England Uncapped XI

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Imagine that England’s cricketers have gone on strike. They’re upset about that car sponsorship deal ending or they all want to play in the new Kazakhstan T20 league. England’s selectors are reluctant to return to players that’ve failed to produce the goods at international level before. They decide to select an extremely experienced squad so ignore the likes of Ollie Pope, Joe Clarke and Sam Curran amongst others. The below is what an England Test squad might then look like.

First XI

James Adams

Daryl Mitchell

Sam Northeast (Captain)

James Hildreth

Darren Stevens

Keith Barker

John Simpson (Wicketkeeper)

Ollie Rayner

Luke Fletcher

Steve Patterson

Chris Rushworth

12th Man

Steven Mullaney

Tourists

Luke Wells

Riki Wessels

Ben Brown (Wicketkeeper)

James Harris

Stand By

Chris Nash

Joe Leach

I’ve selected Northeast as captain so as not to burden either of my openers, Adams and Mitchell who make for a strong left-hand/right-hand combo. Hildreth is at four ahead of Stevens and Barker who provide all-round options with Barker’s left-arm variety essential. Simpson dons the gloves meanwhile Patterson and Rushworth take the new ball backed up by Fletcher as well as Barker and Stevens. Spin options are a bit limited but Luke Wells makes the touring party as spin back-up to Ollie Rayner. Steven Mullaney makes the squad as 12th man, providing strong all-round cover with bat and ball.

As well as Wells and Mullaney, Wessels and Harris provide a good variety of cover. Brown backs up behind the stumps whilst Wessels is also an emergency ‘keeping option.

Top order bat Chris Nash who can bowl decent spin and dependable all-rounder Joe Leach are officially on stand-by.

Disclaimer: The likes of Rory Burns, Benny Howell and Tom Bailey are among the unfortunate omissions. Daniel Bell-Drummond, Sam Hain, Liam Norwell, Lewis Gregory, Jamie Porter and Ben Coad join that list but I was generally plucking for the most experienced players.

Telegraph Fantasy Cricket: CC/ODC 2018

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The above is my first XI. It’s in the all-rounder roles that I’ve gambled with Rhodes and Rawlins. Rhodes has moved from Yorkshire to Warwickshire so should see increased game time and will be keen to show what he’s capable of. Rawlins made an impression in the North v South matches and this should be his breakout season. Simpson is a reliable wicketkeeper and I think there is real logic in the stumper being captain. I’ve plucked for a possibly slightly under the radar bowling attack and expect Mennie and hopefully Hutton to contribute runs too. I’ve very deliberately selected batsman that will at least occasionally bowl and should get opportunities in both formats of the game.

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For my second XI, I’ve gone for the two all-rounders that I consider guaranteed runs and wickets. I’ve opted for a reliable batting unit and expect Fell to return to form this year. Though my bowling unit may not be guaranteed outings in both codes, Coad and Footitt are wicket takers in the First Class format. Mahmood is coming into the campaign off the back of impressive performances in North v South and Nijjar, a useful spin bowler, has been opening the batting for Essex pre-season. What happens to Alastair Cook with England may determine Nijjar’s opportunities. If Roderick is available throughout the season, he should be steady away behind the stumps and with bat in hand.

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Have I ever mentioned that I like Ben Duckett?

Mitchell is as consistent as they come and bowls too. Smith has returned to Durham and I expect plenty of runs from the experienced head back up north. Alongside him, Brook is primed for his breakthrough campaign after debuting last term. Kuhn may not keep wicket but is a solid performer at domestic level. My bowling attack may receive England and England Lions call-ups but have runs as well as wickets in them in both formats. Bresnan is as solid an option as Patel and Bopara and van der Merwe is a destructive player.

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In my fourth XI, I’ve gone Warwickshire and England veteran heavy in my batting line-up, messrs Trott and Bell leading the charge. Bell-Drummond will be looking to kick-on and fingers crossed for a run-filled renaissance from Nick Compton. Like Kuhn, Pope may not always keep wicket but will be playing regularly and in the runs this year. Berg is as reliable as anyone with the ball and Procter prospered last term having relocated to Northamptonshire. I want a bit more from Barker and Rayner this year. Fletcher is back from injury and if Overton, rated 3!, can stay fit then he’s a shrewd selection.

