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.

Telegraph Fantasy Cricket: CC/ODC 2017 – Season Review

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9,748th place, a comfortable finish in the top 10,000! The team I picked for my daughter finished in 11,213th place, so at worst I was in the bottom 1,500. Who knows? Maybe there were over a million players!

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Starting with my captain, Gloucestershire gloveman Gareth Roderick.

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I simply got his selection completely wrong. Had he been fit or whatever he needed to be to play then he would have made serious contributions but he missed the early part of the season for ‘unknown reasons’ and later broke a finger. To be fair, he dug deep to score 78 not out with the damaged digit. Before you consider the double points element, if you’re captain isn’t your top scorer then you’ve messed up. South African born Roderick registered 400 runs at a respectable average of 36.36 as well as claiming 24 dismissals but just didn’t play enough.

Steven Croft basically doesn’t bowl anymore. Lancashire seem to have an array of spin bowlers, whether they be part- or full-time (Parkinson, Parry, Livingstone, Kerrigan – who himself went out on loan) and like Roderick, Croft missed significant chunks of the season. Aside from a blast of a knock early in the campaign and a score in the final round of matches, Croft just didn’t contribute anywhere near significantly enough. The White Rose’s skipper’s figures: 409 runs at an underwhelming 29.21.

Huge kudos to Worcestershire’s Tom Fell for battling back from cancer and hopefully, with a new contract under his belt, he can score big next year.

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This year was a horror show however. He failed to reach fifty nor did he ever don the gloves. Fell totalled 323 runs at a paltry 14.68 in the County Championship. Contrary to the above image, his form (Or lack of!) didn’t earn him and England call up!

Welsh willow wielding wizard Aneurin Donald didn’t hit the heights hoped for this campaign but did manage four First Class fifties either side of being mucked around by Glamorgan, batting as low as seven in One-Day Cup matches.

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For the record ‘Ducky’ totalled 487 County Championship runs at 25.63. In One-Day cricket he scored 20 runs at an average of just 4.00!

It’s a funny old game. My most successful batsman was the one I expected the least from. I had anticipated Riki Wessels might deliver for me in limited overs matches but didn’t really expect him to play regularly in the First Class game. In a pre-season university fixture, he followed a duck with a hundred and went on to score three centuries with a top score of 202 not out in the County Championship. He had a mare though in the One-Day Cup final where he dropped a catch off the first ball of the match and made only six runs but away from the cameras he delivered. He also claimed a couple of catches when standing in as wicketkeeper. Across the County Championship (832) and One-Day Cup (302) the Nottinghamshire batsman totalled 1,134 runs.

Worcestershire’s Brett D’Oliveira doesn’t have a great average for an opening batsman but I think that there’s an element of the old Trescothick/Vaughan vibe about him. He could be better suited to the higher level. This year he made three First Class hundreds but lacked consistency. He didn’t claim a single wicket in the County Championship but snared seven in the One-Day Cup. His best years could yet be ahead of him. In 2017 BDO notched up 891 County Championship runs alongside 222 in the 50-over game.

Ravi Bopara will have been in many people’s teams but will probably suffer from that very thing I’ve moaned about previously when it comes to Bopara. He’s done okay but you can’t help but want more from him. 576 County Championship runs at 32.00 puts him way down title-winning Essex’s run charts. He claimed a disappointing twelve wickets in fourteen matches in the same competition. He did however rack up 329 One-Day Cup runs at 54.83 and claimed nine wickets but didn’t win a recall to England’s ODI side!

Keith Barker is another one who did well without sparkling. Six fifties at 29.78 is a really useful contribution with the willow but just 26 County Championship wickets this term is a bit disappointing for a left-armer many thought should’ve been on England’s radar. Of course Warwickshire’s season as a whole was a torrid one.

Off-spinner Ollie Rayner did well for England Lions last winter but never really got going this year.

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His twenty First Class wickets in eleven matches cost nearly 40 apiece. For reference, Middlesex teammate Ravi Patel totalled fourteen victims in two outings.

Durham’s James ‘Killer’ Weighell surprised many this season but injuries dogged him. He wasn’t in the County Championship side at the start of term but took wickets aplenty (18 @ 23.11) in the One-Day Cup. Unfortunately he got injured and so didn’t play as many First Class games as he would have liked but when he did he made some decent contributions with the bat (162 @ 40.50) to go with his eleven wickets. If he can stay fit, he could be essential to Durham’s hopes of a renaissance in the upcoming years.

