Cricket 19: GODII – States of Play!

We posted 354-8 from our fifty overs before a confused American outfit delivered their Second Class reply.

The Trumpets spent about 45 overs of their chase seemingly under the impression that despite the coloured clothing (Their kit was beautiful by the way!) and white ball that this was a Test match, summed up no more so than opening batsman J-J Morrison’s 26 from, wait for it… 114 deliveries! “TEST MATCH”. They then switched into T20 mode for the final few overs led by Henry Wilks (54 not out from 61 balls) but still fell an agonising… 203 runs short!

All our batters chipped in after Dawid Malan (51) and Liam Livingstone (66) had compiled an opening stand worth 98. After that, Joe Root (69) and Moeen Ali (59) put on 120 in tandem. Spin bowler Tahla Pittman claimed figures of 10-0-74-2 with the cork and leather before later making a decent 22 with the willow. Rufus Suarez also collected a brace finishing with analysis 8-0-47-2 and was the visitors’ most economical bowler.

As regards our bowling unit, all were impressive: Stokes (2-23) was the pick whilst Moeen (2-41) and Archer (2-39) also snapped up two wickets each. Liam Dawson’s figures of 10-2-22-0 were also impressive and some consolation after he was run out without facing a ball. Moeen was superb in the field and Jos Buttler also had plenty of running to do.

Gloveman Jonny Bairstow claimed another seven (7SEVEN!) catches to cement his position as the world’s leading wicketkeeper.

That’s three wins from three and now it’s onto Edgbaston to take on opposition from the Orient in the form of Hong Kong.

Proposed England Test Squad

Hi all

Here’s my suggested England Test squad for the match against Ireland and ultimately the start of the Ashes…

Dominic Sibley

Rory Burns

Joe Root (Captain)

Dawid Malan

Jos Buttler

Ben Stokes

Jonny Bairstow (Wicketkeeper)

Mark Wood/Jofra Archer

Jack Leach

Stuart Broad

James Anderson/Chris Woakes

12th men

Moeen Ali

Sam Curran

The suggestion is that Archer and Woakes have injuries that need managing and may have to wait their turn. Of course Anderson is currently out of action and Wood is not going to play five consecutive Tests. Extremely good players are going to have to miss out and that may be the case for Sam Curran. I think that variety is essential in an attack but with slow left-armer Leach meriting selection ahead of Moeen that doesn’t help fellow leftie Curran’s case. I still believe in Moeen but he’s gone AWOL as a batsman and Leach should’ve played in West Indies. His batting and fielding have come on too. Moeen would be best served getting some county cricket under his belt. If somebody in the top/middle order fails after a few Tests then the others could be shuffled to accommodate Moeen as a second spinner or even allow Curran to come into the side. He himself is capable of batting at least as high as six.

On the batting front, Sibley merits selection. His ‘form’ isn’t just that. His sensational run started last year and included a hundred overseas. He clearly has a lot of ambition and concentration and could be just what England need. I’d have no concerns about tempo from the openers. Test matches last five days!

I also firmly believe that Malan is good enough to succeed at this level but his optimum batting position is number four. That’s why Root must move to three and embrace it. He might not like it but he’ll have a better team for it. Yes Malan has played before and averaged 27 like everybody else but he hinted at being good enough and is knocking the door down with an axe. You only have to look at the likes of Mark Butcher, Justin Langer and Marvan Atapattu, even Jonny Bairstow for players that came back stronger and age wise look at Mike Hussey, Kumar Sangakarra and Misbah-ul-Haq, even Andy Flower. Malan could yet have his peak years ahead of him. His inclusion helps maintain a good left-hand/right-hand balance throughout the batting order.

The likes of Gary Ballance and Toby Roland-Jones as well as Dom Bess could all be hitting form at the right time to keep incumbents on their toes. Sam Northeast is another one for whom a place in the XI is a genuine possibility. Like I say though, good players will have to miss out. That’s theory of numbers. Coad, Gregory, Porter, Denly and Roy etc, you cant squeeze them all in.

Regarding Roy, he simply can’t be trusted to be fit enough to field long enough to be allowed, in accordance with the rules of the game, to open the batting thus rendering his inclusion pointless if everybody else has to move higher up the order than they want too.