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In my fifth XI are the other players that I like who I couldn’t squeeze into my first four teams. Northeast has moved to Hampshire but is as reliable as they come with the bat. Wells is solid in the First Class game as is Burns. Dent is an under rated player too. McManus gets the gloves with the experienced Clarke, back at Surrey, and less experienced but quick Chappell in the all-rounder roles. Hopefully Norwell has shrugged off any injury niggles. Ball will be left to play county cricket this term whilst Patterson is another of my reliable picks. Qadri made an impressive debut last year and will look to back it up.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve avoided selecting players that will be on England duty. It’s steady away county pros that you need sprinkled with one or two yet to be discovered gems just primed to be this year’s Ben Coad.

Let me know what you think about my teams and which one is likely to win me the massive cash prize of……….. £3,000!

https://fantasycricket.telegraph.co.uk/county

Disclaimer: I’ve since been tinkering away, so my teams don’t look quite the same as above. I’ll keep you up to date once the campaign commences!

Something About Burned Wood!

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So ‘The Ashes’ are nearly upon us. (I mean the real one not just a computer game!) At the risk of sounding detached and lacking enthusiasm, I guess that I should write something about the impending contest.

Despite being an England fan I’m actually quite confident. Not all that long ago the Australian side were accused of using the national team as a development squad. That accusation was levied at them by one of their own, Cameron White none the less. When it comes to fast bowling at least (In fact spin bowling too!), England appear to be following a similar trajectory. Ignore any notion of getting proven county vets like Steve Patterson, Keith Barker or Liam Norwell (Not that old!) into the side or even recalling Tim Bresnan but call up the ‘potential’ instead, the likes of Tom Helm and George Garton. Things are eerily parallel to the current makeup of the national football team.

I have huge respect for the likes of Helm and Garton and back them to have successful international careers but it must be frustrating for proven players such as Chris Rushworth and Joe Leach to see ‘raw talent’ selected ahead of them. That’s not to say that I think England or anybody should hold back someone that’s good enough, just like they did with Haseeb Hameed and should’ve done with Sam Curran.

This post isn’t really going where I’d intended. I wanted to buck the general consensus and say how I believe England can do well this winter but I’ve just ended up having a whinge. It’s so unlike me!

Attempting to return to the point, I’m backing Stoneman, Vince and Malan to pile on the runs. I’m expecting Alastair Cook to find form. I’m backing whoever the bowling line up consists of, whether it be Ball, Overton or Crane to come good, or at least be better for the experience. Australia have some good players. They also have some lesser players who may step up to the plate and they may introduce some new players who commence their international careers with a Peter Handscombesque start. England however can go head to head (Or toe to toe) with them. I envisage a competitive series with a 2-1 or maybe even 2-2 result.

Will England cook the Ozzies? Will Stoneman rock? Will Vince be invincible? Will Ball be on the ball? Will Crane reign? Will England find the root (Route) to victory?

We’ll find out soon…

Telegraph Fantasy Cricket: CC/ODC 2017 – Season Review

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9,748th place, a comfortable finish in the top 10,000! The team I picked for my daughter finished in 11,213th place, so at worst I was in the bottom 1,500. Who knows? Maybe there were over a million players!

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Starting with my captain, Gloucestershire gloveman Gareth Roderick.

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I simply got his selection completely wrong. Had he been fit or whatever he needed to be to play then he would have made serious contributions but he missed the early part of the season for ‘unknown reasons’ and later broke a finger. To be fair, he dug deep to score 78 not out with the damaged digit. Before you consider the double points element, if you’re captain isn’t your top scorer then you’ve messed up. South African born Roderick registered 400 runs at a respectable average of 36.36 as well as claiming 24 dismissals but just didn’t play enough.

Steven Croft basically doesn’t bowl anymore. Lancashire seem to have an array of spin bowlers, whether they be part- or full-time (Parkinson, Parry, Livingstone, Kerrigan – who himself went out on loan) and like Roderick, Croft missed significant chunks of the season. Aside from a blast of a knock early in the campaign and a score in the final round of matches, Croft just didn’t contribute anywhere near significantly enough. The White Rose’s skipper’s figures: 409 runs at an underwhelming 29.21.

Huge kudos to Worcestershire’s Tom Fell for battling back from cancer and hopefully, with a new contract under his belt, he can score big next year.

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This year was a horror show however. He failed to reach fifty nor did he ever don the gloves. Fell totalled 323 runs at a paltry 14.68 in the County Championship. Contrary to the above image, his form (Or lack of!) didn’t earn him and England call up!

