Back to the Future

There have been many great batsman who didn’t crack Test cricket first time… or even second time!

Could any of the players pictured above force their way back into England reckoning?

Gary Ballance 1498 Test runs @ 37.45

Possessing by far the best Test record of any of the batsmen listed, it seems unlikely that Ballance will get another chance. Being Joe Root’s ex-flatmate helped him before but won’t again. He’ll have to score an insatiable amount of runs to make a case and combine that with having eradicated perceived technical deficiencies.

Ben Duckett 110 @ 15.71

In contrast to last winter, it’s been a hugely encouraging time for Ben Duckett recently. He was recalled to the England Lions squad and returned to the scene of the crime in India. He’ll be looking for a fruitful campaign with his new employers Nottinghamshire to get back into the full England side.

Keaton Jennings 750 @ 25.86

The most recently jettisoned on this list, it seems highly improbable that Jennings will line up against Australia this summer. Come England’s next tour to Asia however and even if it be as back-up/sub-fielder then he could come into contention.

Dawid Malan 724 @ 27.84

Malan wasn’t happy to be axed and he has been hard done by after a record-breaking start to his T20I career. He couldn’t really argue with his Test termination however. He’s not set the world on fire since, neither in county cricket or in various T20 competitions so has a lot to do to earn a recall.

Mark Stoneman 526 @ 27.68

A potential recall for Stoneman isn’t actually that outlandish. If he prospers alongside Rory Burns at Surrey in the early days of the county campaign then he could yet force his way back in. He could do with improving his fielding though.

James Vince 548 @ 24.90

Vince has performed superbly in the latest edition of the Big Bash and maybe white-ball cricket is a more likely route back in for him. Such is the competition for places though, that it won’t be easy.

Of course all the players detailed above may now be labelled damaged goods so we may see some Test debuts before we witness recalls for any of the above.

Preparation Stagnation

England commence their long anticipated Test series in Sri Lanka very shortly but their preparation has lacked serious intensity. I appreciate that the climatic conditions have dealt an unfavourable hand but this scenario is nothing new to England’s cricketers.

I have always been in favour of a couple of official First Class matches on tour. These whole squad get involved matches are little more than a glorified net and are not treated as competitive matches. Whilst the individual element may seem like good prep, I strongly believe that an individual playing only one First Class warm-up rather than participating in two exhibition affairs, would be more akin to playing Test Cricket. Had Rory Burns and Keaton Jennings opened in the first of two official warm-up games in the knowledge that Joe Denly was to be presented with a chance in that slot in the second match, the pressure on them to perform would surely be more akin to actually playing Test cricket.

On the subject of Denly, he may well have played himself out of a Test debut with a shoddy performance in the warm-up matches. With mid-series tour matches almost eradicated, how do the likes of Denly or Ollie Pope restate their case for selection in situations such as these? This is a feeling that’s all too familiar to Gary Ballance!

As is often the case with any selection related article that I’ve scripted, either the landscape has changed very quickly or I was just completely misguided in my initial assessment. Surrey’s Ben Foakes now looks a likely Test debutant in the first Test and could really muddy the selection waters ahead of Jonny Bairstow’s return to fitness, by producing a good performance. Imagine if Jos Buttler falls twice to spin for single figure scores!

Somerset spinner Jack Leach also seems likely to return to skipper Joe Root’s XI and hopefully he and Foakes can convert consistent county career contributions to the international stage. England will be desperate to bounce back in Asia following their abysmal attempts in Bangladesh and India a couple of years ago.

Yorkshire v Warwickshire T20 Match

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Yes that’s right, Yorkshire versus Warwickshire. I refuse to refer to them as Birmingham. If every other team can wear a county moniker then Warwickshire need be no different. Why on Earth would you want to alienate half your county?

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In truth the match was a rather one-sided affair. Adam Lyth does what Adam Lyth does, dispelling the notion of many have that he’s a dour First Class player. He has always been a superior white-ball cricketer. Tom Kohler-Cadmore confirmed that Ed Smith was right not to select Chris Woakes for the Tests against India. TK-C could yet be a white-ball (ODI/T20I) player for England, even if he can’t get anywhere near Yorkshire’s County Championship side. Chris Woakes will come good once he’s got a few more overs under his belt. Don’t rule him out of having an impact against India yet!

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David Willey scored a hundred the last time I attended Headingley. Last night he scored one minus the hundred. Kane Williamson displayed his class as did Gary Ballance briefly. Olly stone bowled eleven dot balls to keep him in those ‘Next time we got to Australia’ conversations!

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When it came Warwickshire’s turn to bat, Ed Pollock did what Ed Pollock does. He swung and missed, repeat, repeat, then mightily finely connected with a few before getting out to a ball he really needn’t have. 22 from 12 deliveries sums him up and scores of substance need to arrive soon. Ian Bell (42 from 33) and Adam Hose (43 from 31) laboured… and I mean laboured in the middle. There were some fine strikes to the boundary but too many failures to connect. Surely the midlands side would be better with the likes of New Zealand duo Colin de Grandhomme (38 not out from 19) and skipper Grant Elliot higher up the order in this format.

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Yorkshire ran out winners by 31 runs courtesy of the Duckworth Lewis Method.

I’ll be back next week to see Yorkshire host Northamptonshire so they’ll be another match report soon after.

Stoneman’s Rocky Patch!

Mark Stoneman

No sooner have you’ve released an audio recording proclaiming that England’s batting options are limited, do all the contenders go big right on cue!

