Sensational Sibley Sizzles… for England?

Warwickshire’s Dominic Sibley is making an almost irresistible case to be the next man to open the batting for England’s Test side. The twenty-three-year-old Epsom born bat has notched up six First Class tons in as many matches spread over this season and last. He’s currently averaging 83.00 in the County Championship having clocked up a total of 249 runs. Crucially those runs have been scored in Division One.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/cricket/county-championship-division-one/averages

Right-handed Sibley hit the headlines early in his career when compiling an innings of 242 for home team Surrey but felt it necessary to seek new pastures in order to guarantee first team cricket. He set sail to Warwickshire and joined former Yorkshire player Will Rhodes at the top of the order. The pair didn’t quite hit it off at first but have developed into a reliable opening pair for the Edgbaston outfit.

England Selector Ed Smith should know as well as anyone that form doesn’t always translate to Test quality but Sibley has maintained his standards for some time now. If he can continue his run-glut then he could debut against Ireland at Lords later this summer.

Lancashire’s Haseeb Hameed has shown signs of a resurgence albeit in Division Two meanwhile Nottinghamshire recruit Ben Duckett is settling into life at new home Trent Bridge. Neither are getting anywhere near Sibley’s consistency however. Uncapped Middlesex left-hander Nick Gubbins could also come into the equation though like Hameed he’s playing in Division Two and like Duckett he’s often to be found batting first drop. Of course both positions are up for grabs in England’s Test side. Incumbents Keaton Jennings and Joe Denly could yet be saved if England are reluctant to blood or bring in from the cold, two batsmen in the top three one Test before the Ashes.

Sibley can only keep churning out runs on all pitches against a variety of opposition and await the call.

Telegraph Fantasy Cricket: CC/ODC – Early Season Update

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After two rounds of the County Championship and before we hit the One-Day Cup trail, I thought that I’d provide an update of how I’m getting along.

The main graphic at the top of this post details my current positions in the table and I’m optimistic that I can build on a respectable if not sensational start. Having said that, my top ranked team is placed in an encouraging 524th position.

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Based on where one of my team’s were sitting at one stage, there are at least 7,500 entrants in the game. For the record, the 100th placed team has 2,410 points. 1st place has 3,096 though I’m only around 500 points off being placed in the top ten! As you can see, there’s only about 400 points separating my top two teams but nearly 3,000 positions between them.

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Remember that some teams didn’t play in the first round of matches so have only played once not twice. This was critical to my team selection thus far. I’ve managed to ensure that I’ve had at least ten if not all eleven players playing and have only made one (Out of 30) of my transfers in any of my teams. That could change though as I potentially tinker a little for the One-Day Cup. The fact that the cup is played in a block means that I accept making a couple of transfers to commit to the One-Day competition.

Will players like Harry Brook, Jack Burnham and Matt Milnes play the white-ball games?

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Milnes has been one of my good left-field picks. I selected him off the back of claiming some wickets in a university warm-up match. He’s only ever played First Class cricket but I fancy that we’ll see a white-ball debut soon.

Wicketkeeper Ricardo Vasconcelos (Selected by 5.5%) who produced a knock of 184 against Glamorgan, Durham’s Gareth Harte (2%) and a sneakily snuck in Marnus Labuschagne (1.5%) who scored a ton and claimed three wickets on debut, are other slightly under the radar players that have contributed well for me. Harte and Labuschagne are both listed as batsmen but have contributed with the ball. That was no fluke but a significant part of why I selected them. It’s my team that has a batting line-up of specialist batsman that has particularly struggled but I’ll maintain the faith for the start of the One-Day Cup at least.

Getting your captain (They score double points) correct is vital.

I’ll stick with Liam Dawson and David Wiese who’ve made vital contributions for me as well as Steven Mullaney who should be effective in fifty-over cricket.

I’ll almost certainly change Toby Roland-Jones though as I think I need captains who are more certain of getting a bat in the One-Day Cup. Based on his performances in the County Championship thus far, Roland-Jones is clearly still re-discovering his groove. He may well stay in one of my team’s but not as captain.

Roland-Jones’ Middlesex skipper Dawid Malan has made vital contributions with both bat and ball for me, as he bids for an England recall and another shot at Ashes glory.

Keaton Jennings is captain of my wife’s team that she selected though I’m providing transfer consultancy during the course of the campaign. Typically at this stage she’s ahead of three of my teams! I anticipate that KJ will bowl a bit in the one-dayers so could rack up some points. I really do think that your captain must be some form of all-rounder. If you’re skipper is purely a batsman and they score 0 (-20=-40) and 4 ala Ben Duckett this week then you’re relying on catches to get said player back in the black. As for Gareth Ice Berg who made a pair against Yorkshire… I’m glad that I didn’t provide him with the captain’s armband!

Should I bring players like Alex Hales, Luke Wright or Ross Taylor, signed by Middlesex exclusively for the One-Day Cup, into my team?

The New Zealander is a specialist batsman so won’t take any bonus wickets. He’s normally a good catcher though, so I’ll see how many people pick him. I don’t want to select him if everybody else does. I want to get points that other participants in the game aren’t getting. Hales, Wright and Taylor are currently selected by next to nobody but that could change over the course of the next couple of days as participants tinker for the One-Day Cup. Of course transferring these players in will cost two out of thirty season transfers because they’ll need transferring out again.

What about this guy?

Come tuesday night, I’ll be scouring the club website’s (All of them!) for squad news.

I’ll provide a further update of my progress after the group stages of the One-Day Cup are complete.

Burns Extinguished!

Burns extinguished and England genuinely left without a clue as to who should bat in the top three come the Ashes!

