Cricket 19: Failing the First Test!

Following our hugely encouraging start to life in white-ball cricket, eleven men took to the field in Wales and upon doing so, assumed the honour of becoming the nation’s first ever Test cricketers. Captain Ioan Powell won the toss and led his men out in front of a packed and passionate home crowd. The hosting skipper hoped that his bowlers could exploit the conditions following a delayed start due to rain. England’s opening batsmen strode to the wicket as Test cricket’s most experienced nation commenced battle with its newest inductee.

England 253 (78.3) Broad 49, Burns 48, Root 44/Khan 3-28, E.Williams 3-32, Evans 2-61

Experienced England may be, they looked anything but when Keaton Jennings (1) was run out early in the piece. Left-arm pace bowler Rhys Evans (2-61), who effected the run out, then had the pleasure of taking our first proper wicket, when he got Jonny Bairstow (26) to edge behind to wicketkeeper Rhodri Thomas.

Part-time medium pacer Dylan Roberts (1-10) then struck with his first ball in international cricket. Rory Burns (48), who up to that point had looked in good touch, nicked behind to Thomas before forlornly trudging back to the sheds.

Captain Joe Root (44) alongside Ben Stokes (30) then batted well and looked to be batting England into a commanding position. The duo combined for 63 but both fell with the score on 160. Jos Buttler (2) and Chris Woakes (4) soon followed at the hands of leg-spinner Eifion Williams (3-32). At that point the tourists had slumped from 160-3 to 171-7.

Following the clatter of wickets, Jofra Archer and Stuart Broad applied themselves extremely well in a partnership of 58 to frustrate our side. Broad was particularly effective when sweeping the spinners. Off-spinner Maxwell Khan managed to oust Archer (29) late in the day before England closed on 232-8.

It had been a riveting and engrossing first day of Test cricket and left everybody, players and fans, craving more!

On day two, Khan (3-28) soon wrapped up the England innings. First he trapped James Anderson (5) LBW. Then he had top scorer Broad (49) hole out to the one and only fielder on the leg side. We’d bowled England out for 253, an outstanding effort in our first innings in Test cricket.

Wales 152 (28.2) Roberts 59, Thomas 42, E.Williams 18/Leach 5-8, Broad 4-39, Anderson 1-39

Our opening batsmen both got off the mark in James Anderson’s first over. Sadly however, our Test bow quickly turned sour when Stuart Broad rolled his arm over. Not content with sweeping 49 runs, he tempted Stephen Shah (2) to edge a delivery that he needn’t have played at. Wicketkeeper Jos Buttler dived full stretch and down low to claim an outstanding grab. Two balls later, an ill-disciplined Aled Edwards (1) wafted away to give the Broad/Buttler combo a second wicket. Captain Ioan Powell then suffered the ignominy of registering a golden duck on Test debut. Fortunately, teenager Maxwell Khan then managed to see out the remainder of the over without further damage. Unfortunately he couldn’t see out the following James Anderson over and as a result, we were in dire straits at 9-4! By lunch, we’d progressed to 12-4.

Our phlegmatic number three, Dylan Roberts and enigmatic number six, Eifion Williams, then applied themselves superbly to save us from complete ignominy. The pair posted 44 before Williams joined the Broad/Buttler procession. Possibly surprised by the bounce, he probably didn’t need to play at the delivery. From there, gloveman Rhodri Thomas knuckled down alongside Roberts. By the time beverages were served, the duo had helped haul us from the depths of despair on debut to a far more respectable 92-5.

Roberts and Thomas took their partnership to 62 before the former made a regrettable decision. After scoring a single from spinner Jack Leach’s first delivery then watching from the non-striker’s end as the Somerset man turned the ball away from the batsman, he opted to leave the first delivery of the Leach’s second over. The ball promptly spun the other way, stumps shattered and Roberts was gone. Still, after posting two fifties in the ODI series, Roberts (59) had looked like a batsman of Test calibre to rescue his team from the undesirable score of 9-4.

Cai Hughes (5) then failed to overturn an LBW decision as Leach and England turned the screw. Dwayne Alexander (15), who attacked briefly, Rhys Evans (0), who suffered the same fate as his skipper, and finally Thomas (42), who had batted extremely well, all fell to Leach, as he claimed astonishing figures of 5-8. Jofra Archer didn’t even bowl!

We finished 152 all out from only 28.2 overs but having been 9-4, it was a commendable effort in our first ever Test innings. In truth, we probably over achieved in the ODI series and facing the likes of Anderson and Broad with a red ball, not to mention Leach, taught us some harsh truths!

