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.

More Footsteps for Footitt!

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Left-arm pace bowler Mark Footitt is on the move once again. Footitt, who came so close to a Test cap on the tour of South Africa two winters ago, only left Surrey to rejoin Nottinghamshire towards the end of last season. Unable to break into a first XI that includes Stuart Broad, Jake Ball, Luke Fletcher and crucially fellow left-armer Harry Gurney, Footitt has rejoined another ex-employer, Derbyshire, on a 28-day loan. If Ball can join Broad in the England XI and finally transfer his county pedigree to international level then Footitt could be required for Notts upon his return.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/13247.html

During the off-season, another very good seamer in Brett Hutton, realised that opportunities at Nottinghamshire would be limited and has made an impressive start to life at new county Northamptonshire.

Back to Footitt, he did represent England in a tour match but was somewhat erratic and the likelihood of him wearing the shirt pictured above (Well not that actual shirt!) seem extremely slim. Still, if Cricket Captain 2018 ever gets released then, in my Ed Smith role, I’ll try my best to present Footitt with an England cap!

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!

Application for Role of National Selector

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https://www.ecb.co.uk/news/642891/ecb-announces-new-approach-for-england-men-s-selection

Dear Andrew Strauss

Please find enclosed my application for the role of National Selector as advertised on http://www.ecb.co.uk

On the MAC version of Cricket Captain 2017 (Admittedly on Easy Mode!), I was responsible for the selection of the England side that won the 2017 Champions Trophy on home turf. Who can forget David Willey’s 8-58 against Australia?! That summer, I had already made the brave decision to recall batsman Ben Duckett to the Test side despite his tough baptism the previous winter.

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Duckett repaid the faith by averaging 82.89 in the respectable 2017-18 2-2 away Ashes series draw.

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In 2018 I introduced Yorkshire seamer Ben Coad to Test cricket and he duly struck with his first delivery against Pakistan. Coad went on to claim just shy of 200 wickets as well as surpassing 1000 runs during my time as selector. As was the case with the recall of Duckett, there was resistance from some quarters towards the selection of Coad. Some in the media believed that I was applying Yorkshire bias and only selecting Coad because we were born in the same town. Proving the doubters wrong, his performances with bat and ball throughout his career confirmed that I possess nous when it comes to identifying under the radar talent.

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Mason Crane’s dismissals of three Indian batsmen, all first ball on T20I debut was another highlight of that summer.

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Another spinner, Adil Rashid, excelled in Sri Lanka where he famously followed up figures of 7-66 with a monumental knock of 161. Again, there were those that campaigned against the selections of said spinners, at least in the respective formats in which they would go onto succeed. Again, those doubters were silenced.

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Following our Champions Trophy success in 2017, we promptly won the 2019 ODI World Cup. Once again the nation were euphoric in their celebrations of home soil success.

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My insistence that Moeen Ali replace Jason Roy at the top of the order was both ruthless and crucial to our success. Moeen’s blazing knock of 112 from 80 deliveries in the final against India will live long in the memory of many.

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Alongside Moeen, Ben Duckett totalled 562 runs at 80.29, again this demonstrates my ability to get the best out of mischievous players. Many would’ve left the Northamptonshire batsman on the international scrapheap but his performances in both the Ashes and ODI World Cup were immense.

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Chris Woakes claimed twenty tournament wickets at just 12.55 apiece and please don’t ignore the contribution made by left field selection Luke Fletcher. This included a vital wicket in the final at Lords.

Yes we lost the 2019 Ashes 3-0. Thirty-five-year-old Daryl Mitchell failed to back-up his debut knock of 73. He didn’t make another fifty before being dropped for the fifth Test and James Harris (0-102) had an ignominious introduction to Test cricket. The selection of thirty-nine-year-old Jimmy Adams’ (34 runs @ 8.50) in T20I cricket didn’t work either.

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Nor did the selection of Ross Whiteley (99 runs @ 9.90). However, there would be over 200 Test wickets for Jack Leach, a Test century for Max Holden and many Test tons for Will Rhodes as well as numerous ODI tons for Daniel Bell-Drummond during my time as Selector. Sometimes you have to sift through the dirt to find the diamonds.