Finally, onto Sussex’s Jofra Archer. My team should’ve been Archer’s Army not Roderick Brotherhood. Archer was by far and away my top points scorer with nearly double the next man’s total. His 638 County Championship runs came at 45.57 including five fifties at a whopping strike rate of 88.00! His 61 wickets came at 25.30 and if it weren’t for lack of eligibility (Damn ineligibility!) he could well have being headed to Australia for the Ashes. No seriously, he’s that good but a few years away from qualifying having migrated from the West Indies. Whether or not he could join up with England Lions as early as this winter is an interesting consideration. Actually, I should save this for my ‘Six to Watch – Season Review’ article as Archer is one of the six!

I’ll repeat what I’ve said previously about how I think The Telegraph should alter their game. Currently there’s one competition for the County Championship and One-Day Cup combined and a separate one for the T20 Blast. I propose amending it to three individual competitions so that you can select three different teams. Some players specialise in only First Class or List A cricket so grouping the two together does require skill in one way but is limiting in another. There could be three first place finish prizes and an overall winner prize.

For me, any prize remains allusive. There’s always next year…

Cricket Captain 2017: Monty @ Morgan!

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Having started a county career as Glamorgan on ICC2017, I snapped up former England legend Monty Panesar to bolster our spin stocks and help us push for promotion to Division One of the County Championship.

It took the ‘Sikh of Tweak’ no more than ONE delivery to make an impression, dismissing Northamptonshire’s Alex Wakely with his premier delivery in Glamorgan colours (Or whites!). I can only hope that he doesn’t earn an England recall off the back of his formidable start to the campaign.

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No seriously, this actually happened!

Ian Ward, Anthony McGrath and Alex Wharf all played international cricket for England. Some supporters may look back on those times as dark days for English cricket but I actually think that all three players were rather unfortunate when it comes to how their international careers played out.

In the case of Ward, Wardy to his mates or maybe Wardos (No that’s too Ozzie!), probably just Wards, he’d made a name for himself as an obdurate pitch a tent style opening batsman for the A-Team and had notched up quite a few hundreds in the West Indies if my memory serves me correctly. I watched him make 39 on Test debut against Pakistan. I actually did. Cricket was on Channel 4 back then. Unfortunately Ward then spent the rest of the summer failing to reach 39 again as the Ozzies took him and not only him to pieces. Ward seemed to bat everywhere from about three to eight. I think that on at least a couple of occasions he survived late in the day only to have to start again the next morning and the use of nightwatchman saw him shunted down the order as well. When he was eventually dumped, Michael Atherton suggested there were some technical flaws to eradicate. Ward then departed Surrey for Sussex and transformed himself into quite a destructive limited overs player before taking up a presenting role with Sky Sports (Boooo!). By all accounts, Ward has made a good career behind the pay per view wall.

As for Anthony McGrath, his grandmother insisted it was pronounced like paper not Glenn. A-Mac is statistically one of the greatest players ever to play the game. He averages 40.20 with the bat and 14.00 with the ball in Test cricket. He was performing a decent containing job with the ball in ODIs as well but then a newspaper article came out saying how rubbish the likes of he and Ian Blackwell were and McGrath never donned an England shirt again.

As for Wharf, now an umpire, he averaged 23.77 with the ball at an economy of just 4.39. Those impressive stats were spread across 13 ODI appearances. That’s a lower bowling average than his last international victim Shaun Pollock! Wharf owed his chance to the fact that he’d worked with England coach Duncan Fletcher whilst at Glamorgan but proved his worth during his short international stint.

Cricinfo sums up the end of his international career in a callously blunt but seemingly incorrect assertion … “After this Wharf faded from the international scene due to a combination of injuries, loss of form and not being good enough…”.

Telegraph Fantasy Cricket: CC/ODC 2017 – Early Season Update

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We’ll start by getting the elephant out of the room. My captain hasn’t made a single first team appearance this season. His absence put down to personal reasons. He’s made a hundred for the seconds this month so fingers crossed he’ll be back in the Gloucestershire outfit very soon. The advantage of this is that when he returns nobody else is likely to have him in there team (He’s actually only in 0.21% of teams in the game). It’s all well and good having the best players in your team but it’s no good just having a side composed of the most selected players because you really don’t gain any advantage.

