A Fix of 26! (But not that sort of fix!)

Australia’s latest opening batsman is twenty-six-year-old Marcus Harris. Fittingly, he scored 26 in both innings of his Test debut against Kohli & co. It’s a good job that he’s not a one-year-old!

India will expect to assume a 1-0 series lead provided their current position of superiority.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/18693/game/1144993/australia-vs-india-1st-test-india-in-aus-2018-19

Given Australia’s penchant for changing their opening batsmen, Harris will have to do better than a pair of twenty-sixes to retain his position for next year’s Ashes series in England.

A Brand Spanking New Audiocast!

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Hi all

It’s been a while but here’s a brand spanking new audiocast. Not much prep went in to this but I thought that the Commonwealth Games merited a mention. What a great opportunity it could be to help provide more exposure to Associate nations and cricket in general.

Many thanks for following and bye for now.

Silly Point

Ben Duckett and Nelson Mandela in the same Sentence!

The last time that England’s cricketers were in Asia, batsman Ben Duckett was there. Despite scoring three fifties (ODIs/Tests) in Bangladesh, he had a torrid time of things in India then literally pissed off top brass the following winter in Oz. Whilst the senior team lap it up in Sri Lanka and the Lions travel to UAE, Duckett can be found playing in the Mzansi Super League in South Africa. It’s the latest T20 league to pop up on the global calendar (Yeah that’s right, Canada and Hong Kong had competitions before SA!).

Representing the wonderfully named Nelson Mandela Bay Giants, The stocky left-hander smashed 75 (5×4, 5×6) runs from just 45 deliveries. Hopefully it’s a sign of things to come after some lean patches post that run-laden summer a couple of years ago. Next year he’ll join Ben Slater and Joe Clarke in an exciting new batting line-up for Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge. He’s probably still quite some way off an England recall but the shoots of recovery have started sprouting.

Another left-handed batsman who’ll be hoping to use the Mzansi league as a springboard back to international selection is Dawid Malan. The discarded Middlesex stalwart will lead Cape Town Blitz while domestic colleague Eoin Morgan will turn out for Tshwane Spartans. Morgan is a left-hander who doesn’t need to work his way back into the England fold, he’s already there!

2018 Women’s World T20

In just under a week’s time on November 9th, the 2018 Women’s World T20 takes place in West Indies, the land of the defending champions.

Click on the link below for full details…

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/2018_ICC_Women%27s_World_Twenty20

The hosts will hope to defend the title in their own backyard via performances from players such as Cheandra Nation and the destructive Deandra Dottin. Current World ODI Champions England will also be confident however. Their squad includes inventive players such as Nat Sciver and Danielle Wyatt while Amy Jones (Pictured above) will wear the ‘keeping gloves in the absence of Sarah Taylor.

In captain Meg Lanning, Australia have the women’s game’s best player but in truth, T20 isn’t her strongest suit. Ashleigh Gardner could be key in this format. Neighbours New Zealand have talented individuals such as run-machine Amy Satterthwaite and spin sensation Amelia Kerr to keep them competitive.

India, with players such as Mithali Raj and Smriti Mandhana, will have high hopes for the tournament, though their neighbours, an out of form Pakistan, seem less likely contenders. They’ll rely heavily on the exploits of Diana Baig.

South Africa have some high quality cricketers, Laura Wolvaardt and Sune Luus amongst them but will need to discover consistency if they’re to challenge for this year’s crown. Chamari Atapattu will lead Sri Lanka’s charge.

It’ll be interesting to see how competitive the likes of Bangladesh and Ireland can be. Both teams had to make it through the qualifier to get this far. For Bangladesh, keep an eye out for eighteen-year-old spinner Nahida Akter. For Ireland, who took an almighty battering at the hands of New Zealand in ODIs not all that long ago, look out for talented all-round sportswoman Mary Waldron. Not content with representing her nation at cricket, she’s played football at international level as well as playing hockey to a high standard.

Here’s hoping for a great tournament to further develop and promote the women’s game.

Preparation Stagnation

England commence their long anticipated Test series in Sri Lanka very shortly but their preparation has lacked serious intensity. I appreciate that the climatic conditions have dealt an unfavourable hand but this scenario is nothing new to England’s cricketers.

