For Whom the Bell Tolls!

Warwickshire stalwart Ian Bell will miss the first three months of the county campaign because of a toe injury sustained during the PSL. The 36-year-old’s chances of gatecrashing the Ashes now appear even slimmer than the own brand lasagne sheet that they already were!

If you were lining up Bell as a vital component of your fantasy cricket batting line-up then you’ll need to perform a rethink… James Hildreth anyone?

Yorkshire v Warwickshire T20 Match

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Yes that’s right, Yorkshire versus Warwickshire. I refuse to refer to them as Birmingham. If every other team can wear a county moniker then Warwickshire need be no different. Why on Earth would you want to alienate half your county?

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In truth the match was a rather one-sided affair. Adam Lyth does what Adam Lyth does, dispelling the notion of many have that he’s a dour First Class player. He has always been a superior white-ball cricketer. Tom Kohler-Cadmore confirmed that Ed Smith was right not to select Chris Woakes for the Tests against India. TK-C could yet be a white-ball (ODI/T20I) player for England, even if he can’t get anywhere near Yorkshire’s County Championship side. Chris Woakes will come good once he’s got a few more overs under his belt. Don’t rule him out of having an impact against India yet!

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David Willey scored a hundred the last time I attended Headingley. Last night he scored one minus the hundred. Kane Williamson displayed his class as did Gary Ballance briefly. Olly stone bowled eleven dot balls to keep him in those ‘Next time we got to Australia’ conversations!

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When it came Warwickshire’s turn to bat, Ed Pollock did what Ed Pollock does. He swung and missed, repeat, repeat, then mightily finely connected with a few before getting out to a ball he really needn’t have. 22 from 12 deliveries sums him up and scores of substance need to arrive soon. Ian Bell (42 from 33) and Adam Hose (43 from 31) laboured… and I mean laboured in the middle. There were some fine strikes to the boundary but too many failures to connect. Surely the midlands side would be better with the likes of New Zealand duo Colin de Grandhomme (38 not out from 19) and skipper Grant Elliot higher up the order in this format.

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Yorkshire ran out winners by 31 runs courtesy of the Duckworth Lewis Method.

I’ll be back next week to see Yorkshire host Northamptonshire so they’ll be another match report soon after.

No Easy Root Back!

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England Test skipper Joe Root has been dropped by England for what is essentially a final in the T20I series at home to India today.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/18018/game/1119545/england-vs-india-3rd-t20i-india-tour-of-ireland-and-england-2018

This is a brutal and decisive but perfectly logical call by the England hierarchy. It’s delightful that they’ve had the guts to do it when in the past Root would surely have been persevered with. England stuck with the likes of Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell for too long in white-ball cricket but finally opened their eyes and made changes, bringing in the likes of Jason Roy and Alex Hales at the top of the order. The game is evolving at such a pace that Joe Root, a man who in the grand scheme of things has played so little T20 cricket, hasn’t been able to keep up. He’s a quality player, capable of adapting his game and coming back stronger but at the moment he simply doesn’t merit selection. Hopefully this will make him determine to excel in the red-ball arena for England and prove himself to be England’s best Test batsman of a generation.

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!

Bell ‘n’ Brez Bash it Big!

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England discards Ian Bell and Tim Bresnan led from the front as Perth Scorchers claimed the 2016-17 Big Bash crown in resounding style.

Bresnan recorded figures of 4-0-40-3 as Sydney Sixers stumbled to only 141-9. Bell then saw the Scorchers comfortably over the line with a whopping 25 deliveries to spare, striking 31 not out from 25 balls.

No doubt Bresnan has had a little injury trouble but you would have thought given his experience and past performances in an England shirt that in the free spirited Trevor Bayliss era, England could still find room at least in their limited overs squads for a player possessing his all-round abilities. He seems, like Ravi Bopara, to be a player that having gained plenty of international experience, England just gave up on too soon and decided to start all over again with somebody else. Bresnan was only in the Scorchers squad as a replacement for current England squad member David Willey but the new Yorkshire vice-skipper made a positive impression on the west coast.

As well as Bresnan and Bell there was another Englishman that helped propel the Scorchers to victory. Doncaster born wicketkeeper Sam Whiteman clubbed 41 from just 21 balls including three sixes at the top of the order to jet start the Scorchers pursuit of the Sixers’ below par total. Whiteman moved to Oz aged three and has already represented Australia at various levels. He’s tipped to follow another Yorkshireman, Matthew Renshaw, into the Australian national side.

Another Englishman was involved in today’s final but for Sixers’ opener Michael Lumb, a former Yorkshire player of course, his 15-minute 5-run vigil at the top of the order, an innings that also included the run out of Nic Maddinson, helped the Scorchers more than it did the Sixers. Still, his ODI batting average of 55.00 is superior to both Bell (37.87) and Bresnan (19.79). It’s also higher than Nic Maddinson’s Test average of 6.75!

The Perth franchise’s other star performers in today’s final are at different ends of the playing career spectrum. 36-year-old Gloucestershire run-machine Michael Klinger carried his bat in making 71 not out from just 49 deliveries including five fours and an equal amount of sixes. It seems incredible that Klinger will finish his career without an international cap (We’ll come to that later), incredible but likely, in which case days such as these and 2015’s One-Day cup victory at Lords with Gloucestershire (Although Klinger ducked in the final after a monstrous tournament) will be days to saviour for a fine batsman.

Paceman Jhye Richardson is, at 20, nearly half Klinger’s age. He has just one First Class and only one List A appearance to his name but now has a grand total of nine T20 exposures under his belt. His 3-30 in the final saw him snap up the Man of the Match award and English batsman will surely have to face him at international level in the future.

Both Klinger and Richardson merited a mention in a previous article here at Silly Point about the possible make-up of Australia’s T20I squad for the Sri Lanka series that clashes with the Test series in India…

https://sillypointcricketsite.wordpress.com/2017/01/14/follow-the-yellow-brick-road/

Performances such as those from Richardson and even no spring chicken Klinger, in a match of such magnitude must surely put them in with a chance of making the cut.

International Duck Watch!

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Silva by name, golden by nature. Sri Lanka’s Kaushal Silva was caught behind first ball as Sri Lanka went down by an innings in the third Test in Johannesburg. Lahiru Kumara later followed for a silver duck as South Africa wrapped up a comprehensive 3-0 series victory.

Dislcaimer: Please accept my apologies but due to a lack of resources here at Silly Point and despite my desire for the game to spread globally, I’m unable to commit to International Duck Watch incorporating the Desert T20 Challenge. Having said that, Hong Kong opener Aizaz Khan was run out without facing a ball and that surely merits a mention. Also, If I was doing Big Bash Duck Watch, Perth Scorchers Ian Bell would get a shiny, golden mention!

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!