Farewell Alex!

Following Alex Hales’ axing from the England squad, the selectoral hierarchy have made some amendments to the party for the upcoming internationals.

Firstly, there’s a recall for the potentially destructive Ben Duckett. Following a move from Northamptonshire to Nottinghamshire, Duckett hasn’t been consistent this season but from time to time has produced the sort of innings that can get people licking their lips. He’s had his own moments of madness but was reintegrated in the winter and it’s encouraging to see him in the frame.

Dawid Malan is another recalled left-hander and he’ll hope to actually get on the pitch unlike in the West Indies. Despite the burden of captaincy as well as opening for Middlesex in List A cricket, he’s been in good form this year.

Next up is James Vince. Ed Smith didn’t sound all too enthused about Vince’s ability when his first move as England selector was to drop the Hampshire skipper but Vince has responded well. Last year, both at home and in the Big Bash, he made match-winning contributions. He’s begun this year well though his 190 against Gloucestershire was scored against an attack far removed from what either Pakistan or Australia will offer.

Duckett and Malan come into the squads for the Ireland ODI and Pakistan T20I. Vince was already in those squads and now stays on for the Pakistan ODIs.

Disclaimer: There is a downside to all this. The absence of Duckett, Malan and Vince from the county scene for a week or two has completely scuppered my fantasy teams!

Extras

Bye:

ODI status attained by USA!

Leg Bye: Bad news for one England wicketkeeper but good news for another… then bad news for another!

A dislocated shoulder for Sam Billings.

An England white-ball call-up for Ben Foakes.

Errr… insert picture of Ollie Pope!

A Billingsesque dislocated shoulder for Foakes’ Surrey teammate Ollie Pope.

No Ball:

A reported drugs fail for Alex Hales… but why try to hide it?

Wide:

Not cricket but loyal followers will be aware of my association with FC Nantes. As with all the above, this merits a post of its own but you’ll have to forgive me.

Farewell Horacio Sala. May you and Emiliano be reunited. Wishing your family great strength.

Free Hit:

190 from 154 balls for Hampshire’s occasional England player James Vince against Gloucestershire!

Duckett Double/InVincible!

Two batsmen that are hoping to return to England colours and gatecrash the Ashes this summer have made the most of their university warm-up match opportunities today.

New Nottinghamshire recruit Ben Duckett produced the sort of innings that got him noticed in the first place, making a mighty 216 from only 180 balls against a toiling Cambridge.

Meanwhile Hampshire captain James Vince, having moved to opener because he believes the feedback that he’s had from the England hierarchy is that performing there will increase his chances of another recall, compiled 139 from 185 deliveries against Cambridge’s foes Oxford.

Now of course the quality of the opposition isn’t the best but it’s a form finding start just a few days before the county campaign commences for two aspiring England batsmen.

Twenty20 Vision?!

England have named their squad for the T20I series against West Indies and I can’t say that I’m enthused…

https://www.ecb.co.uk/england/men/news/1058447/sam-billings-and-dawid-malan-named-in-england-s-it20-squad

I back whoever plays for England (Unless there’s a serious reason that I shouldn’t. We’ll come to that!) but some of the selections in this squad are puzzling.

I’m a huge Dawid Malan fan but he’s hardly been tearing it up on the franchise circuit recently. Yes his international record is outstanding but he’s in no form whatsoever to maintain that record. This opportunity, as with his previous ones, have only come about because of squad rotation. He fully merited selection when he replaced a ‘rested’ Eoin Morgan however, in what was effectively at T20I final. Contrary to his recent franchise efforts, he had been tearing it up for England Lions. I just don’t feel that he’s primed to perform at international level right this moment. I hope that I’m wrong though and that a strong showing can put him back on the Test radar.

The selection of Chris Jordan is a generous one for me. He struggled in the Big Bash this season but is part of the T20I fabric for England. He benefits from the absence of senior bowlers to get game time in this format and of course he does take wickets. Anybody should be able to keep tallying wickets when the opposition are slogging away at the end though. He’s a good fielder but needs to take more wickets for less runs… obviously!

James Vince was superb in the Big Bash, Harry Gurney was steady away and Laurie Evans has backed up strong white-ball seasons in England by becoming an in-demand player on the franchise merry-go-round. None of the above make the squad but…

… Sam Billings does! I can understand the frustration for and with Sam Billings. It’s not easy when you’re a fill-in player, particularly in T20Is when there’s often just one match in a series. This series has three matches though, so Billings will desperately hope to bat in the top four to have a chance to impress. If he can hit the ground running then he could make the most of the series but then again, he’s just filling in. Like Malan, he’ll likely then get dropped again to accommodate the returning Roy, Buttler and Stokes.

I understand the logistical reasons but did England really need to name their squad so soon?

Liam Plunkett could be letting his World Cup place slip away though knowing him, he’ll probably take four wickets in the next ODI. If he fails to take a wicket and gets dropped during the series though, will he still be what England want in the T20Is?

