Ashes Cricket (PS4): Career Mode – Feasting in First Class!

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Following on from my previous career mode update, post my captaincy heroics at club level, I entered the professional circuit. I was delighted that my debut came at home for Yorkshire against strong opposition in the shape of Kent County Cricket Club.

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I’d attempted to stay grounded and not get carried away with my recognition. The match against Kent could’ve been the only First Class match that I ever played and after being dismissed for 8 in the first innings and running my partner out off my first ball in the second innings, it seriously looked like that might be the case. I’d be just a footnote in history. I dug deep though, all those years on the Northern amateur circuit have served me well. I combined in an epic partnership with my teammate, falling only one-run short of a double-century stand and five shy of a hundred on First Class debut. Of course I would’ve loved a hundred but my 95 showcased both my ability and character after my poor first impressions. Most importantly, we went onto win the match.

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In my second match, away at Sussex, a side containing the likes of Vernon Philander and Jofra Archer in their bowling attack, I immediately set course to right the wrongs of my century shortcomings on debut. I surpassed my career best 95 but had an uneasy tea whilst 99 not out. In truth I dealt with Test bowler Philander as well as Archer with moderate ease. It was the less heralded left-armer George Garton and Scotland’s Stuart Whittingham who carried more threat. The home side lacked real penetration on the spin front though and I soon chalked up a maiden First Class hundred in only my second game. I proved a lot to myself by carrying my club form into the professional game. The same teammate and I shared another century partnership and I went past 200. As you’ll see from the image above, when I went past 300, I just couldn’t contain my excitement. This was despite my energy reserves running low.

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I eventually fell for 325 having re-written many record books in the process of the innings. This was only the start of things however. In pursuit of 195 for victory in the second innings, we were soon on the back foot at 57-3. A few hours later though, with only two overs of the match remaining, I helped get us over the line by four wickets with a composed and measured 96 not out. To see my name spread across the headlines, both online and on paper was truly humbling. I knew though that such a performance so early in my career served only to increase the pressure and expectation on me to go on have a rewarding professional existence. Some in the media brought up the word ‘England’ but let’s not get carried away!

Northampton away in the next match was definitely something akin to a Lord Mayor’s Show. My reward for my performance of 421-1 against Sussex was to be demoted in the batting order from four to five to accommodate the return of England Test captain Joe Root. Gary Ballance, successful skipper against Sussex, actually had to make way. I made just 18 & 9 with South Africa spinner Tabraiz Shamsi causing me problems.

Come the final match of the season in Wales against Glamorgan, I knew I needed a score before the season was out to prove I was no one-match wonder. As was the case on my debut, I had a little luck in my innings when the wikcetkeeper actually prevented the ball from rolling onto the stumps. I made him pay and went onto notch another First Class hundred. Not only that, I made it a double but inexcusably threw my wicket away immediately after, falling for 202. A tired 12 in the second innings was my limp farewell to a season of huge success for me.

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My First Class scores so far read: 8, 95, 325, 96*, 18, 9, 202 & 12. All but the first match were played away from home.

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I actually topped the First Class division one batting averages with 765 runs at a Bradman dwarfing 109.29. If only I could have hit the campaign trail earlier!

I’m delighted to say that I’ve accepted offers to be part of both Yorkshire’s First Class and List A squad for next season. There are rumours of one or two T20 franchises around the world keeping an eye on my progress too. In 2023, I’ll endeavour to back-up the encouraging start I’ve made to my professional career and help my beloved Yorkshire win some silverware.

Denly’s Destiny?

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England Test captain Joe Root has opted to take a break from international cricket during the upcoming T20I Tri-Series against Australia and New Zealand. With all-rounder Ben Stokes also likely to be unavailable, there could be a vacancy for a batsman who bowls a bit, someone who has been in form whilst playing in the Bangladesh Premier League and Big Bash recently, somebody who has improved dramatically since last floundering in international T20 cricket against Australia. Look no further than another Joe, Kent’s Joe Denly.

In last season’s T20 Blast, the former Middlesex man totalled a whopping 567 runs at an average of 43.62 complete with strike-rate of 150.80. Nobody aggregated more runs than the thirty-one-year-old. The Canterbury native averaged a decent 31.16 at 105.64 for Dhaka Dynamites in Bangladesh before Christmas and has just smashed 73 not out from 45 deliveries for Sydney Sixers in the Big Bash, leaving him with a tournament average of 72.00 from four games. He was only dismissed twice during his short Sydney stint. It’s not just the shortest format that Denly has improved at either, last season he averaged 55.48 in the County Championship. The right-hander contributed 1168 runs including four centuries and five half-tons. His domestic career stats aren’t great, generally averaging mid-thrities and neither are his international figures all too impressive: 20 runs in five T20I innings and an average below 30.00 in ODIs.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/player/12454.html

That was nine years ago however and Denly wouldn’t be the first player to reinvent himself and improve. He’s a useful spin bowling option too and if the England selectors fancied trying the same selection policy as Australia, i.e. picking players on BBL form, then Denly is well worth a shout. If Gary Ballance and James Vince etc can have recall after recall then surely Denly merits another opportunity. Having been included in the Test squad for New Zealand, it could be that Liam Livingstone earns a return to the T20I side and I’d have no qualms about that. Off the back of such form for Denly in Oz though, a recall for the Kent man seems like a no-brainer!

