Cricket Captain 2018: Test Hat-trick!

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India, done! Ireland, done! Zimbabwe, done!

That’ll be three one-match Test series wins out of three then. Having previously benefited from an opposition bowler getting crippled in each of our first two Tests, this time it was ourselves who had the misfortune of going a bowler down. After an impressive World Cup, Rashid Khan finally won a Test cap but retired hurt having made 13 before even having a chance to bowl!

It mattered little though as yet again all our players contributed in one way or another. After losing both openers a little early, Nasir Khan, promoted to three after making 72 on debut, made 53 in an impressive partnership of 127 with another youngster, Waheedullah Shafaq.

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Shafaq won his Test cap on the back of impressive performances at the World Cup and went onto make 102 in his first Test innings.

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Captain Ashgar Stanikzai also picked up where he left off at the World Cup to make a national record 167. Zimbabwe spinner Graeme Cremer claimed a solitary wicket for all of 142 runs. Ouch!

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Left-arm pacer Shapoor Zadran, who after an impressive start to the World Cup failed to take a wicket in his last six matches, repaid the faith with fantastic figures of 5-30. That analysis, as well as his match figures of 6-82, were, like his skipper’s knock of 167, a new Test record for Afghanistan. He was far too hot for Zimbabwe’s cool batsmen.

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In the second innings, spin bowler Mujeeb Ur Rahman stepped up in the absence of Rashid Khan. Selected for the Test on the back of strong T20 form, Ur Rahman claimed figures of 3-31 to ensure that no batsman made forty let alone fifty in the entire match for the hosts.

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Having defeated bottom placed sides Ireland and Zimbabwe, next we set our sights on hauling ourselves above Bangladesh in the Test rankings. We also play West Indies before long and will be seeking World Cup revenge as well as Test superiority. First though are some white-ball games against the Chevrons.

Mavuta’s Magic!

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There are reasons for optimism amongst the Zimbabwean cricket following, certainly if the recent exploits of Rising Stars leg-spinner Brandon Mavuta is anything to go by. The 21-year-old claimed emphatic analysis of 8-38 against Mountaineers in the final of Zimbabwe’s Pro50 Championship in Harare…

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/8838/game/1122785/rising-stars-vs-mountaineers-final-pro50-championship-2017-18

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Mountaineers captain Tino Mawoyo probably regretted opting to field after winning the toss!

For a full tournament round-up, please click on the following link…

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2017–18_Pro50_Championship

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Kadoma born Mavuta now. averages just 17.27 with the ball in List A cricket. He’s already got 44 wickets in just a dozen First Class outings and is no mug with the willow either. The youngster has three half-tons to his name with a career high of 91.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/player/806239.html

With Graeme Cremer having been stripped of the national captaincy, it surely won’t be long before Mavuta dons national colours and wins his first Chevron cap.

Ashes Cricket (PS4): Global Test League

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Top of the Global Test League… but for how long?

The Global Test League is here folks!

Unfortunately due to contractual issues neither Australia or Sri Lanka feature in the competition. There are eight teams (England, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, West Indies and Zimbabwe) and each side will play each other home and away. That’s a total of fourteen matches per side to decide the best Test team on the globe.

As Team Manager and Chairman of Selectors of the England team, it’s my responsibility to keep you up to date with how the side perform during the competition. So here it goes…

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Liam Dawson (1-83 & 0-65) struck early in Zimbabwe’s first innings but was a juxtaposition of maidens and expensive overs from there on.

Our first match of the inaugural Global Test League was a home fixture against Zimbabwe at Old Trafford. Many observers rather disrespectfully suggested that the result was a formality. It turned out to be anything but!

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James Anderson (3-107) didn’t immediately find his groove but came back in sensational style, at one point being on a hat-trick!

