Cricket Captain 2018: Shamrocked!

Screen Shot 2018-07-19 at 18.41.34

As Coach and Selector of the England cricket team, I accept full responsibility for the seismic Test defeat against Ireland in Dublin, a result that sent shockwaves throughout the global cricket community and beyond. First of all, please let me offer my sincerest congratulations to our Irish counterparts. They fully deserved their maiden Test match victory which brought to an end both an undefeated record and a run of four consecutive Test series wins during my tenure.

Screen Shot 2018-07-28 at 14.33.15

The decision to rest a number of senior players for this one-off Test match was made with a view to the upcoming demanding schedule that we face this summer. There are six limited overs internationals to be played against Pakistan, a lengthy World Cup as well as both white-ball matches and the marquee Ashes series against Australia. By selecting the squad that I did, I helped us to breed competition and identify players good enough to contribute to our cause in the future. Ultimately however, the efforts, or at least the application of our players, was extremely underwhelming. This was despite a sensational innings of 125 from twentytwo-year-old Joe Clarke in his first Test as captain. Other players, notably Ollie Pope as well as Ben Coad on debut, enhanced their reputations but some failed to seize the opportunity presented to them.

Screen Shot 2018-07-28 at 14.58.36

Our first choice spinner, Lancashire’s Matthew Parkinson (4-64), also performed well to restrict Ireland to 259 in their second innings. However to lose by a margin of 70 runs, having opted to bowl first and having been 86 without loss in response to Ireland’s first innings total of 297, was unacceptable. I’d like to add that the decision to bowl first was not made by stand-in skipper Joe Clarke alone but by the full leadership team. Having dismissed our hosts for sub 300 in cloudy conditions, the decision to field first was not the reason for our defeat.

County Championship (First Class) performances will now be crucial in regards to selection for Ashes places following a busy white-ball period.

Screen Shot 2018-07-28 at 15.18.29

On the subject of white-ball cricket, I was delighted with how our players responded to the Test defeat. Players such as Sam Hain and Ed Barnard amongst others played in both fixtures and were crucial to our first ODI series victory in four, thus maintaining our number one world ranking. Other players that came into the side, such as limited overs specialists Alex Hales and Jason Roy as well as the ever effective Chris Wood, helped lift the side from the Dublin depths of despair. Ben Stokes, who claimed figures of 3-45, was named Man of the Match.

We now take on Pakistan in a five-match ODI series as well as a one-off T20I encounter prior to the 2019 ODI World Cup. Thank you for your support and once again, congratulations to Irish cricket!

Cricket Captain 2018: Sri Lanka Success!

Screen Shot 2018-07-19 at 18.41.34

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.

Screen Shot 2018-07-24 at 20.32.02.png

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

Screen Shot 2018-07-25 at 16.39.17.png

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.

Cricket Captain 2018: Root to Victory in an Indian Summer!

Screen Shot 2018-07-22 at 15.24.33

I’m delighted to announce that the England cricket team, as selected and coached by myself, have sealed a thrilling 3-1 Test series win at home to India. On the final day of the series, indeed the final session, the boys chased down 300 for the loss of just four wickets (One the nightwatchman) on a degrading fifth day pitch.

After losing Alastair Cook to the last ball of the fourth day, Haseeb Hameed dug deep for a series best of 48. Captain Joe Root (108 not out) led the charge with his fourth ton of the summer, having missed the first part of the campaign through injury. Newcomer Joe Clarke, who had ended a lean run with a knock of 58 in the first innings, finished 62 not out as the home fans went wild when victory was sealed.

Screen Shot 2018-07-22 at 15.25.14

Skipper Root finished the five-match series with a monumental aggregate of 845 runs. This included four centuries with a top score of 230! James Vince, who registered his maiden Test ton and then followed it up with another, was the next highest run scorer with 446, a little more than half Root’s accumulation.

Screen Shot 2018-07-22 at 15.25.23

Haseeb Hameed, who struggled with the bat but played his part in the fifth Test run chase, actually topped the bowling charts for the series with four victims at just 16.00 apiece. Lancashire’s Hameed had claimed two cheap wickets against Pakistan and his bowling exploits this summer could help save him his place in the team for the winter tours to Sri Lanka and West Indies. Somerset’s Jack Leach was the leading wicket-taker against India with 21 victims whilst fellow spinner Matthew Parkinson snapped up eleven victims in his debut series.

Cricket Captain 2018: Start as we Mean to go on!

Screen Shot 2018-07-21 at 11.59.30

I’m delighted to announce that my England side have commenced the summer with victory in the first Test against Pakistan at Lords. With captain Joe Root unfortunately unavailable through injury, the sensible option to entrust experienced former skipper Alastair Cook with the armband was one that I made without hesitation. Worcestershire’s twentyone-year-old right-handed batsman Joe Clarke was provided the honour of becoming the 685th England Test cricketer.

