A Brand Spanking New Audiocast!

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Hi all

It’s been a while but here’s a brand spanking new audiocast. Not much prep went in to this but I thought that the Commonwealth Games merited a mention. What a great opportunity it could be to help provide more exposure to Associate nations and cricket in general.

Many thanks for following and bye for now.

Silly Point

Where are the Women?

The 2019 Official England Cricket calendar is on sale now and at first glance it appears to have the same layout as recent editions. There is one obvious omission though… women!

Surely it’s about time that the calendar featured England’s women cricketers. It’s arguable that they’re different teams and should have their own calendars and I can understand such a stance but… aren’t the men’s Test, ODI and T20I teams separate entities? Should we have separate calendars for each?

I think that it’d be great to see the captains on the front, Heather Knight centre stage flanked by messrs Root and Morgan.

There could be a move away from individual profile pages and more of a team presentation. There could for example be a wicketkeeper’s page featuring shots of Sarah Taylor, Ben Foakes, Amy Jones, Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow. Action shots would be good but admittedly the page is only so big. The five players could be lined up alongside each other with for example Foakes at the front and centre, the ladies either side and slightly behind him with Buttler and Bairstow further back forming a V formation.

There could be pages that feature only the men or women but again let’s move away from individual player images. Months could feature two batters at the crease or the team celebrating a wicket or series victory.

Possibly the best performances of the previous year, a player registering a double-hundred or nine-wicket haul or alternatively a breakthrough or retiring player could earn a solo page. Another nice addition might be a legends month where players from years gone by takes centre stage.

Ultimately, men or women, England’s cricketers are there to inspire all. This wouldn’t be a token move for the times but a change accurate with equality and sense. It would be right and should be perceived as normal not groundbreaking. The fact that I’m saying this and that it hasn’t happened means that it’s still not!

Edit (An Important one!): I’ve since opened the calendar (!) and five women’s players do feature alongside men in an ensemble page at the centre with male players who didn’t earn a month of their own. It’s not a month of the year page though, so you’d have to hang it up as a poster and wake up not knowing what month it is! Still, great to see the likes of Anya Shrubsole and Nat Sciver in there.

Preparation Stagnation

England commence their long anticipated Test series in Sri Lanka very shortly but their preparation has lacked serious intensity. I appreciate that the climatic conditions have dealt an unfavourable hand but this scenario is nothing new to England’s cricketers.

I have always been in favour of a couple of official First Class matches on tour. These whole squad get involved matches are little more than a glorified net and are not treated as competitive matches. Whilst the individual element may seem like good prep, I strongly believe that an individual playing only one First Class warm-up rather than participating in two exhibition affairs, would be more akin to playing Test Cricket. Had Rory Burns and Keaton Jennings opened in the first of two official warm-up games in the knowledge that Joe Denly was to be presented with a chance in that slot in the second match, the pressure on them to perform would surely be more akin to actually playing Test cricket.

On the subject of Denly, he may well have played himself out of a Test debut with a shoddy performance in the warm-up matches. With mid-series tour matches almost eradicated, how do the likes of Denly or Ollie Pope restate their case for selection in situations such as these? This is a feeling that’s all too familiar to Gary Ballance!

As is often the case with any selection related article that I’ve scripted, either the landscape has changed very quickly or I was just completely misguided in my initial assessment. Surrey’s Ben Foakes now looks a likely Test debutant in the first Test and could really muddy the selection waters ahead of Jonny Bairstow’s return to fitness, by producing a good performance. Imagine if Jos Buttler falls twice to spin for single figure scores!

Somerset spinner Jack Leach also seems likely to return to skipper Joe Root’s XI and hopefully he and Foakes can convert consistent county career contributions to the international stage. England will be desperate to bounce back in Asia following their abysmal attempts in Bangladesh and India a couple of years ago.

Frustrated Foakes!

