Bess Heads North!

Somerset’s briefly England spin bowler Dom Bess has joined Yorkshire on loan in what seems like a smart move for all parties.

Bess is a talented young cricketer who just can’t get in the team at home county Somerset. He’s understandably behind the ever impressive Jack Leach in the county’s pecking order. Similarly to players such as county colleague Craig Overton, Bess more than hinted that he has the temperament and talent to succeed at the highest level when gracing the Test arena. Overton has been ripping it up on the county scene this year but is still some way off an England recall. Bess too, what with the aforementioned Leach as well as England’s no.1 Test spinner Moeen Ali present, Ali like Bess being an off-spinning all rounder, is a million billion trillion miles away from England’s Test side. Bess has failed to make an impression during the One-Day Cup this year but will hope to hit his straps pronto in the County Championship with Yorkshire. Extremely capable with the bat in hand as demonstrated during his two Test appearances, Bess could yet end up being a more batting-orientated player.

What Josh Poysden will make of this who knows?

Poysden was recruited by the white rose county last year when Adil Rashid’s future was uncertain. He’s done okay in the One-Day Cup this year (6w @ 50.50, 5.51rpo) but only okay. He possesses a reasonable First Class record but in truth has played little for a man of his age…

http://www.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/464110.html

Yorkshire’s premier spinner, Adil Rashid, was informed by England Selector Ed Smith that he needs to play red-ball cricket in order to be selected for England’s Test side. It may be that following his one outing in the Caribbean earlier this year that that ship has already sailed. Come winter tours on the subcontinent however, Smith may still want to get funky and pick Rashid. In the short term of course, he’ll be at the World Cup.

I’m not a fan of transfers left, right and centre in county cricket but this is the sort of mutually beneficial deal that gets an immensely talented player on the field so should be welcomed. You wouldn’t want Bess to stand in the way of homegrown talent but in truth the likes of Karl Carver will benefit from more exposure to second XI cricket whilst James Logan is injured.

Jack of All Trades

Jack Leach was somewhat harshly omitted from the England Test XI that took to the pitch in the Caribbean. This was despite the Somerset spinner playing a pivotal role in England’s success in Sri Lanka just a few months prior.

Leach has performed exceptionally well in First Class cricket as well as appearing in a smattering of List A games but he has never taken to the pitch in a T20 match.

http://m.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/455524.html

I really think that Leach could thrive in the shortest format and that such exposure could make him a better player in all formats. I can understand not wanting to compromise him but whether it be in the Big Bash, BPL, PSL or wherever, Leach could be well worth a punt.

Given the fashion for spinners opening the bowling in T20 franchise cricket, it’s in that role that I think Leach would be suited. Ed Smith recalled Jos Buttler to the Test side based on his IPL exploits. Could he make another left-field selection and pick Leach for T20Is based on County Championship form?

Keaton Out… in the Cold!

Only England are capable of regularly finding Test match opening batsmen capable of scoring Test hundreds (Compton, Lyth, Robson) but not actually capable of succeeding at Test match cricket!

Keaton Jennings is the latest to be dropped by England and he’s been replaced by Joe Denly (Not actually an opener) for the second Test against West Indies. The decision is both logical and illogical all at the same time. Jennings looks like a square peg in a triangular shaped hole but to have persisted with him this far! The fact that Adil Rashid has left the tour could be an argument for bringing in fellow leg-spinner Denly but with Jack Leach likely to return to the XI that’s stretching it a bit.

Jennings has been found wanting against pace once again and it’s hard to see a third way back… unless others don’t grasp the opportunity and we’re touring Asia… so we’ll probably see him again soon!

Denly has had a torrid time on tour (SL & WI) but now likely has two Tests to enjoy. He’ll open the batting but there’s that release of pressure of knowing he’ll be involved with the ball at least a bit too. His selection at the top of the order is likely to be a stop-gap selection. He needs to go out there, take the rough with the smooth and enjoy himself. He’ll likely need a Test hundred, ideally in the second Test then to open in the County Championship and absolutely plunder runs to keep his place for the Ashes.

Who opens the batting for England come this summer’s marquee series is anyone’s guess. If Rory Burns doesn’t deliver during the rest of the series then it really will be a shoot-out in the County Championship… which will be great for the competition.

