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 19: Wales – T20I Debut!

Our first full international upon us, England captain Eoin Morgan won the toss and chose to field in this one-off Twenty20 International.

Our top order, having batted safely in the practice matches, attempted to instil a little more gusto into our short form batting. That’s what the powerplay is for right? It didn’t work!

We were soon 34-5 with all the fallen batsmen failing to reach double figures. Left-arm pace bowler Sam Curran (4-14) was destroyer in chief. Teenager Maxwell Khan (30) and wicketkeeper Rhodri Thomas (26) batted admirably however to save face and lift us to 76-6. After Thomas was bowled by Ben Stokes (3-12), Cai Hughes (13) batted with aggression alongside the more measured Khan but also fell to Stokes. The score 98 at the time. Our tail couldn’t wag and we finished a disappointing 104 all out from 19.1 overs on full international debut. Still, having been 34-5 it was a score of sorts at least.

In each of the first two overs of England’s chase, we conceded boundary overthrows as the visitors blitzed their way to 43-0. However, from that point on, we went about providing England with a scare!

Osain Williams (1-18) had the honour of claiming Wales’ first ever T20I wicket. The right-arm medium pacer clean bowled a frustrated Jason Roy for 14. Express paceman Dylan Alexander did the same for Jos Buttler (30).

Slow left-armer Cai Hughes then dismissed Jonny Bairstow (15) with his first delivery in international cricket. He then accounted for England skipper Eoin Morgan (11) as well. Leg-spinner Eifion Williams had Moeen Ali (7) caught behind to complete a trio of catches for gloveman Rhodri Thomas. The efficient stumper had pouched the edges of Bairstow and Morgan for both of Hughes’ wickets.

Ben Stokes (18*) and Chris Woakes (10*) saw England home by five wickets with 6.2 overs to spare. However, we can hold our heads up high after a nervous start with bat and ball. Clearly though, we need to inject more power into our T20 batting in order to post competitive totals.

Next up is a three-match ODI series against England. I’m confident that in that particular format, our batsmen possess the skillset to bat time and produce decent scores. Our bowling attack are clearly capable of keeping opposition batsmen on their toes if our own batsmen can play to their potential.

Thank you for your support and look out for a report on how the fifty-over affairs panned out come the conclusion of the series.

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?

Suggested England Squad for Tour of Sri Lanka

First XI

Zak Crawley

Dom Sibley

Joe Denly

Joe Root (Captain)

Ben Stokes

Ollie Pope

Ben Foakes (Wicketkeeper)

Dom Bess

Chris Woakes

Sam Curran

Matthew Parkinson

Reserves

Dan Lawrence

Sam Billings (Wicketkeeper)

Liam Dawson

Craig Overton

Mark Wood

Amar Virdi

Young opening batsmen Zak Crawley and Dominic Sibley merit retaining their places at the top of the order. At number three and despite drying up somewhat with the bat, Joe Denly is a good fielder and useful leg-spin bowling option. I’ve therefore resisted the temptation to recall Keaton Jennings. It seems likely that in reality Jennings will be recalled. Yes he has scored hundreds in Asia but he’s also had quite a few failures. He’s a useful part-time bowler but not a spinner and Ollie Pope is equally adept in the short leg position. I’ve named experienced England Lions player Dan Lawrence in the squad because as well as being a competent batsman, he’s a useful spin-bowling option.

In the middle order, captain Joe Root, who deserves credit for his leadership in recent times, Ben Stokes and Ollie Pope pick themselves. The time has come however to omit both Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow. Ben Foakes has performed well in Sri Lanka before and deserves an opportunity to own the wicketkeeping gloves. Sam Billings is a bit of a wildcard but he’s a good player of spin and if selected would, unlike his limited overs opportunities, be able to contruct an innings. As oppose to selecting Buttler or Bairstow as backup, having somebody fresh to the Test environment would be good and could be the making of Billings. We’ve seen recently how illness and injury can present opportunities for reserve players. He and Lawrence both provide good top/middle order cover.

On the spin front, Dom Bess fully merits retention having displayed both control and wicket taking ability in South Africa. I’m also backing Matthew Parkinson to get some warm-up games under his belt and press for selection. It’s been a frustrating winter for him having been usurped by Bess but he provides the leg-spin to compliment Bess’ off-spin. If Jack Leach isn’t fit then slow-left-armer Liam Dawson is a dependable alternative to help England cover all angles of spin. There really aren’t many other left-arm options available to England. Off-spinner Amar Virdi will benefit from being around the first team squad. If Moeen Ali isn’t up for it then England shouldn’t go begging him.