One more thing. What a shame that the England Lions players as well as most county squads can’t watch the World Cup final. Who scheduled this?!

Cricket 19: GODII – Canadian Capitulation!

Don’t worry England fans. It was our hosts that capitulated in the majestic surroundings of Ottawa Oval. Such a picturesque setting deserved far better than the syrup served up by the home team. Please don’t blame messrs Curran or Woakes though. They were only doing their job. Spare a thought for Joe Root as well. The Yorkshire lad flew all that way and didn’t bat or bowl.

At least Jos Buttler got to toss a coin! To think that there were those that questioned the decision to bowl. Though paying fans may wish that we’d batted first.

If it weren’t for two out of control top edges off ‘throw the kitchen sink’ hook shots from Darcy Harris off the hostile bowling of Jofra Archer then Canada wouldn’t have even totalled the paltry 38 all out that they did.

New ball duo Chris Woakes (3-11) and Sam Curran (3-3) did the damage at the top of the order before slow-left-armer Liam Dawson, having replaced Tom Curran in the side, chipped in with 2-8. Archer (1-14) then got in on the act before Moeen Ali struck first ball. It’ll come as no surprise to anyone that wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow took the innings ending catch to make it seven for the day (A new ODI record!) and already into double figures just two outings into the competition.

Dawid Malan (19 not out) and Liam Livingstone (18 not out) saw us comfortably to a ten-wicket win.

Such as a one-sided affair has led to questioning the integrity of the competition from some quarters. We’re only two matches in and there have already been some reasonably high scoring close encounters so far in the tournament. We’re participating in order to help promote the game across the globe. I guarantee that Canada will perform better when we meet again later in the competition.

Next for us we host USA at Old Trafford. You can expect a strong squad to be named for that one.

Cricket 19: NWHTC – Statistical Update

Having reached the halfway point of the round robin stage of the inaugural North Western Hemisphere Test Championship, here are some statistical highlights from our performances. Remember that we lost to Scotland in our opening match but have gone onto beat Canada, USA, Ireland and Netherlands.

Highest Team Total: 493-8 dec vs. USA at Edgbaston

Highest Individual Innings: Haseeb Hameed – 154 vs. USA at Edgbaston

Highest Batting Average: Joe Root – 52.25

Leading Run-scorer: Joe Root – 418

Most Catches: Jonny Bairstow – 41 (Forty-One!!!)

Best Bowling (Innings): Sam Curran – 6-26 vs. USA at Edgbaston

Best Bowling (Match): Sam Curran – 10-127 vs. Canada at Ottawa Oval

Best Bowling Average: Sam Curran – 13.50

Leading wicket taker: Sam Curran – 28

Cricket 19: NWHTC – Finding Netherland is Nether Easy!

Snowcapped mountains, palm trees and Warnesque spin bowlers. Quite what part of the Netherlands we were in we still have no idea but it hosted some thoroughly good cricket!

On the first morning (Or afternoon, it was a day/nighter) we were untroubled at 54 without loss just one ball before the beverage break and looked destined for a big first innings total. Ben Duckett, not content with just liquid refreshment, couldn’t resist a nibble however and out of nowhere we were one wicket down. His replacement at the wicket, another Ben in the form of the recalled Ben Stokes then went on the attack to carry us to 102-1. In the blink of an eye though that became 108-4! Stokes dragged on after striking a punchy 39, Jos Buttler (4) executed an awful leave for the second time in the competition and Haseeb Hameed, who made 39 in 56 deliveries more than it took Stokes, was caught both in two minds and behind. Moeen Ali looked in excellent touch once again but fell for 34 before captain Joe Root and wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow batted brilliantly to brighten our outlook.

The Yorkshire pair lifted us from the wreckage of 158-5 to 287-5 when Root (62) was bowled courtesy of a Buttler-like leave soon after tea. That was Root’s sixth half-century of the North Western Hemisphere Test Championship (A competition best) but his top score remains 77 not out.