England 334 (95.3) Jennings 81, Buttler 61, Burns 59/Evans 3-70, Hughes 2-49, Powell 1-6

England then cemented their authority courtesy of a far too easy 93-run opening stand between lefties Burns and Jennings. Not long before the close, leggie Eifion Williams (1-61) did at least force Burns (59) to drag onto his stumps but by the end of day two, England had moved to 105-1, a lead of 206.

Day three started like the two before it, delayed because of rain!

Jennings and Bairstow then ploughed on into the middle session before we effected a mini-fightback. First, Rhys Evans had Jennings (81) nick to slip, then he accounted for Root (12), caught behind. In between, Bairstow (39), was run out via a direct hit from Cai Hughes. England had stuttered from 173-1 to 196-4 but the lead had swelled to over 300.

Stokes (19) and the more assertive Buttler then steadied England with a fifty partnership before the former edged to slip. His dismissal ended an unusually subdued innings and provided Hughes with a maiden Test wicket. At tea on day three, England were 264-5, the small matter of 364 runs ahead!

Not content with one wicket, Hughes (2-49) promptly doubled his tally immediately after tea. The left-arm spinner had Woakes (1) caught behind to the very first delivery of the evening session. He was unlucky not to send Jofra Archer packing too. Buttler soon passed fifty however but failed to convert. Captain Ioan Powell boldly chose to take the new ball and just three deliveries later, Evans (3-70) had his third innings of the wicket when Buttler (61) swung wildly and edged to Thomas.

Archer (21) then needlessly ran himself out. Hughes the thrower from the deep once again! Captain Powell (1-6) then returned for a trundle and should’ve had James Anderson LBW as his first Test wicket. The umpire wasn’t in the mood however but did at least give Broad (20) out in the same over. Express pace bowler Dwayne Alexander (1-53) did then tempt the officials to adjudge Anderson (14) LBW as he too claimed a maiden Test victim. Sadly, opening bowler Osain Williams remained wicketless just as in the first innings. His match figures read 31-1-97-0. We had however performed admirably to restrict England to 335 after they had been 173-1. Unfortunately, that still left us requiring 436 to win!

Wales 198 (44.4) Hughes 31, Khan 30, Thomas 24/Broad 3-41, Archer 2-22, Anderson 2-37

Only four over remained in the day’s play but sadly Aled Edwards (8) couldn’t survive. The left-hander was caught at slip by Jennings off the bowling of Anderson in the third over. Stephen Shah and Dylan Roberts made it to the close on 25-1.

After yet another rain delay and negating a James Anderson over on day four, Shah (17) was trapped plumb LBW in Broad’s first over of the morning. He’d looked comfortable up to that point but was done for pace and even a review couldn’t save him. Captain Ioan Powell, on a pair, strode to the crease with his team 33-2.

The skipper avoided the ignominy of a pair on Test debut but when his team needed their leader to set the standard, he played a horrible drive, away from his body to the last ball of a Broad over and trudged back to the pavilion with only six runs to his name. Roberts (20) then soon edged Archer’s first ball of the match (?!) to leave us in peril at 56-4. Another brief little partnership ensued but just as things were looking up, Eifion Williams (5) defended a ball that he could’ve left and feathered Archer (2-22) to Buttler, giving the Sussex man two wickets in as many overs. That left us 74-5.

Maxwell Khan (30) compiled 41 with wicketkeeper Thomas but like too many batsmen before him, edged a ball that he didn’t need to play at. After bedding in and surviving Jack Leach’s first over, Khan was possibly looking to up the tempo when just plodding on against the returning Anderson (2-37) would’ve been better.

Thomas was another who couldn’t resist the corridor of uncertainty. To be fair to the wicketkeeper, his was probably a little narrower as Leach (1-26) probed for what would be a first wicket of the innings. Thomas (24) could hold his head up high however after an excellent effort both with bat and gloves on Test bow.

Cai Hughes and Dwayne Alexander then put together another partnership of sorts. Alexander (22) chopped onto his stumps however with the score on 149 to gift Chris Woakes his first wicket of the Test. After yet another mini-partnership, Woakes (2-56) accounted for innings top scorer Hughes (39) before Broad (3-41) wrapped up the match by having Evans (22) nick to slip. Our total of 198 from 44.4 overs was a healthy improvement on our first innings effort both in terms of runs scored and duration. From 74-5 we achieved 198. In fact, in our second innings seven of our dismissed batsmen reached double figures. Our lower order put some of our specialist batsmen to shame. It was just frustrating that with so many players getting starts, nobody passed 31. Seven batsmen were dismissed between 17 and 31.

