The Lions Share

There are some exciting selections in the England Lions squad for a tour of Australia commencing in January that follows the senior side’s series in South Africa.

Incumbent Test opener Dominic Sibley and fellow full England squad member Zak Crawley both make the four-day squad.

Keaton Jennings, tipped for a recall for the senior squad’s tour of Sri Lanka in March due to his two Test tons on Asian soil has the opportunity to enhance his game on demanding pace friendly pitches, the sort that a lot of people have previously felt that he’d be eaten alive on!

Already capped but almost forgotten Dom Bess as well as Surrey’s Amar Virdi are in with a genuine chance of making the full side’s trip to Sri Lanka if they can impress in Australia. With uncertainty surrounding Moeen Ali’s potential return both could yet make the tour. Bess, like his Somerset sparring partners Lewis Gregory and Craig Overton, feature in both the four-day and one-day squads.

Overton seems to be Mr Periphery for England having been recalled for an Ashes Test but ditched for the full winter tours. Gregory was provided little opportunity by skipper Eoin Morgan to perform in the T20I series in New Zealand.

Sam Northeast’s international ambition flame still flickers with the thirty-year-old named in the four-day squad. Gloucestershire’s James Bracey, who the selectors really like, makes both squads.

Another interesting selection is that of Richard Gleeson in both squads. He’s been touted as England material before but at 32 and a late comer to domestic cricket, it may be that caution applied to fellow injury prone quicks Olly Stone and Jamie Overton have aided his cause. Don’t get me wrong though, Gleeson excelled for Lancashire last term.

Tom Abell is yet another Somerset player in the one-day squad and he fully merits recognition. It’s good to see Tom Kohler-Cadmore in there too following any indiscretions.

Laurie Evans is no young pup but has made a name for himself on the franchise circuit and fully merits a place in the 50-over party.

Matt Milnes has had more success in First Class than List A cricket but a place in the one-day squad will allow the coaching staff to have a good look at him. He took regular wickets for Kent during a breakthrough County Championship season in 2019 but leaked runs too.

Under appreciated but deceptively effective in one-day cricket Mason Crane makes the white ball squad. Of course it was playing Grade Cricket in Australia that helped win him a Test cap.

Ollie Robinson (Kent) and Ollie Robinson (Sussex) both make the four-day party… freaky!

Check out the squads in full here…

https://www.ecb.co.uk/england/men/news/1535797/england-lions-squads-confirmed-for-tour-of-australia

Ben Duckett, Liam Livingstone, Ben Foakes, Ben Coad and Jamie Porter are amongst the notable omissions. The selectors may feel that they know enough about Duckett, Livingstone and Foakes including knowing that they don’t need Duckett to be called up in spin friendly Sri Lanka! With an eye on Australia as well Coad and Porter are possibly pigeon holed as home condition bowlers only.

Who’d be a Selector?

WARNING: I’ve become the pessimistic cynic that I used to criticise!

Jason Roy won’t do any worse than those who have been chewed up and spat out before him but is he really going to do any better?

He’ll likely average 27 but is also likely to be more Aaron Finch than David Warner, in Tests anyway. Roy is a player with no recent history of playing First Class cricket let alone opening the batting. He was all at sea against a moving ball in the World Cup final and should he score a few breezy thirties will that really be of benefit? Will he score Test hundreds more often than Keaton Jennings (Once every 8.5 Tests!)?

Yes Ed Smith and co. have gone down this route before with Jos Buttler and credit to both because it’s worked so far. This selection however is even more cavalier. How will Roy approach it? Like it’s an ODI or will he cramp up like Hales and try to play a game he has no recent history of playing?

I consider myself a realistic optimist (Or optimistic realist) when it comes to English cricket but appreciate that I sound pessimistic regarding the selection of Surrey’s Roy. I’ll back nearly everybody who is picked for England but just like I put my head on the line by advocating my proposed selections of players that others would dismiss as preposterous, I’ll equally express my opinion when I’m not convinced by the ones that we have selected. I expect our Selection Panel to be practicing what they preach and analysing every potential selection in extreme detail.

