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

Cricket Captain 2018: 2019 World Cup

For many years it was South Africa who wore the tag of ‘Chokers’ in international cricket. It’s now safe to say that we’ve assumed that unenviable title! Having blown opportunities to win ODI series against both West Indies and Pakistan by failing to perform in the final match of said series, we crumbled when it mattered most at the 2019 World Cup. After a long slog of nine games where we suffered a heartbreaking one-wicket defeat against Afghanistan, fell apart in a run chase to end with only a tie against Sri Lanka and failed to defend 340 against Australia, we meekly limped to 229 when chasing just 253 against New Zealand. Sam Billings ten ball duck was a torturous end to his World Cup!

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As a consequence, we failed to reach the knockout stages of our very own World Cup. There were positives however, three straight successes against Pakistan, Bangladesh and West Indies were a welcome response to defeat at the hands of South Africa in our opening match. Frustratingly, we then contrived to win only one (Versus India) of our final five matches.

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For the record, Jos Buttler who came into the competition with next to no match fitness following injury, topped our batting charts with 454 runs at a healthy average of 75.67. The ruthless axing of Alex Hales and Jason Roy at the top of the order, replaced by Moeen Ali and Jonny Bairstow hinted at being the right one but didn’t quite come off. Moeen’s place in the side certainly helped us from a bowling perspective.

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Given the dry summer of 2019, we were heavily reliant on our spin bowlers. Each of Matthew Parkinson, Adil Rashid, Moeen Ali and captain Joe Root did their bit. Root, who replaced Eoin Morgan as ODI captain earlier in the summer, marshalled the troops superbly. As per usual, Somerset quick Jamie Overton struggled to maintain a strong start but kept bustling in, meanwhile left-arm paceman Chris Wood continued to enhance his reputation as one of the leading bowlers in ODI cricket.

As for the competition as a whole, the magnificent Afghanistan finished joint top of the group with Australia but it was South Africa (No longer chokers!) who ran out competition winners.

Next up for us are yet more ridiculously scheduled limited overs (T20I/ODI) matches with white-ball affairs against Australia either side of the marquee Ashes Test series.

Cricket Captain 2018: Pakistand and Deliver!

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For the ODI series against Pakistan, a series that was crucial preparation for this summer’s World Cup, I opted to make a big call to enhance our chances of tournament success. Eoin Morgan was removed from his position as ODI skipper and dropped from the squad. This followed a poor string of results last year coupled with disappointing individual performances by Eoin himself. Joe Root was handed the captaincy for the Pakistan series, the 2019 World Cup and likely beyond. Eoin remains in charge of the T20I side.

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With gloveman Jos Buttler absent through injury, things started badly but after falling 2-0 behind in the series, skipper Joe Root came to the fore with a national record 214 not out. Root struck 25 fours plus eleven sixes in his innings that was constructed from just 126 deliveries. Sam Hain (107) also made a ton, his second ODI century to help us post a gargantuan 436-9 from our allotted 50 overs. We would then go onto win the fourth match by a massive 145 runs and it seemed that momentum was truly on our side for the decider. Sam Billings, who acquired the gloves from Jonny Bairstow midway through the series, was simply sensational behind the stumps.

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As was the case in West Indies, we failed to deliver when a series was within our grasp. We had Pakistan in peril at 222-9 but allowed them to reach 259-9. That last wicket stand proved the difference as we succumbed for just 234. A series draw in West Indies and loss at home to Pakistan could have so easily been two series victories.

The 3-2 result was hard on many of our players who had really lifted the hearts of the nation with two stunning performances. The exploits of our bowling attack: Matthew Parkinson (10 wickets @ 18.90), Chris Wood (9 @ 32.22), Ben Stokes (8 @ 37.75), and a much improved return from Jamie Overton (9 @ 23.44) went unrewarded. Joe Root’s series aggregate of 371 runs at 92.75 also deserved more than to lose the series at the last.