Lost by 237 runs

Despite what looks a thumping loss on the face of it, we performed admirably in our first ever Test. Against a full strength England side, we bravely chose to bowl, dismissed them for sub 300, recovered from 9-4 to score 152, hauled them back from 173-1 to 334 then improved second time around with the bat. It won’t get much tougher than facing England in those conditions. Thank you to all those who supported the Welsh team in the country’s inaugural Test match.

Next up is likely a short T20I tour of the Netherlands. Look out for a report from the continent soon.

Cricket 19: Welsh One-Day Wizards!

After tasting defeat in our inaugural Twenty20 International, please read below for details of how our first One-Day International series played out. All matches were played at The Stadium of Wales.

1st ODI:

Wales 273 (49.5) E.Williams 78*, Roberts 55, Powell 39/Stokes 4-42, Archer 3-37, Rashid 2-59

A brace of boundaries from opener Aled Edwards (16) got us going but we were indebted to a third-wicket partnership of 80 between Dylan Roberts (55) and captain Ioan Powell (39) to lay the foundations of our innings. Teenager Maxwell Khan (22) fought hard before Eifion Williams (78*) scored at more than run-a-ball. Jofra Archer (3-37) struck twice in two balls to limit our chances of posting 300 but last man Osain Williams (14) added 34 with his namesake to take us to a respectable 273. This of course against the world champions in our first ever ODI.

England 240 (48.3) Root 57, Moeen 56, Bairstow 31/O.Williams 3-34, R. Evans 3-56, E. Williams 1-34

Just as in our inaugural T20I, right-arm pace bowler Osain Williams (3-44) bowled Jason Roy (9) for Wales’ first ever ODI wicket. Jonny Bairstow (31) was needlessly run out and to the following delivery, left-arm pacer Rhys Evans (3-56) bowled England skipper Eoin Morgan for a golden duck. Despite excellent innings from Joe Root (57) and Moeen Ali (56), we regularly kept England in check. When wicketkeeper Rhodri Thomas took a sensational catch off the bowling of Evans to dismiss Chris Woakes (20) at the start of the powerplay, the writing was on the wall. When he did the same off last man Adil Rashid (11), we’d won our first ever ODI by 33 runs. Remember that our last wicket stand contributed 34.

There were emotional scenes as tears flowed both on and off the pitch in a small but sold out stadium. An outstanding team performance had resulted in victory over the reigning world champions in our nation’s first ever ODI. There were however, two more matches to be played in the series.

Won by 33 runs

2nd ODI:

England 141-7 (33.4) Buttler 54, Woakes 33*, Root 13/O.Williams 4-39, Hughes 2-27, R.Evans 1-36

England called correctly and despite the raindrops, chose to bat. When they found themselves 47-5 then 69-6, you can assume that they regretted that decision! Osain Williams (4-39) bowled outstandingly. Among his victims were, for the third time in three consecutive internationals, his rabbit Roy, Jason Roy (6).

Jos Buttler set about rescuing the visitors and compiled a fifty partnership with Chris Woakes (33*). Buttler (54) survived a shocking LBW decision when on 38 off the bowling of slow-left-armer Cai Hughes (2-27). He would eventually fall however in that fashion to said bowler. The rain then got heavier and despite an attempt to get back out on the field of play, England’s innings ended on 141-7 from 33.4 overs.

Wales 135-5 (27.1) Edwards 66*, Shah 31, E.Williams 22*/Stokes 3-16, Moeen 1-25, S.Curran 0-16

Our opening batsmen set about achieving a seismic series win with minimal fuss. The right-hand left-hand combo of Stephen Shah and Aled Edwards pretty much got us halfway there with a partnership of 71. Shah (31) edged behind to Buttler off the final delivery of Moeen Ali’s (1-25) first over however and that sparked a terrifying collapse!

Dwayne Alexander (4) was promoted up the order to raise the tempo and get us safely ahead of the required run rate. He promptly struck his first ball from Ben Stokes for four but holed out the very next delivery off the same bowler. Dylan Roberts (1) and captain Ioan Powell (0) both edged to Eoin Morgan at slip off the bowling of the outstanding Stokes (3-16) during a sensational double wicket maiden from the Durham all-rounder. When Maxwell Khan (5) was run out, we’d slipped from 71-0 to 95-5 and were at serious risk of throwing away a first ever ODI series win.

