Balbirnie Journey

Nothing endears a player to me more than ineptitude and so Irish batsman Andy Balbirnie’s pair on Test debut made him an instant favourite.

With Test outings for the Shamrock side few and far between, I’m desperately hoping that cricket’s not most famous AB gets another chance to shine. In the meantime he needs to dominate domestic and international white-ball cricket. Today, he did just that…

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.newsletter.co.uk/sport/cricket/andrew-balbirnie-shines-as-ireland-beat-afghanistan-1-8835562/amp

Fingers crossed that the Dublin Dabber gets to at least double his Test cap tally and turn his batting average into an integer… oh, it could be against England, against Jimmy and co. on a seaming green Lords deck!

Disclaimer: It escaped my mind that before they take on England, Ireland play another Test in Afghanistan. It won’t be easy but it will be an opportunity for Balbirnie to get up and running.

Reserved Rashid and Wessels’ Special!

Post all the hullabaloo of Adil Rashid’s recall to England’s Test side, the Yorkshire leg-spinner wasn’t even required to bat or bowl as England annihilated India in the second Test at Lords.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/18018/scorecard/1119550/england-vs-india-2nd-test-ind-in-eng-2018

It’s all well and good England’s pace bowlers exploiting home conditions but we’ll be left with the same question as always next time we tour Australia…

Do we retain our swing bowlers or substitute them for out and out pace bowlers who have little experience?

In the meantime, should we risk weakening the team at home by dropping a swinger for Jamie Overton, Saqib Mahmood or Olly Stone etc. so as to provide said pacemen with Test experience prior to our next trip to Oz?

Meanwhile, onto Riki Wessels exploits in the T20 Blast. Last night, the Nottinghamshire opener struck 55 runs from just 18 deliveries against Worcestershire. He didn’t hit any fours but struck nine sixes. That equates to 54 from nine deliveries plus one single, so eight dot balls. Ridonculous!

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/8053/game/1127556/worcestershire-vs-nottinghamshire-north-group-vitality-blast-2018

If Wessels were from a number of other nations, he would surely have won white-ball international (ODI/T20I) recognition. He’s been a consistent performer on the English county (First Class, List A and T20) circuit for a number of years. Some ambiguity regarding his international allegiance early in his career and younger more fashionable options at present, mean that Wessels will likely remain forever uncapped.

Cricket Captain 2018: Cook Serves Another Feast!

Screen Shot 2018-07-21 at 14.20.49

My first series as Coach and Selector of the national side and it’s a thumping series win for the boys. Victory margins of 199-runs and ten-wickets confirm our dominance. Both victories were built around the monumental batting of stand-in skipper Alastair Cook. Chef followed his 160 not out at Lords with an epic 198 in Leeds.

Screen Shot 2018-07-21 at 14.20.24

Pakistan actually won the toss and chose to bat but soon regretted it. Opening batsman Sami Aslam’s 24-ball duck was absolute torture. To their credit, the tourists recovered from 111-6 to a respectable 335 all out. As was the case at Lords, this was again in the main courtesy of their leader Sarfraz Ahmed. The wicketkeeper-batsman made his second ton (117) of the series.

We then posted 476 to gain a healthy first innings advantage. As well as Cook’s monster 198, James Vince again looked good for 66 and Joe Clarke made a magnificent 80 in only his second Test. Mohammad Amir was the pick of the bowlers though still expensive. He finished with analysis of 4-154.

Pakistan then made only 151 second time out. Again Ahmed top scored but this time with only 39. The in-form Mark Wood claimed Test best figures of 4-31.

Haseeb Hameed, recalled at the expense of Mark Stoneman (7 not out) and Dawid Malan (4 not out) then knocked off the mammoth victory target of eleven without loss. Hameed made only 17 in the first innings but batted for 99 minutes in compiling 50 with Alastair Cook. Having made only one in the first innings at Headingley, then it is Dawid Malan who’s place seems most vulnerable should Joe Root return to full fitness. Of course questions will be asked about the captaincy given Cook’s splendid showing in this series.

For the immediate future it’s the white-ball (ODI/T20I) affairs for the team. Next up is a one-off ODI against Scotland in Edinburgh. We may use the opportunity to rest senior players and explore our strength in depth.

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

Vince’s Riposte!

When National Selector Ed Smith paused or possibly terminated James Vince’s England career, he said the following of Vince: “His cricketing history has not produced the runs he should have done. He has not defined enough matches…”. Well Vince defined the One-Day Cup semi-final against Yorkshire yesterday. His magnificent innings of 171 meant that the visitors were never really likely to get close to the home side’s mammoth total.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/8335/scorecard/1127836/hampshire-vs-yorkshire-2nd-semi-final-royal-london-one-day-cup-2018/

Remember that when Vince was dropped by England at the start of the summer, he had just made 201 not out in a First Class fixture against Somerset.

Will Vince ever again be presented with the opportunity to prove his worth at the highest level? Another ton on the big day at Lords will surely increase the Hampshire skipper’s chances.

