Cricket Captain 2018: Edinburgh Steal!

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As Coach and Selector of the England cricket team, for the one-off ODI against Scotland in Edinburgh, I made a brave but sensible call. Provided the volume of cricket on the horizon in all forms of the game and given the travel involved in crossing the border north, I rested our senior players. This presented those cricketers with the opportunity to find form at domestic level ahead of the ODI and T20I series against Australia. A thirteen-man squad made up of entirely uncapped players was selected for the Scotland encounter. This provided a great opportunity to breed competition amongst our ranks. Nottinghamshire all-rounder Steven Mullaney assumed the honour of captain on international debut. All-rounders Lewis Gregory and Ben Raine were the unlucky members of the squad who didn’t make the playing XI.¬†Any suggestion that we were selling spectators short by not selecting our first choice XI was soon put to bed as one of the most absorbing ODIs in the history of the game played out before our eyes.

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Every single member of our batting unit made a contribution with Joe Clarke, fresh off the back of his 80 in the second Test against Pakistan, top scoring with a free flowing 52 from 64 deliveries. Some late hitting from skipper Steven Mullaney (49 not out) and Ed Barnard (21 not out) helped lift us to 266 for 6 from our allotted 50 overs. Looking back we could possibly have put our feet on the gas sooner in order to try and set a higher target.

Scotland looked well placed for victory courtesy of Calum MacLeod’s run-a-ball 60 at the top of the order but we turned the screws on the middle order as the home side’s hopes of a famous run chase slipped away.

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Gloucestershire recruit Ryan Higgins led the way with figures of 9-1-37-4.

Scotland seemed out of it at 221-9 before Safyaan Sharif (27) and Brad Wheal (24 not out) put on 45 for the last wicket. Ed Barnard was denied the winning wicket because of a no-ball call and there was also a dropped catch at slip. With Scotland needing just four runs to seal a seismic result, Essex’s Matt Coles trapped Sharif LBW to spare our blushes!

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Next we host Australia and India with regular first-team players likely to be recalled. Should injury strike then we’ve identified a strong pool of players from which to call up on.

#undefeated

Telegraph Fantasy Cricket: T20 Blast 2018

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Here’s my Telegraph Fantasy Cricket team for the T20 competition.

Sticking to my tried and tested formula, I’ve selected batsmen that can bowl. Kent’s Joe Denly will surely contribute with the white ball and Ryan Higgins is definatley an all-rounder. He’s been opening the bowling for Gloucestershire in First Class cricket this year following his move from Middlesex. Ross Whiteley is a destructive T20 hitter who as broken into Worcestershire’s County Championship of late. He produced some strong innings in the One-Day Cup and has been collecting the odd wicket too. Sussex’s Harry Finch complete’s my batting line-up.

Tom Moores has seamlessly assumed Chris Read’s position behind the stumps at Nottinghamshire and he’s my gloveman this year.

Hampshire’s Liam Dawson has broke the record for England Lions One-Day bowling figures three times this year and fellow slow-left-armer Samit Patel performed superbly when opening the bowling in the Pakistan Super League last time out. With dry pitches all around the country these two should prosper and might be competing for a place on England’s tours of Sri Lanka and West Indies. Patel, with his all-round capabilities dons my captain’s armband.

AJ Tye didn’t have in easy against England in the ODI series or T20I but will come good for Gloucestershire at domestic level. Many county batsmen just can’t read what’s about to come out of his hand. Matt Coles has broke into the Essex XI and could actually be a useful option for England. He’ll take wickets and biff it with the bat too. Adam Zampa should enjoy the current Australian like English terrain Harry Brookes has broke into the Warwickshire side this year. He’s a capable willow wielder despite his listing s a bowler.

They’ll be an update at the end of the T20 Blast to see how my team performed.

Robbed!

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At the commencement of the 2017 county campaign, Leicestershire ruthlessly decided that they wanted opening batsman Angus Robson out of the First XI. They opted to pair young Harry Dearden with not so young Paul Horton at the top of the order and so Robson departed in rather unceremonious fashion. Leicestershire appear to have since given up on Dearden, temporarily at least. They’ve snapped up Surrey stalwart Arun Harinath on loan. No disrespect to Harinath but that doesn’t really add up does it?

The early season headlines seemed to suggest that Robson had joined Sussex but it soon became clear that it wasn’t quite so straight forward. Robson had joined the Hove outfit but only on a season long Second XI trial. If anything that was probably a bit embarrassing for a determined twentyfive-year-old with just shy of 3000 First Class runs. Anyway, it looks as though Robson might get a chance in the Sussex first team in 2018, possibly at the expense of Chris Nash. Nash has been a good servent to Sussex but hasn’t hit his straps this year when opening alongside young Harry Finch. Bermuda born Delray Rawlins is also part of the equation now.

Back to Robson, his recent outings for Sussex 2s have been pretty productive:

97, 15*, 34, 31*, 0, 66, 70*, 63*, 110*, 35, 59*

That first score of 97 may confirm why he finds himself in his current predicament. In the First Class game he has 27 half-centuries but only two hundreds. That’s possibly the difference between his average of 31.52 and maybe 35 plus. To be fair, reviewing those Second XI scores shows us that he’s finished undefeated on quite a few occasions as well as registering a century.

We’ve recently seen his brother Sam get back into the England Lions fold, hopefully next term we can see little brother Angus can regain a place on the First Class circuit.

Also at Sussex, former England paceman Ajmal Shahzad has left the club. I met Shahzad earlier this year outside of cricket and he was kind enough to ‘talk cricket’ with me. Hopefully he’ll find a new home, stay fit and have three of four years racking up the wickets.

Could he go to Surrey?

I’ll admit it, I’ve given up hope of Mark Footitt playing for England. Going to Division Two won’t help his chances though to be fair, returning to Nottinghamshire he’ll be surrounded by internationals. With Luke Fletcher out for the season and Stuart Broad and Jake Ball in the England reckoning as well as James Pattinson’s future uncertain then Footitt will have a part to play. Hold on! Surrey are well stocked with quicks so could Shahzad even return to Notts?

English county cricket becomes more like the Premier League everyday when it comes to transfers. Maybe Footitt and Shahzad could be opening the bowling at Trent Bridge before the summer is out!