Amongst all the carnage however, Edwards was unfazed. He was joined by first match hero Eifion Williams in an assured and undefeated partnership of 40. Williams finished 22 not out from 18 deliveries whilst the impregnable Edwards carried his bat for 66 not out from 84 balls with 19 deliveries of the innings remaining.

The Welsh crowd couldn’t contain themselves and burst onto the playing surface. England captain Eoin Morgan and his team were gracious in defeat. We’d beaten the reigning world champions in our first two One-Day Internationals in a ground-breaking series win that reverberated around a now bigger cricketing world.

Won by 5 wickets

3rd ODI:

England 299-5 (50) Root 162, Morgan 61, Billings 26/Evans 4-73, Khan 1-37, Hughes 0-25

Despite England having reached 91 by the fall of the second wicket, off-spinner Maxwell Khan’s first at international level, we hadn’t let England get away from us. However, a third-wicket stand of 129 by two England captains changed that. Test skipper Joe Root struck 162 high calibre runs from only 139 deliveries, meanwhile ODI leader Eoin Morgan was at his dynamic best, striking 61 innovative runs. Left-arm pacer Rhys Evans (4-73) dug deep to claim career best figures but wickets were hard to come by for the rest of our attack.

How debutante Rhys Davies (10-1-42-0) walked off the pitch wicketless was difficult to comprehend. Two LBW decisions that should’ve gone his way didn’t and a couple of catches off his right-arm medium bowling also went to ground. Fellow debutante, left-arm pacer Morgan Price (7-0-52-0) found life much harder. He kept plugging away however and claimed a good catch to terminate Morgan’s knock. Ben Stokes (16*) and Moeen Ali (17*) helped England set a total of a run-a-ball to defend.

Wales 204 (43.1) Roberts 64, Hughes 27*, Thomas 24/T. Curran 4-50, Archer 2-27, Wood 1-23

Tom Curran, brought into the visiting side at the expense of his brother, soon had us on the back foot in our run chase. The Surrey man accounted for both openers, Edwards (11) and Shah (14) as well as captain Powell (3). Despite middle order wickets continuing to fall, including young Price (8) to complete a difficult debut, Dylan Roberts (64) persevered to reach fifty for the second time in the series. Sadly, he would soon become Curran’s (4-50) fourth wicket of the innings.

Wicketkeeper Rhodri Thomas (24), spinner Cai Hughes (27*) and debutante Seth Davies (17) helped haul us from 104-5 to 198-7 but we were always clutching at straws in regards to the required run rate. We lost our final three wickets for just 6 runs to succumb to 204 all out and a 95-run defeat.

Credit to England, they were superior in all departments and thoroughly deserved to win. Not for the first time, a lack of oomph in our batting was cruelly exploited.

Lost by 95 runs

Win the series 2-1

The result in the third ODI didn’t prevent us from winning the series though. After losing the T20I, a 2-1 win against the reigning world champions in our first ever ODI series is something to be extremely proud of. There were contributions from throughout our squad and much to build on.

Next up, it’s our inaugural Test match. Look out for a full match report at the conclusion of the historic event. After seeing the way that the limited overs matches have played out, it should be a good contest!

Cricket Captain 2020 – We Left it Late to be Great in Season Eight!

Okay, so ‘great’ might be stretching it, we won only two white-ball games all season and fared little better in the red ball environment… but somehow we retained our place in division one by the skin of our teeth!

As is often the case, we started well, winning our first three County Championship matches. The wheels then not only came off but rolled down the hill and out of sight! Quite how our T20 then One-Day form was so bad, I have no idea. Given the improvements we’d made in recent seasons, it was extremely frustrating. Australian Josh Phillipe was a particular disappointment but to be fair, he fared little worse than anybody else. We finished bottom of our group in both white-ball competitions with just a solitary win in each format.

And so it came down to the final few games of the County Championship. The scorecard above details how young Greg Birch, with only a couple of First Class games to his name, roared to match figures off 11-87 to seemingly preserve our division one status. Sadly we collapsed to just 88 all out in pursuit of only 104 for victory. At this point and following the trauma of such an up and down match, I thought that we’d been relegated by just 16 runs. I then realised that we had one game left and it happened to be a winner takes all relegation play-off against neighbours Derbyshire, who had a 3 (It might’ve been 5) point advantage.