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I would like to think that the T20I career of sometime captain Benny Howell…

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… and ODI career of Ollie Rayner, the latter also earning two Test caps, will reflect well on my ability to identify talent and think outside the box when selecting the composition of a side. Even if these players didn’t excel statistically, they were under rated efficient contributors to the side.

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Other highlights during my tenure included: In Bangladesh in 2021, having lost the first Test by just one wicket courtesy of Jofra Archer’s no ball, we chased down 431 in the second Test to level the series. Liam Livingstone (122 & 166) and Will Rhodes (111 & 128*) famously made tons in each innings.

Middlesex’s Harry Podmore claimed figures of 3-51 on ODI debut but disappointingly we failed to progress from the round robin stage of the 2022 Champions Trophy. Paul Coughlin (Two six-wicket hauls) though was for a time the number one bowler in the world in ODI cricket.

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In the 2022 T20I World Cup we reached the semi-final before we were cruelly defeated by India. Hampshire’s Lewis McManus, another shrewd selection, contributed 225 runs at 56.25 including a swashbuckling ton against Pakistan.

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Another gloveman, Sussex’s Ben Brown, registered fifties in his first two T20I caps.

Unfortunately by the time 2023 came around we were ranked as low as 8th in ODI cricket and 9th in both Tests and T20Is. We scored 447 in the fourth innings of an Ashes Test but still lost!

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On the plus side, Surrey all-rounder Sam Curran, originally bravely selected whilst still in his teens, passed 100 wickets ODI cricket. Another find was Nottinghamshire batsman Billy Root, who stepped out of his brother’s shadow to register an ODI century against West Indies. I’m extremely proud of his selection because both the media and public were extremely sceptical.

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After a run of ten straight Test defeats, we did at least beat Zimbabwe 2-0 at home. Liam Livingstone and Ben Foakes’ partnership of 351 proving crucial.

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Somerset speedster Jamie Overton claimed nine wickets at just 15.56 upon his introduction to Test cricket.

Opening batsman Mark Stoneman went onto pass 4000 Test runs though we probably shouldn’t have allowed him so much opportunity to close in on 5000 when clearly past his sell by date!

Lewis McManus and Sam Northeast recorded a record-breaking partnership of 263 in an ODI and Sam Evans scored centuries in each of his first three Tests.

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Defeats against Namibia and Canada in the 2023 ODI World Cup was a disappointing way to bow out. Durham bowler James ‘Killer’ Weighell’s figures 0f 10-0-102-0 against the North American side were confirmation that I’d persisted with him too long.

I don’t think Hamidullah Qadri’s Test bowling average ever got below 60.00 and Mark Footitt (7 wickets in 5 Tests) was another one I probably got wrong. Don’t let those performances against associate nations, world rankings or runs of defeat after defeat deflect from my achievements though. A Champions Trophy and ODI World Cup win are not to be scoffed at, particularly when under the pressure of playing in front of the expectations of a home crowd. The selections and performances of Will Rhodes (Tests), Daniel Bell-Drummond (ODIs) and Lewis McManus (ODIs/T20Is) as well as Jack Leach, Ben Coad, Jofra Archer and Liam Norwell (Tests), Jamie Overton and Paul Coughlin (ODIs) demonstrate my ability to see beyond the obvious and identify players capable of succeeding at international level.

I’m extremely confident that I can transfer my success (Mediocrity, call it what you will!) in virtuality to reality and excel in the role of National Selector. I’m available for interview at any time and await your response with much anticipation.

Yours faithfully

 

Paul Morris

Cricket Captain 2017: 2019 ODI World Cup Review

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With an Ashes series on the horizon, England’s cricketers have laid down a marker by comprehensively and deservedly winning the 2019 ODI Cricket World Cup in their own backyard!

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Moeen Ali didn’t even start the World Cup in the England team but after dislodging Jason Roy at the top of the order, the Worcestershire man finished the tournament by blazing an express paced 80-ball 112 in the final and set the hosts on course for global glory!

