Cricket 19: NWHTC – Dropsy Turvy!

In our final league stage match of the inaugural North Western Hemisphere Test Championship Netherlands called correctly at the toss and to the surprise of no one inside Headingley elected to bat first.

Four balls later they lost opening batsmen Shaun Mortier (2) when he lazily inside edged to wicketkeeper Jos Buttler off the bowling of James Anderson.

Fellow opener Darren Toonen stayed at crease for much longer than his partner, ultimately compiling 58 with the sublime Bradley Claessens.

Toonen occupied 63 deliveries for his 17 before he too inside edged to Buttler, this time off the impressive Ben Stokes.

Captain Warren Beelen (Top score 19/Average 9.12 from 9 Tests) spent ten deliveries being beaten ball after ball by Stokes (1-56). Somehow though he survived to eventually get off the mark with a glorious off-drive for four followed by a few more exquisitely executed boundaries. Then came the moment! Young debutant left-arm fast bowler George Garton had bowled well and the crowd were enjoying his duel with a talented Claessens. One four by Claessens, a flick on to the leg-side that nearly carried for six was a magnificent shot but with not long to go before lunch he (On 56) edged a snorter from Sussex’s Garton. For a split second everybody assumed that the young bowler had a maiden Test wicket but having already snaffled two victims in the match it was third time unlucky for Buttler… and Garton!

The fact that Buttler didn’t have to move may have actually hindered him. Having been far too hot for an on his toes Claessens to handle, the ball was still burning when it thumped Buttler’s gloves (That had vitally got in the way of his face!) a split second later. It was to be hoped that both he and Garton could put the disappointment behind them. The Dutch reached lunch at 97-2 after an excellent session of competitive Test match cricket.

In the second session we leaked a few runs before Jamie Porter stepped up to claim the prize scalp of Claessens (66) LBW via a full inswinging delivery. It was an important breakthrough and a welcome one for the Essex man in only his second Test. The drop before lunch fortunately not proving too costly.

Bryan Long (1) hadn’t been at the crease for long when James Anderson trapped him LBW in similar fashion. The erstwhile Anderson then had Beelen caught at third slip by Root for a Test best 25 as the Dutch crumbled from 109-2 to 124-5.

With the final ball before beverages Porter should’ve had a second wicket having lured Maxwell Rabe into an edge but Dawid Malan shelled a relatively straight forward chance at slip. Our bowlers were bowling extremely well but our fielding was failing to scale such heights. For the second successive break in play we assembled having done well but tinged with disappointment.

After thirsts had been quenched Rabe and Pluto Schmidt applied themselves well to lift Netherlands to 163-5 before Garton bowled a beautiful inswinger to Schmidt. Once again the left-armer seemed set for his maiden Test wicket but the right-handed batsman got a tiny inside edge to avoid being LBW. The ball ballooned into the air though but there was hesitation between stumper Buttler and Malan. With both players having already dropped a catch they clearly didn’t want a repeat but ultimately Malan spilled another opportunity. For poor Garton, his first ever wicket at Test level went begging once more. The Dutch had reached 175-5 when tea was taken.

It was left to Anderson again to curtail the Dutch courage as he tempted Schmidt (40) to nick behind and this time Buttler held on. Alongside Engels though Rabe rallied and brought up a half-century via some overthrows. The visitors were 234-6 when the new ball was taken under lights and beneath a glorious setting sun in Yorkshire.

Late in the day and with a brand new cherry in hand Porter continued to go from strength to strength, firstly by claiming the key wicket of Rabe for 63. Rabe was deceived by a slower ball and a review only confirmed what we already knew…. out! Porter then beat Shane Snater with an outswinger before bringing the next delivery in to illuminate the dangerous batsman’s zing bails. Netherlands closed on 260-8 after an attritional day of Test cricket with a five-wicket haul eluding Anderson despite him bowling late into the night.

After a period of frustration first thing on day two Anderson trapped Engels (42) LBW courtesy of a full inswinging delivery to end a good knock from the Dutch gloveman. Anderson (5-93) thoroughly deserved his first NWHTC five-wicket bag. There then followed further frustration as the visibly growing in confidence Fred Klassen passed fifty with the stoic Paul van Meekeren for company. The pair had lifted Netherlands from 280-9 to 339-9 at lunch with the wicket of Engels the only one to fall in thirty overs of play.