Joe Root was selected for only the second time in half a decade and made 51 returning to his roots as an opener. Matt Fisher (4-79), recalled after taking eleven wickets in a second XI game, restricted the hosts to only a small lead after they’d looked set for a match-defining one. James Wharton, who despite his horror show as white-ball captain had performed well (With bat and ball) in the County Championship, set the tone with 77. Josh Phillipe (50) after a quiet few innings, dug deep as we fought the opposition and the rain. It was Fisher (4-50) again who ripped through Derbyshire second time around to send them down to division two. Having sunk into the relegation zone, we’d looked doomed but a combination of youth and experience had saved us.

The emergence of a number of young pace bowlers, not least the aforementioned Birch, means that we say goodbye to Ben Coad and Sam Cook. The money saved by releasing those players allows us to invest heavily in coaching/physio facilities and crucially youth development. Josh Phillipe will return next year. The Australian played some crucial knocks in First Class cricket but will hope to demonstrate his white-ball prowess more in 2028. 26-year-old off-spinning all-rounder Oliver Price has joined the squad and will hope to make a belated professional debut.

Farewell Joe, Welcome Joe!

The time has come for England to move on from Joe Denly. Denly has fought hard and contributed useful innings but he’s also been extremely (And I mean extremely) lucky. You only have to count the amount of times that he’s been dropped (I mean by fielders) in his career.

With Joe Root certain to return to the England side the following batting line-up: Burns, Sibley, Crawley, Root, Stokes and Pope can not only hopefully be a top six for a number of years but have provided enough evidence to suggest that we can do more than hope.

As for Denly, the likes of James Hildreth and Sam Northeast amongst others will despair at the opportunities that he’s had. I’ll say it again though, Denly has contributed and he’s tried his best but with Dan Lawrence and co. waiting in the wings, it’s time to put a full stop on Denly’s Test career.

Ball Games!

Test Cricket returns tomorrow when England host West Indies at Southampton. Whether or not it should really be classed as Test status is debatable. Yes, Test cricketers will be playing but they’ve prepared by playing intra-squad matches and there’ll be no spectators in the ground. It is of course arguable that fans could attend and maintain social distancing however it’s more the getting there (Unnecessary risks on public transport etc) and getting in and out of the ground that are the problem.

West Indies are short of a few players. It’s perfectly understandable that some players, at least one of whom has suffered tragedy in his life, doesn’t want to tour England. Two of the absent players hail from Guyana where until recently at least, there hadn’t been many deaths. That may have changed as Coronavirus gains a grip on the Americas but it’s easy to comprehend that they didn’t want to visit a country where there’ve been thousands upon thousands of deaths, even if a little digging might suggest that a lot of those deaths have been in care homes. Of course BAME personnel do seem to be more vulnerable.

England will also be deprived of a player in the shape of their captain Joe Root. That possibly earns Joe Denly a reprieve and means that England’s batsmen will be competing against each other. Ben Stokes will lead England against a West Indies side who have some exciting young players in and around their squad.

West Indies have been written off before, only to show England up. Let’s hope for some competitive cricket to feast upon once again. Whether or not there’ll be artificial crowd noise like in the football we’ll have to wait and see.

May I take this opportunity to thank anybody and everybody for visiting my blog. You might like to visit my football blog http://www.leftbackfooty.com Please do… because nobody is!

Double (Or Triple?) Trouble!

There’s a suggestion that if any international cricket is played in the near future that England could field multiple teams in order to play different formats on the same day.

Now whether or not that would be a crossover between red and white ball cricket or that ODI and T20I could clash obviously remains unclear. Let’s assume that each and every format was being played on the same day. Who makes which team? Oh, and for ease we’ll select for matches played in England… at the risk of being rather optimistic!

Test

Rory Burns

Dominic Sibley

Zak Crawley

Joe Root (Captain)

Ollie Pope

Sam Curran

Ben Foakes (Wicketkeeper)

Mark Wood

Jack Leach

Stuart Broad

James Anderson

Sam Northeast

Jamie Porter

ODI

Dawid Malan (Captain)

Tom Banton

James Vince

Sam Hain

Dan Lawrence

Sam Billings (Wicketkeeper)

Craig Overton

Lewis Gregory

Oly Stone

Saqib Mahmood

Matt Parkinson

Liam Livingstone

David Willey

Dom Bess

T20I (Which I’ve prioritised over ODI due to the impending World Cup)

Jason Roy

Jos Buttler (Wicketkeeper)

Jonny Bairstow

Eoin Morgan (Captain)

Ben Stokes

Moeen Ali

Tom Curran

Chris Jordan

Chris Woakes

Jofra Archer

Adil Rashid

Phil Salt

Joe Denly

Pat Brown

What are your thoughts on my selections? What would you do differently?