Like Moeen, Surrey’s Sam Curran came into the team during the tournament and excelled in the latter stages. Like Roy however, David Willey’s inconsistency led to him missing out in the latter stages. For both Roy and Willey, their exclusions could be terminal to their international careers.

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In the runs stakes, Ben Duckett led the way with 562 runs @ 80.29 including three centuries. Liam Livingstone (405 runs @ 50.62) and Joe Root (344 runs @ 43.00) also formed part of England’s run-reaping middle-order. England’s numbers one to five all contributed at least one century during the tournament.

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On the bowling front, captain Chris Woakes topped the charts with 20 wickets just @ 12.55 apiece. Yorkshire Spinner Adil Rashid (15 @ 23.40) was next whilst Durham’s Ben Stokes and the aforementioned Sam Curran claimed 12 wickets each.

Stumper Jos Buttler’s impeccable glove work (17 catches) also merits more than just a fleeting mention… but here’s just a fleeting mention!

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The group stages, despite a defeat against India and scare against Namibia, were only a precursor of what was to come. The hosts just held off Australia in the quarters and got revenge against India in the semis. Having already defeated New Zealand in the round-robin, things went as expected in the final.

The decision to hand the ODI captaincy to Chris Woakes, a move criticised by many just two years ago, paid off handsomely. The Warwickshire man led the side superbly and has surely placed himself on the cusp of a Test recall.

The players are sincerey humbled by the kind suggestions that they should be knighted but maybe backing up World Cup victory with Ashes success this summer would be what truly merits such accolades and possibly make for English cricket’s greatest ever summer. No pressure boys!

For the record, England’s 2019 ODI Cricket World Cup squad was as follows: Alex Hales, Jason Roy, Ben Duckett, Joe Root, Liam Livingstone, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler (w), Adil Rashid, David Willey, Chris Woakes (c), Luke Fletcher, Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Sam Curran, Jamie Overton

Extras

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Bye: The upcoming World XI matches which are to be held in Pakistan have been granted full international status. Talk about devaluing international cricket. Aaaaargh!!!

Leg Bye: The Indoor Cricket World Cup which will take place in Dubai, UAE, is less than a month away…

http://www.worldindoorcricketfederation.com/news.html

No Ball: Nottinghamshire duo Billy Root and Luke Fletcher have both signed new deals with the county. England captain Joe’s brother Billy has rarely disappointed when been presented with first XI opportunities and Luke Fletcher (A star of my England ODI side on Cricket Captain 2017) is one of those underrated but throughly effective players plying their trade on the county circuit. Hopefully he’s well on the way to recovery following his nasty head injury.

Wide: Ashton (Or Ash98?) Agar is penned in for a return to Australia’s Test XI come the first Test against Bangladesh. Only an extremely capable ink eraser can deny him his first Test outing in over four years. Agar has been steadily developing on the domestic scene since his headline hitting international debut during the 2013 Ashes series in England…

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/12088/scorecard/566932/England-vs-Australia-1st-Test

He’s since made a couple of pyjama outings (T20I) and as well as his bowling and batting abilities, he’s an excellent fielder. Agar seems a phlegmatic character and the sort of player that international cricket will be better for having amongst its ranks.

Cricket Captain 2017: SL & WI Tours Round-up

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Sri Lanka TestsWon 3-0

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In the second Test Adil Rashid recorded Test best figures of 7-66…

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then hit a Test best 161!

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Ben Duckett scored a career best 235 not out in the third Test.

Sri Lanka ODIsWon 3-2

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Surrey’s precocious young talent Sam Curran (89 not out) guided the side to victory and a 2-1 series lead in the third ODI.

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Come the end of the ODI series we were sitting pretty at the top of the ODI rankings.

West Indies Tests – Drew 1-1

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Mark Stoneman batted stoically for some of day four then all of day five (130 overs) of the third Test to rescue a series draw.

West Indies ODIs – Lost 3-2 (Having been 2-0 up! An exact reversal of what happened when we played them at home)

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Luke Fletcher has been a consistent performer in the ODI side (Unsung hero?). His efforts weren’t enough to prevent us surrendering a 2-0 lead in the ODI series though.