Zimbabwe won the toss and batted first. At 344-4 early on the second day, the visitors seemed destined for a huge score. James Anderson (3-107) had other ideas however as the Lancashire quick found another gear on his home ground. Zimbabwe lost their last six wickets for just 38 runs to subside to 384 all out (Masakadza 106, Raza 88). A still decent total but not as imposing as they would have liked given their position before Anderson’s exploits.

In our first innings, we seemed guaranteed to claim a first innings lead when a 126-run partnership between Mark Stoneman (77) and James Vince (71) took us to 162-1. Both batsmen were naively run out though and there then followed what can only be described as kamikaze batting by the home side. 162-1 rapidly became 239 all out. A loss of nine wickets for just 77 runs. This included the fall of captain Joe Root for a golden duck. Part-time spinner Sean Williams (4-31) was the chief destroyer, backed-up by seamer Chris Mpofu (3-61).

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Craig Ervine survived a clear glove behind as Zimbabwe set England a mammoth 471 to win the Test match.

Zimbabwe then maintained the pattern of the batting side laying a strong platform and had reached 167-1 before Dawid Malan (2-32) intervened. The part-time Middlesex spinner struck with his second delivery immediately after the interval and went onto claim a further wicket as well as effect a run out and take a catch. Malan’s success with the ball only served to highlight Liam Dawson’s lack of penetration. England then took regular wickets but not in clusters as the away side totalled 327 (Mire 90, Broad 3-75) second time around. Not wanting to be bitter, we were frustrated by some of the umpiring decisions during Zimbabwe’s second innings, not least the clear glove behind by Craig Ervine (See image above) that was given not out.

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James Vince, having been run out for 71 in the first innings, posted a maiden Test hundred in the second.

Ultimately that left us needing to score a world record 471 to win the Test match. At various intervals including when positioned on 127-1, 221-3 and 375-6 we had high hopes of making history. James Vince (107) led the way with a maiden Test century at a little over a run-a-ball but the Hampshire man was dismissed not long after reaching his hundred.

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Moeen Ali smashed the record for Test match cricket’s fastest ever half-century in a thrilling demonstration of clean hitting entertainment for the loyal but bedraggled England following.

Alongside Jonny Bairstow (71 from 45), Moeen Ali had the home crowd struggling to believe their eyes as we dared to pull off cricket’s greatest ever heist. The Worcestershire all-rounder clobbered 58 from just 17 deliveries. Though it was part-timer Sean Williams that dismissed Moeen, it was Zimbabwe captain Graeme Cremer who held his nerve as we went on the attack in our quest for victory. In regards to field placements, the away side’s bold skipper didn’t panic in the face of Moeen and JB’s onslaught. Cremer would finish the innings with sensational figures of 7-105 and deservedly claim the Player of the Match award!

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Our tail were soon back in the pavilion as Zimbabwe claimed a deserved victory, one that has sent shockwaves around the cricket world. The margin of defeat a mere 78 runs. We’re obviously disappointed to have lost but I’m proud of the team for sticking at it with the ball in each of Zimbabwe’s innings and restricting them to sub 400 totals on both occasions. I’m also proud of the boys for scoring nearly 400 on a worn and degrading pitch in the fourth innings of a Test match. It was our inept batting display in our first innings though that has cost us the match. Things won’t get any easier next up against India at Lords, as we go in pursuit of  our first Global Test League points. Despite the loss we don’t anticipate wholesale changes to the side. A squad for that Test match will be named in due course with Toby Roland-Jones possibly coming into contention on his home ground.

Disclaimer: The simulation of other teams’ matches crashed when Australia featured and the on-disc Sri Lanka team has not yet been complimented with genuine players, hence their absence from the Global Test League. As the old adage goes: “You can only beat what’s in front of you”, or not as the case may be!

Wind in Their Sails!

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West Indies are currently taking on Zimbabwe in the first Test in Bulawayo and it’s great to see the tourists displaying faith in the team that narrowly lost 2-1 in England.

Following a difficult tour of the UK, the likes of Kieron Powell and Kyle Hope as well as gloveman Shane Dowrich have been presented with further opportunity to showcase their international credentials and with Zimbabwe benefiting from the return of some experienced players, it should be a competitive series.