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Surrey’s Ben Foakes spent last winter warming the bench during a lengthy Ashes tour and could now be set to do the same in Sri Lanka. Since last winter, Jos Buttler has returned to the side not only as a specialist batsman but also as second choice wicketkeeper. As a result, even though Jonny Bairstow injured himself playing football, former Essex-man Foakes remains unlikely to play in the first Test. If Bairstow is anything shy of 100% fit then based on his attempts at playing when injured during last summer, he should be nowhere near the XI. The England management need to be brave enough to make the sort of calls that Italy’s football coach Arrigo Sacchi did with star player Roberto Baggio during the early stages of World Cup USA ’94. England also have Foakes’ Surrey teammates Ollie Pope and rather less likely, uncapped opening batsman Rory Burns as alternative wicketkeeping options. That’s just the five glovemen in the squad then!

Based on what we saw last winter, it’s quite possible that England’s XI in the third Test may be rather different to what we see in the first encounter. With little game time under his belt, Somerset spinner Jack Leach may be unlikely to start the series but if England fall behind then he may well be called upon. It may also be the case that the delicate Olly Stone benefits from not playing though you’d think some overs under his belt would be helpful.

Much maligned opening batsman Keaton Jennings missed out in his only opportunity on tour so far as did Joe Denly. Though Denly’s return to England’s T20I side went romantically well, the nature of the game means that he was able to claim wickets without bowling at his best. That is unlikely to be the case in the Test series. It’s tough to call but with rumours that Stuart Broad may be rested and Sam Curran’s left-arm variety useful, particularly if Leach is omitted, could England’s line-up in the first Test look like this?

Rory Burns

Keaton Jennings

Joe Denly

Joe Root (c)

Ben Stokes

Jos Buttler (w)

Moeen Ali

Chris Woakes

Sam Curran

Adil Rashid

James Anderson

If the weather allows, England basically now have a one-day game before the first Test. Wickets for the likes of Broad and Leach or runs for Pope or Foakes could yet have a bearing on the make-up of England’s XI. Of course if Buttler were to get injured during a Test, it’d be perverse if Foakes and Pope were sat on the bench alongside Bairstow whilst Rory Burns assumed the gloves on what would turn out to be a heck of a demanding introduction to international cricket for the Surrey skipper.

England Cricket Trading Cards

Who’s the guy top left? He doesn’t play for England!

Dawid Malan, Tom Helm, Katherine Brunt: Where are you? There’s only so many Dom Bess and Fran Wilsons that I can stand! In fact, I’ve got more Keaton Jennings than Keaton Jennings has got runs this year!

Ben Duckett, Haseeb Hameed, Nick Gubbins: Why is it so hard to find an English opening batsman?

One England opening batsman I have found is no longer an England opening batsman!

In summary, I’ve got most of the standard cards. The missing few are:

Men’s Test: Jonny Bairstow, Ben Duckett, Steven Finn (I have the shiny version but not the white version), Dawid Malan, Ben Stokes

England Lions: Haseeb Hameed, Joe Clarke, Nick Gubbins, Alex Davies, Tom Helm, Sam Curran

Women’s: Katherine Brunt, Laura Marsh, Any Shrubsole

Though Amy Jones is one of my favourite players, I don’t need one of her for every day of the week!

Men’s ODI: Sam Billings, Steven Finn, Alex Hales

Men’s T20I: Moeen Ali, Sam Billings, Liam Dawson

Actually that’s more than a few. What Sam Billings’ repeated absence tells us about his international career is unclear!

Fire & Ice: James Anderson/Joe Root, Danielle Hazell/Heather Knight

Here’s where it gets patchy…

Milestones: Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Moeen Ali, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Joe Root, Alex Hales

Portraits: Joe Root, Alastair Cook, Stuart Broad, Heather Knight, Ben Stokes,

Patch Card: Stuart Broad Reemption, Stuart Broad Patch Card… there’s one selling on ebay for £500.00 though. I’m keen but I’m not that keen!

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.