Welsh willow wielding wizard Aneurin Donald didn’t hit the heights hoped for this campaign but did manage four First Class fifties either side of being mucked around by Glamorgan, batting as low as seven in One-Day Cup matches.

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For the record ‘Ducky’ totalled 487 County Championship runs at 25.63. In One-Day cricket he scored 20 runs at an average of just 4.00!

It’s a funny old game. My most successful batsman was the one I expected the least from. I had anticipated Riki Wessels might deliver for me in limited overs matches but didn’t really expect him to play regularly in the First Class game. In a pre-season university fixture, he followed a duck with a hundred and went on to score three centuries with a top score of 202 not out in the County Championship. He had a mare though in the One-Day Cup final where he dropped a catch off the first ball of the match and made only six runs but away from the cameras he delivered. He also claimed a couple of catches when standing in as wicketkeeper. Across the County Championship (832) and One-Day Cup (302) the Nottinghamshire batsman totalled 1,134 runs.

Worcestershire’s Brett D’Oliveira doesn’t have a great average for an opening batsman but I think that there’s an element of the old Trescothick/Vaughan vibe about him. He could be better suited to the higher level. This year he made three First Class hundreds but lacked consistency. He didn’t claim a single wicket in the County Championship but snared seven in the One-Day Cup. His best years could yet be ahead of him. In 2017 BDO notched up 891 County Championship runs alongside 222 in the 50-over game.

Ravi Bopara will have been in many people’s teams but will probably suffer from that very thing I’ve moaned about previously when it comes to Bopara. He’s done okay but you can’t help but want more from him. 576 County Championship runs at 32.00 puts him way down title-winning Essex’s run charts. He claimed a disappointing twelve wickets in fourteen matches in the same competition. He did however rack up 329 One-Day Cup runs at 54.83 and claimed nine wickets but didn’t win a recall to England’s ODI side!

Keith Barker is another one who did well without sparkling. Six fifties at 29.78 is a really useful contribution with the willow but just 26 County Championship wickets this term is a bit disappointing for a left-armer many thought should’ve been on England’s radar. Of course Warwickshire’s season as a whole was a torrid one.

Off-spinner Ollie Rayner did well for England Lions last winter but never really got going this year.

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His twenty First Class wickets in eleven matches cost nearly 40 apiece. For reference, Middlesex teammate Ravi Patel totalled fourteen victims in two outings.

Durham’s James ‘Killer’ Weighell surprised many this season but injuries dogged him. He wasn’t in the County Championship side at the start of term but took wickets aplenty (18 @ 23.11) in the One-Day Cup. Unfortunately he got injured and so didn’t play as many First Class games as he would have liked but when he did he made some decent contributions with the bat (162 @ 40.50) to go with his eleven wickets. If he can stay fit, he could be essential to Durham’s hopes of a renaissance in the upcoming years.

Finally, onto Sussex’s Jofra Archer. My team should’ve been Archer’s Army not Roderick Brotherhood. Archer was by far and away my top points scorer with nearly double the next man’s total. His 638 County Championship runs came at 45.57 including five fifties at a whopping strike rate of 88.00! His 61 wickets came at 25.30 and if it weren’t for lack of eligibility (Damn ineligibility!) he could well have being headed to Australia for the Ashes. No seriously, he’s that good but a few years away from qualifying having migrated from the West Indies. Whether or not he could join up with England Lions as early as this winter is an interesting consideration. Actually, I should save this for my ‘Six to Watch – Season Review’ article as Archer is one of the six!

I’ll repeat what I’ve said previously about how I think The Telegraph should alter their game. Currently there’s one competition for the County Championship and One-Day Cup combined and a separate one for the T20 Blast. I propose amending it to three individual competitions so that you can select three different teams. Some players specialise in only First Class or List A cricket so grouping the two together does require skill in one way but is limiting in another. There could be three first place finish prizes and an overall winner prize.

For me, any prize remains allusive. There’s always next year…

Telegraph Fantasy Cricket: CC/ODC 2017 – Roderick Returns!

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I’m clinging onto a place in the top 10,000, currently lying in 9763rd position!

Skipper and stumper Gareth Roderick has returned to the field of play for Gloucestershire so his points (279), doubled for being captain (578), are propelling me towards… respectability?!