Brendan Taylor and Kyle Jarvis are back in the international fold for the hosts and that should bode well for Graeme Cremer’s team. There is part of me that feels these guys had turned their back on the global game and shouldn’t just waltz back into their national side however it can be seen as an investment. They should be better players for having played regular professional cricket in England for a few years and if that contributes to Zimbabwe’s matches against any side being close encounters then that is good for the game. They’d displayed strong strides against a regressive Sri Lanka outfit and the addition of Taylor and Jarvis as well as a reimagining of Zimbabwean domestic cricket provides an optimistic horizon for ‘The Chevrons’.

Keep up to date with how things play out between the two sides @ http://www.cricinfo.com

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/18076/game/1122886/Zimbabwe-vs-West-Indies-1st-Test-wi-in-zim-2017-18-2017-18

The All-Rounder Index

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Cricket is a sport that brings with it endless statistics but endless isn’t enough for Silly Point.

Introducing the All-Rounder Index.

Career runs ÷ Career wickets = ARI

E.g. Jason Holder’s All-Rounder Index in Tests is:

801 ÷ 31 = 25.84

This means that for every wicket Jason Holder claims in Test cricket he himself scores 25.84 runs.

By contrast Australia’s Mitchell Starc’s Test ARI is as follows:

839 ÷ 129 = 6.50

But what does this mean and which player is better?

Here are some more past and present player’s Test ARI in descending order:

Martin Guptill: 2586 ÷ 8 = 323.25

Mark Butcher: 4288 ÷ 15 = 285.87

Steven Smith: 4311 ÷ 17 = 253.59

Shahid Afridi: 1716 ÷ 48 = 35.75

Graeme Cremer: 411 ÷ 37 = 11.11

Ajit Agarkar: 571 ÷ 58 = 9.84

Zafar Ansari: 49 ÷ 5 = 9.80 (Which coincidentally is his batting average!)

Chaminda Vaas: 3089 ÷ 355 = 8.70

Liam Plunkett: 238 ÷ 41 = 5.80

Chris Martin: 123 ÷ 233 = 0.53

Is Martin Guptill a better cricketer than Steven Smith or Chaminda Vaas?

Was Mark Butcher of more value to his team than Shahid Afridi or Chris Martin?

Is Martin Guptill’s Test ARI of 323.25 better than Chris Martin’s 0.53 or is Martin’s (That’s Chris’) lower number better?

Answers on a postcard please!

Sri Lanka Go One Up in Zimbabwe

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Following on from yesterday’s post, today Sri Lanka gained the upper hand in their Test series in Zimbabwe. With only forty-five minutes left in the final session of the match the tourists claimed the wicket of Zimbabwe’s last man Chris Mpofu to secure a 225-run victory. Captain Graeme Cremer was again the hosts’ top scorer (43) but Sean Williams was the only other batsman to reach forty. One major positive to come out of the match for Zimbabwe was the performance of debutant Carl Mumba who registered figures of 4-50 in Sri Lanka’s second innings.

The second Test will like the first be played in Harare and commences on November 6th.

Captain Cremer’s Century

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Congratulations to Zimbabwe captain Graeme Cremer who yesterday recorded his maiden Test Match century in his country’s 100th Test. Cremer finished unbeaten on 102 as his side were all out for 373 in response to Sri Lanka’s first innings total of 537 (Perera 110, Tharanga 110 not out / Cremer 4-142) Sri Lanka are currently 247-6 in their second innings (Karunaratne 110 / Mumba 4-50) and therefore lead by 411 runs. Zimbabwe will have to dig deep in their second innings to avoid defeat but if their batsmen can record yet more scores of 110 then they might have a chance!

