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.

Cricket Captain 2018: Test is Best but One Day we won’t be Limited!

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To be honest, I’ve forgotten what year it was and have also tried to forget nearly all our limited overs performances!

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Somewhere and somehow, Somerset’s Craig Overton claimed astonishing analysis of 4-0-6-2 in a T20 International. Unfortunately his twin brother Jamie hasn’t been able to back-up an impressive start to his international career which included figures of 6-14 against Australia in a ODI a few years back. He’s failed to take a wicket in three T20I appearances to date.

There was another T20I World Cup, we didn’t win but we did at least win the Ashes in Australia. Against a home side that changed their openers more often that their players changed their underwear as well as constantly shuffling their middle order, we sealed a 3-1 (Or was it just 2-1?) series win. The less said about Will Pucovski’s batting for the hosts the better but he’s welcome to play against us anytime!

Following the euphoria of Ashes success, we took an experimental side to the West Indies and having won the first match comfortably, subsided to defeat in the second by a margin somewhere in the region of 500 runs!

The new season commences with a three-match home Test series against everybody’s second favourite team, New Zealand. Alastair Cook, who performed admirably in Australia and reached the epic milestone of 200 Tests when playing in the fifth and final Test before being rested for the tour of West Indies is again omitted. Haseeb Hameed has come of age and Max Holden will debut alongside him at the top of the order. Sam Hain who replaced James Vince in the Caribbean, maintains his place. Joe Root will continue to skipper the Test side at number four while Ollie Pope keeps Joe Clarke out at number five. Clarke will be disappointed to have fallen for so many forties in recent times. Still only tweny-five, his time will come again but for now he will be better served playing the domestic game. Gloucestershire’s Ryan Higgins, who swashbuckled 97 not out on Test debut in the fifth Ashes Test will bat at six. Jonny Bairstow keeps the gloves at seven while the new Broad and Anderson, Jamie Porter and Ben Coad, will each hope to reach 100 Test wickets during the series. They’ll be backed up by the ever-improving Josh Tongue and Matthew Parkinson (159 Test wickets to his name) is our sole spinner.

Cricket Captain 2018: 2019 World Cup

For many years it was South Africa who wore the tag of ‘Chokers’ in international cricket. It’s now safe to say that we’ve assumed that unenviable title! Having blown opportunities to win ODI series against both West Indies and Pakistan by failing to perform in the final match of said series, we crumbled when it mattered most at the 2019 World Cup. After a long slog of nine games where we suffered a heartbreaking one-wicket defeat against Afghanistan, fell apart in a run chase to end with only a tie against Sri Lanka and failed to defend 340 against Australia, we meekly limped to 229 when chasing just 253 against New Zealand. Sam Billings ten ball duck was a torturous end to his World Cup!

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As a consequence, we failed to reach the knockout stages of our very own World Cup. There were positives however, three straight successes against Pakistan, Bangladesh and West Indies were a welcome response to defeat at the hands of South Africa in our opening match. Frustratingly, we then contrived to win only one (Versus India) of our final five matches.

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For the record, Jos Buttler who came into the competition with next to no match fitness following injury, topped our batting charts with 454 runs at a healthy average of 75.67. The ruthless axing of Alex Hales and Jason Roy at the top of the order, replaced by Moeen Ali and Jonny Bairstow hinted at being the right one but didn’t quite come off. Moeen’s place in the side certainly helped us from a bowling perspective.

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Given the dry summer of 2019, we were heavily reliant on our spin bowlers. Each of Matthew Parkinson, Adil Rashid, Moeen Ali and captain Joe Root did their bit. Root, who replaced Eoin Morgan as ODI captain earlier in the summer, marshalled the troops superbly. As per usual, Somerset quick Jamie Overton struggled to maintain a strong start but kept bustling in, meanwhile left-arm paceman Chris Wood continued to enhance his reputation as one of the leading bowlers in ODI cricket.

As for the competition as a whole, the magnificent Afghanistan finished joint top of the group with Australia but it was South Africa (No longer chokers!) who ran out competition winners.