My batsmen continue to underwhelm. Steven Croft (548 points) seems to have given up bowling too. Riki Wessels (1054) is leading the way but had a disappointing ODC final. Tom Fell’s horror show continues. He’s registered just 268 points. Inconsistent Aneurin Donald has 556 points to his name.

In the all-rounder slots, Brett D’Oliveira has reached a respectable if not spectacular 892 points whilst the ever reliable Ravi Bopara has 1227.

Onto bowling and the Boparesque reliable Keith Barker has 995 points to his name. Ollie Rayner (520) has seriously disappointed and James ‘Killer’ Weighell’s injury problems have limited him to 619 points despite displaying some good form. Then there’s Jofra Archer. His 1665 points lead the way for my team Roderick Brotherhood.

Please remember that this is for the County Championship and One-Day Cup only. There’s a separate competition for the Natwest T20 Blast. An update on Silly Pointers’ failings will be provided in due course.

Telegraph Fantasy Cricket: CC/ODC 2017 – Early Season Update

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We’ll start by getting the elephant out of the room. My captain hasn’t made a single first team appearance this season. His absence put down to personal reasons. He’s made a hundred for the seconds this month so fingers crossed he’ll be back in the Gloucestershire outfit very soon. The advantage of this is that when he returns nobody else is likely to have him in there team (He’s actually only in 0.21% of teams in the game). It’s all well and good having the best players in your team but it’s no good just having a side composed of the most selected players because you really don’t gain any advantage.

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The contribution of my batting line-up has been frustrating. Steven Croft was injured for a few weeks but did strike a blistering 127 against Warwickshire in the One-Day Cup. I had hoped he’d contribute with the ball but that hasn’t been the case so far. Lancashire are well stocked for spinners.

Glamorgan’s Aneurin Donald has hit a few fifties in the County Championship but had a torrid time in the One-Day Cup, reaching double figures just once. Being shunted down the order and batting as low as seven probably didn’t help and seemed a bit odd for such a potentially destructive batsman. Donald has been selected in barely 3% of teams meaning that there’s not many selectors gaining his points when he does deliver.

Tom Fell did well to return from cancer with a century last year but just hasn’t got going this term. He’s made a double hundred for the seconds but is yet to reach a quarter double hundred for the firsts. He’s not keeping wicket either. Those catches could have been a brucy bonus.

Nottinghamshire batsman Riki Wessels has led the way with an undefeated double century in the County Championship followed by a series of starts in the One-Day Cup followed by another century once back to the First Class format. With Chris Read injured last week, RW snapped up some catches behind the stumps as well.

In the all-rounder slots, Ravi Bopara of Essex has been steady if unspectacular. Lots of 30s, 40s and fifties and two or three-wicket hauls. They all add up though and he did make an undefeated 92 in the ODC.

Worcestershire’s Brett D’Oliveira made a slow start to the season but has found form of late. This included reaching 150 in the last round of County Championship matches. BD isn’t even in 1.5% of teams in the game so when he’s contributing it’s great to know that not many other Telegraph Fantasy Cricket players are benefiting from his performances. It’s a good example of why you should stick with someone that has a poor start. If you changed him and went with a form player then you’re just getting the same points as everybody else but if you stick with a player that’s not in many people’s teams then that players points can be decisive.

Onto the bowling department and Durham’s James Weighell (Rated 2 out of 10, team max is 60) has been a shreud selection. He wasn’t initially in the County Championship side but took wickets for fun in the One-Day Cup (18 @ 23.11) and recorded a maiden half-century in his last First Class outing. Weighell is in less than 10% of teams (That will have gone up since the start). As mentioned before, it’s these sort of under the radar performers that you need in your team… from the start.

I deliberately selected bowlers that can bat. Keith Barker and Jofra Archer should probably be considered all-rounders but maybe the fact that they open the bowling led to them been labelled exclusively as bowlers in the game. Sussex’s Archer’s has racked up two fifers and two fifties in the longer format and Barker, though not quite setting the world on fire, has been steadily chipping away in both the runs and wickets columns and it was a bonus to see him get so much game time in the One-Day Cup.

Ollie Rayner has slightly underwhelmed so far. He didn’t get much action in the One-Day Cup but as pitches around the country seem to be turning spin friendly and teams return to the longer format of the game then hopefully the wickets will come soon. I expect him to contribute with the bat too.

I’m currently in 9605th position! It’s a marathon not a sprint. Hare and the tortoise and all that. We’ll revisit things later in the campaign to see if I’ve ascended the table.