As the day elapsed our frustration grew and grew and we promptly wasted both our reviews on consecutive deliveries. Our LBW appeals were misguided and the last wicket pair brought up a century partnership soon after. Quite fittingly given our fielding effort they reached the figure courtesy of yet more overthrows.

Eventually Porter (4-97) pierced van Meekeren’s defence and with the crucial aid of an inside edge toppled the number eleven’s stumps. van Meekeren (24), who had faced 112 deliveries was as crestfallen as Klassen who was cruelly left stranded on 96 not out. Even the local fans openly wanted Klassen’s superb batsmanship to be rewarded with a Test ton but it just and only just wasn’t to be.

Huge respect to the Dutch who recovered from 124-5 to post 387 with lots of contributions, fine batting and a bit too much assistance from our fielders. That was a particular shame provided the standard of our bowling and especially unfair on Garton (0-73) who ended wicketless on debut. The Dutch had kept us in the field for a gruelling 132.3 overs.

Come our turn to bat openers Dawid Malan and Haseeb Hameed experienced contrasting first deliveries with Malan being dropped first ball by van Meekeren off his own bowling but Hameed hooking Klassen for six. The pair had demonstratively compiled 130 but it required only three balls of spin before a breakthrough. Malan (68) edged behind to Engels and the Netherlands had an inroad. Dominic Sibley saw out the session with Hameed who was up to 996 career Test runs.

Hameed (Passed 1000 Test runs) and Sibley strolled on with the partnership soon passing fifty. Lancashire’s Hameed moved onto 99 under a setting sun in enemy territory Yorkshire but Sibley (37) nicked behind off off-spinner Darren Toonen (1-39) the very next ball. Once again Warwickshire’s Sibley showed huge promise but failed to post a score of substance and would need a score second time around to secure a place in the final.

After captain Joe Root had achieved duck avoidance Hameed notched a second Test/NWHTC ton with a riskyish single. It was a great way to repay the faith as Hameed is the only England player to have featured in all ten NWHTC matches. Frustratingly Hameed (102) was then run out but at least it came courtesy of an outstanding throw from Bryan Long rather than a farcical debacle between the wickets. Hameed’s demise brought debutant Harry Brook to the crease on his home ground to join his captain and county teammate, #special.

It didn’t take long for Brook to look right at home and either side of liquid refreshments he enjoyed a partnership of 79 with his skipper. Sadly Root (24) made a mess of an attempted pull off Klassen to fall caught and bowled and finally give the bowler something to celebrate. Ben Stokes (30) and Jos Buttler (11) both fell to spinner Schmidt having played all too familiar entertaining but unsubstantial innings that would be more at home in T20 cricket. For Buttler especially, having already been dropped once, to be caught in the in-field so late in the day was foolish. All the while as the day drew to a close Brook marched towards a Test ton and was 90 not out alongside Rob Keogh (2*) at stumps.

Come the third day little time had eluded before Brook brought up a historic hundred in front of his family and devout white rose faithful. He did however survive a controversial run out opportunity not long after celebrating his century. There was little appeal from the Netherlands players but replays suggest that Brook didn’t appear to have grounded his bat when the bails were dislodged. The zing bails failed to light up immediately and by the time they did Brook was touching a single blade of grass at best. He survived though and had put on 83 with Keogh when the latter tried one shot too many and was caught and bowled by van Meekeren (2-113) It was disappointing for Keogh (45) to not reach fifty but he finally had a score of note at Test level under his belt and had helped us gain a first innings advantage.

George Garton, luckless with the ball on debut, swashbuckled his way to 12 before being expansively bowled by that man van Meekeren. Jamie Porter made 5 before left-armer Klassen (2-172!) finally displayed his class by angling a ball across the right-handed batsman and finding the edge for Engels to pouch.

Having terrorised the visitors with the ball James Anderson then did so with the bat. Alongside the immovable and indefatigable Brook, Anderson smashed van Meekeren for consecutive sixes and ultimately the pair added 55 for the final wicket. Anderson (34) finally fell to a sharp catch from Klassen at leg-slip off the bowling of the sound Schmidt (4-80). As for Harry Brook, the young Yorkshireman finished 149 not out on a debut that will live long in the memory of many. That last wicket stand raised our collective effort to 519 and put the Dutch 132 runs in arrears.