Next up for us are yet more ridiculously scheduled limited overs (T20I/ODI) matches with white-ball affairs against Australia either side of the marquee Ashes Test series.

Cricket Captain 2018: Pakistand and Deliver!

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For the ODI series against Pakistan, a series that was crucial preparation for this summer’s World Cup, I opted to make a big call to enhance our chances of tournament success. Eoin Morgan was removed from his position as ODI skipper and dropped from the squad. This followed a poor string of results last year coupled with disappointing individual performances by Eoin himself. Joe Root was handed the captaincy for the Pakistan series, the 2019 World Cup and likely beyond. Eoin remains in charge of the T20I side.

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With gloveman Jos Buttler absent through injury, things started badly but after falling 2-0 behind in the series, skipper Joe Root came to the fore with a national record 214 not out. Root struck 25 fours plus eleven sixes in his innings that was constructed from just 126 deliveries. Sam Hain (107) also made a ton, his second ODI century to help us post a gargantuan 436-9 from our allotted 50 overs. We would then go onto win the fourth match by a massive 145 runs and it seemed that momentum was truly on our side for the decider. Sam Billings, who acquired the gloves from Jonny Bairstow midway through the series, was simply sensational behind the stumps.

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As was the case in West Indies, we failed to deliver when a series was within our grasp. We had Pakistan in peril at 222-9 but allowed them to reach 259-9. That last wicket stand proved the difference as we succumbed for just 234. A series draw in West Indies and loss at home to Pakistan could have so easily been two series victories.

The 3-2 result was hard on many of our players who had really lifted the hearts of the nation with two stunning performances. The exploits of our bowling attack: Matthew Parkinson (10 wickets @ 18.90), Chris Wood (9 @ 32.22), Ben Stokes (8 @ 37.75), and a much improved return from Jamie Overton (9 @ 23.44) went unrewarded. Joe Root’s series aggregate of 371 runs at 92.75 also deserved more than to lose the series at the last.

There was then a needless T20I sandwiched in-between the ODI series and ODI World Cup. To remove the risk of injury to World Cup players, certain picks for the tournament were not selected for the T20I. As it was, a reserve side crumbled to 94 all out and lost by nine wickets. Craig Overton top scored with 36 and Mason Crane claimed the sole wicket. There was also a debut for Yorkshire’s Tom Kohler-Cadmore. I apologise to our fans for a disappointing night but insist that the composition of the side was appropriate with the ODI World Cup on the horizon. Our squad for that tournament will be named shortly.

Cricket Captain 2018: Caribbean Cruise!

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Another Test series, another victory and a comprehensive one at that. We comfortably saw off our hosts by a whitewashing scoreline of 3-0.

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Having assumed a 2-0 series lead, courtesy in no small part due to Alastair Cook’s mammoth 238, the highest individual Test score of my tenure so far, the opportunity to perform some squad rotation was performed in the third Test.

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In the final match of the series, debuts were presented to Sam Hain, Ollie Pope, Ed Barnard and Dom Bess. Despite the absence of many senior players, our strength in depth was highlighted with yet another victory. Hain hit a magnifienct 195 not out at the top of the order, Ollie Pope sealed victory with 43 not out in the second innings, Ed Barnard made 90 and spinner Dom Bess claimed his maiden Test wicket.

Nottinghamshire’s Stuart Broad led the way with 16 series wickets at just 10.44 apiece. Left-arm quick Mark Footitt also stepped in and claimed 9 victims at 23.22. That’s four consecutive Test series wins  for the team during my tenure.

The ODI series wasn’t quite as successful and ultimately began and finished with frustration. Despite losing only two wickets, we messed up a run chase of just 230 in the first encounter. Well set to assume a series lead, we somehow contrived to only tie the match. West Indies then gained the upperhand before we fought back to lead 2-1. Having posted 314 in the decider, we were confident of sealing a much needed series win. Disappointingly, West Indies knocked off the required runs with consummate ease, leaving the score all square at 2-2.