Messrs Anderson, Broad and Archer may as well be rested to ease injury niggles. It makes sense to go with the all round abilities of Chris Woakes and Sam Curran to help yield as many runs as possible. A right-arm/left-arm contrast in the attack is also maintained. Craig Overton can hit the deck hard for a few overs if required as can Wood. Wood has performed superbly in South Africa so could be used to bowl a few overs at the beginning of the innings. Like Overton he can bat too but it may also be worth resting him rather than him being primarily just a fielder in a spin dominated environment.

What are your thoughts? Should some of the senior players be retained? Do England have any other spin bowling options?

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 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?

Cricket 19: NWHTC – Follow Me!

Captain Joe Root won the toss and chose to bat on an emerald green deck. The promise of sun gleamed run-producing days outweighing the early threat of swing, in our minds at least.

Dawid Malan (21) and Haseeb Hameed (12) applied themselves well at first in what felt like a proper Test match, such was the quality of the bowling courtesy of Tim Murtagh and Jerome Carpenter as well the magnitude of the occasion. Unfortunately both batsmen played appallingly out of place and particularly in Hameed’s case, out of character shots and were caught in the field off the bowling of Stanislav Tobin (1-25) and Murtagh respectively.

Debutant Dominic Sibley (42) soon showed why so many have craved his presence in the team. The right-hander timed the ball with grace all around the wicket and soon looked at home in the house of Test match cricket. The Warwickshire man struck three boundaries in the first over after drinks from Kaylan Ortiz (1-61) but then nicked behind to wicketkeeper Stuart Poynter when defending in the same over.

Moeen Ali joined Joe Root and arguably our player of the tournament so far (Sam Curran might argue!) helped rescue a hodgepodge morning from 84-3 to a more assertive 180-3 at lunch. The fluent batsmen feasted upon Ireland’s back-up bowlers with our skipper passing fifty for the eighth time in the tournament.

Post pasta Root and Moeen plowed on in measured fashion against some tight bowling from Ireland’s spin contingent.

The England skipper finally reached what had up to then remained an elusive North Western Hemisphere Test Championship century. With a positive result in this match certain to put us in the final and leave Ireland out of reach, it was a heck of a time for Joe to rise to the occasion.

Moeen (99) however fell in the nineties once again when… once again, trying to bring up three figures with an unnecessarily expansive shot. On a sun-kissed strip Arthur Munoz was the beneficial bowler as Moeen was made to Irish stew on what could’ve been. The partnership between Root and Moeen totalled 193 but Root (100) was caught behind off Paul Sterling without adding to his score and suddenly 277-3 slumped to 287-5.

Fears of a collapse were soon put to one side as Jonny Bairstow and Sam Curran danced to their own tune (And tempo!) in Dublin. The positive pair propelled the score to 350-5 come teatime with each wicket curiously coming courtesy of a different bowler.

In the day’s final passage of play Bairstow (50) hustled to a welcome half-century and a stand of 96 with Curran before being rather inelegantly bowled by Murtagh (2-135). Jos Buttler made the most of some inviting field settings to Irish cream a quick fire 31 before Gabriel Davis (1-74) claimed his wicket. Chris Woakes then assumed his place at the crease and soon found Irish climes to his taste. Woakes looked as good as anybody on the day and had made 42 when raising a fifty stand with a rampant but briefly backseated Curran.

Almost predictably Curran (115) brought up a second Test ton of the tournament to further demonstrate his insatiable talent. Sadly a full toss from Munoz proved his undoing soon after. Warwickshire’s Woakes went on to make an authority stating 68 but fell to Munoz (3-125) in the same over as Curran.

Jamie Overton (10) and Stuart Broad (17*) made sure that everybody reached double figures before the former was caught off Sterling (2-71). The luckless Carpenter (0-75), who like Murtagh bowled extremely well early in the piece, cruelly ended wicketless. The cumulative sum of our efforts totalled a formidable 569.

By the end of a pulsating first day Ireland had raced along to 33-1. Captain Pittman (2) the man to fall when he nicked behind off Broad. Gloveman for this match Buttler didn’t need to move an inch to take the catch.

Immediately on the second morning Joe Root displayed his developing captaincy capacity by applying the shock factor of using Jonny Bairstow as a bowler. The Yorkshireman, free of wicketkeeping duties, promptly recorded a wicket maiden with Ayonide Barry (7) the batsman suffering the horrible ignominy. Bairstow (1-26) basked in the Irish sun and the knowledge that he’d forever be a Test wicket taker just like McGrath, Walsh or Imran Khan!