I had hoped that KJ would find a way but it wasn’t to be. Wishing Joe Denly the very best of luck on Test debut and beyond!

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.

Frustrated Foakes!

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Surrey’s Ben Foakes spent last winter warming the bench during a lengthy Ashes tour and could now be set to do the same in Sri Lanka. Since last winter, Jos Buttler has returned to the side not only as a specialist batsman but also as second choice wicketkeeper. As a result, even though Jonny Bairstow injured himself playing football, former Essex-man Foakes remains unlikely to play in the first Test. If Bairstow is anything shy of 100% fit then based on his attempts at playing when injured during last summer, he should be nowhere near the XI. The England management need to be brave enough to make the sort of calls that Italy’s football coach Arrigo Sacchi did with star player Roberto Baggio during the early stages of World Cup USA ’94. England also have Foakes’ Surrey teammates Ollie Pope and rather less likely, uncapped opening batsman Rory Burns as alternative wicketkeeping options. That’s just the five glovemen in the squad then!

Based on what we saw last winter, it’s quite possible that England’s XI in the third Test may be rather different to what we see in the first encounter. With little game time under his belt, Somerset spinner Jack Leach may be unlikely to start the series but if England fall behind then he may well be called upon. It may also be the case that the delicate Olly Stone benefits from not playing though you’d think some overs under his belt would be helpful.

Much maligned opening batsman Keaton Jennings missed out in his only opportunity on tour so far as did Joe Denly. Though Denly’s return to England’s T20I side went romantically well, the nature of the game means that he was able to claim wickets without bowling at his best. That is unlikely to be the case in the Test series. It’s tough to call but with rumours that Stuart Broad may be rested and Sam Curran’s left-arm variety useful, particularly if Leach is omitted, could England’s line-up in the first Test look like this?

Rory Burns

Keaton Jennings

Joe Denly

Joe Root (c)

Ben Stokes

Jos Buttler (w)

Moeen Ali

Chris Woakes

Sam Curran

Adil Rashid

James Anderson

If the weather allows, England basically now have a one-day game before the first Test. Wickets for the likes of Broad and Leach or runs for Pope or Foakes could yet have a bearing on the make-up of England’s XI. Of course if Buttler were to get injured during a Test, it’d be perverse if Foakes and Pope were sat on the bench alongside Bairstow whilst Rory Burns assumed the gloves on what would turn out to be a heck of a demanding introduction to international cricket for the Surrey skipper.

Cricket Captain 2018: Suggestions for 2019

In previous versions of Cricket Captain, I’ve flirted a little with Career Mode at domestic level but on the 2018 version, I’ve focused exclusively on my England Career (International Only). I think it’s relevant that I point that out and that the following suggestions are based on my experiences of playing the game in that way…

County Championship Averages Separated by Division.

Having this as a filter option would be a really useful tool when selecting the England team. Obviously runs and wickets etc scored in division one are a better indication of a player’s ability to adjust to Test cricket than contributions made in division two. The same split could be applied where appropriate in the domestic competitions of other countries as well, for example: I think that Sri Lanka has three tiers in First Class cricket.

Women’s Cricket

Even if it would be too much to ask for a full Women’s career mode to be implemented, surely World Cups and Custom Series could be playable options. All that is required are the names of women and maybe some long hair where appropriate. Career records are of course a pre-requisite.

Player Editor

In the early versions of the game, you could at least change a player’s name, I think that the players even had pen pics. It would be great if you could create a player from scratch, ¬†choose their name, age, batting/bowling hand/style, nationality, ethnicity, at the very least their hair colour/style and maybe even which team they begin their career with. You could then for example play an England career, make yourself captain and follow your performances as you soar the run/wicket charts as the years go by. If you could edit as many as twenty players then you could even make up your entire national side out of friends and family.

Stop Early Retirements

I appreciate that early retirements happen (e.g. Fabian Cowdrey) but Delray Rawlins has disappeared from the last two versions of the game aged about 21. In the previous version he did this despite the fact that he had been capped in ODIs. What’s additionally weird about this is that in my current game, there are players that are as old as 36 who have never even played a domestic game but they can still be selected for England!

Squad Injury Replacements

If a player gets injured on tour, it’d be great if you could be provided the option to call-up a replacement. It’d also be good if even when playing at home, occasionally a player might get injured on the morning of a match, so in a Test match for example, your options would drop from thirteen to twelve.