Before tea James Anderson and Jamie Porter released eight overs of high quality seam and swing bowling to dent the Dutch deficit even further. Darren Toonen (0) failed to make it through even one Porter over as Buttler claimed a sharp catch off a pacey delivery. For Toonen (193 runs @ 10.16, 84 of which came in one innings) his torturous tournament with the bat was at an end.

Soon after the resumption Ben Stokes found the inside edge of Claessens bat and Buttler pouched another victim. Captain Beelen narrowly survived an LBW appeal the very next ball.

After the dropped catches off his bowling in the first innings and narrowly missing the stumps on numerous occasions early in his spell in the second, debutante George Garton finally claimed a thoroughly deserved first Test wicket. Bowling over the wicket he got a ball to swing back into Beelen and classically clip the top of off stump. Beelen fell for 10 to finish the inaugural NWHTC with an average of exactly… 10.00.

Despite the loss of his leader, Mortier marched on with Long for company and by tea on the third day their partnership had stretched to 75 with the former left to stew on 98 at the interval.

In the first over of the final session Mortier reached a much deserved ton then blasted Ben Stokes (1-86) over the ropes for a maximum. The partnership swelled to 119 before Long (24) was trapped LBW by the part-time leg-spin of Dawid Malan. For Malan (1-45) it was a first Test wicket to end 89 balls of resistance from the dogged Long. Mortier would later bring up his 150 with a six off the same bowler and breed fifty plus with the reliable Rabe to put the Netherlands 110 runs to the good at stumps.

After a good sleep Mortier and Rabe in particular went from strength to strength with their partnership soon totalling 81. Almost inexplicably the monstrous Mortier (178) edged behind to Buttler off the very first ball bowled by the innocuous looking off-spin of Dominic Sibley (1-11). Credit captain Joe Root for chucking the Warwickshire man the ball and like Garton and Malan before him, Sibley claimed his maiden wicket at Test level in this very innings. The knock by Mortier had been an innings for the ages scored by a man without a fifty going into his side’s final innings (His 20th) of the competition. Those who were there, regardless of which team was theirs were humbled to have witnessed such a supreme knock.

With the old ball still in hand Garton, luckless in the first innings, lured Pluto Schmidt into playing away from his body and Buttler made no mistake to give Garton (2-47) his second Test wicket.

Then in the first over with the new ball James Anderson (0-67) lobbed a flat bat from Rabe (46) at the stumps and despite the batsman’s foot being on the line the umpire raised his finger. 266-4 had all of a sudden become 289-7 for the Dutch.

There then followed another solid partnership, this time between Engels and Snater that took Netherlands to 343-7, a lead of 221 at lunch on day four and us struggling to make use of the new ball.

After the partnership had reached 92 a bowling change did the trick as Jamie Porter defined plumb LBW to discharge Engels (54) from the batting theatre. Having compiled 42 in the first dig it was another more than handy batting contribution from the tourists’ gloveman. Before the over was complete Essex’s premier paceman Porter had the other set batsman, Snater (42), caught behind by a swift Buttler. Then in his following over, despite the obligatory review, last man van Meekeren couldn’t repeat his first innings heroics and fell for a four-ball duck as Porter (4-52) feasted on Dutch tail. That meant that first innings hero Klassen was left stranded on 8 not out.

390 was the sum total of the Netherlands’s effort, only three more runs than their first innings but this time slightly less spread around and primarily built around Mortier’s magnificent 170. 259 was the target for us to claim victory.

Despite the loss of Malan (5), instinctively and superbly caught and bowled by Klassen, we were soon acing our run chase. Haseeb Hameed, having scored a ton in the first innings and Dominic Sibley, for the first time in Test cricket, both passed fifty. At tea on the fourth day the usually stoic pair had fluidly taken us to 146-1, just 112 runs away from victory and seemingly on course to seal the deal with a day to spare.

Maybe Hameed (90) didn’t get enough nutrients inside him during the interval because after dispatching a couple more deliveries to the ropes he was distraught to be caught off Klassen (2-78) when centuries in each innings seemed a certainty. After that combination had compiled 137 the next pair put on an undefeated 107 to take us to a hard fought eight-wicket win.