Flying in the Face of Unoriginal Opinion!

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Hampshire’s James Vince has been recalled to the England squad for this winter’s Ashes campaign and it’s not unreasonable to say that the reaction has generally been one of an underwhelming sensation.

I’m going to propose a radical notion in this world of scepticism… let’s back him! Let’s back him to do what many others including the likes of Justin Langer, Marvin Atapattu and Mark Butcher have done, to be a better player second time around.

Let’s back Ballance too whilst we’re at it.

All these people, whether they be pundits or fans, wanting players with First Class averages of 50+. Those players don’t exist and it doesn’t mean anything anyway, as past selections have told us.

We’d all select different squads but let’s stop moaning and back the players that are on the jet plane. There’s bound to be injuries and the like so I’m sure some people will get their wishes anyway.

Hopefully England’s lineup will be invincibly balanced come the first Ashes Test!

Does England’s Ashes Squad Really Matter?

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Hameed or Stoneman?

Jennings or Westley?

Hameed and Stoneman?

Malan or/and Ballance?

Does it really matter?

England Lions (Or A Team if you’d rather be old-fashioned about it) will, like England’s senior side, be in Australia this winter. The last thing England want is another Boyd Rankin episode, i.e. get to the fifth Test and pick a player who isn’t prepped to play. I appreciate that Australia’s a big country and England need cover for any last minute dramas (Glenn McGrath step on the ball style) and fielding substitutes but once a Test is under way then it would seem logical to rotate the non-playing squad members with Lions players. This way the first team reserves can keep their eye in and/or clock up some overs incase they’re required for a Test outing. If by any chance the Lions players supersede first Team squad members then so be it. England need to make the most of what resources they have and be ruthless when it comes to selection. This philosophy may seem rather un-me like provided my penchant for a ‘pick and stick’ approach but this is a tough long tour and England need to select the players that are primed and ready to perform. Australia are renowned for providing pretty limp opposition for a touring England side but Test playing nations are obliged to present touring A (Or Lions) teams with reasonable opposition, otherwise there’d be little point. Come the later Tests in the series, England can’t expect players that have been ferrying the drinks and netting for a month to just rock up and produce the goods in the hostile auditoriums of Australia.

So whether Hameed or Westley make the full team or Malan or Jennings make the Lions, any of them could turn out for England come the Ashes. A broken finger in the nets or calf strain when scampering a single in a warm-up game could force England into a change of plans. Don’t forget what happened the last time England went to Australia when opening batsman Michael Carberry was selected as back-up. He scored 150 in a tour game and went onto play five Ashes Tests.

Transfer Saga

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This guy only ever played for one club, in reality and virtuality. The same can not be said of others.

More than ever, domestic cricket in England seems to be following its football counterpart, particularly in regards to the transfer market. I believe that there was a time, long before I discovered an interest in cricket, in fact long before I was even born, that players remained loyal to one county for the entirety of their career. Of course some still do but it is no longer necessarily the norm. That’s not to say that transfers didn’t happen in the past, of course they did but they’ve become far more frequent in modern times. More than a decade ago now, Jimmy Ormond, whilst on tour with England, famously posed with his new Surrey shirt following his move from Leicestershire. I recall there being suggestions back then that the cricket transfer market was becoming like football’s and it’s certainly the case today.

Last winter we saw the likes of Scott Borthwick and Mark Stoneman depart Durham for Surrey. This season Angus Robson went on trial with Sussex whilst some mid-season transfers have tasted a little bitter. Tom Kohler-Cadmore agreed to depart Worcestershire for Yorkshire and though it wasn’t supposed to happen until next season, it was clear that Worcestershire had no interest in fielding TK-C when his future lay elsewhere and so the deal was brought forward.

Meanwhile one-time England squad member Mark Footitt has returned to Nottinghamshire from Surrey. He has also previously represented Derbyshire.

Former England cap Ajmal Shahzad must be one of the most serial county swappers. He can now list Yorkshire, Lancashire, Nottinghamshire, Sussex and Leicestershire as county teams for whom he has represented their first XIs.

Dominic Sibley, Will Rhodes and Adam Hose have all headed to Warwickshire while Rikki Clarke swapped with Sibley to go back to Surrey. Sibley wanted guarantees about batting in the top three in all forms of the game. Surrey’s Alec Stewart wouldn’t provide but Ashley Giles would and so Sibley arrived amid bitter frustration on Surrey’s part.