West Indies T20Is – Lost 2-0

We lost the T20I series as well, despite being in a great position in the final match of the tour.

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Our failure to win either the Test or ODI series ultimately cost us premier position in the world rankings in both forms of the game.

Next it’s back home for the World Cup then the Ashes and hopefully a return to form!

Cricket Captain 2017: Limited Overs Squads Announcement

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England Squad for five-match ODI series vs. Australia.

Squad in full: Alex Hales, Jason Roy, Ben Duckett, Joe Root, Liam Livingstone, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler (w), Adil Rashid, Sam Curran, David Willey, Chris Woakes (c), Tom Westley, Tim Bresnan, Luke Fletcher, Tom Curran

Please note that Moeen Ali and Jonny Bairstow are being rested following the Ashes series. Liam Livingstone and Sam Curran, having both come into the side against the West Indies retain their places. Essex’s Tom Westley and Surrey’s Tom Curran earn their maiden call ups whilst there is a recall for Yorkshire’s Tim Bresnan.

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England Squad for T20I series vs. Australia and New Zealand.

Squad in full: Alex Hales, Jason Roy, Eoin Morgan (c), Joe Root, Moeen Ali, Benny Howell, Jos Buttler (w), Adil Rashid, Liam Plunkett, David Willey, Chris Woakes, Liam Livingstone, Dominic Sibley, Dawid Malan, Jamie Overton

Please note that Ben Stokes is being rested following the Ashes and ODI series. Gloucestershire’s Benny Howell and Middlesex’s Dawid Malan earn their maiden call ups.

Robbed!

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At the commencement of the 2017 county campaign, Leicestershire ruthlessly decided that they wanted opening batsman Angus Robson out of the First XI. They opted to pair young Harry Dearden with not so young Paul Horton at the top of the order and so Robson departed in rather unceremonious fashion. Leicestershire appear to have since given up on Dearden, temporarily at least. They’ve snapped up Surrey stalwart Arun Harinath on loan. No disrespect to Harinath but that doesn’t really add up does it?

The early season headlines seemed to suggest that Robson had joined Sussex but it soon became clear that it wasn’t quite so straight forward. Robson had joined the Hove outfit but only on a season long Second XI trial. If anything that was probably a bit embarrassing for a determined twentyfive-year-old with just shy of 3000 First Class runs. Anyway, it looks as though Robson might get a chance in the Sussex first team in 2018, possibly at the expense of Chris Nash. Nash has been a good servent to Sussex but hasn’t hit his straps this year when opening alongside young Harry Finch. Bermuda born Delray Rawlins is also part of the equation now.

Back to Robson, his recent outings for Sussex 2s have been pretty productive:

97, 15*, 34, 31*, 0, 66, 70*, 63*, 110*, 35, 59*

That first score of 97 may confirm why he finds himself in his current predicament. In the First Class game he has 27 half-centuries but only two hundreds. That’s possibly the difference between his average of 31.52 and maybe 35 plus. To be fair, reviewing those Second XI scores shows us that he’s finished undefeated on quite a few occasions as well as registering a century.

We’ve recently seen his brother Sam get back into the England Lions fold, hopefully next term we can see little brother Angus can regain a place on the First Class circuit.

Also at Sussex, former England paceman Ajmal Shahzad has left the club. I met Shahzad earlier this year outside of cricket and he was kind enough to ‘talk cricket’ with me. Hopefully he’ll find a new home, stay fit and have three of four years racking up the wickets.

Could he go to Surrey?

I’ll admit it, I’ve given up hope of Mark Footitt playing for England. Going to Division Two won’t help his chances though to be fair, returning to Nottinghamshire he’ll be surrounded by internationals. With Luke Fletcher out for the season and Stuart Broad and Jake Ball in the England reckoning as well as James Pattinson’s future uncertain then Footitt will have a part to play. Hold on! Surrey are well stocked with quicks so could Shahzad even return to Notts?

English county cricket becomes more like the Premier League everyday when it comes to transfers. Maybe Footitt and Shahzad could be opening the bowling at Trent Bridge before the summer is out!