Promoted to number four at the expense of and by his captain, Rob Keogh crossed the Test fifty mark for the first time. Having endured a difficult baptisimal phase in international cricket Keogh (59*) looked the part, with the bat at least, in this match.

Meanwhile at the other end Sibley followed a couple of starts with an assured 105 not out in only his second Test and hit the winning runs under a darkening sky.

We were pushed hard in this match by a Dutch side who continue to develop fast at this level. We dropped catches in the first innings of the match but aced our run chase in the last. The performances of newcomers such as Sibley, Keogh, Brook, Garton and particularly Porter who had been recalled for only his second outing were hugely encouraging. Said performances provide a real selection headache for the hugely anticipated final against Scotland who eased past Canada in the final league match by ten wickets.

For the record, Scotland topped the table with 9 wins, we won 8 beating everybody twice but losing to Scotland in both matches (Making for a tasty final!), Ireland won 6, Canada won 5 and lost 5 whilst USA and Netherlands claimed a solitary win apiece… against each other!

USA batsman Stuart Trujillo (1041) currently tops the run charts and so in-form Haseeb Hameed will require 139 runs in the final to overtake him… or Moeen will need to score 283! Meanwhile Scotland have in their line-up the only two batsmen to have scored three NWHTC centuries. Mortier’s 178 toppled Trujillo’s best by one run to be the league stage’s top knock.

Scotland spinner Mark Watt has 55 wickets so far and it’s near impossible for him to be caught. Fellow spinner Martin Law has 43 and it’s that dual spin threat that we’ll have to contend with at Sophia Gardens in Wales in the final. Sam Curran has an England best 37. Klassen’s 8-42/11-62 remain the best BBI/BBM.

Cricket 19: NWHTC – By the Skin(ner) of Their Teeth!

Brexit uncertainty continues, power outages frustrate and flooding wreaks havoc. Food prices go up as does fuel but protestors are shot down. TV shows reach their season finale, VAR prevents a goal and people find themselves unemployed after years of dedicated service. House prices go up as does the cost of your holiday but trees still fall. Promiscuous youngsters are considered role models, endangered animals go extinct before our very eyes and uncontacted tribes become contacted and face the possibly deadly consequences. Despite all this, cricket continues…

After seven ODIs on the bounce we returned to the Test format in the territory of arch-rivals Scotland. The players survived the treacherous voyage north of the borderline but found re-adapting to the game’s longest format challenging. Maybe we need to rethink our selection policy and have fewer players straddle dual formats.

Dawid Malan (25) displayed promise at the top order in an opening stand of 49 with Haseeb Hameed but committed the schoolboy error of not having a look when part-timer Roman Bruce came onto bowl and immediately became only Braveheart’s second Test victim.

Ben Stokes, who you might have anticipated would be a little more at home in the alien conditions provided his familiarity with northern surfaces, was bowled when opting to leave having made only 8 (My wife walking up to me with our youngest daughter in hand contributing to the Durham man’s demise!). Leader of men Joe Root was caught at slip for 11 before Hameed and Moeen Ali set about repairing the damage. Hameed (67) was needlessly run out however when a century beckoned and Moeen (51) was caught behind the very delivery post posting fifty.

Jonny Bairstow was bowled first ball but an under pressure Jos Buttler (75) alongside Sam Curran (56) batted maturely to propel us from 180-6 to 295-7. Chris Woakes was less mature when caught behind for 6 which left last men standing Stuart Broad and James Anderson to extend the score. Coming together at 301-9, Broad was dropped just three runs later and Scotland were made to pay somewhat. Our opening bowlers lifted us to 329 with Anderson falling for 18 and Broad left not out on 10.

It was a rather juxtaposed innings with a number of batsmen looking in glorious touch and executing some majestic shots but only Moeen and Curran can really say that they were got out. Spin duo Martin Law and Mark Watt astonishingly claimed identical figures of 3-57.

In Scotland’s first venture to the crease, Stuart Broad soon dismissed opener Mahdi Clay (5) to leave the home side 9-1 before the ultra-aggressive Kyle Coetzer (150) alongside a more steady away Caden McCarthy (81) batted for the rest of the day. Possibly distracted by thoughts of a century, McCarthy soon fell to Broad the following morning. The impressive Broad then claimed a third victim when he trapped Burke (6) LBW before Chris Woakes stoked the fire further by claiming three wickets of his own. Coetzer was roughed up by Sam Curran bowling around the wicket before Woakes terminated his expansive innings. Out of nowhere Warwickshire’s Woakes was suddenly bowling at his peak. Curran himself as well as Stokes then both got in on the wicket taking action as Scotland collapsed from 195-1 to 302-8 at the end of day two.