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A series draw is however a step in the right direction, coming as it was off the back of two series defeats. The left-field selection of Chris Wood continued to prove one of my shrewdest selections to date. The Hampshire left-armer claimed two four-fors in the series and finished with 9 wickets at 28.44. He has been a constant wicket taking threat throughout his short England career so far and provides a point of difference for the team.

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A familiar pattern emerged for Wood’s new-ball partner Jamie Overton however. Once again the Somerset quick started well before falling apart at the seams. Figures of 10-0-96-0 in the final match of the series confirmed that Overton is a player whose workload requires managing. He has claimed wickets since coming into the side though and needs to remain part of the squad even if not playing in every match.

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Worcestershire all-rounder Ed Barnard’s versatile qualities in both multi-innings and limited overs cricket have been a vital addition to our composition. Still only 23, Barnard should bring a lot to our culture in the future.

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Following the ODIs, we emphatically won the T20I series with a scoreline that mirrored the Test series result, 3-0. Alex Hales totalled 214 series runs at an average of 71.33. This included a top score of 116. Middlesex man Dawid Malan returned to the squad following injury and promptly blitzed 60 and 77 not out before being run out for 42. Those runs were achieved at a whopping strike-rate of 182.6! Josh Tongue claimed figures of 4-23 on debut whilst Olly Stone claimed 3 series victims at 15.67 in his international induction. Craig Overton and Yorkshire wicketkeeper Jonny Tattersall also made their T20I debuts.

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The series result was a great one for skipper Eoin Morgan but he has struggled for runs in both the ODI and T20I format throughout the past year. Without an ODI series win in three, the Irishman’s place in the team comes under serious scrutiny ahead of the 2019 World Cup.

Cricket Captain 2018: Sri Lanka Success!

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The less said about the ODI series the better. We were thrashed 4-1, only winning a match after the series had been lost (We’ll come to why this article is proclaimed a success later!). Quick bowlers Jamie Overton (1-236) and Josh Tongue (2-212) particularly struggled. Warwickshire batsman Sam Hain wasted a golden opportunity to cement a place in the team by being run out twice in five innings. There were positives to come out of the series however. Hampshire’s Chris Wood struck 66 not out from just 42 deliveries in the fourth ODI before Ed Barnard (6-66) stole the headlines in our one and only victory. Barnard then struck 71 not out in the fifth and final match to earn himself a place in the Test squad. Back to Wood, the left-arm pacer was a constant threat, claiming seven wickets in the series and keeping things tight, going at less than a run-a-ball. Moeen Ali, ineffective in the summer, performed well enough enough to earn a Test recall, whilst gloveman Jos Buttler registered three consecutive fifties. Despite the 4-1 loss coming hot off the heels of the India series defeat, somehow we remain top of the ODI rankings. It’s imperative that we get back to winning ways in the West Indies ahead of the 2019 World Cup on home turf.

The one-off T20I encounter was won courtesy in the main because of Jason Roy (65) and Liam Plunkett (4-27).

Then came a truly phenomenal Test series. We lost the first encounter by ten wickets as our top order batsmen looked all at sea in alien terrain. Joe Clarke (113) demonstrated his class in making a maiden Test ton as wickets tumbled all around him. Moeen Ali, recalled in place of the injured Jack Leach, justified my decision with 76. Despite those performances, we were well and truly outplayed and our hosts thoroughly deserved their comprehensive victory.

In the second Test we complied the highest score of my tenure. Alastair Cook (134) and Haseeb Hameed (88) batted for all of the first day before Hameed, having justified his retention in the team, fell without adding to his career best the following morning. Rory Burns, having totalled just six runs on Test debut, then batted for in excess of eleven hours before cruelly being last man dismissed for a epic 199.

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Burns had taken the place of Hampshire’s James Vince who like Leach, missed the tour through injury.

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It was a strange series for Burns however, who either side of his near double ton, scored only another 15 runs. A tough decision lies ahead come the first Test in West Indies. Jonny Bairstow also made 134 in our only innings, meaning that we had three centurions in one innings. Lancashire spin sensation Matthew Parkinson then went on to bowl us to victory with figures of 6-53 in the home side’s second innings.