There was then a needless T20I sandwiched in-between the ODI series and ODI World Cup. To remove the risk of injury to World Cup players, certain picks for the tournament were not selected for the T20I. As it was, a reserve side crumbled to 94 all out and lost by nine wickets. Craig Overton top scored with 36 and Mason Crane claimed the sole wicket. There was also a debut for Yorkshire’s Tom Kohler-Cadmore. I apologise to our fans for a disappointing night but insist that the composition of the side was appropriate with the ODI World Cup on the horizon. Our squad for that tournament will be named shortly.

Cricket Captain 2018: Sri Lanka Success!

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The less said about the ODI series the better. We were thrashed 4-1, only winning a match after the series had been lost (We’ll come to why this article is proclaimed a success later!). Quick bowlers Jamie Overton (1-236) and Josh Tongue (2-212) particularly struggled. Warwickshire batsman Sam Hain wasted a golden opportunity to cement a place in the team by being run out twice in five innings. There were positives to come out of the series however. Hampshire’s Chris Wood struck 66 not out from just 42 deliveries in the fourth ODI before Ed Barnard (6-66) stole the headlines in our one and only victory. Barnard then struck 71 not out in the fifth and final match to earn himself a place in the Test squad. Back to Wood, the left-arm pacer was a constant threat, claiming seven wickets in the series and keeping things tight, going at less than a run-a-ball. Moeen Ali, ineffective in the summer, performed well enough enough to earn a Test recall, whilst gloveman Jos Buttler registered three consecutive fifties. Despite the 4-1 loss coming hot off the heels of the India series defeat, somehow we remain top of the ODI rankings. It’s imperative that we get back to winning ways in the West Indies ahead of the 2019 World Cup on home turf.

The one-off T20I encounter was won courtesy in the main because of Jason Roy (65) and Liam Plunkett (4-27).

Then came a truly phenomenal Test series. We lost the first encounter by ten wickets as our top order batsmen looked all at sea in alien terrain. Joe Clarke (113) demonstrated his class in making a maiden Test ton as wickets tumbled all around him. Moeen Ali, recalled in place of the injured Jack Leach, justified my decision with 76. Despite those performances, we were well and truly outplayed and our hosts thoroughly deserved their comprehensive victory.

In the second Test we complied the highest score of my tenure. Alastair Cook (134) and Haseeb Hameed (88) batted for all of the first day before Hameed, having justified his retention in the team, fell without adding to his career best the following morning. Rory Burns, having totalled just six runs on Test debut, then batted for in excess of eleven hours before cruelly being last man dismissed for a epic 199.

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Burns had taken the place of Hampshire’s James Vince who like Leach, missed the tour through injury.

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It was a strange series for Burns however, who either side of his near double ton, scored only another 15 runs. A tough decision lies ahead come the first Test in West Indies. Jonny Bairstow also made 134 in our only innings, meaning that we had three centurions in one innings. Lancashire spin sensation Matthew Parkinson then went on to bowl us to victory with figures of 6-53 in the home side’s second innings.

In the deciding match, captain Joe Root led the way with scores off 119 and for the second time this year, 230. Those performances backed up scores of 23, 98 and 91 in the first two Tests. Jonny Bairstow also made 121. There were contributions all round with the ball as we ran out winners by a mammoth margin of 503 runs.

Let’s not forget the pace bowling trio of Stuart Broad, James Anderson and Ben Stokes, who was only working his way back to full fitness, claimed wickets at vital times in the series to keep us in strong positions.

Worcestershire’s Joe Clarke now averages 41.00 with the bat from ten Tests meanwhile leg-spinner Matthew Parkinson averages just 18.93 with the ball. I’d like to think that these individual performances as well as the team’s success display that I’m performing well in my role as Selector and Coach of our national side. Clearly the ODI performances need to pick up but I’m confident we can do well in all formats against a West Indies side that admittedly were no pushover the last time they toured our land.

Immortal Batsmen: Revisited

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Following on from a quick little article that I posted the other day, here are some more English batsmen with healthy batting averages.