After fifties in the last Test before my tenure, the second Test in New Zealand, batsmen Mark Stoneman, James Vince, Dawid Malan as well as pace bowler Mark Wood, all retained their places. Despite playing no First Class cricket this term, Ben Stokes IPL form was enough to earn him selection provided the quality batting and bowling options around him. The uncapped duo of Lancashire leg-spinner Matthew Parkinson and Nottinghamshire left-arm quick Mark Footitt also made the squad. Parkinson was rewarded for outstanding form in the County Championship whilst Footitt’s left-arm pace provides the squad with a point of difference.

Alastair Cook won the toss and we opted to bat but were soon in trouble at 17-3. Cook himself was first to go, clean bowled for one. Mark Stoneman made eight and unfortunately debutant Clarke was caught at point without scoring. James Vince (89) and Dawid Malan (49) repaired the damage with a fantastic partnership, both justifying their retentions in the team. Malan was frustratingly run out when trying to reach his fifty however, a single that was optimistic at best and foolish at worst. Jonny Bairstow made a brisk 44 and Ben Stokes cracked some boundaries late in the piece before falling for an excellent 92. That helped lift us to what we thought was a par score of 307.

Maybe 307 was above par however as Pakistan succumbed to 209 all out. The visitors’ skipper Sarfraz Ahmed made a magnificent 104 from number seven. The next highest score was just 23! Mark Wood (4-63) led the way but their were contributions from throughout our bowling attack.

In our second innings, stand-in skipper Alastair Cook produced one of his masterclasses, batting throughout the entire innings and finishing undefeated on 160. Cook weathered the tempest when Stoneman (Again!) and Vince fell in single figures. Joe Clarke made a counter-attacking 28 to get off the mark in Test cricket and with Joe Root still injured, will likely keep his place for the second Test. Jonny Bairstow rapidly caught up with Cook and surpassed him to register the first Test ton of my tenure as selector/coach. Jonny B fell for a crowd-pleasing 111 before all the bowlers chipped in around Cook.

Pakistan set about their chase of over 500 well but when the second wicket fell their batting line-up collapsed like a deck of cards in a full force gale! Somerset spinner Jack Leach was entrusted with lots of responsibility and finished with Test best figures of 3-94. Yet another example of a player justifying his selection. There were even maiden Test wickets for Dawid Malan and James Vince, to compliment his Test best batting effort and supreme fielding display.

All that equated to a thumping 199-run win for us and we look forward to the challenge that Pakistan will respond with in the second Test at Headingley. Surrey’s Mark Stoneman may have some sleepless nights, what with Haseeb Hameed breathing down his neck.

Screen Shot 2018-07-21 at 12.48.28

Root Responds/Poysden Plucked!

IMG_4111

In a recent post, I touched upon the subject of Joe Root’s axing from the T20I side and how it could spur him on to a great Test series performance against India. What Root’s dropping has done so far has inspired him to a sensational spell in the ODI team. Having lost the first match of a three-tie affair, Root struck back-to-back centuries to lead England to yet another series victory and enhance their credentials as World Cup favourites. He’s also helped provide England with an edge at the start of the Test encounters.

Yorkshire’s Root has had his critics recently, both for his T20I performances and his consistent failure to convert Test fifties into hundreds. Batting averages of 52.28 and 51.61 in Test and ODI cricket help scoff any suggestions that Root is anything other than a top player. An average of 35.77 at a strike-rate of 128.59 in T20Is are also pretty impressive figures with which to get dropped. He’s got some wickets in him too. Yesterday’s ton was his thirteenth in ODIs which is a new record for an England batsman. Root surpassed Marcus Trescothick who was an essential asset of England’s side in the early part of this century.

Having seen Root go onto make a ton and captain Eoin Morgan get near, James Vince will rue a missed opportunity. As in the first Ashes Test in Brisbane, Vince was run out, this time having laid the foundations for a strong knock. With both Jason Roy and Alex Hales injured, Vince gained an unlikely but merited opportunity. A score of 27 won’t be enough to put the cat amongst the selection pigeons however.

In further Yorkshire news and once again revisiting subjects that I’ve mentioned previously, Yorkshire take on Lancashire in the County Championship soon. It’s a heck of a match for Josh Poysden to be thrown into on a one-match loan deal. Whether or not a one-match loan should even be allowed, I’m not sure. With Adil Rashid excluding himself from the red-ball game and Azeem Rafiq and Karl Carver clearly not filling Yorkshire’s hierarchy with any confidence, they’ve plucked Poysden from Warwickshire’s 2nd XI to spin them to victory. The leg-spinner actually claimed a First Class career best of 5-29 in his last County Championship outing though his economy rate is exactly 4.00. At 26, Poysden really needs to crack on. I mentioned how Yorkshire would be in the market for a spinner and a good show from the twenty-six-year-old could seen him snapped up full-time, playing first division cricket and pushing for England honours.

Rory Burns missed out for England Lions versus India A but it was great to see Scott Borthwick amass 175 not out for Surrey against West Indies A. The former Durham man will need a lot more knocks like that in order to add to his solitary Test cap. Mark Stoneman’s struggles continued however. He made only one in the first innings but did at least hint at a return to form by making 44 second time around. His season to date has been the polar opposite of last year’s glutinous run-fest.

In other news, Zimbabwe were bowled out for 67 in an ODI against Pakistan in Bulawayo today!