In the deciding match, captain Joe Root led the way with scores off 119 and for the second time this year, 230. Those performances backed up scores of 23, 98 and 91 in the first two Tests. Jonny Bairstow also made 121. There were contributions all round with the ball as we ran out winners by a mammoth margin of 503 runs.

Let’s not forget the pace bowling trio of Stuart Broad, James Anderson and Ben Stokes, who was only working his way back to full fitness, claimed wickets at vital times in the series to keep us in strong positions.

Worcestershire’s Joe Clarke now averages 41.00 with the bat from ten Tests meanwhile leg-spinner Matthew Parkinson averages just 18.93 with the ball. I’d like to think that these individual performances as well as the team’s success display that I’m performing well in my role as Selector and Coach of our national side. Clearly the ODI performances need to pick up but I’m confident we can do well in all formats against a West Indies side that admittedly were no pushover the last time they toured our land.

Cricket Captain 2018: White Ball Wonders… Well Almost!

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Having already defeated Scotland 1-0 in the ODI format, we went undefeated in three further white-ball series before coming a cropper in the final limited overs duel of the summer.

Firstly we saw off Australia in an ODI series, sealing the honours in what was effectively a final in the fifth match. That victory resulted in us assuming the world number one ranking in the fifty over format.

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Newcomer Jamie Overton claimed the best ever haul by an Englishman in ODI cricket. The Somerset quick snaffled amazing analysis of 6-14 to help us win the 3rd match with Australia crumbling for just 105. Overton finished the series with 10 victims at 11.40 apiece.

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In the one-off T20I that followed, 42-year-old Darren Stevens made a long awaited international debut and promptly stole the show. With us in trouble at 93-6, the Kent all-rounder promptly put on an undefeated 57 with fellow debutant Lewis Gregory (18 not out) of Somerset. Stevens finished 49 not out from 34 balls. It seemed as though it was written in stars!

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Next came India where we ran out 2-1 winners in the T20I series. Each of our top three, Dawid Malan, Alex Hales and Jason Roy registered a half-century during the competition. Darren Stevens continued to enjoy the international environment. The county veteran concluded the series with six victims at just 15.80.

Unfortunately in the final limited overs affair of the summer, the ODI series against India, the wheels rather came off. We went down 3-0, struggling to readapt to the fifty over game and failing to post competitive totals. The bowling efforts of twenty-year-old Josh Tongue (4 @ 25.00) as well as the recalled Liam Dawson (6 @ 28.67) were encouraging however.

Now it’s back to the five-day format for a mouth watering five-match series against India. India will have gained confidence from their ODI series win but in truth our Test team is an almost different XI entirely and we’re still buoyed from the emphatic victory against Pakistan.

Cricket Captain 2018: Edinburgh Steal!

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As Coach and Selector of the England cricket team, for the one-off ODI against Scotland in Edinburgh, I made a brave but sensible call. Provided the volume of cricket on the horizon in all forms of the game and given the travel involved in crossing the border north, I rested our senior players. This presented those cricketers with the opportunity to find form at domestic level ahead of the ODI and T20I series against Australia. A thirteen-man squad made up of entirely uncapped players was selected for the Scotland encounter. This provided a great opportunity to breed competition amongst our ranks. Nottinghamshire all-rounder Steven Mullaney assumed the honour of captain on international debut. All-rounders Lewis Gregory and Ben Raine were the unlucky members of the squad who didn’t make the playing XI. Any suggestion that we were selling spectators short by not selecting our first choice XI was soon put to bed as one of the most absorbing ODIs in the history of the game played out before our eyes.

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Every single member of our batting unit made a contribution with Joe Clarke, fresh off the back of his 80 in the second Test against Pakistan, top scoring with a free flowing 52 from 64 deliveries. Some late hitting from skipper Steven Mullaney (49 not out) and Ed Barnard (21 not out) helped lift us to 266 for 6 from our allotted 50 overs. Looking back we could possibly have put our feet on the gas sooner in order to try and set a higher target.