I have always been in favour of a couple of official First Class matches on tour. These whole squad get involved matches are little more than a glorified net and are not treated as competitive matches. Whilst the individual element may seem like good prep, I strongly believe that an individual playing only one First Class warm-up rather than participating in two exhibition affairs, would be more akin to playing Test Cricket. Had Rory Burns and Keaton Jennings opened in the first of two official warm-up games in the knowledge that Joe Denly was to be presented with a chance in that slot in the second match, the pressure on them to perform would surely be more akin to actually playing Test cricket.

On the subject of Denly, he may well have played himself out of a Test debut with a shoddy performance in the warm-up matches. With mid-series tour matches almost eradicated, how do the likes of Denly or Ollie Pope restate their case for selection in situations such as these? This is a feeling that’s all too familiar to Gary Ballance!

As is often the case with any selection related article that I’ve scripted, either the landscape has changed very quickly or I was just completely misguided in my initial assessment. Surrey’s Ben Foakes now looks a likely Test debutant in the first Test and could really muddy the selection waters ahead of Jonny Bairstow’s return to fitness, by producing a good performance. Imagine if Jos Buttler falls twice to spin for single figure scores!

Somerset spinner Jack Leach also seems likely to return to skipper Joe Root’s XI and hopefully he and Foakes can convert consistent county career contributions to the international stage. England will be desperate to bounce back in Asia following their abysmal attempts in Bangladesh and India a couple of years ago.

Stone Certainty?

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Warwickshire’s Olly Stone is a player who featured in Silly Point’s Six to Watch feature this year…

https://sillypointcricket.com/2018/01/14/six-to-watch 2018/

https://sillypointcricket.com/2018/09/22/six-to-watch-2018-season-review/

He follows in the footsteps of another player from this year’s selection, Surrey batsman Ollie Pope, to have now graced the international stage.

Coming off the back of a productive domestic campaign, Stone made his international debut for England in the ODI series in Sri Lanka that started last week. Both matches were affected by the rain but after not getting an opportunity in the first (Due to the weather in Dambulla), Stone collected his maiden England wicket in the second match.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/18602/scorecard/1140379/sri-lanka-vs-england-1st-odi-eng-in-sl-2018-19

Stone possibly owes his chance in part due to the hosts flipping of the tour schedule, leaving Liam Plunkett (Wedding arrangements already made) high and dry. If the pictures are anything to go by, high and dry is not something that many Sri Lankan cricket grounds are at the moment. The rain has been of biblical proportions!

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Stone could be a real asset for England come next year’s World Cup and future Ashes tours. He’ll need to remain fit and it could be that another player with a history of injuries, Somerset’s Jamie Overton, could help provide some healthy competition for Stone. Then there are also the likes of Saqib Mahmood, Zak Chappell, George Garton and in time, Jofra Archer.

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Another player that I’m delighted to see get further opportunities in an England shirt is Hampshire’s Liam Dawson.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/211855.html

I felt that he was badly handled during his stint as a Test spinner. He performed admirably against India and South Africa, dismissing Hashim Amla twice but the England management buckled under media pressure and dropped the slow-left-armer. As a fill-in player, he’s been victim to attack when playing limited overs matches for England before but performed superbly in last year’s edition of the Pakistan Super League. He’s a constantly evolving player and England could do a lot worse than stick by him.

The Rise and Fall… and Rise? of Haseeb Hameed

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Less than two years ago and whilst still a teenager, a stoic but adaptable young batsman from Lancashire made his Test bow in India. He promptly made 82 on debut and even made 59 not out when batting with a fractured finger in his last Test. Despite requiring surgery, it seemed as though England had found an opening batsman for the next decade or more. That man was Bolton-born Haseeb Hameed and when Keaton Jennings, Hameed’s injury replacement scored a ton on his debut, it looked as though some competition for the years to come had really been bred. Jennings however has been found wanting at Test level ever since and the same can be said of Hameed, if only at domestic level. Hameed’s performances in the County Championship have been so woeful that you seriously have to question whether or not he’ll add to his three Test caps. Given that England seem unlikely to ever drop Alastair Cook regardless of form, it could be that Cook will still be at the top of England’s order for another twenty years!