Scotland’s tail wagged a little the following morning before Watt (21) and Abdulrahman Egan (12) fell to the excellent Broad (4-59) and Anderson (1-51) respectively. The home side’s efforts equated to 318 meaning that we effectively commenced our second innings on 11-0.

Dawid Malan (37) and Haseeb Hameed compiled 63 second time around before Malan edged a tame chance skyward when trying to deflect to leg. The Middlesex man had once again laid the foundations but only produced a promising not substantial innings. Ben Stokes made a brisk 31 whilst compiling 67 with Hameed before Hameed himself, who’d gone over the top a few times, inside edged when attempting another grand shot and looked rather ugly in falling for 76. 175-3 was the score come the respite.

The evening session’s premier delivery resulted in Root (13) edging behind and Jos Buttler (14) didn’t last much longer. The unheralded medium-pacer Roman Bruce (3-111) was chief-tormentor yet again. Jonny Bairstow should’ve been out to the next delivery but Scotland’s close fielders inexplicably failed to attempt the catch despite replays confirming that the ball had deflected off the Yorkshireman’s glove. As a result, YJB avoided the ignominy of a king pair but it mattered little as he soon succumbed to spin for just 2.

Just as Scotland sniffed a serious chance of making their run chase more manageable, Moeen Ali and Sam Curran (60) combined for an exhilarating 104-run partnership to seemingly take the game away from the hosts. Chris Woakes fell for a breezy 11 when attempting a maximum but to the next delivery Moeen Ali performed something possibly unique. The left-hander reached a century from only 56 deliveries courtesy of an all run 5!

Stuart Broad (14) briefly entertained before becoming Martin Law’s (4-76) fourth victim of the innings. Moeen (120 not out) and James Anderson (12 not out) lifted the score to 399-9 before we declared. Bizarrely, spinner Mark Watt wasn’t called upon to bowl during our second innings. Scotland were set 410 for victory with a few overs to negotiate at the end of day three.

Scotland’s chase got off to an inauspicious start when Clay was comically stumped by Bairstow of the bowling of Anderson to the last delivery of the first over. 0-1 soon became 13-2 when Anderson struck again. This time it was was key man Coetzer trapped LBW for only 7. McCarthy and Bruce resisted despite Stokes originally winning an LBW appeal before it was overturned however Moeen Ali struck first ball to dismiss McCarthy (40). Bairstow pouched the edge to end the 74-run combo with Scotland still a mammoth 324 runs shy of victory. Unbelievably, Moeen then repeated the trick with the first ball of his second over. Left-hander Gene Moore was caught behind without scoring to complete a disappointing Test match for the left-hander and another dismissal for Bairstow.

On the fourth morning the home batsmen saw off James Anderson but Dorian Burke perished to the Moeen/Bairstow combo having crafted an elegant 29. Roman Bruce then converted form with the ball into form with the bat by compiling a magnificent career best 148. Bruce compiled a 167-run stand with Martin Law and really opened up having passed the century mark. However, with 104 still runs required for victory, Bruce was bowled by Moeen off the second ball of day five. Captain Joe Root, whose captaincy on day three was heavily criticised in the media, deserves huge credit for starting the day with Moeen when the ball was only ten overs old.

Law then added an immensely frustrating 70 runs with the resolute Saul Skinner as Scotland closed in on victory. Eventually, having switched to bowling around the wicket, Sam Curran got Law to play on to his stumps via an unnecessarily excessive forward defensive shot. Law (127) had finally fallen having contributed a superb maiden Test ton to put his side within touching distance of a famous win.

James Anderson soon snapped up Mark Watt for 1 courtesy of Joe Root in the slips with Scotland still 30 runs shy of victory and suddenly we looked like favourites. It wasn’t to be…

With Scotland requiring 7 runs for victory, Moeen Ali and James Anderson bowled back to back maidens before we gifted the home side four overthrows. More maidens followed but Scotland went onto win by two wickets with a composed Saul Skinner (39 not out) and Abdulrahman Egan (18 not out) seeing them home. Huge respect to Skinner in particular who endured a chastening game with the ball but faced 119 deliveries to seal an amazing run chase.