Ben Slater (Derbyshire) List A batting average: 51.84 (29 innings)

Derbyshire’s Slater has been in such good form this term that he’s courted the attention of Nottinghamshire, a club not shy of a signing and he looks likely to be at Trent Bridge next year. If Slater does have England ambitions then he’d be a fool not to recognise that moving from an unfashionable county to a fashionable one and a County Championship First Division side at that, will enhance his chances of representing the full England team.

Ed Pollock (Warwickshire) T20 batting average: 31.44 (9 innings)

Clearly it’s a very small sample size but Pollock has demonstrated a consistent ability to get his team off the a flying start. A strike rate of 174.69 confirms such. Pollock is averaging eighteen deliveries per innings which combined with his strike-rate equates to his average of 31.44 but just imagine if he could stay at the crease even longer without compromising his attacking nature. If he could bat for twice as long, which if he faced half the strike would take him into the twelfth over then he’d be up towards 70. Bat out the entire innings and he’d pass 100. The T20 Blast commences today and Pollock could be one of the stars!

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Michael Burgess (Sussex) First Class batting average: 47.56 (28 innings)

Leicestershire didn’t want him but Sussex have made the most of him… or have they? A wicketkeeper by trade, Burgess is having to settle for a Jos Buttler style specialist number seven batting role. He’s helping a strong Sussex tail eke out big totals and it’ll be interesting to see where Burgess ends up in the order and how his career progresses.

Varun Chopra (Essex) List A batting average: 44.12 (106 innings)

Chopra’s average is impressive as it straddles over a hundred innings however a career strike-rate of 76.08 highlights how the game has evolved in recent times and what levels of tempo are necessary at domestic level compared to the current international environment. Chopra is also closing in on 10,000 First Class runs complete with ten tons. A former England Under-19 captain, he’s never quite been able to put himself towards the front of the queue in regards to staking an international claim.

Flying Scots Scorch England!

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The day after a monumental occasion in Scottish cricketing history, please have a listen to my latest audio cast for a firsthand vocal review of how the epic day played out…

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Just over a week after being mentioned in a Silly Point article as a player to watch, Calum MacLeod was the star of the show as Scotland’s cricketers turned the tables on England at The Grange in Edinburgh.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/18513/scorecard/1124639/scotland-vs-england-only-odi-england-tour-of-scotland-2018/

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After MacLeod led Scotland to their highest ever total of 371-5, Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow seemed to have put England on course for a remarkable run-chase. The pair compiled a 129-run stand for the visitor’s first wicket on a beautiful day in the Scottish capital.

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A special mention for Bairstow, whose 59-ball 105, his third consecutive ODI ton, I shamelessly neglected to mention in my audio cast!

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After that excellent start however, England ultimately fell six runs short. Scotland claimed a thoroughly deserved victory and in doing so, contributed to a seismic day in cricket history!

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Scenes!!!

Not Surprisingly no Surprises!

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England have named their ODI squads for the match against Scotland north of the border and the series hosting of Australia.

https://www.ecb.co.uk/england/men/news/694732/england-name-squads-for-scotland-and-australia-odis

As was to be expected and as touched upon in yesterday evening’s audio cast here at Silly Point, there are no surprises in the England parties. Gloveman Jos Buttler is rested for the match in Edinburgh, which provided his exploits in the IPL and having returned to the Test side, is understandable. Kent captain Sam Billings is named in the squad for the Scotland match only. Quite what happens if he scores a ton I don’t know… “Thanks Sam but we don’t need you against Oz!”.

Surrey’s Tom Curran is also added to the party for the Australia series. With Durham’s Mark Wood now in the Test side, England will be keen to manage his workload and so Curran, who performed well Down Under as well as in short bites in India, should get some playing time. Yorkshire’s Liam Plunkett, expensive in the IPL, also returns after injury.

