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 Round Six – Squad Announcement

Your England squad for the North Western Hemisphere Test Championship Round Six match against Scotland at Scotland Cricket Ground is as follows:

Dawid Malan

Haseeb Hameed

Ben Stokes

Joe Root (Captain)

Moeen Ali

Jos Buttler

Jonny Bairstow (Wicketkeeper)

Sam Curran

Chris Woakes

Stuart Broad

James Anderson

Liam Dawson

Jamie Porter

Dawid Malan returns to Test cricket after impressing in the first half of the Global ODI Invitational. Though not normally an opener in this format Dawid is a seasoned opening batsman in limited overs cricket, already has Test experience and we believe is an adaptable cricketer capable of thriving at the top of the order in Test cricket.

James Anderson returns to the squad having been rested for our last Test but Jamie Porter retains his place after performing well on debut. Liam Dawson provides another spin bowling option having performed superbly in the early stages of the Global ODI Invitational.

The team are looking forward to the business end of the inaugural North Western Hemisphere Test Championship and pushing for a place in the final. The players are extremely grateful for the continued support of our committed fan base.

We’ll see you in Scotland!

Cricket 19: NWHTC – Found the Edge but Where’s Bono?

The Irish batsmen raise their bats to recognise the applause upon reaching their half-century… oh no, wait!

50 all out before lunch and having even gone off for rain!

Paul Stirling achieved duck avoidance with an edge for four but it was his only scoring shot and set the tone for what was to come. James Anderson, dancing on his home deck, had Stirling superbly caught in the slips by Rory Burns and things didn’t get any better for the visitors. Anderson soon doubled his tally when he bagged Andrew Balbirnie for a duck before Stuart Broad also struck twice. Surrey’s Sam Curran, our leading wicket taker in the competition, struck with his second delivery and thought he’d done so again the very next ball. The LBW decision was overturned however before we reviewed one ourselves the following delivery. It was an almost identical ball and was correctly given not out… just! Chris Woakes, fresh from being rested for the USA match then made an immediate impact by striking with the post rain-break’s premier delivery. Warwickshire’s Woakes went onto claim absurd analysis of 3-6 including the prize scalp of opening bat William Porterfield. Porterfield grafted for 18 from all of 70 deliveries, the only real resistance in the Irish batting effort though James McCollum made a pretty 11. Spin-bowler Moeen Ali got in on the act too courtesy of a sharp catch by gloveman Jonny Bairstow.

We’d expected to be presented with a real challenge from Ireland as both sides competed for second spot in the table and keeping table-topping Scotland in sights. We won the toss, chose to bowl in difficult batting conditions at Old Trafford and thoroughly exploited said conditions. Though ripping through a side is enjoyable we much prefer a challenge. It wasn’t a great start from Ireland but we knew there was still a long way to go.

Credit then to Ireland who surprised everybody by opening the bowling with spin and it soon did the trick. Rory Burns fell in all too familiar fashion, caught behind off the bowling of James Cameron-Dow for only 9. His dismissal left his place in the XI on a precipice.

Ben Duckett promptly took guard then relocated the ball into the outfield and off he set. Sadly Haseeb Hameed, fresh from a ton against America and hoping to repeat the feat on his home turf, was run out for 6 coming back for a second. Duckett then batted as he often has before, looking comfortable and striking two or three wonderful boundaries. At lunch he’d reached 33 from 36 meanwhile captain Joe Root had raced to a run-a-ball 44. The pair aided our recovery from 17-2 to 99-2. The question was could Root, having made a three fifties in the competition so far, go big and could Duckett save his Test career?

Root soon surpassed fifty and he and Duckett had compiled 113 when the captain nicked behind off the spin of Andy McBrine for 60. Then, just when Duckett seemed to have cemented his place for the immediate future, he ran himself out for 49. The Shamrock spinners stymied the left-hander’s scoring and he allowed the pressure to manifest itself. He was far too casual when trying to sneak a single and failed to ground his bat in time. It was a horrible end to an innings that had promised so much and rather summed up Duckett’s Test career so far.