Mark Stoneman’s grip on the England opener’s slot is rapidly slipping from his grasp, literally as he’s just grassed teammate (?) Jonny Bairstow in Surrey’s match against Yorkshire. Of course knowing my luck, he’ll register a double ton in the second dig and cement his place in the England XI. In my audio post I mentioned that Stoneman’s challenge could most likely come from his domestic partner Rory Burns. Burns made 193 in Surrey’s last match and many have wondered how, with a record far superior to Stoneman’s, that Rocky got the gig in the first place.

Middlesex man Nick Gubbins, who batted well in the North v South series has recovered from injury and made 99 last time out for the London outfit. He could be primed for the call. Another left-handed opener, Keaton Jennings, has ticked off a maiden ton for his new home side Lancashire. Stoneman desperately needs runs and soon.

The middle order is a little trickier, unless captain Joe Root will move to number three. Dawid Malan has made a ton and a seventy-odd in his last two County Championship matches but is best served staying at five for England. He deserves to stay in the team following his Ashes hundred, a fifty in England’s last Test (Stoneman and Vince made fifties in their last innings too!) and his domestic form. He may have to move to four though in order to accommodate either Surrey’s Ollie Pope of more likely, Worcestershire’s more experienced Joe Clarke. Both have made two Championship tons this term but neither are batting at number three. If England do select the obdurate Burns alongside Cook (Assuming Cook is in!) at the top of the order then that may save the more aggressive and fluent James Vince at number three, meaning Pope and Clarke will have to wait. If Pope and Clarke don’t get their chance now then they may do so in the future or they could become the next James Hildreth. The Somerset stalwart also now has two County Championship centuries this campaign. That’s just the 43 First Class tons at an average of… 43 for Hildreth then!

Of course picking players on early season form is what England did with Gary Ballance and Stoneman (And Ed Smith!) and look where we are now? When Stoneman hit the ground running last year, so many supposed experts came crawling out of the woodwork claiming that they’d campaigned for Stoneman for England for years. Where are they now? Weren’t they the same people that have been banging on about Hameed? Runs or no runs only serves to highlight how difficult Ed Smith’s job is. It’s so easy to be swayed. It’s not art or science but a little bit of both!

Quite frankly, I give up predicting England’s batting order for the first Test against Pakistan. Let’s just wait and see…

Spare a Thought for Karl Carver!

Having been despatched for six sixes in an over by Worcestershire’s Ross Whiteley in a T20 at Headingley last season, Yorkshire spinner Karl Carver is once again trying to prove his county credentials this term.

With the White Rose county having headed to Hyderataunton (AKA spin friendly Taunton) to play Somerset in the County Championship over the last few days, Carver not only made the squad but the XI. The hosts were bowled out twice but KC didn’t so much as turn his arm over. The Northallerton native batted at number XI in both innings but did at least manage to avoid being dismissed each time!

The match is hardly going to have furthered Carver’s development or enhanced his confidence.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/player/639148.html

Does captain Gary Ballance have beef with Carver?!

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!

Ashes Cricket (PS4): Career Mode – Plate Princes!

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The 2023 season commenced with my introduction to List A cricket in Yorkshire blue. I disappointingly ducked on debut and followed that up with only four in the next match. After starting my First Class career so impressively, I was desperate to show that I could transfer my ability to the professional one-day game. A knock of 72 in my third outing demonstrated that I belonged but in truth I blew a great chance of a century.

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I righted that wrong in the next match however but was again gutted to get out. Being dismissed at anytime is frustrating but there’s something really criminal about falling immediately after reaching a milestone. I backed up a maiden List A ton with 68 in my next innings to make it three scores of fifty plus on the bounce.

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I then clocked up another ton and this time started to go on. I had made 129 from just 80 deliveries before committing another criminal act by running myself out. Annoyingly, as much as a double ton had been real possibility against Northamptonshire.

My impressive performances at number three in the order saw me promoted to open the batting but my form dipped as a result. I made scores of 23 then 29 in a thrilling run-chase that ended in a tie courtesy of an epic hundred by Gary Ballance. That result qualified us for the knockout stages and a quarter-final encounter against local neighbours Derbyshire. Come the big day however, our expectation exceeding opposition failed to show. Ben Coad claimed four wickets to rip through the underdogs and limit them to a paltry total of just 178 all out. Again, I got started but got out. I really thought that I could carry the team to victory but made only 19. Joe Root (81 not out) however led the way, as we comprehensively paved a path to the semi-finals courtesy of an 8-wicket win.

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The play-off for a place in the final would be a tasty clash with our arch rivals Lancashire. On such a big occasion, I was determined to display my qualities and help my county reach the final. I promptly recorded my career best List A effort of 155 from just 84 deliveries. My knock included 16 fours complimented by six maximums. We were delighted to brush aside our trans-Pennine enemy but knew that the job was not done. It would be yet another boundary border opponent come the final in the form of northern neighbours Durham.

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On one of the biggest days in the county cricket calendar and in front of a full and hostile house, we won the toss, batted first and totalled just shy of 400. I swashbuckingly contributed to a century opening partnership inside the first ten overs. I reached my fourth One-Day ton from just 45 deliveries but was aghast to be caught on the ring for 102. Joe Root replaced me at the crease and carried the innings with a masterful 138 not out. The lad’s got talent and will go far in the game!

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We ran out 2023 One-Day Plate victors by 94 runs. Just look at the smiles on the players faces during the victory celebrations. The pubs and clubs of Leeds and indeed throughout all of Yorkshire made a profit on final night that’s for sure!

I finished my inaugural List A campaign with 701 runs at an average of 63.73 complete with strike-rate of 172.66. I notched 4 tons as well as two fifties and a winner’s medal of course. Next up is a return to the First Class stage where I’ll look to maintain my lofty average of over 100!

Disclaimer: Incase this article seems a little familiar, that’s because I previously mistook the quarter-final for the final. I wondered why there weren’t any celebrations!