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The contribution of my batting line-up has been frustrating. Steven Croft was injured for a few weeks but did strike a blistering 127 against Warwickshire in the One-Day Cup. I had hoped he’d contribute with the ball but that hasn’t been the case so far. Lancashire are well stocked for spinners.

Glamorgan’s Aneurin Donald has hit a few fifties in the County Championship but had a torrid time in the One-Day Cup, reaching double figures just once. Being shunted down the order and batting as low as seven probably didn’t help and seemed a bit odd for such a potentially destructive batsman. Donald has been selected in barely 3% of teams meaning that there’s not many selectors gaining his points when he does deliver.

Tom Fell did well to return from cancer with a century last year but just hasn’t got going this term. He’s made a double hundred for the seconds but is yet to reach a quarter double hundred for the firsts. He’s not keeping wicket either. Those catches could have been a brucy bonus.

Nottinghamshire batsman Riki Wessels has led the way with an undefeated double century in the County Championship followed by a series of starts in the One-Day Cup followed by another century once back to the First Class format. With Chris Read injured last week, RW snapped up some catches behind the stumps as well.

In the all-rounder slots, Ravi Bopara of Essex has been steady if unspectacular. Lots of 30s, 40s and fifties and two or three-wicket hauls. They all add up though and he did make an undefeated 92 in the ODC.

Worcestershire’s Brett D’Oliveira made a slow start to the season but has found form of late. This included reaching 150 in the last round of County Championship matches. BD isn’t even in 1.5% of teams in the game so when he’s contributing it’s great to know that not many other Telegraph Fantasy Cricket players are benefiting from his performances. It’s a good example of why you should stick with someone that has a poor start. If you changed him and went with a form player then you’re just getting the same points as everybody else but if you stick with a player that’s not in many people’s teams then that players points can be decisive.

Onto the bowling department and Durham’s James Weighell (Rated 2 out of 10, team max is 60) has been a shreud selection. He wasn’t initially in the County Championship side but took wickets for fun in the One-Day Cup (18 @ 23.11) and recorded a maiden half-century in his last First Class outing. Weighell is in less than 10% of teams (That will have gone up since the start). As mentioned before, it’s these sort of under the radar performers that you need in your team… from the start.

I deliberately selected bowlers that can bat. Keith Barker and Jofra Archer should probably be considered all-rounders but maybe the fact that they open the bowling led to them been labelled exclusively as bowlers in the game. Sussex’s Archer’s has racked up two fifers and two fifties in the longer format and Barker, though not quite setting the world on fire, has been steadily chipping away in both the runs and wickets columns and it was a bonus to see him get so much game time in the One-Day Cup.

Ollie Rayner has slightly underwhelmed so far. He didn’t get much action in the One-Day Cup but as pitches around the country seem to be turning spin friendly and teams return to the longer format of the game then hopefully the wickets will come soon. I expect him to contribute with the bat too.

I’m currently in 9605th position! It’s a marathon not a sprint. Hare and the tortoise and all that. We’ll revisit things later in the campaign to see if I’ve ascended the table.

Why Not Wales?

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Ireland have their own cricket team and so do Scotland, so why are Wales silently tagged on with England?

It’s the England and Wales Cricket Team you know?

ECB stands for England and Wales Cricket Board but surely Welsh cricketers deserve the right to represent their home nation at international level, not just play for their big neighbours.

Should New Zealand’s cricketers have to scrap to get a gig for Australia?

Wales performed well at the 1979 ICC Trophy then between 1993 and 2001 played against Ireland and Scotland in the British Isles Chmpionships. Of course Ireland and Scotland joined the elite (Well almost!) and Wales were left to fend for themselves… so on themselves that they haven’t played competitively since. The Dragons (Maybe they’re called that?) played a few one-day games against England in the early 21st century and courtesy of former England opener Steve James they actually won the first meeting in 2002.

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A couple of years later they beat Denmark in the C&G Trophy. A quick Google search suggests that the question of an independent Welsh cricket nation is often brought up, particularly at http://www.walesonline.co.uk. Of course the notion opens a can of worms regarding Glamorgan’s existence or at least their place in the English county structure and whether or not domestic cricket in Wales needs ramping up a level. Only recently and with only three teams were Ireland granted First Class status.

Maybe one day we’ll see some Welsh willow wielders wearing the Wales name!