Paul Sterling and Josiah McDonaugh then defied our bowlers with Sterling his usual attacking self. Once again however it was a bowling change that led to a wicket as Sam Curran returned to strike with the first ball of a new spell. For the second time in the innings Buttler didn’t need to move an inch as Sterling succumbed for a shamrocking 86. Ortiz was bowled for 1 in the same Curran (2-53) over before Poynter (4) fell to Moeen’s first delivery on Irish soil. England’s two best players of the competition were battling hard for the MVP mantle. 127-1 had become 134-5 as the luck of the Irish appeared to have been lost in the Irish Sea.

After the beverage break Root was immediately at it again, this time bringing Woakes (1-33) back into the attack to have Tobin (3) caught low at slip by the skipper himself. Gabriel Davis then joined McDonaugh and the pair halted the procession with an assured 59-run stand. Jamie Overton (1-48) eventually got in on the action though by sending McDonaugh’s (84) stumps cartwheeling as a second Irish batter couldn’t quite reach three figures. Nonetheless it had been an excellent display of batsmanship by McDonaugh, more measured than the ultra-aggressive Sterling but providing a beautiful contrast.

With only fourteen more runs added Munoz (7) was run out despite the throw originally going to the wrong end. A tracer bullet from Buttler soon had the ball down the other end however and Munoz was done for.

Davis was worked over at times but went on to make a more than useful 39 before Moeen (2-56) turned one past his outside edge and clipped the top of off stump. The fall of Davis saw Moeen rise to 200 Test wickets. Number eleven Murtagh joined Carpenter at the crease with Ireland placed at 257-9. Carpenter (60) defied our bowlers and batted like a top order player in a last-wicket stand of 70 alongside Murtagh (31*). Their combined effort lifted Ireland to 327 before Broad (2-60), new ball in hand, followed up a couple of full deliveries with a shorter one that Carpenter inside edged to Buttler.

Having used our spinners with the old ball before Broad’s wicket and only a few overs left in the day, we opted to enforce the follow-on and send Ireland into bat once again still 242 runs from parity. Pittman and Sterling symmetrically accumulated eight runs from twelve deliveries to reach the close at 16-0, the deficit down to just 226!

Midway through the second over of the third day and the first delivery that Overton bowled to Pittman, the Irish captain edged to Buttler for just 8 to complete a disappointing match for the home skipper. Sterling (17) perished in similar fashion to the same Overton (2-34)/Buttler combination before Ireland proceeded to self-implode on home turf. First McDonaugh (4) called for a single from the non-striker’s end but Hameed threw down his stumps from gully before the Irishman could make his ground. Barry (14) then completed a torrid match by being run out by Buttler having been bowled out by Bairstow in the first innings. Ortiz and Poynter batted well however to restore home pride and move the score on from 51-4 to 88 before the latter inside edged to an athletic diving Buttler off Curran.

Chris Woakes (1-38) trapped Tobin LBW for 1 having dismissed the same batsman for only 3 less than twenty four hours earlier. Soon after that Curran (2-38) sent Davis’ (7) stumps flying in all directions before Ortiz passed fifty courtesy of some overthrows.

Ortiz didn’t stop there and with the obdurate application of Munoz alongside him made it all the way to 91 and within sight of a Test ton in Dublin. Cue captain Root and his now not so secret weapon Jonny Bairstow (1-4). Ortiz’s timbers were soon toppled and a partnership of 66 broken. Carpenter (8) thick edged Broad (1-64) to Curran in the slips before Murtagh (10*) helped Munoz drag the score to 202.

Munoz (18) became the third run out victim in the innings and he himself was dismissed in such fashion for the second time in the match. It was a disappointing end to a stoic 71-ball vigil but limp second innings effort from Ireland. Ortiz’s 91 represented 45% of Ireland’s second innings score as we claimed victory by an innings and 40 runs.

Victory guarantees us a place in the final and presents an opportunity to rest some players ahead of the grand showpiece against Scotland. Though great for us it’s a shame for the tournament as a whole and in particular the fans that there isn’t more on the line in the final round of matches.

Disclaimer: Apologies if some of the images have quite prominent lines on them. They were taken under artificial light so particularly if viewing in colour on a larger screen can look a bit weird!

Proposed England Squads for Tour of New Zealand

England tour New Zealand this winter with five T20Is and two Tests scheduled.