Will Roy pull his hamstring, not be able to field then not be authorised to open the batting meaning that Joe Root has to move up to three anyway? If you’ve spent a career running 100 metre sprints then suddenly try to run a marathon then you’ll likely get injured. Roy has spent a career, or at least the latter part, playing One-Day and T20 cricket and has recently struggled to fulfil those requirements. Now we’re expecting him to last five days!

I sincerely hope that Jason Roy has a long and fruitful Test career averaging forty plus home and away and I’ll be the first to provide an honest assessment and say well done… but he wouldn’t be my pick!

England have also selected Lewis Gregory but what is the Somerset man’s point of difference? His selection seems reminiscent of recent eras where early season form precedes consistency over the years. Gregory might currently be doing a bit better than Ben Coad, Jamie Porter or even Chris Rushworth but is he really a long-term solution, is he really better than those players? It’s the same as picking Mark Stoneman because he averaged 80 one year in a career of averaging 30 but ignoring James Hildreth for only averaging 40 most years. The odd peak amongst troughs wins selection over year on year consistency. The Somerset man’s selection smacks of a token “Yes we value county cricket” by the selectors. They’ve rested the likes of Buttler and Ben Stokes and feel that they can get away with bringing in a bowling all-rounder who’s topping the domestic charts for one-match (Keep county fans happy) against Ireland. Don’t forget that Sam Curran is capable of batting higher than he has done.

Lewis Gregory is a fine player whose all-round abilities can be of use to England but I’m just uninspired by these unoriginal selections. England have also selected Olly Stone. If I’m questioning Jason Roy’s fitness then…

If these players perform against Ireland in home conditions does that tell us that they’re good enough to be Test cricketers? Will the same people that malign Woakes as a horse for a course celebrate these players as the finished article based on a fifty of fifer against a country that has just three domestic teams? What message does these selections send to opening batsman out there or domestic bowlers who perform year on year? They can only beat what’s in front of them!

I’m sorry. I’ve become the negative, cynical hypocrite that I never wanted to be but so be it. That’s what being an England cricket fan will do to you. It’s not by choice!

Cricket Captain 2018: White Ball Wonders… Well Almost!

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Having already defeated Scotland 1-0 in the ODI format, we went undefeated in three further white-ball series before coming a cropper in the final limited overs duel of the summer.

Firstly we saw off Australia in an ODI series, sealing the honours in what was effectively a final in the fifth match. That victory resulted in us assuming the world number one ranking in the fifty over format.

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Newcomer Jamie Overton claimed the best ever haul by an Englishman in ODI cricket. The Somerset quick snaffled amazing analysis of 6-14 to help us win the 3rd match with Australia crumbling for just 105. Overton finished the series with 10 victims at 11.40 apiece.

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In the one-off T20I that followed, 42-year-old Darren Stevens made a long awaited international debut and promptly stole the show. With us in trouble at 93-6, the Kent all-rounder promptly put on an undefeated 57 with fellow debutant Lewis Gregory (18 not out) of Somerset. Stevens finished 49 not out from 34 balls. It seemed as though it was written in stars!

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Next came India where we ran out 2-1 winners in the T20I series. Each of our top three, Dawid Malan, Alex Hales and Jason Roy registered a half-century during the competition. Darren Stevens continued to enjoy the international environment. The county veteran concluded the series with six victims at just 15.80.

Unfortunately in the final limited overs affair of the summer, the ODI series against India, the wheels rather came off. We went down 3-0, struggling to readapt to the fifty over game and failing to post competitive totals. The bowling efforts of twenty-year-old Josh Tongue (4 @ 25.00) as well as the recalled Liam Dawson (6 @ 28.67) were encouraging however.