To say that Moeen Ali didn’t deserve to be on the losing side would be an understatement of epic proportions.

For us, it’s back to the drawing board after another defeat against a Scotland side that we failed to defend a total in excess of 400 against for a second time in this competition. That’s six wins from six for the Scots and, with us level on points with Ireland, means there’s little room for manoeuvre if we hope to make the final where we’ll almost certainly take on Scotland once again. Next up we host Canada (W3L3) at Lords. Our squad for that match will be announced soon.

Cricket 19: NWHTC – Statistical Update

Having reached the halfway point of the round robin stage of the inaugural North Western Hemisphere Test Championship, here are some statistical highlights from our performances. Remember that we lost to Scotland in our opening match but have gone onto beat Canada, USA, Ireland and Netherlands.

Highest Team Total: 493-8 dec vs. USA at Edgbaston

Highest Individual Innings: Haseeb Hameed – 154 vs. USA at Edgbaston

Highest Batting Average: Joe Root – 52.25

Leading Run-scorer: Joe Root – 418

Most Catches: Jonny Bairstow – 41 (Forty-One!!!)

Best Bowling (Innings): Sam Curran – 6-26 vs. USA at Edgbaston

Best Bowling (Match): Sam Curran – 10-127 vs. Canada at Ottawa Oval

Best Bowling Average: Sam Curran – 13.50

Leading wicket taker: Sam Curran – 28

Cricket 19: North Western Hemisphere Test Championship – American… AmeriCan’t!

By the time USA, having won the toss and chosen to bat reached 41 without loss, our frustration was growing. We’d conceded unnecessary overthrows and failed to review an LBW shout that would’ve gone in our favour. Eventually Stuart Broad delivered the pink orb on target with the stumps before they too lit up a shade of pink, fluorescent pink. What the Edgbaston faithful made of such modern gimmicks one can only wonder! The wonderfully named John-James Morrison’s knock of 12 was double his Test average but his end meant that Stuart Trujillo, averaging north of fifty, strode to the crease. Moeen Ali soon put the paid to those numbers however. After a difficult game in Canada, Moeen was on the mark straight away. Jonny Bairstow, who hadn’t exactly covered himself in glory upto that point in the innings, claimed a sharp catch to remove Trujillo. Replays were inconclusive as to whether or not the left-hander’s bat actually connected with the ball. Following the LBW reprieve earlier in proceedings, maybe we could call it evens. The anticipation of precipitation then proved correct. Sky water descended with USA 57-2.

By the time the heavens opened for a second time, the visitors had reached 73 still only two wickets down. Then, after James Anderson completed his over, Sam Curran struck with the first delivery of his. Martin Potter (45) was the victim, trapped LBW. Potter had benefited from a few overthrows early in his innings but cast a spell on our bowlers, displaying the sort of wizardry that his namesake Harry would’ve been proud of. The interruptions in play may have unsettled him and contributed to his demise.

Next man Tahla Pittman struggled against Curran from the get go and was soon excellently caught and bowled for 6 off a leading edge by the Surrey teenager. Curran then sent Jackson North south for a duck, rearranging his timber in the same over. Another left-armer, the recalled Liam Dawson then snaffled Henry Wilks for just 1. Dawson was benefiting from the long term injury absence of the unfortunate Jack Leach. The wicket was courtesy of more sharp work behind the stumps from Bairstow after he and Daws had already gone close in the same over. The baton then passed back to Curran who outed Ayan Jeffries (14) as the American procession continued at pace. Shaurya Napier (4) was next to have his woodwork remodelled as Curran claimed a second five-wicket haul in as many matches. After some brief resistance James Anderson terminated Rufus Suarez’s 29-ball vigil on 5 before Asher Kennedy (4 from 47) and Niall Kerr (14 not out) dug in to haul the Americans to 113. Fittingly, it was young Curran who claimed the final wicket of the innings not long after the floodlights had been switched on. It had been an outstanding effort by our bowling attack after USA had reached 77-2 only to lose eight wickets for just 36 runs. Our spinners dried up the runs (Moeen 8-5-4-1/Dawson 8-3-8-1) but it was Curran (6-26) who was on fire for the second Test in a row. Take out the overthrows and USA wouldn’t have even reached three digits.