Cricket 19: Fourth Umpire… If Only!

Three days ago at Lords, eleven men became France’s first ever Test cricketers. Captain Xavier Le Tallec called heads but it was tails that faced skyward when the coin settled on the ground. On a frighteningly verdant deck, home skipper Joe Root had no hesitation in opting to bowl.

Left-handed batsman Jean-Luc Chevalier had the honour of facing the first ball in France’s Test history and immediately grasped the honour of scoring the team’s first ever run. Unfortunately soon after that he had another honour… that of being the first France wicket to fall in the history of Test cricket. Chevalier (5) pushed a little too hard at an over the wicket delivery from Stuart Broad (1-29), got turned inside out and edged to wicketkeeper Jos Buttler who gleefully snaffled the catch.

Fellow opener Enzo Petit, fresh from fifties in each innings against Middlesex on the same ground, was joined at the crease by Gilles Smith. The pair repelled the England attack until DRS drama intervened to shatter French dreams. In his first over, Jofra Archer successfully appealed for an LBW against Smith. It looked out but after some deliberation Smith opted to review, seemingly in hope more than anything. Replays soon confirmed however that the right-hander had actually hit the ball prior to impact with his pads. It might’ve been the back of the bat and barely a scrape but it was enough to merit a reversal. A stunned crowd audibly gasped when Smith (19) was given out once again on the big screen. He pleaded his case with the umpire and though we understand the fine dished out and the reasons why, we remain disappointed by it, as I know that many in the cricket community are. It wouldn’t be our last occasion in the match to be underwhelmed by the standard of officiating!

All-rounder Gabin Sauvage (8) survived alongside Petit (30) until the final delivery pre-drinks when the latter edged a beauty of a delivery from Ben Stokes (1-17) to Buttler… who dropped a pretty regulation chance! I’m sure that the beverages tasted better at 59-2 than they would’ve another wicket down.

Buttler’s butterfingers mattered little however as a promising beginning only led to an embarrassing collapse of epic proportions! 68-2 became 104-9 as our batsmen found all manner of ways to get out, namely playing unnecessarily attacking shots as the application we’d applied up to that point evaporated. Included in those dismissals were Zidane Thomas, run out for a third ball duck and captain Xavier Le Tallec, who had his stumps castled first ball by spinner Dom Bess (4-33). To say that those dismissals were an inglorious start to their Test careers would be an understatement. Last men standing Alexandre Rivière (11*) and Mehdi Qadri swung handsomely to at least ensure that we avoided the ignominy of being bowled out before lunch on our first day of Test cricket. 133-9 were the specifics come salad serving.

One ball after the interval and our first innings had reached its conclusion, Qadri (17) wildly edging to slip off Jofra Archer (2-9).

Rivière had the honour of claiming our nation’s first Test wicket when an unconvincing Dominic Sibley (5) edged an unplayable delivery to Zvonimir Pitko at Gully. The muscular Pitko displayed agility and rapid reflexes to execute a stunning catch. Joe Denly (16) played a couple of glorious shots but was run out courtesy of sharp work by Marwan Leroy behind the stumps. As our players appealed for LBW against Rory Burns, Denly scurried to the other end. Replays suggested that he’d completed the run but maybe the umpires were evening things out when they flashed ‘OUT’ on the board, much to Denly’s chagrin.

Despite regular edges that just wouldn’t carry, England progressed from 51-2 all the way to 203-2 courtesy of Burns and captain Joe Root. In the final session we turned to spin and after Qadri had bowled a promising premier over, with only his third delivery skipper Le Tallec rapped Burns on the pads. The left-hander was on 99 as the ball ricocheted off his pad, clearly hit his bat and was expertly caught by Leroy running forward. Burns didn’t move and the decision went upstairs. An LBW decision was rejected by the third umpire. Fair enough but what about the catch? The officials blatantly ignored it and as with the Smith decision in our innings we were left aghast. Our players had dug deep to find a breakthrough. Our captain had stepped up with a clever tactical change by introducing spin with Burns on 99 but the system or/and the officials had failed us and the sport as a whole.

Despite his reprieve it would be spin that extinguished Burns’ night. In truth the Surrey stalwart played an inexplicably poor shot that was swallowed by Sauvage at square leg. Burns fell for 110 and England were on double nelson three wickets down.