Jos Buttler of course moved from Somerset to Lancashire whilst my home county, Yorkshire, have acquired many players from other counties in recent years:

Gary Ballance (Derbyshire)

Jack Brooks (Northamptonshire)

Andrew Hodd (Sussex)

Tom Kohler-Cadmore (Worcestershire)

Liam Plunkett (Durham)

Ryan Sidebottom (Returned from Nottinghamshire)

David Willey (Northamptonshire)

Players such as six-hitter Ross Whiteley and England Lions spinner Ollie Rayner are among others to have migrated at one time or another during their playing days.

The midseason activity this term, complete with more than subtle hints of acrimony and contract squabbles seem to be taking the game of bat and ball firmly into football territory.

Should mid-season transfers be allowed at all?

Should loans be allowed?

Should squads have a maximum number of players like the Premier League?

Returning to Angus Robson, he was released by Leicestershire because they wanted play youngster Harry Dearden. After Dearden failed to set the County Championship alight he was firstly replaced by Arun Harinath who had arrived on loan from Surrey before another loanee, Michael Carberry arrived at Grace Road too. In a funny way, the domestic circuit is becoming like the England team with counties failing to invest in players and deciding it’s necessary to pinch from the competition… and don’t get me started on Hampshire! I’ve touched upon their South African acquisitions before and the effect it will have on local talent.

This is the point in the article where I’m supposed to provide some sort of summary but I’ll leave it to the cricket followers of the world to make of it what you will…?

… and who could forget Monty Panesar’s transfer sagas? (Errrr… Me!)

Hong Kong Sixes 2017: England Squad?

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The Hong Kong Sixes tournament is back on the cricket calendar after a five-year absence. The pint-sized cricket competition will make a welcome return this October.

http://www.hkcricket.org/en/hk-sixes/hong-kong-sixes-2017

Historically the various cricketing nations around the globe have treated the tournament with a variety of seriousness and not so seriousness, with some teams sending amateurs or ex-pros. England normally send a reasonable bunch of fringe limited overs players.

Silly Point has composed an England squad and put forward one or two other possible candidates as well. Remember that every player bar the wicketkeeper must bowl.

My squad is as follows:

Tim Bresnan, Yorkshire (Captain)

He bats, he bowls, he captains, he’s my selection to lead the side. I find it difficult to comprehend that Bresnan’s England career is over. He required surgery and is no longer the spring chicken that rocked up for Yorkshire’s first XI aged 15 but in limited overs cricket at least, he could surely still have a role to play for the national side. He’s led Yorkshire this year following injury to Gary Ballance and the other squad members would learn from his international experience and professionalism.

Ben Duckett, Northamptonshire (Wicketkeeper)

Duckett just pips Joe Clarke for the ‘keeping gloves. It would be a good way to reintegrate Duckett into England colours following a difficult winter. After a slow start to the domestic season he has started to make significant contributions with the bat as well as keeping wicket on occasions. Sam Billings, more of a genuine gloveman option in T20I/ODI cricket could also come into consideration.

Lewis Gregory, Somerset

Gregory made the England squad a few years back for a one-off ODI against Ireland. Unfortunately for the Somerset man, he was the one squad member to miss out on the final XI leaving him cap-less. A series of injuries have meant that he remains so but when fit Gregory possesses the all-round strengths that make him an extremely tempting selection in this format.

Ryan Higgins, Middlesex

Higgins has contributed some brutal batting displays for Middlesex in limited overs cricket this term and has also dislodged Ollie Rayner from the County Championship side. The Zimbabwe born former England Under-19s player is one of a handful of capable all-round players that make my squad.

Benny Howell, Gloucestershire

A shrewd performer for Gloucestershire, particularly in the shorter forms of the game. French born Howell has cropped up in both the BPL and PSL. His experience and all-round capabilities would make him a valuable asset to the the squad.

Liam Livingstone, Lancashire

LL’s introduction to international cricket was slightly underwhelming but he’s an almost irresistible selection for this tournament. His destructive batting, much improved bowling and reliable fielding win him a place in my squad. Like Bresnan, Livingstone has gained captaincy experience this season and is capable of coming back stronger following his tough international baptism.

Ross Whiteley, Worcestershire

Whiteley hit the headlines this term when he struck six sixes in an over against Yorkshire in a T20 match (I was there, remember?). Yes it was an extremely short boundary and yes it was a third choice spinner but rather audaciously, Whiteley sits in the top ten of the sixes per (T20) match ratio, modestly and unobtrusively placed alongside the likes of Brendon McCullum, David Warner and Chris Gayle. He would probably be the weakest bowling option in the team but has clocked up 29 First Class victims.

Some other players that could come into consideration:

Adam Lyth

Riki Wessels (Wicketkeeper)

Brett D’Oliveira

Liam Dawson

Paul Coughlin

Craig Overton

Tymal Mills