Buoyed by their performances in the previous match, our opening combo of Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed had reached 70 without loss when Burns drove gloriously through the covers for four. The very next ball however he pushed at a Rufus Suarez delivery that was a bit straighter and pitched up resulting in a nick to the ‘keeper. Replays suggested that the ball didn’t carry but in truth it was a poor shot and Burns’ innings was extinguished. Like Burns, Ben Duckett looked set for a big score but dragged onto his stumps having amassed 23 to leave us 111-2, two runs from parity.

Hameed went onto record his first fifty of the competition and at the close of play on a rain affected first day, had helped guide us to 159-2, a lead of 46.

Following further sky streams on the second day, the start of play was delayed by over an hour. A shortened session though it was, Hameed and Root played low risk cricket against a disciplined bowling unit and improved field placings to progress to inversions of each other’s score, 83 & 38 respectively.

Hameed would go on to register an emotional maiden Test hundred. There were surely times when the Lancastrian thought another opportunity at the highest level wouldn’t present itself but having been given the chance he’s made the most of it.

Hameed and Root compiled a partnership of 123 before the skipper was out caught behind off the bowling of Jackson North. The fall of a wicket came as a surprise to everybody but credit to North for a probing delivery. Having reached fifty exactly, I know that Joe was disappointed not to kick on and emulate Hameed’s efforts.

Like Burns and Duckett before him, Jos Buttler looked in insatiable touch (Not surprising after his ton in Canada), effortlessly reaching 30 from only 23 deliveries before falling to Pittman. Buttler made a horrible misjudgement, leaving a delivery that pitched in the rough and spun back in. Moeen Ali continued the trend of looking in excellent rhythm and soon after the illuminations had been turned on, headed off to tea alongside Hameed who was just one shy of 150.

Following the interval and having added 94 with Moeen, Hameed finally fell for a marvellous 154 from 189 deliveries. It was an epic innings that should serve as the template for our top order batsmen.

Jonny Bairstow (23) also got a start but the thinnest of edges saw him caught behind off the bowling of Pittman. Before long Moeen brought up a majestically mastered hundred but Sam Curran (16) was caught and bowled by the persistent if inconsistent Jackson North. Immediately after bludgeoning the premier six of the match, Moeen (125) was caught off a full toss off the bowling of Asher Kennedy. We declared on 493-8, a lead of 380 runs and welcomed the visitors to bat again under lights late on day two.

A word again though for messrs Hameed and Moeen. Hameed built on the starts he’d made in the previous match and was unaffected by any wickets that fell around him. He didn’t just pass 100 either, he went big! Moeen was assertive but measured. He struck some stunning boundaries but worked the gaps too. The rest of our batting order, all of whom made starts, should learn from their peers.

We were unable to claim a wicket in the five overs before close and lost over an hour to the showers again at the start of day three. By lunch however James Anderson had dismissed first innings top scorer Martin ‘The Wizard’ Potter for just 4. There’d be no magic shows from him this time. Abracadabra!

JJ Morrison defended stoically (And at times painfully!) meanwhile Stuart Trujillo took the attack to our… attack and was undefeated on 37 when the kettles were boiled.

JJ Morrison’s resistance soon came to an end. Thoroughly worked over by Moeen, he was put out of his misery when his stumps were demolished and his torturous 78-ball 9 was over. Jeffries (14) hung around but was out to Broad before Moeen thought he had Pittman LBW second ball but the decision was correctly overturned. Moeen kept his head up though and terminated top-scorer Trujillo’s bold knock of 75. Liam Dawson then got in on the act and deservedly so. Tahla Pittman was the victim, nicking behind on 21 when you could smell that tea was ready! USA sat down for their platters on a respectable 135-5 but still a mammoth 245 runs in the red.

In the final session, Stuart Broad knocked over the American batting line-up like the proverbial deck of cards. Sadly for the visitors, it was Broad who held the ace up his sleeve! Wilks (8), North (26), Napier (4) and Kennedy for a golden duck were all victims as Broad claimed 5-50 as a result of some high class bowling. Moeen Ali claimed the other remaining wicket to finish with fabulous figures of 3-45 from 16 overs of consistent probing. it was an excellent response in the face of criticism from some quarters following his performance in Canada. Jonny Bairstow added five more victims in the innings to what now stands as a tournament topping tally of 22.