Having been dropped from the Test side, Worcestershire spinner Moeen Ali retains his place in the ODI outfit, alongside fellow twirler Adil Rashid. Yorkshire’s Rashid, who is now solely focused on white-ball cricket, has been travelling at 6.38 runs per over in the One-Day Cup this year. The likes of Alex Hales, Chris Woakes and David Willey are a little short of match practice having done their fair share of bench warming at the IPL. England will hope that said players can hit the ground running and make the most of any One-Day Cup opportunities prior the the international matches.

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Silly Point will be in Edinburgh for the Scotland match and will provide a write-up complete with photos following the match.

Transfer Saga

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This guy only ever played for one club, in reality and virtuality. The same can not be said of others.

More than ever, domestic cricket in England seems to be following its football counterpart, particularly in regards to the transfer market. I believe that there was a time, long before I discovered an interest in cricket, in fact long before I was even born, that players remained loyal to one county for the entirety of their career. Of course some still do but it is no longer necessarily the norm. That’s not to say that transfers didn’t happen in the past, of course they did but they’ve become far more frequent in modern times. More than a decade ago now, Jimmy Ormond, whilst on tour with England, famously posed with his new Surrey shirt following his move from Leicestershire. I recall there being suggestions back then that the cricket transfer market was becoming like football’s and it’s certainly the case today.

Last winter we saw the likes of Scott Borthwick and Mark Stoneman depart Durham for Surrey. This season Angus Robson went on trial with Sussex whilst some mid-season transfers have tasted a little bitter. Tom Kohler-Cadmore agreed to depart Worcestershire for Yorkshire and though it wasn’t supposed to happen until next season, it was clear that Worcestershire had no interest in fielding TK-C when his future lay elsewhere and so the deal was brought forward.

Meanwhile one-time England squad member Mark Footitt has returned to Nottinghamshire from Surrey. He has also previously represented Derbyshire.

Former England cap Ajmal Shahzad must be one of the most serial county swappers. He can now list Yorkshire, Lancashire, Nottinghamshire, Sussex and Leicestershire as county teams for whom he has represented their first XIs.

Dominic Sibley, Will Rhodes and Adam Hose have all headed to Warwickshire while Rikki Clarke swapped with Sibley to go back to Surrey. Sibley wanted guarantees about batting in the top three in all forms of the game. Surrey’s Alec Stewart wouldn’t provide but Ashley Giles would and so Sibley arrived amid bitter frustration on Surrey’s part.

Jos Buttler of course moved from Somerset to Lancashire whilst my home county, Yorkshire, have acquired many players from other counties in recent years:

Gary Ballance (Derbyshire)

Jack Brooks (Northamptonshire)

Andrew Hodd (Sussex)

Tom Kohler-Cadmore (Worcestershire)

Liam Plunkett (Durham)

Ryan Sidebottom (Returned from Nottinghamshire)

David Willey (Northamptonshire)

Players such as six-hitter Ross Whiteley and England Lions spinner Ollie Rayner are among others to have migrated at one time or another during their playing days.

The midseason activity this term, complete with more than subtle hints of acrimony and contract squabbles seem to be taking the game of bat and ball firmly into football territory.

Should mid-season transfers be allowed at all?

Should loans be allowed?

Should squads have a maximum number of players like the Premier League?

Returning to Angus Robson, he was released by Leicestershire because they wanted play youngster Harry Dearden. After Dearden failed to set the County Championship alight he was firstly replaced by Arun Harinath who had arrived on loan from Surrey before another loanee, Michael Carberry arrived at Grace Road too. In a funny way, the domestic circuit is becoming like the England team with counties failing to invest in players and deciding it’s necessary to pinch from the competition… and don’t get me started on Hampshire! I’ve touched upon their South African acquisitions before and the effect it will have on local talent.

This is the point in the article where I’m supposed to provide some sort of summary but I’ll leave it to the cricket followers of the world to make of it what you will…?

… and who could forget Monty Panesar’s transfer sagas? (Errrr… Me!)