My squads are listed below roughly in batting order followed by reserves but particularly in the Test format Sibley or Pope could slot in whilst a bowler is rotated/rested. I’d also anticipate some workload management for players such as Stokes, Woakes and Archer in the T20Is and particularly Stokes and Broad in Tests.

T20I

Jason Roy

Jos Buttler (Wicketkeeper)*

Jonny Bairstow (Wicketkeeper)*

Eoin Morgan (Captain)

Ben Stokes

Moeen Ali

Sam Curran

Tom Curran

Chris Woakes

Jofra Archer

Adil Rashid

Tom Banton

Liam Livingstone

Liam Dawson

Saqib Mahmood

*Can both be deployed as wicketkeeper during the series.

Test

Rory Burns

Joe Denly

Joe Root (Captain)

Ben Stokes

Ben Foakes (Wicketkeeper)

Jos Buttler*

Sam Curran

Chris Woakes

Jack Leach

Jofra Archer

Stuart Broad

James Anderson

Dominic Sibley

Ollie Pope*

Dom Bess

Jamie Porter

*Jos Buttler and Ollie Pope can both act as wicketkeeping cover for this two-match series.

Jonny Bairstow would be dropped from the Test side. Players can be rested/rotated where necessary during each series as oppose to being omitted entirely.

Some extremely good players (Too many to mention) miss out. A variety of spin bowlers have made cases particularly in the T20 format but Dom Bess remains a better back-up option for now in Tests despite a less than stellar domestic season. Numerous other players pushed for selection in both formats and those players would be selected for England Lions in the appropriate format.

Cricket 19: NWHTC – By the Skin(ner) of Their Teeth!

Brexit uncertainty continues, power outages frustrate and flooding wreaks havoc. Food prices go up as does fuel but protestors are shot down. TV shows reach their season finale, VAR prevents a goal and people find themselves unemployed after years of dedicated service. House prices go up as does the cost of your holiday but trees still fall. Promiscuous youngsters are considered role models, endangered animals go extinct before our very eyes and uncontacted tribes become contacted and face the possibly deadly consequences. Despite all this, cricket continues…

After seven ODIs on the bounce we returned to the Test format in the territory of arch-rivals Scotland. The players survived the treacherous voyage north of the borderline but found re-adapting to the game’s longest format challenging. Maybe we need to rethink our selection policy and have fewer players straddle dual formats.

Dawid Malan (25) displayed promise at the top order in an opening stand of 49 with Haseeb Hameed but committed the schoolboy error of not having a look when part-timer Roman Bruce came onto bowl and immediately became only Braveheart’s second Test victim.

Ben Stokes, who you might have anticipated would be a little more at home in the alien conditions provided his familiarity with northern surfaces, was bowled when opting to leave having made only 8 (My wife walking up to me with our youngest daughter in hand contributing to the Durham man’s demise!). Leader of men Joe Root was caught at slip for 11 before Hameed and Moeen Ali set about repairing the damage. Hameed (67) was needlessly run out however when a century beckoned and Moeen (51) was caught behind the very delivery post posting fifty.

Jonny Bairstow was bowled first ball but an under pressure Jos Buttler (75) alongside Sam Curran (56) batted maturely to propel us from 180-6 to 295-7. Chris Woakes was less mature when caught behind for 6 which left last men standing Stuart Broad and James Anderson to extend the score. Coming together at 301-9, Broad was dropped just three runs later and Scotland were made to pay somewhat. Our opening bowlers lifted us to 329 with Anderson falling for 18 and Broad left not out on 10.

It was a rather juxtaposed innings with a number of batsmen looking in glorious touch and executing some majestic shots but only Moeen and Curran can really say that they were got out. Spin duo Martin Law and Mark Watt astonishingly claimed identical figures of 3-57.

In Scotland’s first venture to the crease, Stuart Broad soon dismissed opener Mahdi Clay (5) to leave the home side 9-1 before the ultra-aggressive Kyle Coetzer (150) alongside a more steady away Caden McCarthy (81) batted for the rest of the day. Possibly distracted by thoughts of a century, McCarthy soon fell to Broad the following morning. The impressive Broad then claimed a third victim when he trapped Burke (6) LBW before Chris Woakes stoked the fire further by claiming three wickets of his own. Coetzer was roughed up by Sam Curran bowling around the wicket before Woakes terminated his expansive innings. Out of nowhere Warwickshire’s Woakes was suddenly bowling at his peak. Curran himself as well as Stokes then both got in on the wicket taking action as Scotland collapsed from 195-1 to 302-8 at the end of day two.