Bairstow’s batting bloomed however and the white rose flowered amongst the tulips. His innings of 104 was a composed and truly masterful innings that in part made you frustrated at how poor his batting returns have been in the competition up to this point. Let’s celebrate the now though. It was a class knock that demonstrated ability, intelligence and application.

Sam Curran (10) and Stuart Broad (1) joined YJB in departing in a hurry before we declared on 345-9 from 75 overs. Chris Woakes finished unbeaten on 16 alongside debutante Jamie Porter on 5.

The Dutch openers, not a fifty in sight in their Test careers to date, then danced to the floodlit wicket. Darren Toonen, top score 16 and averaging 4.25 in four Tests was worked over by England’s new new ball pair of Broad and Anderson prototype Porter but got off the mark with an edge for four.

Having reached an average enhancing 7, he nicked via pad towards Root who sprinted forward from the slips and helped Essex man Porter become a Test match wicket-taker. Our hosts had reached 32-1 when at 9pm the floodlights were switched off to conserve energy. The NWHTC actively supports and promotes efficient energy usage and environmental respect.

On day two Netherlands progressed to 67-1 before opener Shaun Mortier, having compiled a career best 42, was outstandingly caught behind by Jonny Bairstow off the bowling of Ben Stokes. Due to a lack of bounce on the wicket, Bairstow was stood up to the stumps but somehow managed to cling onto the pink ball high to his left. Nobody had expected to have to wait until round five for Ben Stokes to claim his maiden NWHTC wicket but he was finally up and running. Keen to make up for lost time the Durham tyrant then had Dutch captain Warren Beelen caught by Bairstow again for a second ball quack quack.

From 67-3 Netherlands moved onto 75 before the controversial episode that sent shockwaves throughout the cricket community. Batsman Bryan Long, on 1 at the time, pulled the ball behind square and never left his crease. Moeen simply lobbed the ball back towards the stumps and by accident rather than design it dislodged the bails. There was no appeal from our team but the umpires took the decision upstairs. Despite replays clearly showing that Long was in and had never left his ground, ‘OUT’ appeared on the big screen. Captain Joe Root, backed by his teammates, politely but passionately protested with the umpires. This is not how we want to take wickets! Umpire Symons insisted that Long must leave the field of play however and despite further protestations from our players, Netherlands slumped to 75-4. I’d like to reiterate that none of our players appealed for the wicket and the team were unanimous both at the time and now that Long should not have been given out. It was disappointing officiating and a unnecessary stain on the inaugural North Western Hemisphere Test Championship.

Feeling aggrieved, the bottom of the table side regained their composure and recovered to reach 107-4 before Moeen, legitimately, accounted for Maxwell Rabe. Rabe batted well for 18 but nicked behind a ball that spun off the blades of green grass protruding terra firma more than the blades on a Dutch windmill! Broad then gave Bairstow yet another dismissal when he tempted Pluto Schmidt to play away from his body and edge behind. Pluto might not be a planet anymore but Schmidt’s bowling (3-48) was out of this world. Unfortunately his batting failed to launch!

Our hosts then displayed some Dutch courage with a partnership of 61 between the defiant Shuman Engels (19) and Bradley Claessens (91). Ahhh, the classic inverted innings! Engels was athletically caught at short leg by Moeen off Sam Curran before Claessens suffered his heartbreak. Having passed fifty for the first time in Test cricket, the left-hander was within sight of a hundred when a bowling change caught him off guard. To the second ball of a new Stokes spell, he edged to Hameed in the slips to end his dreams of a Test ton, for now anyway. Shane Snater (5) then fell in the same over, a fifth catch for Bairstow to give him more NWHTC dismissals than some of the Dutch batsmen have runs! Last men standing Klassen (17 not out) and van Meekeren (2) lifted the Netherlands to a respectable 212 before Jamie Porter (2-55) terminated the innings. Stokes was by far the pick of the bowlers with figures of 4-55 and wickets taken at crucial times.

Come our second dig, messrs Duckett and Hameed, as has been the case many times before, looked at ease in reaching 44-0 before Duckett fell in the first over of spin. The left-hander looked sprightly in making 24 and executed a glorious reverse sweep for four before being dismissed the very next ball. He looked good, built up everybody’s hopes but got out. It was all too familiar and Ben will now be better served returning to domestic cricket. That is the harsh truth but we can persist no more.