Suddenly it was all going off as Jos Buttler, having made just one, was put down off the next ball. The drop didn’t prove costly as Buttler fell for only 6 before Moeen inexplicably joined the run out victims having made just 4. It was an embarrassing and unacceptable passage of play on our part.

The procession continued at break neck speed as Sam Curran was caught behind for 6 then Bairstow joined for only 10. YJB dragged on via his boot from possibly the slowest delivery in history. Broad was next to go, clean bowled for 8 to become part-timer Stirling’s (3-25) third wicket. When George Dockrell dismissed hometown hero Anderson for 6, we’d lost 8 wickets for 58 runs and our self-implosion was complete. We totalled 188, a lead of 138 with Chris Woakes stranded on 15. Despite a healthy lead the boys headed back to the changing room to take a long hard look at themselves and face some harsh truths!

After our batting collapse the team came out fired up and determined to right some wrongs. We soon made a crucial breakthrough before tea when local lad Anderson trapped Stirling (14) LBW and Ireland closed the session on 28-1. The final session was then entirely lost to rain. Though 21 wickets fell on the first day’s play, the NWHTC Pitch Inspection Squad were happy with the surface. Three of the wickets fell to run outs, our bowlers exploited a juicy deck on a damp morning before our batsmen then crumbled under pressure against spin. In short, the pitch wasn’t at fault.

On a rain interrupted second morning Ireland progressed to 57-1 before normality resumed. Anderson feasted in familiar surroundings having Balbirnie caught behind for 12, the crucial wicket of Porterfield played on for 53 then Kevin O’Brien inside edged to Bairstow first ball. Stumper Stuart Poynter survived until drinks but Ireland were 88-4, still half a century behind. Because of the rain and interruptions in play, Anderson and Broad bowled in tandem for the opening 23 overs of the innings before Curran and Woakes entered the fray. Woakes was soon in on the act picking up where he left off in the first innings. Poynter had reached 10 before he became yet another victim of the Bairstow catching machine, nicking a full and unplayable delivery from Woakes. Batting then got easier as the pitch dried out but take nothing away from the Irish batsmen who resisted well. In fact McCollum (56 not out) and Stuart Thompson (53 not out) did more than resist and lifted Ireland from 99-5 to 201-5 at tea, a lead of 63.

After a period of immense frustration for our side, Stuart Broad (1-66) finally split the partnership when he trapped McCollum plumb in front for an excellent 71. At 227-6 the Irish lead was up to 89. Sam Curran (1-53) then dismissed Dockrell for 9 before Moeen cruelly terminated Thompson’s innings twelve runs short of a maiden Test ton. Moeen (2-42) also accounted for McBrine on 11. Skipper Root then brought back Anderson in search of the final wicket and a five-wicket haul. It turned out to be a regrettable move as the Lancashire Express (4-70) sustained an injury when executing the final delivery of the over. Ireland closed day two on a commendable 294-9, a lead of 156 runs.

On the third day rain again delayed the start but after some overthrows helped get Cameron-Dow on strike, Woakes (2-39) duly snapped him up caught behind by Bairstow (10 catches in the match) for his second wicket of the innings. 308 was the Irish innings total meaning that we required a potentially tricky 171 to win. For under pressure opener Burns it had the potential to be a career defining day.

Haseeb Hameed’s hometown horror continued when he was clean bowled by Tim Murtagh for just 1. Something about a show and a Lord Mayor! Burns and Duckett then progressed to 36-1 when the heavens opened once again.

To the very first delivery after rain Burns swiped at a full length Murtagh delivery outside off stump that was angling away from him, nicked it to Poynter and having made only 16, walked off the field leaving us with a difficult decision to make for the trip to the Netherlands.

Duckett knuckled down however, kept the boundaries in his locker and ran his way to 51. He then edged behind off Dockrell but his match aggregate of 100 runs was absolutely essential. In this innings he stepped up under huge pressure and can hopefully build on this. Duckett’s departure brought Buttler to the crease and he and Root batted sensibly to move from 120-3 to 165-3 at tea. We tucked into our tea and scones just five runs from victory but with an eagle eye on the clouds.