In 2017, Hameed totalled 513 runs in 21 County Championship innings, He averaged 28.50 with a top score of 88. After a horrendous start that made him unselectable for the national side, he did at least recover slightly. Unfortunately, he’s gone completely the opposite way during the current campaign. In 17 innings this term, Hameed has compiled a limp 165 runs at a miserable 9.71. His highest score is just 31. This is an opening batsman don’t forget! No matter how many times he returns to the second XI, scores a big ton and comes back (Full of confidence?), he just can’t translate his abilities to the First Class arena. His career average is now only just above thirty at 30.91

http://www.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/632172.html

Current incumbent Keaton Jennings has seventeen First Class tons with an average of 34.02 and just look how much he’s struggled in home conditions in Test cricket. It could be that Hameed is, like the oft-used examples of Marcus Trescothick and Michael Vaughan, more suited to the higher level and that it brings out the best in him. In order to be presented with the opportunity to prove that though, he’s going to have to score SOME runs at county level. If Rory Burns can’t get a game given the amount of runs that he compiles year after year then Hameed is a long way from England selection. The romantics will push for his recall however and they’ll point to that Test average of 43.80 (From six innings!).

Will Hameed, in the words of former Zimbabwe player Henry Olonga ‘Rise Again’?

We’ll have to wait and see but let’s hope so.

Cricket Captain 2018: Statistical Highlights… and Lowlights!

Five full years into my tenure as Coach/Selector of the England cricket team, here’s a round-up of the highs and lows that we’ve experienced as a collective thus far…

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Yes that does say 43 all out against Pakistan at Edgbaston! That’s an England all-time low and a slap in the face for our decision to bat exclusively (And optimistically) for a draw. The sweet success of 806 against Sri Lanka in Kandy seems a long time ago.

Joe Root’s 292 against India in Nottingham, came after he’d been dismissed for 230 twice during my tenure and in the same innings that James Vince briefly (Very briefly) held the record when making 246.

Leg-spinner Matthew Parkinson’s 7-82 against New Zealand, also at Edgbaston, are the best individual bowling figures in an innings while Stuart Broad’s 11-98 against West Indies in Jamaica in 2019 remain our best match analysis.

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The year before the 43 all out debacle, 436 against the same opponents in Leeds, had been a none too shabby effort in a One-Day International. In truth, our limited overs batting has regressed since then. As in the Tests, it’s former captain Joe Root who leads the way with a rare double ton (214) in the fifty over format, indeed it was in that innings of 436 against Pakistan in front of a packed and vibrant Headingley crowd.

Somerset speedster Jamie Overton claimed astonishing figures of 6-14 against Australia in the infancy of his international career but lost his way a little in ODIs. He is however averaging sub 30 in the Test format and has become a valuable option in the longer format. He’s no slouch with the bat either.

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Errrr, yeah, 41 all out against South Africa in a T20I. Like I said, highs and lows. Never an easy place to bat is Cape Town!

Alex Hales 124 against arch-enemy Australia in Bristol has been the best batting output in the format whilst the often economical Tom Curran’s 5-26 against West Indies in Delhi at the World Cup is our best individual bowling analysis.

It’d be great to post 1000 runs in a Test innings but with the need for declarations this can often only be feasible in a dead rubber. 500 in a ODI and 250 in T20Is would also be welcome. It’d also be great to see an individual batsman reach a triple ton in a Test match but should they approach Sir Len Hutton’s 364 then I might have to declare!

Reserved Rashid and Wessels’ Special!

Post all the hullabaloo of Adil Rashid’s recall to England’s Test side, the Yorkshire leg-spinner wasn’t even required to bat or bowl as England annihilated India in the second Test at Lords.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/18018/scorecard/1119550/england-vs-india-2nd-test-ind-in-eng-2018

It’s all well and good England’s pace bowlers exploiting home conditions but we’ll be left with the same question as always next time we tour Australia…

Do we retain our swing bowlers or substitute them for out and out pace bowlers who have little experience?

In the meantime, should we risk weakening the team at home by dropping a swinger for Jamie Overton, Saqib Mahmood or Olly Stone etc. so as to provide said pacemen with Test experience prior to our next trip to Oz?

Meanwhile, onto Riki Wessels exploits in the T20 Blast. Last night, the Nottinghamshire opener struck 55 runs from just 18 deliveries against Worcestershire. He didn’t hit any fours but struck nine sixes. That equates to 54 from nine deliveries plus one single, so eight dot balls. Ridonculous!

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/8053/game/1127556/worcestershire-vs-nottinghamshire-north-group-vitality-blast-2018

If Wessels were from a number of other nations, he would surely have won white-ball international (ODI/T20I) recognition. He’s been a consistent performer on the English county (First Class, List A and T20) circuit for a number of years. Some ambiguity regarding his international allegiance early in his career and younger more fashionable options at present, mean that Wessels will likely remain forever uncapped.