County Snippets!

A quick glance of the county scores this morning and a few names caught my attention.

James Killer Weighell, surprisingly underplayed then released by Durham, is turning out for Leicestershire. Meanwhile another all-rounder, Yorkshire’s Ed Barnes, is making his professional debut as a loanee at Derbyshire. Barnes was actually loaned out to Sussex last season but didn’t make it onto the field. Wicketkeeper Brooke Guest is also on loan at Derbyshire but his move will become permanent next season.

Tom Loten, George Hill and Jared Warner are among the reasons that the aforementioned Barnes has had to go out on loan. All are playing for Yorkshire, alongside more established young players such as Jordon Thompson and Harry Brook. Dawid Malan, fresh from a double ton but only just back from injury, joins Zimbabwe born Gary Ballance on the sidelines.

Fellow Zimbabwe born player Nathan Gilchrist is making his premier professional outing for Kent on loan from Somerset. Meanwhile Blake Cullen and Will Sheffield are also registering their professional debuts as Middlesex host Sussex.

Spinner Simon Kerrigan, infamously once capped at Test level for England, is representing Northamptonshire and the very best of luck to him and all the players mentioned above.

Isn’t it great to have some First Class county cricket to follow?

Cricket Captain 2020 – Fourth Year

Four years into my tenure and still we haven’t added any silverware to the trophy cabinet. I know that the fans are growing frustrated but in 2023 there was some encouraging development of our project.

Once again we retained our County Championship division one status. Selection consistency was a huge part of our progress whilst having sufficient stocks to rotate our bowling attack appropriately. Jon Baldwin developed as so many had hoped by totalling 1220 First Class runs. Sam Cook led the way with 48 wickets to earn the former Essex man an England call-up.

Sadly it was the wooden spoon for us in the One-Day competition. This was despite Harry Brook (271 runs) grabbing a career lifeline and leg-spinning all-rounder Brett D’Oliveira (12 wickets) excelling on his new home turf.

We suffered heartbreak in the T20s as our experienced and youth composite so nearly got us to the knockout stages courtesy of six victories before falling away come crunch time. Again it was Baldwin (360 runs including a score of 99) who led the run-getting while Matthew Waite claimed 18 wickets.

All-rounder Waite captained the One-Day side, shorn as usual of The Hundred players. Wicketkeeper Jonny Tattersall stepped into the role for the four-day format and led the side particularly well in Twenty20 cricket.

Sadly Gary Ballance has left us and I’d like to place on record our gratitude to our former skipper who wasn’t able to make a first team appearance this season. Jordan Thompson and Nathan Ellis (Due to lack of funds!) have also left the club.

Our fans will however be hugely excited by the arrival of West Indian icon Rahkeem Cornwall. The off-spinning all-rounder will add a new dimension to our team. We can’t wait to see him take to the Headingley field in 2024. See you then!

Cricket Captain 2020 – Season Three

My third season in charge of my native Yorkshire followed a familiar pattern. We made a reasonable start to the County Championship before plummeting into the relegation zone. Last season’s star performer Nathan Ellis earning international (Australian) recognition didn’t help! We fought back however to stave off relegation and preserve our first division status once again.

We failed to buck the trend in white-ball cricket too. As usual we were stripped of nearly an entire playing XI come the One-Day competition as players sauntered off to The Hundred. We made an horrific start and genuinely looked like we’d struggle to win a single game. We did however as a number of young players displayed glimpses of quality and even hinted at consistency. Sadly though, we finished bottom of our group.

It was a similar story in the T20 format where, despite a few wins, we were left to dine using a wooden spoon!

Despite our white-ball travails, there were some hugely encouraging signs of progress from a number of our less experienced players. Our batting unit isn’t getting any younger (Lyth, Ballance, Malan) but we’ve already begun the transition phase and I’m confident that some players (Jon Baldwin & Jon Francis among them) can really push on next season.

Among this season’s highlights were match figures of 10-169 for rejuvenated off-spinner Jack Shutt who also notched a maiden First Class ton. All-rounder Ed Barnes scored a second County Championship century and claimed a maiden five-wicket haul in the same game while opener James Wharton produced a knock of 135 in a One-Day game.

We had to make some really tough decisions at the end of the season and I’m sorry to say that the following players have not had their contracts renewed: Will Fraine, Tom Loten, Adil Rashid, David Willey, Duanne Olivier, Matthew Pillans and Josh Poysden

We have however recruited Feroze Khushi, Sam Cook, Brett Hutton and Brett D’Oliveira who bring a strong skillset to compliment what we already have. Roll on 2023!

Cricket Captain 2020 – Second Season Review

After a bright start in the County Championship we lost our way but once again dug deep in the final weeks of the season to fend off relegation. In the penultimate match of the campaign captain Gary Ballance (327) and bowling spearhead Ben Coad (Match figures: 9-86) all but secured our top flight status. Ballance (1430) topped the First Class competition run charts whilst Coad totalled 48 wickets.

Sadly we finished second last in the One-Day competition. With many players participating in The Hundred, a number of youngsters gained great experience including winning two matches and also thrillingly being involved in a tie. Teenager Jon Baldwin (101) registered a List A ton, Tom Loten racked up 301 runs in the competition while Matthew Waite (15 wickets) set the standard with the ball when captaining the side.

Despite winning five matches we placed last in the T20 tournament. For the second season running Matt Coles (21 wickets) excelled in the shortest form of the game but frustratingly retired at the end of the season.

Australian Nathan Ellis wasn’t our first choice signature before last season but grew into his role. The 27-year-old produced consistently excellent performances with bat and ball in all formats to become a firm favourite with the Yorkshire fans. So much so that we’ve burst the bank to keep him with his salary rising from 27k to 81k!

It’s with a heavy heart that Jonny Bairstow has left the club. The combination of salary/lack of availability just didn’t add up. George Lavelle joins from Lancashire to compete for wicketkeeping duties.

We’ll see you in 2022!

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!