What if Vince hits a couple of hundreds in the PSL between now and the start of the series? Could he be drafted into the squad? Ed Smith is sending out very mixed messages regarding Vince. He was pretty curt when he originally axed the Hampshire man, despite Vince making 76 in his previous Test innings. He did recall him because of injuries for a One-Day International, only for Vince to run himself out… again! Now following sparkling form in the Big Bash, he’s been omitted again.

Another player that’s been mentioned on forums is Joe Clarke. I think that a lot of people don’t know or don’t care why he’s been ignored. My understanding is that he wasn’t dropped from England Lions because of what a teammate may have got up to in his bed. He was dropped because of the list of women on his phone and the competitive element of that. If he matures then I’m quite happy for Joe Clarke to play for England in years to come. As it stands however, I (And that’s just me. I’m not speaking for anyone else) don’t want him anywhere near the England cricket team. Clarke can argue that he’s unfortunate it all came out and of course we don’t know what all players get up to away from work but… tuff!

Another thing that I may have mentioned before. ODIs are ODIs so I call the T20 version T20Is not IT20s… so there!

Edit:

James Vince next PSL innings: 84 off 41

Dawid Malan next PSL innings: 1 off 6

Back to the Future

There have been many great batsman who didn’t crack Test cricket first time… or even second time!

Could any of the players pictured above force their way back into England reckoning?

Gary Ballance 1498 Test runs @ 37.45

Possessing by far the best Test record of any of the batsmen listed, it seems unlikely that Ballance will get another chance. Being Joe Root’s ex-flatmate helped him before but won’t again. He’ll have to score an insatiable amount of runs to make a case and combine that with having eradicated perceived technical deficiencies.

Ben Duckett 110 @ 15.71

In contrast to last winter, it’s been a hugely encouraging time for Ben Duckett recently. He was recalled to the England Lions squad and returned to the scene of the crime in India. He’ll be looking for a fruitful campaign with his new employers Nottinghamshire to get back into the full England side.

Keaton Jennings 750 @ 25.86

The most recently jettisoned on this list, it seems highly improbable that Jennings will line up against Australia this summer. Come England’s next tour to Asia however and even if it be as back-up/sub-fielder then he could come into contention.

Dawid Malan 724 @ 27.84

Malan wasn’t happy to be axed and he has been hard done by after a record-breaking start to his T20I career. He couldn’t really argue with his Test termination however. He’s not set the world on fire since, neither in county cricket or in various T20 competitions so has a lot to do to earn a recall.

Mark Stoneman 526 @ 27.68

A potential recall for Stoneman isn’t actually that outlandish. If he prospers alongside Rory Burns at Surrey in the early days of the county campaign then he could yet force his way back in. He could do with improving his fielding though.

James Vince 548 @ 24.90

Vince has performed superbly in the latest edition of the Big Bash and maybe white-ball cricket is a more likely route back in for him. Such is the competition for places though, that it won’t be easy.

Of course all the players detailed above may now be labelled damaged goods so we may see some Test debuts before we witness recalls for any of the above.

Evans Above & InVincible Encore!

In the past few days I posted about a couple of England qualified batsman going large on the franchise circuit and it turns out that they just can’t stop!

James Vince followed up seventy-odd for Sydney Sixers with another seventy-odd, this time undefeated…

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/8044/game/1152550/sydney-sixers-vs-hobart-hurricanes-40th-match-big-bash-league-2018-19

Meanwhile in Bangladesh, Laurie Evans followed his hundred for Rajshahi Kings with a firework filled fifty, a Vincesque seventy-odd actually…

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/8653/scorecard/1169405/chittagong-vikings-vs-rajshahi-kings-27th-match-bangladesh-premier-league-2018-19

It doesn’t stop there! Even Sam Billings (104 not out) has been amongst the runs, as were most of the batsmen to some extent, for England Lions in India…

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/19084/game/1169338/india-a-vs-england-lions-1st-unofficial-odi-eng-lions-in-india-2018-19

These are the guys that can’t get in the England team! To be fair, Vince and Billings have never grabbed the chance with both hands. Maybe these experiences will spur them on to bigger things at international level.

InVincible!*

England’s most frustrating batsman of modern times, Hampshire’s James Vince, walloped 75 from just 46 deliveries for Sydney Sixers against Brisbane Heat in the Big Bash in Sydney today…

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/8044/scorecard/1152546/sydney-sixers-vs-brisbane-heat-36th-match-big-bash-league-2018-19

But what are England to do with him? Is he really going to find a place in England’s destructive white-ball teams? With so few places for specialist batsmen up for grabs, is he likely to get another chance at Test level?

In a world of T20 franchise cricket, does it really matter? Is international cricket still the pinnacle?

Regardless, today’s innings was a demonstration of how much value Vince can add to a team, of his skill and stroke-playing prowess. Maybe we’re yet to see the best of him in an England shirt. Maybe the soon to turn twenty-eight-year-old could yet gatecrash England’s World Cup and Ashes summer!

*Disclaimer: A completely unoriginal headline that I and many others have used before. Sorry!