Scotland looked well placed for victory courtesy of Calum MacLeod’s run-a-ball 60 at the top of the order but we turned the screws on the middle order as the home side’s hopes of a famous run chase slipped away.

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Gloucestershire recruit Ryan Higgins led the way with figures of 9-1-37-4.

Scotland seemed out of it at 221-9 before Safyaan Sharif (27) and Brad Wheal (24 not out) put on 45 for the last wicket. Ed Barnard was denied the winning wicket because of a no-ball call and there was also a dropped catch at slip. With Scotland needing just four runs to seal a seismic result, Essex’s Matt Coles trapped Sharif LBW to spare our blushes!

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Next we host Australia and India with regular first-team players likely to be recalled. Should injury strike then we’ve identified a strong pool of players from which to call up on.

#undefeated

Panesar for Yorkshire!

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In my previous post, an audio cast about various things cricket, I touched upon Yorkshire’s necessity to acquire an experienced and quality spin bowler. England’s limited overs spinner Adil Rashid’s First Class future remains unclear, Azeem Rafiq seems to have fallen off the radar again and young Karl Carver continues to struggle. Whilst at work the other day, patrolling my stockroom as I do, a thought came to mind… Monty Panesar! That’s right, a romantic signing it would be but if Yorkshire were to snap up Monty and the fifty-Test veteran promptly spun a few county batsmen out during the second half of the County Championship, Panesar could then gate crash England’s tours to Sri Lanka and West Indies in one of the greatest sporting comebacks of all time!

http://www.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/18655.html

On a serious note, it is often said that England lack depth in their spin bowling stocks however that simply isn’t the case. It’s such a shame that Jack Leach got injured and has now suffered concussion, meaning he’ll miss more Somerset matches. Following the original injury, he subsequently lost his England place to county teammate Dom Bess, who performed admirably in the Test series against Pakistan.

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Hampshire’s Mason Crane

Mason Crane had also been bowling well in limited overs cricket after missing England’s tour of New Zealand through injury. Remember that he displayed great temperament against South Africa in T20Is last year, keeping his head above water to dismiss AB de Villiers. Said injury returned however. When England tour this winter, they’ll ideally take all of Bess, Leach and Crane. That’s an offie, a leggie and a slow-left-armer. Moeen Ali (OS)and Liam Livingstone (LS) would then be sensible back-up batting options provided they bowl effective spin. Don’t forget Liam Dawson (SLA) who continues to perform well, whether it be in English county cricket, for England Lions or in the Pakistan Super League. Samit Patel (SLA) is another option but then just look at the genuine spinners England can consider in years to come… Matthew Parkinson (LS), Amir Virdi (OS), Matthew Carter (OS) (He’s very good!), Hamidullah Qadri (OS) and Ravi Patel (SLA), that’s on top of Bess, Leach and Crane, all of whom have more than ten years at the top remaining.

Moving onto pace bowling, I wonder if England are really looking into the injury situation. Many people wanted Oli Stone selected for England after one good game earlier this season but he’s hardly played since. Jamie Overton is another great hope but is always injured. Saqib Mahmood performed superbly in the North v South matches but hasn’t played all season. Experienced England internationals Chris Woakes and Ben Stokes are obviously missing the current ODI series against Australia off the back of rapidly trying to increase their workloads from four overs per match at the IPL to countless overs in Tests.

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Durham’s Mark Wood

Mark Wood is being rested from the T20I series, Reece Topley is limited to white-ball (List A/T20) cricket only, Toby Roland-Jones is a long-term absentee and particularly alarmingly, both Jake Ball and Tom Curran managed to get injured whilst with the England squad but not having actually played!

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Middlesex’s Toby Roland-Jones

It’s worth noting that TR-Js injury only came about post playing for England?! Other solid domestic players such as Jamie Porter, Liam Norwell and James Weighell have had their injury problems too. I really hope that behind the scenes some studies are being put in place to identify trends, manage player’s workloads and help keep players fit for England.

Anyway, as I was saying… Panesar for Yorkshire!