In the second over after the interval Root (77 not out) and Buttler (20 not out), on his adopted home ground, reached their fifty partnership and saw us comfortably home for a seven-wicket victory.

There were some ups and downs in the match and Ireland made us work hard which was something we needed after a few relatively easy victories in previous matches. Our first innings batting performance was below par but the boys applied themselves well second time around. Root made fifties in both innings and the contributions of Ben Duckett were particularly welcome.

Clearly Rory Burns double failure was disappointing. His sequence of scores in the competition reads 26, 44, 9, 57, 34, 9 & 16 at an average of 27.86. That’s by no means a disgrace but Test cricket demands greater returns.

Our bowling unit maintained their high standards and wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow has now claimed 32 dismissals in just four matches, ten clear of the next best in the competition.

Next up for us it’s a trip to the continent to take on the Dutch. It’s an opportunity for our batsmen to test themselves against one of the NWHTC’s leading bowlers in the form of Fred Klassen. Look out for our squad announcement soon.

Mahmood Marches On!

At the commencement of the One-Day Cup, I posted about how pleased I was to see Lancashire quick bowler Saqib Mahmood in action…

https://sillypointcricket.com/2019/04/17/mahmood-to-deliver/

The twenty-two-year-old has gone on to claim a tournament topping (At the time of writing) 13 wickets at 19.46 apiece in the competition thus far…

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/cricket/english-one-day/averages

This includes a career best performance of 6-37 against Northamptonshire…

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/cricket/scorecard/ECKO45013

Hopefully Mahmood can continue his encouraging white-ball form as well transferring it to red-ball cricket. If he can fill the void when James Anderson is on England duty then the Lancashire faithful will be extremely grateful.

As well as Mahmood, it’s also been great to see the likes of Middlesex’s Tom Helm and Sussex’s George Garton as well as many other young bowlers getting game time and producing encouraging wicket-taking performances.

Mahmood, Helm and Garton have all represented England Lions and much has been expected of them. Technically Helm and Garton were even Ashes tourists, albeit briefly.

Messrs Anderson and Broad won’t be around for ever but England’s pace bowling cupboard is far from bare.

Filling the Void

James Anderson and Stuart Broad won’t be around forever, so who can fill the void for England when these two have rolled into retirement?

In English conditions then Chris Woakes and Sam Curran should be reliable options but overseas it’s a different story.

Could any of the following step up for England with the new ball in the future…

Jamie Porter 275 First Class wickets @ 23.78

Is Porter destined to be a nearly man?

He continues to take wicket upon wicket at domestic level but by the time Anderson and Broad have departed, will the ship have sailed for Porter?

The spearhead of Essex’s attack has overcome injury, not unlike Anderson and could be primed to fill the void.

Ben Coad 103 @ 19.70

Yorkshireman Coad is behind Porter in the pecking order and is absurdly still awaiting Lions recognition. Any suggestions of him being a one season wonder have already been dispelled. Another campaign of the sort he’s had in recent seasons should surely see him knocking the door down.

Tom Bailey 155 @ 26.05

Anderson’s Lancashire colleague Bailey had nearly slipped under the radar despite his regular ripping up of wickets on the county scene. This winter however he got the recognition he deserved with a call-up to the England Lions squad.

Has he learnt a few tricks from England’s record wicket taker that he can bring to the Test arena himself?

Jamie Overton 130 @ 33.22

Were it not for injuries then Somerset’s Jamie Overton may have already debuted for England. His extra pace and bounce would be welcomed on Australian decks (Hopefully by England, not Australian batsman!) but can he last five days or even ten overs?

Steven Finn 531 @ 28.96

254 international wickets but little case can be made for selecting Middlesex man Finn. If he can hit the ground running in 2019 however and snaffle a giant bag full of wickets then maybe England could yet get the best out of him.

There are plenty of other options and it will be interesting to see who England turn to when the time comes to… fill the void!

A Brand Spanking New Audiocast!

IMG_3962

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