bairstow (Wicketkeeper)

Sam Curran

Liam Dawson

Stuart Broad

James Anderson

Dawid Malan

We’ve opted to make one change to the playing XI that took to the field in Canada. Hampshire slow-left-armer Liam Dawson replaces Chris Woakes on what we anticipate will be a surface that offers assistance to the spinners. Woakes is rested from all cricket meanwhile Ben Stokes is not included in the party but is available for selection at domestic level. Barring a last minute injury, Dawid Malan will act as twelfth man as he continues to push for a place in the playing XI.

Cricket Captain 2018: Statistical Highlights… and Lowlights!

Five full years into my tenure as Coach/Selector of the England cricket team, here’s a round-up of the highs and lows that we’ve experienced as a collective thus far…

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Yes that does say 43 all out against Pakistan at Edgbaston! That’s an England all-time low and a slap in the face for our decision to bat exclusively (And optimistically) for a draw. The sweet success of 806 against Sri Lanka in Kandy seems a long time ago.

Joe Root’s 292 against India in Nottingham, came after he’d been dismissed for 230 twice during my tenure and in the same innings that James Vince briefly (Very briefly) held the record when making 246.

Leg-spinner Matthew Parkinson’s 7-82 against New Zealand, also at Edgbaston, are the best individual bowling figures in an innings while Stuart Broad’s 11-98 against West Indies in Jamaica in 2019 remain our best match analysis.

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The year before the 43 all out debacle, 436 against the same opponents in Leeds, had been a none too shabby effort in a One-Day International. In truth, our limited overs batting has regressed since then. As in the Tests, it’s former captain Joe Root who leads the way with a rare double ton (214) in the fifty over format, indeed it was in that innings of 436 against Pakistan in front of a packed and vibrant Headingley crowd.

Somerset speedster Jamie Overton claimed astonishing figures of 6-14 against Australia in the infancy of his international career but lost his way a little in ODIs. He is however averaging sub 30 in the Test format and has become a valuable option in the longer format. He’s no slouch with the bat either.

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Errrr, yeah, 41 all out against South Africa in a T20I. Like I said, highs and lows. Never an easy place to bat is Cape Town!

Alex Hales 124 against arch-enemy Australia in Bristol has been the best batting output in the format whilst the often economical Tom Curran’s 5-26 against West Indies in Delhi at the World Cup is our best individual bowling analysis.

It’d be great to post 1000 runs in a Test innings but with the need for declarations this can often only be feasible in a dead rubber. 500 in a ODI and 250 in T20Is would also be welcome. It’d also be great to see an individual batsman reach a triple ton in a Test match but should they approach Sir Len Hutton’s 364 then I might have to declare!

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.

Kevin Pietersen: On Cricket Book Review

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Strictly speaking this isn’t an autobiography. KP delves into the technical aspects of taking on the various types of bowling that there is out there, as well as writing about such things as captaincy and the future of the game. That’s not to say that there aren’t autobiographical elements to it, which let’s be fair, would be hard to avoid.

As a highly unsuccessful village cricketer, it’s amazing to read about how a pro reads the ball out of the hand. I can barely see the ball at all in the north England evening light, let alone identify which side is shiny or which finger is rolling over the seam!

Pietersen is adamant that international cricketers shouldn’t be overcooked but is at pains to point out that being a cricketer is a great job and he realises he and his peers aren’t down a coal mine every day.

His thoughts on the future structure of international cricket seem a little half-cooked and as per usual with any book, there are one or two errors amongst the 277 pages that you do wonder how they ever get to print. KP tells us that at Edgbaston in the 2005 Ashes, England claimed the wicket of Brett Lee to level the series. No you didn’t KP. He also tells us that he wasn’t selected for an ODI series in 2000. Too right KP. You didn’t debut with England until 2004!

All in all it was an interesting and easy to read… read.

Silly Point provides Kevin Pietersen: On Cricket with a score of…

79 not out

County Championship Night and Day

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England take on West Indies in a Day/Night Test match at Edgbaston in August of next year and as a precursor the County Championship will include a round of day/night matches, pink ball and all to wet the appetite.

2017 County Championship Day/Night fixtures

Matches to be played 26th-29th June

Division One

Essex v Middlesex

Hampshire v Somerset

Warwickshire v Lancashire

Yorkshire v Surrey

Division Two

Durham v Worcestershire

Glamorgan v Derbyshire

Northamptonshire v Leicestershire

Nottinghamshire v Kent

Sussex v Gloucestershire

No I don’t know what Nottinghamshire are doing in Division Two either!

Reminiscing About Usman Afzaal

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We all had a favourite player when we were growing up but not for many of us was that player… Usman Afzaal!

Scores of just four and two on Test Match debut in the first Ashes Test of 2001 at Edgbaston, when batting at seven and playing as a specialist batsman is just the sort of performance that will endear someone to me. Not for me are the Test bow double centurions. After his mammoth contribution of six runs on his first outing Afzaal was sent back to the county circuit seemingly forever destined to retire with a Test batting average of a not quite Bradmanesque 3.00. Cue none other than Pakistan’s Shoaib Akhtar appearing on English TV calling for his mate to be provided another chance.

The England selectors obviously heard the Rawalpindi Express’ cries because come the fourth Test at Headingley, though with the series already lost Afzaal earned a recall. After delivering a career best 14 in the first innings Afzaal guided England to victory with an average propelling four not out in the second innings aided in no small part by Mark Butcher’s masterful 173 not out.

In the fifth Test at The Oval Australia compiled a modest 641-4 declared with Afzaal claiming a quarter of the wickets to fall, that of Adam Gilchrist caught by Mark Ramprakash for a quarter century. In doing so Afzaal ensured that Gilchrist was the only Australian to bat that failed to reach 62!

With his confidence boosted by having a Test bowling average Afzaal went out to bat with the sort of swagger that enamored him to the fans, well me at least. In a partnership of 89 with good against Australia but not so against everybody else Mark Ramprakash, Afzaal struck a counter attacking 79-ball 54 with 36 of those runs coming in boundaries. Upon reaching his maiden (Only) Test half-century Afzaal promptly celebrated like a man that had brought up a quintuple hundred. His exuberance and passion brought smiles to people’s faces, well mine at least. Dermot Reeve though wasn’t happy, suggesting that Afzaal was a little too pleased with himself. Maybe Afzaal did get a little overexcited as after hitting Glenn McGrath for his ninth four he promptly had his innings terminated just 46 runs short of a maiden Test century the very next ball. He only made five in the second innings bringing his average down to mortal 16.60… and that was it for Afzaal’s international career bar a superb catch as a sub-fielder in New Zealand.

He seemed like a natural limited overs player but when an experimental squad to tour Zimbabwe that autumn was named Afzaal’s name didn’t feature. On the winter tours England coach Duncan Fletcher brought Afzaal’s weight into question and he never made the final XI. Afzaal flirted around the county scene for a few more years before drifting out of the game. It’s seems absurd that he’s still only 39. In 2013, more than three years after his last professional appearance he popped up playing a couple of List A games in Bangladesh alongside Bilal Shafayat.

He might not have scored thousands of Test runs and even features in some people’s Worst England XI but I’ll always remember his Test half-century and the joy he brought as he celebrated it like a kid at Christmas.

Due to image rights I have provided my own poor quality drawing of Afzaal for this blog post.