Stokes was then superbly caught and bowled by van Meekeren for just 6 before Hameed and Root set about repairing the damage. The pair combined for 61 before Root (32) dragged on in Toonen’s first over. Unfortunately there then followed a horrible little episode late in the day. Hameed, struggling with injury, was slow to get on his bike and thus run out for 61 before Buttler (7) fell in single figures again. After a promising start to the competition, he’ll need a good showing in the first stage of the Global ODI Invitational to be in with a chance of retaining his Test spot. Moeen (8 not out) and Bairstow (4 not out) survived until the close. We finished day two on an underwhelming 147-5 but a healthy 280 runs to the good.

The following morning was pretty inglorious with Moeen soon run out for 29. Run outs have crept into our batting and need eradicating quickly. Bairstow (23) was then caught behind off a horrendous swoosh off Snater. Woakes (13) also edged to Engels and Broad was caught and bowled for 1 with both men falling to van Meekeren (3-70). We were keen to get on with things on day three, what with the threat of rain and an opportunity to potentially have an extra couple of days rest ahead of the ODIs but our batsmen could’ve applied themselves better. Thankfully Sam Curran (27 not out) and Jamie Porter (11 not out) lifted us to 239-9 and we declared at drinks. Curran’s innings included an all run five! Netherlands were left requiring 373 for a duck breaking win in the competition.

As in the first innings the home team made some sort of start by reaching 22 without loss before messrs Broad and Porter accounted for openers Mortier (11) and Toonen (12). Then in the first over after lunch, captain Root handed the ball to Sam Curran. Curran, our leading wicket-taker in the competition but a little quiet in recent innings, promptly clean bowled first innings hero Bradley Claessens (5) with his and the session’s first delivery, had the luckless Long caught in the slips for a golden duck and despite Rabe negotiating the hat-trick ball, Curran sent him back to the pavilion for just 2 with the final delivery of the over. Curran didn’t stop there, soon trapping Dutch captain Beelen (9) plumb LBW before Stokes got in on the act when Schmidt (20) nicked behind. Schmidt had lifted the homeside from the wreckage 47-6 to a slightly more respectable 76-7 and looked a good player on both sides of the wicket.

Snater (11) then dug in with Engels to help the hosts pass three figures before being clean bowled by Moeen. Next man Klassen didn’t dig in as like Curran, Moeen (2-22) struck twice in as many deliveries.

Curran then returned to claim his third five-wicket haul (5-29) of the NWHTC. Van Meekeren had held out for seventeen deliveries but edged to Bairstow for only 1 in the first over under lights. Gloveman Engels, who applied himself extremely well, was left undefeated on 38 from 83 balls. Netherlands were all out for just 112 meaning a crushing 260-run win for us. It was another positive result for us but we’d still like our batsmen to kick on more and apply a little gloss to our victories.

Our fourth consecutive win leaves us 10 points behind the unbeaten Scots and 10 ahead of Ireland at the halfway stage of the inaugural North Western Hemisphere Test Championship. Netherlands remain winless and on course for the wooden spoon. We now take a respite from the rigours of the longest format and turn our attention to the early rounds of the Global ODI Invitational. Look out for our squad announcement soon.

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.

Cricket 19: NWHTC Round Four – Squad Announcement

Following back to back victories against North American opposition in the shape of Canada and USA, we now host more familiar foe in the form of Ireland.

We’ve made one change to the squad that defeated USA at Edgbaston. Dawid Malan, who acted as twelfth man in that match, drops out and Chris Woakes is recalled

A final decision between spin bowler Liam Dawson, who performed well at Edgbaston and Chris Woakes will be taken on the morning of the match.

The full squad is as follows:

Joe Root (Captain)

Rory Burns

Haseeb Hameed

Ben Duckett

Jos Buttler

Moeen Ali

Jonny Bairstow (Wicketkeeper)

Sam Curran

Liam Dawson

Chris Woakes

Stuart Broad

James Anderson

We’re expecting plenty of rain in Manchester and this will likely effect our selection of the playing XI for what we anticipate will be a fiercely contested encounter.