Surprisingly spin continued to dominate at Lords. Le Tallec (1-13) got the wicket he deserved when he forced Ben Stokes (7) to drag onto his stumps. England recovered from the departure of the Durham man and reached 240-4 at the close, 107 runs to the good. Root and Ollie Pope elevated England to 315-4 when the latter, on 41 at the time, should have been run out. Mehdi Qadri (1-52) inexplicably failed to break the stumps from just inches away. After the pair had compiled 112 in each other’s company, Alexandre Riviere required only three deliveries with the new cherry to induce Pope’s (52) edge and Leroy claimed a good diving catch.

Sam Curran (27*) was promoted ahead of Jos Buttler and alongside Root (177*) raised England to 405-5 come the declaration. Riviere (2-62) was the pick of the bowlers but messrs Pierre (0-67), Thomas (0-90) and Sauvage (0-88) endured tough Test initiations.

We commenced our second innings effectively -272-0!

By the time the first wicket went down that deficit had been reduced to 195 as Chevalier and Petit restored French pride. The duo constructed a hugely encouraging opening stand of 77 before Chevalier (18) was bowled by Ben Stokes. I have huge sympathy for Chevalier because such was Enzo Petit’s dominance of the strike that it wasn’t easy for an instinctive stroke player like him and he just lost his rhythm a little. At the time the left-hander was bowled by the 22nd delivery that he received (He didn’t score off his final four) Petit had faced 49 balls, more than double Chevalier. Still, the pair had put on 77 for the first wicket to plant seeds of optimism for the future of French cricket.

Frustratingly Petit (56) was caught behind in the final over of the session. He seemed surprised by the removal of Archer from the attack and change of ends and angle for Curran. You could debate over the choice of shot let alone the execution of the pull but Petit deserves nothing but praise for his efforts both in the warm-up matches and our first ever Test. 100-2 still 172 runs behind was the scenario at tea and scones on day two.

After the interval Sauvage (3) soon succumbed to Curran, caught off a leading edge that ballooned to mid-on. Shortly after Sauvage’s demise Smith (27) naively fell to Bess’ first over of spin, caught on the boundary by that man Curran when a score of substance seemed on the table.

We’d slipped to 114-4 but Zvonimir Pitko and Zidane Thomas began building a partnership that soon had even the home fans on their side. The duo showcased their discipline as well as array of stroke play and had added 142 when Thomas was plumb LBW to Bess’ first ball of a new spell. It was typical that Thomas’ (65) run-a-ball knock ended with him trying to defend when he may have been better attempting to score.

Leroy (1) fell in the same over bringing Le Tallec to the crease. The skipper avoided the ignominy of a pair on Test debut but nicked to the slips off the returning Curran (3-48) to be outstandingly caught by his opposing number Root for just a single.

Patrick Pierre (1) was foolishly run out before Alexandre Riviere smashed back-to-back maximums straight up off Bess. Those strikes ensured that England would have to bat again and we’d avoided an innings defeat (With a little help from a declaration!) on our Test bow.

Bess (5-51) got sweet revenge when Riviere fell for 25 off only eight deliveries before Pitko (73) was out next ball. To avoid an innings defeat was a superb effort from the team but 289 was a disappointing score having been 256-4. England required 18 runs to win the first Test. After limiting the score to just 3-0 from one over we did at least take the game into a third day.

Despite a few LBW shouts and an edge through the slips England won by all ten wickets.

We started well with the bat but lost our way. We stuck to task with the ball then committed as a unit with the bat second time around. Yes we collapsed in all too familiar fashion in both innings but three of our top six recorded fifties and we had two partnerships of real substance. That bodes well for the immediate future. Next up we host England for out first ever Test match on home shores. Gabin Sauvage and Patrick Pierre may be sweating over their places as we look to square the series. I’d like to provide players with plenty of opportunities but it may be necessary to freshen things up. We’ll take a look at the surface before making a decision. We can’t wait to entertain a home crowd who will have had their appetite wetted by a brave display at Lords.

Cricket 19: GODII – Semi-final

Only days after defeating the Dutch on home turf in London we jetted to neutral territory in the form of Perth, Australia to take them on once again in the first Global One-Day International Invitational semi-final.

We made one alteration to the playing XI that prospered in match 14 with Jofra Archer replacing the unfortunate Tom Curran. Archer’s inclusion ensured that we had all bases covered in terms of speed, swing, right and left-arm bowling for what looked an intriguing deck in Western Australia. Contrary to perceived wisdom we opted to bat first after Netherlands called incorrectly at the coin flip.