In the end the margin of victory was a whopping innings and 209 runs. Credit to the USA who stuck to task with the ball and improved second time around with willow but it was never going to be enough against our most complete performance so far.

Scotland remain top of the tree after thrashing the Dutch. A Kyle Coetzer century and yet more wickets for Mark Watt paved the way for a win.

Next up for us we entertain Ireland at Old Trafford. Like us they’ve won two matches and lost one so it’s a huge game as we try to stay within sight of the Scots. Look out for our squad announcement tomorrow afternoon.

Sensational Sibley Sizzles… for England?

Warwickshire’s Dominic Sibley is making an almost irresistible case to be the next man to open the batting for England’s Test side. The twenty-three-year-old Epsom born bat has notched up six First Class tons in as many matches spread over this season and last. He’s currently averaging 83.00 in the County Championship having clocked up a total of 249 runs. Crucially those runs have been scored in Division One.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/cricket/county-championship-division-one/averages

Right-handed Sibley hit the headlines early in his career when compiling an innings of 242 for home team Surrey but felt it necessary to seek new pastures in order to guarantee first team cricket. He set sail to Warwickshire and joined former Yorkshire player Will Rhodes at the top of the order. The pair didn’t quite hit it off at first but have developed into a reliable opening pair for the Edgbaston outfit.

England Selector Ed Smith should know as well as anyone that form doesn’t always translate to Test quality but Sibley has maintained his standards for some time now. If he can continue his run-glut then he could debut against Ireland at Lords later this summer.

Lancashire’s Haseeb Hameed has shown signs of a resurgence albeit in Division Two meanwhile Nottinghamshire recruit Ben Duckett is settling into life at new home Trent Bridge. Neither are getting anywhere near Sibley’s consistency however. Uncapped Middlesex left-hander Nick Gubbins could also come into the equation though like Hameed he’s playing in Division Two and like Duckett he’s often to be found batting first drop. Of course both positions are up for grabs in England’s Test side. Incumbents Keaton Jennings and Joe Denly could yet be saved if England are reluctant to blood or bring in from the cold, two batsmen in the top three one Test before the Ashes.

Sibley can only keep churning out runs on all pitches against a variety of opposition and await the call.

20,000!

20,000 seems like a number worth celebrating so thank you for helping me reach said milestone of hits.

My articles involving the entire evolution of Big Ant’s console cricket games: Don Bradman Cricket 14 and 17, Ashes Cricket and Cricket 19 have been the mainstay of my views courtesy of search engines.

Posts on another cricket game but away from console: Cricket Captain, have also been critical to my amassing of views.

A particular interest for many in Haseeb Hameed has also helped me gain plenty of views!

Screen Shot 2019-04-18 at 20.02.36

My homeland, the United Kingdom, is the run away leader for me in terms of hits with India then USA in the silver and bronze medal positions respectively.

https://sillypointcricket.com/2017/01/25/don-bradman-cricket-17-career-stagnation/

The above post has been my most discovered.

With a bumper summer of cricket ahead and plenty of Cricket 19 posts on the way, maybe I can double 20k in less time than the three years it’s taken me to reach this point in the first place!

Northeast Finds Direction!

Following a frustrating injury hit first campaign with his adopted county, former Kent captain Sam Northeast commenced the new season with an impressive knock of 169 for Hampshire against Essex.

It’s easy to assume that Northeast has fallen down the pecking order in terms of England selection but if he can back up his opening knock with more of the same then there’s no reason why he couldn’t gatecrash the Ashes. Incumbent Joe Denly is currently sat on the bench at the IPL. He is very much an Ed Smith selection however. Denly made 69 in his last Test innings but then James Vince made 76 in his. With Northeast performing at three and Vince opening, could the Hampshire duo both make England’s next Test squad?

Yorkshire’s Adam Lyth made runs too. He’s a very good player but the fact that previous Test shortcomings occurred against Australia in England will probably count against him. There’ll be a clamour for Joe Clarke who let his cricket do the talking when making a debut ton for Nottinghamshire meanwhile Haseeb Hameed registered a double century against the students.

Ultimately the early season signs are that unlike recent seasons, England might have some difficult selection choices to make but in a good way.