Now it’s back to the five-day format for a mouth watering five-match series against India. India will have gained confidence from their ODI series win but in truth our Test team is an almost different XI entirely and we’re still buoyed from the emphatic victory against Pakistan.

Cricket Captain 2018: Edinburgh Steal!

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As Coach and Selector of the England cricket team, for the one-off ODI against Scotland in Edinburgh, I made a brave but sensible call. Provided the volume of cricket on the horizon in all forms of the game and given the travel involved in crossing the border north, I rested our senior players. This presented those cricketers with the opportunity to find form at domestic level ahead of the ODI and T20I series against Australia. A thirteen-man squad made up of entirely uncapped players was selected for the Scotland encounter. This provided a great opportunity to breed competition amongst our ranks. Nottinghamshire all-rounder Steven Mullaney assumed the honour of captain on international debut. All-rounders Lewis Gregory and Ben Raine were the unlucky members of the squad who didn’t make the playing XI. Any suggestion that we were selling spectators short by not selecting our first choice XI was soon put to bed as one of the most absorbing ODIs in the history of the game played out before our eyes.

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Every single member of our batting unit made a contribution with Joe Clarke, fresh off the back of his 80 in the second Test against Pakistan, top scoring with a free flowing 52 from 64 deliveries. Some late hitting from skipper Steven Mullaney (49 not out) and Ed Barnard (21 not out) helped lift us to 266 for 6 from our allotted 50 overs. Looking back we could possibly have put our feet on the gas sooner in order to try and set a higher target.

Scotland looked well placed for victory courtesy of Calum MacLeod’s run-a-ball 60 at the top of the order but we turned the screws on the middle order as the home side’s hopes of a famous run chase slipped away.

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Gloucestershire recruit Ryan Higgins led the way with figures of 9-1-37-4.

Scotland seemed out of it at 221-9 before Safyaan Sharif (27) and Brad Wheal (24 not out) put on 45 for the last wicket. Ed Barnard was denied the winning wicket because of a no-ball call and there was also a dropped catch at slip. With Scotland needing just four runs to seal a seismic result, Essex’s Matt Coles trapped Sharif LBW to spare our blushes!

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Next we host Australia and India with regular first-team players likely to be recalled. Should injury strike then we’ve identified a strong pool of players from which to call up on.

#undefeated

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.

Cricket Captain 2017: 2020 T20I World Cup Review

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… or 2020 2020 Review if you prefer?

By the time England secured victory over Bangladesh in their final match of the Caribbean staged tournament, their fate had already been sealed.

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The welcome rare win had been preceded by defeats against India, South Africa and Pakistan. At least all the island hopping allowed England’s players to enjoy the sights and sounds of the West Indies! England’s batting throughout the competition was at best woeful. Only captain Liam Livingstone (101 runs @ 25.25) and Zimbabwe born Ryan Higgins (91 runs @ 22.75) walked away from the tournament with their reputations in tact. The likes of Dawid Malan, Riki Wessels and Joe Clarke all failed to really get going during the competition.

On the bowling front, Toby Roland-Jones repaid the optimistic faith (He averaged 167.00 not long ago!) shown in him by the selectors by claiming 11 scalps @ just 10.36 apiece including two four-wicket hauls.

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Having performed well on the tour of New Zealand winter past, the Middlesex man now looks set to be presented with the opportunity to lead England’s Test attack against South Africa this summer.

For others however, their international futures are uncertain. Ross Whiteley arrived on the international scene with a reputation for frequent six-hitting. The left-handed bat has however only mustered a paltry return of 99 runs in ten T20I innings to date. In truth, given that he can’t even get a game for his county side, he probably shouldn’t have been included in the World Cup squad at all.

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The likes of Matt Coles and Lewis Gregory will also be sweating over their international futures though Toby Roland-Jones’ redemption may help provide others with further opportunities.

Next for England it’s demanding back-to-back home and away series against South Africa before a challenging trip to Bangladesh. After an abysmal last twelve months for a beleaguered England side, it can only be hoped that the selectors make the right calls and the players apply themselves better than has recently been the case.

