Jack of All Trades

Jack Leach was somewhat harshly omitted from the England Test XI that took to the pitch in the Caribbean. This was despite the Somerset spinner playing a pivotal role in England’s success in Sri Lanka just a few months prior.

Leach has performed exceptionally well in First Class cricket as well as appearing in a smattering of List A games but he has never taken to the pitch in a T20 match.

http://m.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/455524.html

I really think that Leach could thrive in the shortest format and that such exposure could make him a better player in all formats. I can understand not wanting to compromise him but whether it be in the Big Bash, BPL, PSL or wherever, Leach could be well worth a punt.

Given the fashion for spinners opening the bowling in T20 franchise cricket, it’s in that role that I think Leach would be suited. Ed Smith recalled Jos Buttler to the Test side based on his IPL exploits. Could he make another left-field selection and pick Leach for T20Is based on County Championship form?

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: eBay Listings

Hi guys

If you’re looking to complete your 2018 England Cricket Trading Cards collection then please check out my eBay listings. There’ll be more listings to come soon…

https://www.ebay.co.uk/sch/paunie10/m.html?_nkw=&_armrs=1&_ipg=&_from=

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Heather-Knight-England-Cricket-Trading-Card/223167860395?hash=item33f5d74eab:g:N-8AAOSwAvpbr0U1

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https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Amy-Jones-England-Cricket-Trading-Card/223167857475?hash=item33f5d74343:g:eVkAAOSwBvRbr0Pz

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Jake-Ball-England-Cricket-Trading-Card/223167870549?_trkparms=aid%3D444000%26algo%3DSOI.DEFAULT%26ao%3D1%26asc%3D20170221122447%26meid%3D4b84026e57f243369db350ccf6ba2672%26pid%3D100752%26rk%3D1%26rkt%3D3%26sd%3D223167857475%26itm%3D223167870549&_trksid=p2047675.c100752.m1982

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Dom-Bess-England-Cricket-Trading-Card/223167875611?hash=item33f5d78a1b:g:bR4AAOSw0kRbr0l2

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Jos-Buttler-England-Cricket-Trading-Card/223167874563?_trkparms=aid%3D444000%26algo%3DSOI.DEFAULT%26ao%3D1%26asc%3D20170221122447%26meid%3D5a04aa77b61c4d9c82544cce18e4982a%26pid%3D100752%26rk%3D3%26rkt%3D3%26sd%3D223167873170%26itm%3D223167874563&_trksid=p2047675.c100752.m1982

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Liam-Plunkett-England-Cricket-Trading-Card/223167873170?_trkparms=aid%3D444000%26algo%3DSOI.DEFAULT%26ao%3D1%26asc%3D20170221122447%26meid%3D1560236ade8346e0bc2dfcc1b74d47b7%26pid%3D100752%26rk%3D2%26rkt%3D3%26sd%3D223167870549%26itm%3D223167873170&_trksid=p2047675.c100752.m1982

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https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Mark-Stoneman-England-Cricket-Trading-Card/223167869583?hash=item33f5d7728f:g:owEAAOSw95Bbr0fI

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Ben-Stokes-England-Cricket-Trading-Card/223167867129?hash=item33f5d768f9:g:4OEAAOSwJGdbr0bE

Good luck completing your collections.

Where are you Anya Shrubsole?

Cricket Captain 2018: CrAshed and Burned!

Firstly, prior to the 2019 Ashes series, there was an oddly scheduled trio of T20I matches of which we managed to lose each one. Well at least we were consistent!

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Alex Hales’ 124 from just 64 deliveries in the third encounter was a rare highlight. The next highest score in the innings was Ross Whiteley’s career best 10 from six balls.

Onto the Ashes and the first Test ended in a frustrating rain-affected draw. Having bowled Australia out for 250 (Footitt 4-45), we compiled a mammoth 594-9 (Bairstow 173). Australia managed to hold out though and finished on 286-7. In doing so the visitors acquired the momentum for the matches forth.

In the second Test, we again had Australia in strife but Travis Head’s excellent 126 was the difference between the two sides as the visitors assumed a series lead courtesy of a brutal 272-run victory.

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Then, the darkest of days. There have been many bad days in the history of the England cricket team but few Tests have been lost from a position of such supremacy. Having dismissed Australia for 325, Alastair Cook (153) and Haseeb Hameed (140) compiled an opening partnership of exactly 300 (THREE HUNDRED!). Even though an archetypal English collapse ensued, James Vince (113) ensured that each of our top three registered tons to provide us with a first innings lead of 171. The tourists then made a strong second innings score of 368 but that still meant we only needed 198 to square the series. We didn’t even get close, bowled out for a pathetic 124!

In the fourth Test there was at least a return to form for captain Joe Root. The Yorkshireman made 114 in another draw that meant Australia sealed the 2019 Ashes.

The series then ended like it began, with a frustrating draw. In the fifth and final Test Australia compiled 454 in their first innings but we responded with 469. Root (162) maintained his return to form whilst Somerset spinner Dom Bess (79) made an entertaining maiden international fifty. We then bowled Australia out for 327 in their second innings. Essex debutant Jamie Porter responded to a wicketless (23-1-101-0) first innings showing by claiming figures of 3-83. The equation boiled down to us requiring 312 for victory. We committed to go for it. We may as well have lost the series 3-0 than 2-0 playing for a draw. We got mightily close (286-9) and only for the final four overs did we abandon the chase and shut up shop in an attempt to avoid another defeat.

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2-0 is not a thrashing. If time had been limitless we would’ve won the first Test. We should’ve won the 4th but fair play to Australia because they did and we didn’t. We had a real go and came almightily close to winning the fifth. In the early part of the series we dominated their top order but allowed their lower order to score runs. In the latter matches we allowed the top order to make big runs but limited the contribution of the tail. Yes we lost the series and to lose the third Test in the manner that we did was inexcusable. However we regularly competed and are not a million miles away from where Australia are.

For the record: Joe Root (485) topped our run charts, closely followed by Alastair Cook (477) and James Vince (445). Ben Stokes topped the averages with 55.43.

James Anderson and Stuart Broad, with 22 and 18 wickets respectively, silenced their critics. It was a young spinner with 11 wickets at 26.00 who topped the averages however…

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Dom Bess, recalled part way through the series, made an encouraging impression not only with the ball but with the bat too. Our immediate tours however are to New Zealand and South Africa so not necessarily spin paradises. We’re spoilt for choice on the spin front so we’ll see what happens this winter before a short trip to Sri Lanka.

At the conclusion of the Ashes there was a trio of ODI matches. I’m delighted that we restored some pride with a deserved 2-1 win.

Jos Buttler’s 127 not out paved the way for a win in the first match but Australia fought back in the second. Buttler again top scored with 82 but our bowling lacked penetration. David Warner feasted on some insipid deliveries to finish unbeaten on a dominant 161.

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Cometh the hour cometh the man! In the deciding ODI, Surrey starlet Sam Curran, having been dismissed for a duck and gone wicketless on debut in the second encounter. struck 27 from 24 deliveries before claiming astonishing analyse of 6-37!

Another newcomer, Warwickshire tearaway Ed Pollock, followed scores of 2 and 21 with 70 from 77 deliveries at the top of the order. Ben Stokes, promoted to three in place of the recalled James Vince who suffered a disappointing return, made 87 from just 79 deliveries. Jos Buttler again made runs with 54 off 51 in his new position at number five. Having players of the quality of Stokes and Buttler so high in the order rather than leaving them at six or seven is the way forward. After Chris Wood had dismissed danger man David Warner first ball, Aaron Finch was run out off a free hit before Sam Curran took over. #priderestored