What followed was a haphazard batting performance that undermined all that we had achieved upto this point. Jonny Bairstow was run out for 3 which begun a procession of wickets and left us in peril on 77-7 on Perth’s unpredictable surface. Only an eighth-wicket partnership of 56 between James Hildreth (36) and Jofra Archer (38) lifted us to an ugly 136 all out. Paceman Paul van Meekeren claimed 3-40 while spinner Pluto Schmidt registered figures of 2-7.

Netherlands reached 28 without loss to put themselves firmly in control but slipped to 39-4 in a passage of breathtaking cricket. Chris Woakes fed the hands of James Hildreth twice and Moeen Ali had the thinnest edge in history pouched by wicketkeeper Jos Buttler from his second delivery after the skipper had dropped one off the bowler’s first. There was also a run out courtesy of a sensational throw from the boundary by Jofra Archer. The Dutch recovered somewhat but when Pluto Schmidt (22) needlessly fell to Liam Trevaskis attempting an unnecessary and unorthodox shot they looked in trouble again at 86-6. Bryan Long (26) and Suman Engels (23 not out) steadied the ship but Joe Root of all people prized out Long before Lewis Gregory returned to claim the eighth wicket with Netherlands on 121. Fred Klaassen (5 not out) saw them home alongside Engels however to take the Dutch to the inaugural Global ODI Invitational and send us packing.

Having won the North Western Hemisphere Test Championship to lose at the semi-final stage of the GODII was a bitter pill to swallow but we only have ourselves to blame for not applying ourselves better with the bat. Congratulations to the Netherlands who although we pushed them hard thoroughly deserved to win.

Netherlands, led by Bryan Long’s 98 not out, would go onto thrash an insipid Hong Kong in the final.

Disclaimer/Excuse: A recent patch has made the game harder. With a wife and children constantly walking around the room and clambering all over me I didn’t apply myself with the bat as I needed to. I’m going to play the game in shorter more committed chunks in future in order to post competitive totals. I also intend to take more control over field placings and possibly play on the hardest level. Having concluded my custom Test/ODI competitions I just need to decide how I’m going to play the game going forward.

Who Should Captain England? – The Results

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The results of my latest poll are in and… errr, we’re none the wiser!

To be fair to Joe Root, he’s tied at the top so possibly deserves to retain his place. Most of the votes were submitted in between the first and second Test in Aotearoa, so after England lost and before Root struck 226 as England drew the second match. I’m not convinced that this should effect whether or not he retains the captaincy. Of course Root was never likely to be stripped of the role mid-winter but with such a cramped international schedule the seasons almost role into one. Could a hiding in South Africa result in Root being out of a job (Or at least one of his roles) come Spring?

The alternatives are limited though. I backed Jos Buttler (As a player not to be captain) for the New Zealand series but South Africa may be the right time to get behind Ben Foakes as gloveman with Ollie Pope returning to solely batting duties. Is Ben Stokes fit enough to assume the role? Is Rory Burns proven and, not meaning to be rude, but respected enough by his teammates just yet to take on the burden? Would it really help Stuart Broad and the team to make him skipper?

Of course the system doesn’t really allow a player to be groomed as captain. The best players make their respective international sides when still young before domestic captaincy opportunities have presented themselves. If a player lingers at county or state level and does well as captain then they’re playing catch up in regards to proving themselves as international cricketers once selected.

Root will lead England in South Africa and likely for years to come. I’ll back him but like many I’m not convinced that leadership comes naturally to him. Just because his teammates like him isn’t really a good enough reason for him to remain captain, particularly when the side isn’t in the habit of winning!

Who Should Captain the England Test Team in South Africa?

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Following a heavy defeat in the first Test in New Zealand the question marks over Joe Root’s captaincy are now firmly written in bold font and possibly in red ink! Root registered his lowest Test aggregate score, dropped out of the top ten batsmen in the world for the first time in five years (I’m surprised that it’s taken that long!) and was once again lacking inspiration in the field.

Does the Yorkshireman remain the best man to lead England or would he and the team as a whole be best served if he returned to being just one of the ranks?

Such a move has the potential to rid Root of the additional strain of leadership and allow him to thrive as the high quality batsman that we know he can be though in turn it obviously burdens someone else… or possibly brings out the best in them. Captaincy certainly isn’t bringing out the best in Joe Root.

Ben Stokes is currently vice-captain, Jos Buttler has stood in for limited overs matches, Stuart Broad has captained England in T20Is and Rory Burns is a County Championship winning captain.

Who do you think should lead England?