England’s Spin Dearth Myth

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English cricket often seems to be accused of having a dearth of talent when it comes to spin bowling. The national team’s first choice spinner in all forms of the game, Moeen Ali, is a batsman who bowls and 39-year-old Gareth Batty (Test Match bowling average: 66) has just been recalled to the Test squad. Such things contribute to the assumption that there are no genuine quality spin bowlers on the English county scene. Silly Point assesses whether or not such an assumption is a fair one.

Moeen is England’s first choice spinner in all forms of the game but averages in excess of forty in both Tests and ODIs. England’s second choice spinner Adil Rashid also averaged in excess of forty in both forms of the game before dragging his ODI numbers down during an excellent series for him personally in Bangladesh this month. In doing so he might now be considered England’s number one spinner at least in ODIs. The next couple of weeks will determine whether or not that will, for the first time be the case in Test Match cricket as well. Liam Dawson has made only a couple of international appearances and averages thirty-five plus in First Class and List A cricket. His value to Hampshire is primarily with the bat. James Tredwell, no longer required by England, averages below thirty in both Tests and ODIs! All these players are considered all-rounders and their ability with the bat plays a crucial role in getting them into the team. If we explore the other options available to England in the county game we’ll quickly see that England’s perceived dearth of spin talent is a myth. Ollie Rayner, though no mug with the bat and Jack Leach might not be expected to contribute the volume of runs that the likes of Moeen and Rashid might but if they were to take international wickets at fewer apiece than England’s current incumbents are they not more worthy of a place in the team?

This is not to belittle the likes of Moeen and Rashid both of whom have a lot to offer England in all facets and all forms of the game but England’s reluctance to select specialists and or explore alternative options can be frustrating.

Let’s start with off-spinner Rayner who to be fair can bat a bit (First class average 22.00 including two centuries) The German born thirty-year-old has 254 First Class wickets to his name at a more than respectable average of 32.74. That’s about two runs less per wicket than Rashid (34.70) and nine, yes nine runs less than England’s first choice spinner Moeen (41.62)! Moeen’s Test average is even higher at 42.03 but he compliments this with more than handy batting figures of 1,454 runs at 34.61 including three centuries. In 2013 Rayner recorded analysis of 15-118 including 8-46, both career bests, against Surrey at The Oval. In 2016 Rayner’s best effort was 6-79, one of three five-wicket hauls as he finished Middlesex’s victorious County Championship Division One campaign with 51 wickets from thirteen matches at just 23.57. His age, thirty, is no reason to dismiss him. He could be primed to put together all that he has learnt during his domestic career and take it on to a five-year plus international one. If not for England then surely he can get a game for Germany!

Only seven players took more County Championship Division One wickets than Rayner last term. The only English spinner to do so was Somerset’s slow-left-armer Jack Leach. The twenty-five-year old accumulated 65 wickets at 21.88 including five five-wicket hauls as Somerset pushed Rayner’s side for the title ‘til the very last day of the season. For the record only Jeetan Patel took more County Championship Division One wickets than Leach last term. 2016 was Leach’s breakthrough season as he more than doubled his career First Class wicket tally, now 107 at 25.68. Maybe he needs to show that this season wasn’t a one-off before he gets the England call and his Somerset captain Chris Rogers’ less than ringing endorsement can’t have helped his international chances. On the batting front however the likes of Haseeb Hameed and Ben Duckett were picked for England on the back of one good season though both have spent time with England Lions or underage sides. Leach hasn’t and Simon Kerrigan’s introduction to Test cricket means that the England selectors like to get a close up of their potential international players first so that they can judge their character let alone their ability. Leach joins Rayner in the England Lions squad this winter.