Duckett’s Despair!

Hello loyal followers.

Please find my latest audio cast regarding one of England’s forgotten men and a little about the upcoming ODI against Scotland right here…

http://www.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/521637.html

Ashes Cricket (PS4): Global Test League – Like a Rash!

IMG_3891

After our sensational victory over India at Lords, we traversed seas for the first time in the Global Test League and headed to Malahide to take on Ireland. Our hosts would push us hard in a high class day/night affair.

Again, we made one change to our side. Yorkshire spinner Adil Rashid was recalled at the expense of Chris Woakes. We were surprised to find the Irish terrain look so spin enticing and so included the leg-spin of Rashid to compliment Moeen Ali’s off-spin. It was Ireland’s spinners who would prosper first though. In our first innings, George Dockrell recorded cracking figures of 6-96 backed up by the part-time turn of Andy Balbirnie (2-27).

IMG_3885

In-form opening batsman Keaton Jennings was dropped behind on 92 and went onto register his maiden competition century (116). Up to this point KJ had made three fifties in four innings but this time (With a little help!) went onto post three figures. Our middle order was blown away by the left-arm hurricane Dockrell and only a counter-attacking knock of 74 from wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow lifted us to 313-9 before a cheeky declaration in the final session of the premier day’s play.

IMG_3886

James Anderson picked up 2-35 with the pink ball in Ireland’s first innings including the prize wicket of opener Ed Joyce. Joyce was peppered by back-to-back short balls before nicking behind when wafting outside off at a slower and fuller delivery. It was a well executed tactic by the head of England’s attack. Anderson’s ten wickets in three matches put him top of the wicket-taking charts for England.

IMG_3888

Adil Rashid returned to England colours with a point to prove and how he proved it. Many were surprised to see Rashid walk out to bat at number six but scores of 49 & 58 were vital to England’s cause. Rashid wore a heavy workload in Ireland’s first innings, bowling a total of 29.1 overs he returned figures of 3-88 followed by 3-54 in the second innings. Admittedly some of his wickets were courtesy of debatable umpiring decisions and it’s true that fortune favoured England throughout this match. Rashid built pressure though and deservedly won the ‘Player of the Match’ award. The contributions of Keaton Jennings (116 & 46) and Toby Roland-Jones (1 & 73, 1-58 & 2-62) in particular, the latter making a crucial double breakthrough in the hosts’ second innings, shouldn’t be underestimated however.

IMG_3889

Having made 99 against India at Lords, Moeen Ali defied the earthquaken like pitch and seemed set for immediate redemption in Malahide but fell to a poorly executed shot when on 98. A severe case of Michael Slateritis for the Worcestershire all-rounder!

IMG_3890

For England’s eighth wicket, Moeen put on 150 with Middlesex man Toby Roland-Jones in what turned out to be a vital second innings partnership. Disappointingly T R-J through his wicket away when on 73 and will surely rue a golden opportunity for a Test ton that went begging. His vital second innings wickets when Ireland were well set at 112-1 but slipped to 133-3 in their pursuit of what would have been a record breaking 520, combined with his batting contributions mean that Chris Woakes isn’t guaranteed an immediate recall to the side. As well as claiming key scalps at crucial moments in the match, that’s fifties in consecutive Tests for Roland-Jones.

IMG_3887

Gloveman Jonny Bairstow was good, bad and darn right ugly behind the stumps. In the first innings he dropped this sitter off the bowling of Roland-Jones. Dawid Malan couldn’t believe what he was seeing!

IMG_3892

Just when Roland-Jones thought his luck had changed after picking up a couple of wickets, remember he was robbed of some against India, Bairstow promptly dropped this dolly that ballooned into the air on the leg-side. Whether or not it was the pink ball, the poor light or just a lack of concentration from JB is unclear. His first innings knock of 74 was crucial to England’s success in this match but he was needlessly run out when seemingly destined for a century and his rather kamikaze second innings knock of 12 from four deliveries in England’s second innings wasn’t really what the team needed. Most crucially though, his butter fingered performance with the gloves mean that Ben Foakes will come into serious consideration ahead of the visit of New Zealand.

IMG_3897

In the end we won by 160 runs having declared both our innings. This was despite Paul Stirling’s stirling knock of 120 not out! Our second innings was a solid effort full of contributions throughout the order and we had enough runs on the board to not get too anxious when Ireland built some partnerships. The recalled Adil Rashid (6-142) led the way with the ball. We can’t deny that Ireland gifted us some silly run outs and the umpires were generous with some of their decisions. We missed a couple of run out chances and dropped easy catches too. No disrespect to Ireland but more experienced Test nations won’t be so generous. We did however improve dramatically with the bat against spin (Mark Stoneman aside) and witnessed not overly experienced bowlers claim vital scalps when required.

We currently sit atop the Global Test League but entertaining New Zealand at Birmingham won’t be easy.