Batsmen Brett D’Oliveira, Aneurin Donald and Sam Hain as well as bowlers Tom Helm and Jamie Porter are among some of the players who could force their way into the international reckoning this season.

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Possible Test squad for the first Test against South Africa: Luke Wells, Max Holden, Tom Westley, Liam Livingstone (c), Riki Wessels, Sam Curran, John Simpson (w), James Harris, Jofra Archer, Toby Roland-Jones, Jack Leach, Hamidullah Qadri

Hong Kong Sixes 2017: England Squad?

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The Hong Kong Sixes tournament is back on the cricket calendar after a five-year absence. The pint-sized cricket competition will make a welcome return this October.

http://www.hkcricket.org/en/hk-sixes/hong-kong-sixes-2017

Historically the various cricketing nations around the globe have treated the tournament with a variety of seriousness and not so seriousness, with some teams sending amateurs or ex-pros. England normally send a reasonable bunch of fringe limited overs players.

Silly Point has composed an England squad and put forward one or two other possible candidates as well. Remember that every player bar the wicketkeeper must bowl.

My squad is as follows:

Tim Bresnan, Yorkshire (Captain)

He bats, he bowls, he captains, he’s my selection to lead the side. I find it difficult to comprehend that Bresnan’s England career is over. He required surgery and is no longer the spring chicken that rocked up for Yorkshire’s first XI aged 15 but in limited overs cricket at least, he could surely still have a role to play for the national side. He’s led Yorkshire this year following injury to Gary Ballance and the other squad members would learn from his international experience and professionalism.

Ben Duckett, Northamptonshire (Wicketkeeper)

Duckett just pips Joe Clarke for the ‘keeping gloves. It would be a good way to reintegrate Duckett into England colours following a difficult winter. After a slow start to the domestic season he has started to make significant contributions with the bat as well as keeping wicket on occasions. Sam Billings, more of a genuine gloveman option in T20I/ODI cricket could also come into consideration.

Lewis Gregory, Somerset

Gregory made the England squad a few years back for a one-off ODI against Ireland. Unfortunately for the Somerset man, he was the one squad member to miss out on the final XI leaving him cap-less. A series of injuries have meant that he remains so but when fit Gregory possesses the all-round strengths that make him an extremely tempting selection in this format.

Ryan Higgins, Middlesex

Higgins has contributed some brutal batting displays for Middlesex in limited overs cricket this term and has also dislodged Ollie Rayner from the County Championship side. The Zimbabwe born former England Under-19s player is one of a handful of capable all-round players that make my squad.

Benny Howell, Gloucestershire

A shrewd performer for Gloucestershire, particularly in the shorter forms of the game. French born Howell has cropped up in both the BPL and PSL. His experience and all-round capabilities would make him a valuable asset to the the squad.

Liam Livingstone, Lancashire

LL’s introduction to international cricket was slightly underwhelming but he’s an almost irresistible selection for this tournament. His destructive batting, much improved bowling and reliable fielding win him a place in my squad. Like Bresnan, Livingstone has gained captaincy experience this season and is capable of coming back stronger following his tough international baptism.

Ross Whiteley, Worcestershire

Whiteley hit the headlines this term when he struck six sixes in an over against Yorkshire in a T20 match (I was there, remember?). Yes it was an extremely short boundary and yes it was a third choice spinner but rather audaciously, Whiteley sits in the top ten of the sixes per (T20) match ratio, modestly and unobtrusively placed alongside the likes of Brendon McCullum, David Warner and Chris Gayle. He would probably be the weakest bowling option in the team but has clocked up 29 First Class victims.

Some other players that could come into consideration:

Adam Lyth

Riki Wessels (Wicketkeeper)

Brett D’Oliveira

Liam Dawson

Paul Coughlin

Craig Overton

Tymal Mills