On the subject of Kerrigan, he has 305 First Class victim to his name and his First Class bowling average of 30.05 is lower than Rayner (32.74) another forgotten man in Danny Briggs (33.70) current Bangladesh tourist, Zafar Ansari (34.45) Rashid (34.70) Scott Borthwick (35.75) Liam Dawson (37.47) Samit Patel (39.39) and of course Moeen (41.62). Ravi Patel, Josh Poysden, Stephen Parry, Adam Riley, Rob Keogh, Graeme White and Jack Taylor also all average a lower than Moeen sub forty in First Class cricket. Last year Kerrigan took 35 County Championship Division One wickets at an average of 37.89. Not brilliant but by no means a disgrace. He’s still only twenty-seven-years-old. It was a chastising international debut (8-0-53-0) against Australia at The Oval in 2013 for Kerrigan but where as many England supporters thought that the national team had progressed from a time where players were written off after one poor performance Kerrigan seems to have been well and truly left behind. Last year on Test Match debut and on spinning terrain, Adil Rashid recorded record-breakingly bad figures of 34-0-163-0. Of course unlike Kerrigan the Yorkshire leg-spinner got a second innings chance and on a worn pitch took 5-64.

Back to Leach’s Somerset. It was another Taunton man, nineteen-year-old Dom Bess that topped the County Championship Division One bowling averages last season (See previous post: Six to Watch for more about the England Under-19 International)

https://sillypointcricketsite.wordpress.com/2016/10/10/six-to-watch/

The off-spinner only made two appearances in the County Championship but his performances courted plenty of attention. He recorded figures of 6-28 against Warwickshire on debut before taking 5-43 against Nottinghamshire, both at Taunton. Former England batsmen Jonathan Trott, Ian Bell and Michael Lumb just some of his victims in those two matches. As a result of his 2016 performances Bess has 13 career wickets at 20.30 per victim.

Bess isn’t the only youngster tearing down the spin dearth myth. Kerrigan’s Lancashire’s teammate, nineteen-year-old leg-spinner Matthew Parkinson exploded onto the scene in 2016, recording figures of 5-49 against Warwickshire on debut. Like Bess, Jonathan Trott was among his debut victims. Parkinson’s First Class stats currently read 10 wickets at 36.30.

Another nineteen-year-old leggie is Hampshire’s Mason Crane. 31 wickets at 45.45 with a best of 3-19 in 2016 may seem a little underwhelming but to gain that experience in County Championship Division One at such a young age will only have helped his development. His career figures currently stand at 45 wickets at 40.75 apiece. These are early days in the careers of Bess, Parkinson and Crane so of course there statistics are a small sample size.

Having focused primarily on First Class and Test Match cricket lets switch our attention to the short stuff. In limited overs cricket it is expected that a player’s bowling average will be lower than in First Class cricket. It’s also more understandable that batting credentials might come into the equation. Liam Dawson averages 32.38 with the bat in List A cricket and 35.84 with the ball. He’s next in line in the pajama stuff after Moeen (26.16 and 44.34 in ODIs) and Rashid (27.25 and 35.17)

Northamptonshire’s Graeme White averages 25.79 with the ball in List A cricket, Gloucestershire’s Jack Taylor averages 28.03 and 24.25 with the bat, Surrey’s Zafar Ansari 31.97 and 34.12.

If we consider a broader spectrum, amongst the other Test playing nations, do the likes of Australia’s Jon Holland and Steve O’Keefe, New Zealand’s Mark Craig and Ish Sodhi, South Africa’s Dane Piedt and Simon Harmer, West Indies Sulieman Benn and Devendra Bishoo or Zimbabwe’s Graeme Cremer or John Nyumbu leave English spinners in the shade?

Of course there are less players from smaller populations representing fewer teams in most of the other Test nations mentioned than in England’s eighteen team First Class structure but the quality spin representation at domestic level is proportional.

As for England, the players are out there. Some can bat, some can’t. Some are in their teens, some are in their thirties. Some have played for England before, some haven’t. Some may have already produced their best, some haven’t.

When there’s eleven players in the team and the aim of the game is to score as many runs as possible, somebody’s got to keep wicket, the climate is accommodating to and the pitches are tailored to suit fast bowling then there are only going to be so many spinners around, some of which will be better than others. There may not be as many quality spinners as there are grains of sand on a beach but there are enough diamonds in the rough!