Scotland’s tail wagged a little the following morning before Watt (21) and Abdulrahman Egan (12) fell to the excellent Broad (4-59) and Anderson (1-51) respectively. The home side’s efforts equated to 318 meaning that we effectively commenced our second innings on 11-0.

Dawid Malan (37) and Haseeb Hameed compiled 63 second time around before Malan edged a tame chance skyward when trying to deflect to leg. The Middlesex man had once again laid the foundations but only produced a promising not substantial innings. Ben Stokes made a brisk 31 whilst compiling 67 with Hameed before Hameed himself, who’d gone over the top a few times, inside edged when attempting another grand shot and looked rather ugly in falling for 76. 175-3 was the score come the respite.

The evening session’s premier delivery resulted in Root (13) edging behind and Jos Buttler (14) didn’t last much longer. The unheralded medium-pacer Roman Bruce (3-111) was chief-tormentor yet again. Jonny Bairstow should’ve been out to the next delivery but Scotland’s close fielders inexplicably failed to attempt the catch despite replays confirming that the ball had deflected off the Yorkshireman’s glove. As a result, YJB avoided the ignominy of a king pair but it mattered little as he soon succumbed to spin for just 2.

Just as Scotland sniffed a serious chance of making their run chase more manageable, Moeen Ali and Sam Curran (60) combined for an exhilarating 104-run partnership to seemingly take the game away from the hosts. Chris Woakes fell for a breezy 11 when attempting a maximum but to the next delivery Moeen Ali performed something possibly unique. The left-hander reached a century from only 56 deliveries courtesy of an all run 5!

Stuart Broad (14) briefly entertained before becoming Martin Law’s (4-76) fourth victim of the innings. Moeen (120 not out) and James Anderson (12 not out) lifted the score to 399-9 before we declared. Bizarrely, spinner Mark Watt wasn’t called upon to bowl during our second innings. Scotland were set 410 for victory with a few overs to negotiate at the end of day three.

Scotland’s chase got off to an inauspicious start when Clay was comically stumped by Bairstow of the bowling of Anderson to the last delivery of the first over. 0-1 soon became 13-2 when Anderson struck again. This time it was was key man Coetzer trapped LBW for only 7. McCarthy and Bruce resisted despite Stokes originally winning an LBW appeal before it was overturned however Moeen Ali struck first ball to dismiss McCarthy (40). Bairstow pouched the edge to end the 74-run combo with Scotland still a mammoth 324 runs shy of victory. Unbelievably, Moeen then repeated the trick with the first ball of his second over. Left-hander Gene Moore was caught behind without scoring to complete a disappointing Test match for the left-hander and another dismissal for Bairstow.

On the fourth morning the home batsmen saw off James Anderson but Dorian Burke perished to the Moeen/Bairstow combo having crafted an elegant 29. Roman Bruce then converted form with the ball into form with the bat by compiling a magnificent career best 148. Bruce compiled a 167-run stand with Martin Law and really opened up having passed the century mark. However, with 104 still runs required for victory, Bruce was bowled by Moeen off the second ball of day five. Captain Joe Root, whose captaincy on day three was heavily criticised in the media, deserves huge credit for starting the day with Moeen when the ball was only ten overs old.

Law then added an immensely frustrating 70 runs with the resolute Saul Skinner as Scotland closed in on victory. Eventually, having switched to bowling around the wicket, Sam Curran got Law to play on to his stumps via an unnecessarily excessive forward defensive shot. Law (127) had finally fallen having contributed a superb maiden Test ton to put his side within touching distance of a famous win.

James Anderson soon snapped up Mark Watt for 1 courtesy of Joe Root in the slips with Scotland still 30 runs shy of victory and suddenly we looked like favourites. It wasn’t to be…

With Scotland requiring 7 runs for victory, Moeen Ali and James Anderson bowled back to back maidens before we gifted the home side four overthrows. More maidens followed but Scotland went onto win by two wickets with a composed Saul Skinner (39 not out) and Abdulrahman Egan (18 not out) seeing them home. Huge respect to Skinner in particular who endured a chastening game with the ball but faced 119 deliveries to seal an amazing run chase.

To say that Moeen Ali didn’t deserve to be on the losing side would be an understatement of epic proportions.

For us, it’s back to the drawing board after another defeat against a Scotland side that we failed to defend a total in excess of 400 against for a second time in this competition. That’s six wins from six for the Scots and, with us level on points with Ireland, means there’s little room for manoeuvre if we hope to make the final where we’ll almost certainly take on Scotland once again. Next up we host Canada (W3L3) at Lords. Our squad for that match will be announced soon.