Still, it should make for an exciting start to the county season and inspire England’s white-ball batsmen as well, not that they should need any further inspiration. The ODI World Cup precedes the Ashes and good form in big matches could result in a Test call-up.

It’s such a shame for Burns who has passed 1000 First Class runs in each of the last five seasons. Like many previous incumbents, he’s hinted at what he’s got to offer but certainly hasn’t nailed down his place.

It’s not even worth mentioning names and we’ve got one Test against Ireland to fix things! What if we pick a debutante and he gets a pair? Will he keep his place for the Ashes opener?

Disclaimer: At the time of writing, messrs Jennings and Denly are not out, so might cement their places for the Ireland encounter at Lords… might!

Back to the Future

There have been many great batsman who didn’t crack Test cricket first time… or even second time!

Could any of the players pictured above force their way back into England reckoning?

Gary Ballance 1498 Test runs @ 37.45

Possessing by far the best Test record of any of the batsmen listed, it seems unlikely that Ballance will get another chance. Being Joe Root’s ex-flatmate helped him before but won’t again. He’ll have to score an insatiable amount of runs to make a case and combine that with having eradicated perceived technical deficiencies.

Ben Duckett 110 @ 15.71

In contrast to last winter, it’s been a hugely encouraging time for Ben Duckett recently. He was recalled to the England Lions squad and returned to the scene of the crime in India. He’ll be looking for a fruitful campaign with his new employers Nottinghamshire to get back into the full England side.

Keaton Jennings 750 @ 25.86

The most recently jettisoned on this list, it seems highly improbable that Jennings will line up against Australia this summer. Come England’s next tour to Asia however and even if it be as back-up/sub-fielder then he could come into contention.

Dawid Malan 724 @ 27.84

Malan wasn’t happy to be axed and he has been hard done by after a record-breaking start to his T20I career. He couldn’t really argue with his Test termination however. He’s not set the world on fire since, neither in county cricket or in various T20 competitions so has a lot to do to earn a recall.

Mark Stoneman 526 @ 27.68

A potential recall for Stoneman isn’t actually that outlandish. If he prospers alongside Rory Burns at Surrey in the early days of the county campaign then he could yet force his way back in. He could do with improving his fielding though.

James Vince 548 @ 24.90

Vince has performed superbly in the latest edition of the Big Bash and maybe white-ball cricket is a more likely route back in for him. Such is the competition for places though, that it won’t be easy.

Of course all the players detailed above may now be labelled damaged goods so we may see some Test debuts before we witness recalls for any of the above.

Keaton Out… in the Cold!

Only England are capable of regularly finding Test match opening batsmen capable of scoring Test hundreds (Compton, Lyth, Robson) but not actually capable of succeeding at Test match cricket!

Keaton Jennings is the latest to be dropped by England and he’s been replaced by Joe Denly (Not actually an opener) for the second Test against West Indies. The decision is both logical and illogical all at the same time. Jennings looks like a square peg in a triangular shaped hole but to have persisted with him this far! The fact that Adil Rashid has left the tour could be an argument for bringing in fellow leg-spinner Denly but with Jack Leach likely to return to the XI that’s stretching it a bit.

Jennings has been found wanting against pace once again and it’s hard to see a third way back… unless others don’t grasp the opportunity and we’re touring Asia… so we’ll probably see him again soon!

Denly has had a torrid time on tour (SL & WI) but now likely has two Tests to enjoy. He’ll open the batting but there’s that release of pressure of knowing he’ll be involved with the ball at least a bit too. His selection at the top of the order is likely to be a stop-gap selection. He needs to go out there, take the rough with the smooth and enjoy himself. He’ll likely need a Test hundred, ideally in the second Test then to open in the County Championship and absolutely plunder runs to keep his place for the Ashes.

Who opens the batting for England come this summer’s marquee series is anyone’s guess. If Rory Burns doesn’t deliver during the rest of the series then it really will be a shoot-out in the County Championship… which will be great for the competition.

I had hoped that KJ would find a way but it wasn’t to be. Wishing Joe Denly the very best of luck on Test debut and beyond!

England Crumble to Chase in… Chase!

A massive well done to West Indies on comprehensively and deservedly defeating England in the first Test.

We could talk about selection until the cows come home but can’t you always?

There’s no doubt that England’s preparation was pathetic. These everybody has a bat affairs don’t promote competitiveness. It would be far better to have a couple of eleven-a-side First Class fixtures, actually breed some competition between the players and put some pressure on them for their place, as there should be in Test Cricket. There’s value in the new buzzword, destigmatising being dropped but some intensity between teammates is needed in order to be successful. There is of course an argument about volume of cricket and time with family but maybe this highlights the need for different squads for different formats and the longer form almost becoming a completely separate sport.

As is typical with English pundits, a player who took an eight-wicket haul still got criticised and derided for being nothing more than a village cricketer. Maybe England should select some village cricketers. If so, I’m available!

The selection of Darren Bravo doesn’t say a lot about the state of willow wielders in West Indies cricket. He was selected based on history but wasn’t primed to perform given how little regional four-day cricket he’s played in recent times. Having said that, it’s probably a bit rich for an England supporter to be criticising the home team’s batting. He’ll likely score a ton now in the second Test. What a Test match for debutant John Campbell to be part of too!

It’s hard to see Adil Rashid playing in the next Test and Sam Curran might be struggling too but please don’t write him off. Please don’t lump him in the “Only good in home conditions” category, after one underwhelming performance.

Keaton Jennings will probably survive as Joe Denly has hardly made a case…

… and the likelihood of Moeen Ali being promoted to open after a pair is slim. Rory Burns did at least make strides and can hopefully back that up during the rest of the tour.

Fingers crossed for a couple more fascinating Test matches in the Caribbean. Oh, should probably mention Jason Holder too… well batted!