Telegraph Fantasy Cricket: CC/ODC 2018

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The above is my first XI. It’s in the all-rounder roles that I’ve gambled with Rhodes and Rawlins. Rhodes has moved from Yorkshire to Warwickshire so should see increased game time and will be keen to show what he’s capable of. Rawlins made an impression in the North v South matches and this should be his breakout season. Simpson is a reliable wicketkeeper and I think there is real logic in the stumper being captain. I’ve plucked for a possibly slightly under the radar bowling attack and expect Mennie and hopefully Hutton to contribute runs too. I’ve very deliberately selected batsman that will at least occasionally bowl and should get opportunities in both formats of the game.

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For my second XI, I’ve gone for the two all-rounders that I consider guaranteed runs and wickets. I’ve opted for a reliable batting unit and expect Fell to return to form this year. Though my bowling unit may not be guaranteed outings in both codes, Coad and Footitt are wicket takers in the First Class format. Mahmood is coming into the campaign off the back of impressive performances in North v South and Nijjar, a useful spin bowler, has been opening the batting for Essex pre-season. What happens to Alastair Cook with England may determine Nijjar’s opportunities. If Roderick is available throughout the season, he should be steady away behind the stumps and with bat in hand.

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Have I ever mentioned that I like Ben Duckett?

Mitchell is as consistent as they come and bowls too. Smith has returned to Durham and I expect plenty of runs from the experienced head back up north. Alongside him, Brook is primed for his breakthrough campaign after debuting last term. Kuhn may not keep wicket but is a solid performer at domestic level. My bowling attack may receive England and England Lions call-ups but have runs as well as wickets in them in both formats. Bresnan is as solid an option as Patel and Bopara and van der Merwe is a destructive player.

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In my fourth XI, I’ve gone Warwickshire and England veteran heavy in my batting line-up, messrs Trott and Bell leading the charge. Bell-Drummond will be looking to kick-on and fingers crossed for a run-filled renaissance from Nick Compton. Like Kuhn, Pope may not always keep wicket but will be playing regularly and in the runs this year. Berg is as reliable as anyone with the ball and Procter prospered last term having relocated to Northamptonshire. I want a bit more from Barker and Rayner this year. Fletcher is back from injury and if Overton, rated 3!, can stay fit then he’s a shrewd selection.

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In my fifth XI are the other players that I like who I couldn’t squeeze into my first four teams. Northeast has moved to Hampshire but is as reliable as they come with the bat. Wells is solid in the First Class game as is Burns. Dent is an under rated player too. McManus gets the gloves with the experienced Clarke, back at Surrey, and less experienced but quick Chappell in the all-rounder roles. Hopefully Norwell has shrugged off any injury niggles. Ball will be left to play county cricket this term whilst Patterson is another of my reliable picks. Qadri made an impressive debut last year and will look to back it up.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve avoided selecting players that will be on England duty. It’s steady away county pros that you need sprinkled with one or two yet to be discovered gems just primed to be this year’s Ben Coad.

Let me know what you think about my teams and which one is likely to win me the massive cash prize of……….. £3,000!

https://fantasycricket.telegraph.co.uk/county

Disclaimer: I’ve since been tinkering away, so my teams don’t look quite the same as above. I’ll keep you up to date once the campaign commences!

Cook to Come in from the Cold?

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120, 32, 98 & 70*. That’s what opening batsman Stephen Cook scored for South Africa A in their competitive series against India’s second string recently. I closely analysed Cook’s performance in Australia in a series of previous articles…

https://sillypointcricketsite.wordpress.com/2016/12/28/cook-in-command-no-not-that-one/

and despite registering a century in that series, ‘The Proteas’ selectors soon lost patience and initially replaced him with Theunis De Bruyn in New Zealand before bringing in Heino Kuhn against England. Kuhn was selected on the back of an undefeated double hundred in a tour game but made only 113 fifty-less runs at a paltry average of 14.12 in the series. As we’ve seen from the efforts of West Indies batsmen, big runs against second string county sides don’t always translate into international runs.

Prior to the England Test series, Cook had been playing in England for Durham and had been steady in the County Championship without quite being outstanding but surely that experience and acclimatisation would have served him well. It was an odd decision to replace him with non-opener De Bruyn in the first place, only to then move onto another elder statesman in Kuhn. Kuhn (33) and Cook (34) are about the same age. Having invested in Cook it may have made more sense to have persevered with him. All this chopping and changing will sound familiar to England followers. Judging by his response in the A series Cook is, as we already know, a determined fighter. Back to De Bruyn, South Africa don’t really seem to know what he is (opener, middle-order bat, all-rounder?) and mucked him around during the Test series in England.

South Africa host Bangladesh next this September. They may see this as an opportunity to blood a young gun, the likes of Aiden Markram who was back-up in the summer and has struck a couple of 70s in the India A series. They may also decide that it’s worth sticking with Kuhn and good luck to him if they do. Having said that, if Cook is in the A squad then he must be in with a serious shout of a recall. He’s a gritty non-showy type of player, my type of player. I’ve always had a thing for stoic opening batsmen and would love to see Cook win a return to the international fold. He’d surely back his chances of closing in on 1000 Test runs at home against Bangladesh.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/southafrica/content/player/44656.html

Maiden Test Wicket for Roland-Jones!

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Middlesex legend Toby Roland-Jones, aka Toblerone has snapped up his first Test victim in the third Test against South Africa. Dean Elgar had the honour of being TR-J’s maiden Test scalp and at the time of writing Roland-Jones has added Heino Kuhn and Hashim Amla to his list of Test dismissals. His figures currently read 3-8 to add to the 25 runs he posted in England’s innings.

Start as you mean to go on Toby!