Ashes Cricket (PS4): Global Test League – New Zealand Run Out… of Ideas!

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When your bowlers need claim only fourteen wickets, you can’t help but think that Test match victories shouldn’t come quite so easily!

Post victory in the Shamrock state, Warwickshire’s Chris Woakes was recalled to the side for the hosting of New Zealand at Edgbaston. Woakes soon snaffled a wicket on his home ground, that of Kiwi opener Jeet Raval, caught behind for seven by debutant wicketkeeper Ben Foakes. That’d be bowled Woakes caught Foakes then! Brought into the side at the expense of Jonny Bairstow following the Yorkshireman’s shabby showing against Ireland in Malahide, Foakes duly put in an exemplary performance behind the timbers. Surrey head honcho Alec Stewart will be proud.

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Woakes made the most of his familiarity with the surroundings. With the new ball in hand whilst Stuart Broad sat this match out, Woakes claimed impressive figures of 3-28 as New Zealand capitulated to 143-9 in their first innings. Only a last wicket stand of forty between Neil Wagner and Trent Boult helped lift the visitors to a slightly more respectable 183 all out. New Zealand’s ineptitude with the bat on such a run-welcoming surface was soon highlighted by England’s willow wielders, not to mention the Kiwis’ own efforts come their second innings.

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Mark Stoneman compiled a career best 82 in an opening partnership of 186 with former Durham colleague Keaton Jennings but was rightly gutted on missing out on a maiden Test century. The Surrey lefty played an unnecessary and inexplicably expansive shot when three figures were peeping above the horizon whilst crying out “Come and get me Mark, please!”.

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Perennially in-form Jennings made no such mistake. His monumental 222 was a dominational knock that left him sitting pretty at the top of the Global Test League run charts whilst averaging an epic 83.29! #Bradmanesque was soon trending on social media. In the interest of fairness, Roston Chase, Dean Elgar and Ross Taylor have all clocked up higher GTL scores in the first four rounds of games.

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Dawid Malan registered his third hundred of the GTL, the most by any individual thus far in the inaugural edition of the competition. The Middlesex man fell for a Test best 155, his partnership of 194 with Adil Rashid was England’s competition high so far as was the team cumulative of 765-9. Regarding the bowling, Neil Wagner claimed absurd figures of 3-256!

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Following his reintegration to the Test side against Ireland, Adil Rashid continued his authoritative all-round performance and seemed destined for a maiden Test century. The Yorkshireman was controversially adjudged run out when on 79 however, though in truth it was an almightily risky run, even if the cameras suggested he’d made his ground.

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As was the case against Ireland, England saw their opposition produce a strong second innings batting display. It was only day three and the pitch was still a good one. How much more the Kiwis 410 could have been if it were not for five run outs in the innings, added to one in their first, will forever remain unknown. Had the tourists not conceded such village dismissals (No disrespect to village cricketers across the land!) and had they applied themselves better in their first innings then this could have been a far more evenly contested high scoring affair. Tim Southee’s run out for a career best 87, a dismissal that sealed the home side’s victory was disappointing, embarrassing, amateur, heart-breaking and inevitable all at the same time. Even the England fans wanted to see him reach a ton.

Moving on from my journalistic report and bringing to the fore my role as Team Manager and Chairman of Selectors of the England national side, we’d prefer to have to work harder for our wickets, even if we can claim to have applied pressure to bring them about. Our performance against spin, Jeetan Patel finished with figures of 0-98 on his home ground, was extremely encouraging. Pakistan in Lahore however will be a different kettle of the proverbial fish. We look forward to the challenge though. We currently sit joint top of the GTL table alongside South Africa and India. They too have won three matches and lost one. Entertaining ‘The Proteas’ at home will follow the trip to Pakistan.

The squad to travel to Pakistan will be named after careful consideration has been provided. Rotation of our pace bowlers continues to be of paramount importance as we look to sustain our intensity throughout the duration of the competition. Thoughts of adding additional spin options to the XI will be weighed up as will selecting spin-skilled batsmen. The players continue to be humbled by the support of the fans.

Family Roots

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Some people say that it’s not easy to be the younger sibling of a superstar. Fortunately I don’t have a younger sibling so no poor sod has to carry that burden!

Billy Root however has to try and carve out a career of his own in the shadow of his elder brother, England Test captain Joe Root. Billy hit the headlines last week when brother Joe smacked him for six to win a one-day game but actually Root Jnr. is starting to scratch out a decent career for himself at Nottinghamshire.

Will he make his home county Yorkshire curse the fact that he’s not on their books?

Maybe being away from home territory and his elder brother isn’t a bad thing. He’s already got a First Class hundred to his name, made for Leeds/Bradford MCCU against Sussex and today he tonked 107 not out from 93 deliveries (10 fours, 2 sixes) against a Warwickshire attack that included Rikki Clarke, Keith Barker and Jeetan Patel. Root compiled more runs than Michael Lumb, Riki Wessels, Samit Patel and Brendan Taylor combined.

Whether or not Billy can become the Mark to Joe’s Steve remains to be seen (That’s a Waugh reference by the way!) but regardless, he’s at least hinted that a decent domestic career could lay ahead.

Don’t get carried away Billy. Stay grounded or… rooted you might say!

Guptill Gone!

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New Zealand have dropped opening batsman Martin Guptill from their Test squad for the upcoming visit of Pakistan. Guptill will kick himself for having being run out when on 72 in New Zealand’s last Test against India as a fourth Test match century would surely have saved him from the axe. The thirty-year-old made scores of 56 and 128 not out in his most recent First Class turn out for Auckland but it wasn’t enough to save him from international omission. Guptill averages 42.35 with the bat in ODIs and 34.73 in T20Is. In the longest form of the game however and having had plenty of opportunities (47 Tests) Guptill’s average is 29.38 and that simply isn’t good enough to hold down a spot opening the batting in the Test arena. Guptill will be replaced in the squad by his domestic opening partner Jeet Raval. Guptill actually outscored Raval (84 and 19) in their last First Class match but 5156 First Class runs at 43.69 including fourteen centuries are the sort of numbers that the New Zealand selectors could no longer ignore. Raval was on the tour to India but didn’t make the final XI.

Todd Astle also returns to the frame for New Zealand and Colin de Grandhomme, capped in both limited overs formats earns a Test call-up too. Mark Craig and Mitchell Santner are amongst those injured for New Zealand whilst Jeetan Patel and Ish Sodhi are amongst the others to miss out for the Black Caps.