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A-Teams

Tying into the injury replacement, it would be hugely beneficial to have A-Teams/England Lions squads in the game. You could have three options:

  1. Select and play
  2. Select and simulate
  3. Auto select and simulate

This would be hugely beneficial during winter tours when it can be difficult to get the best out of players that are out of form.

More Tour Matches

The tour match feature is half-baked, it’s an unreal element of a game that’s good because it seems real! It would be really helpful for the same reason as mentioned previously. When players are out of form on winter tours you need some way to get them back into form. Currently some tours have warm-up matches and some don’t. If gamers don’t want to play them they can simulate them or, similar to my A-Team suggestion, it could be an option at the start of a career to either have them in your game or not.

Breakdown of Dismissals

Let’s say that my best bowler has taken 500 Test wickets. I’d like to know how many were ¬†bowled, how many were LBW, how many were stumped etc. Also, it’d be great to know how many left to right handers have been dismissed by the bowler. This information could be presented in pie chart form similar to some of the graphics already in the game. Similar stats would be welcome for batsmen too. How many times have they been dismissed caught etc, how many times have they been dismissed by a left-arm bowler or by a spin bowler. This information could be used when selecting a team.

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Cap Number

In each player’s personal section, it could list which cap number the player is in each format. In Player Records it would be great if you could arrange each match Type (Test/ODI/T20I) by cap number.

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Jack Leach to be Bald!

As it says on the tin, Jack Leach to be bald.

Captaincy Record

It’d be great for a record to be kept of how many matches you’ve played in each format and how many you’ve won and lost. If this was also recorded for each player in the game as well as the gamer then that’d be great. What I mean by that is that there’s an overall record for me playing the game but if for example I’ve had Max Holden and Sam Hain both captain my Test side, I can see their individual captaincy records by format.

Medium Difficulty Level

Currently, the only difficulty levels are Easy and Normal. I’ll be honest, I don’t exactly dominate at Easy level and based on previous experience the less said about hard the better. Having three difficulty levels: Easy, Normal and Hard could really help some gamers stick with the game.

Have you played Cricket Captain recently or in seasons past? Do you have any viable suggestions to enhance the game without compromising its core qualities?

Spinning Around!

Moeen Ali, Adil Rashid, Jack Leach, Dom Bess, Liam Dawson, Mason Crane, Matthew Parkinson, Sukhjit Singh, Hamidullah Qadri, Matthew Carter, Amir Virdi, Ben Twohig, Matthew Critchley, Josh Poysden, Adam Riley…

There is an oft-repeated myth that English cricket lacks a healthy stock of spin bowlers. That assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. There is no doubting the abundance of talent on the county cricket scene. Admittedly many of the aforementioned players are far from the finished article. They are young guns and it remains to be seen whether or not they’ll be presented with the opportunity to develop as one would hope. If they are, then the competition for places in the England team will be intense!

Through misfortune (AKA injury), England have accidentally bred competition. Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid have returned to the Test side. Jack Leach has quite rightly been left to rediscover his groove at Somerset and Mason Crane was making promising strides in white-ball (List A/T20) cricket before injury recurred its ugly head. It’s been great to witness Adam Riley return to the Kent fold and Matthew Parkinson is surely a candidate for at least England’s T20I side in the short term. Josh Poysden has relocated to Yorkshire where he can hopefully blossom (Like a white rose!). If Nottinghamshire provide him with opportunity then England may want to get Carter (See what I did there?!). Fingers crossed that Sukhjit Singh and the rest can break into their respective county first XIs sooner rather than later. Meanwhile the much maligned Liam Dawson is one of the most ever-improving cricketers in the English game. He did little wrong during his Test outings (With the ball at least. His batting went awol post debut), suffered from being a fill-in player under attack from the opposition but performed admirably well in the Pakistan Super League.

England don’t want to make any RASH decisions, go down a dark ALI, succumb to blood sucking LEACHes. They want to get the BESS out of their spin bowlers by POYSDENing the opposition batsmen. They want to PARKinson up and SINGH from the hills. They don’t want to be CARTERed around, they want to go at no more than TWOhig an over. They want to CRANE over the opposition and live a life of RILEY!