Footitt Hops It!

England nearly man Mark Footitt is hitting the motorway once again, this time in the direction of Old Trafford.

Why Lancashire (Anderson, Bailey, Onions, Mahmood, Lester, Gleeson, Hurt and some promising youngsters) need another bowler, a specialist First Class one at that, when the One-Day Cup commences after only two County Championship games is beyond me!

Were it not for an erratic performance in a warm-up match then Footitt may have earned a Test cap in South Africa. Having said that, Mark Davies took a five-wicket haul in a tour match and still didn’t make the England XI.

Back to Footitt and I’ve lost track of his career path. It goes something like Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Surrey, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire (Loan), Nottinghamshire, Lancashire (Loan).

Hopefully he can commence the campaign as he did for Surrey only a year or two ago. Hopes of winning full England recognition are surely long gone however.

Disclaimer: It turns out that half Lancashire’s bowling attack are injured which is why they require Footitt’s presence. Fair enough!

Cricket Captain 2018: A Sinking Feeling in New Zealand!

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We ended a run of six Tests without a win by defeating New Zealand in the first Test in the Land of the Long White Cloud. This was despite our hosts, who opted to bat first, been in a position of extreme supremacy when placed at both 150-0 and 217-1. Much like his debut in the Ashes, Jamie Porter endured a wicketless first spell but came back to deliver senational figures of 6-71 with New Zealand collapsing to just 290 all out. Ben Stokes’ magnificent 148 then lifted us to 399 before Porter (3-54) again and left-armer Mark Footitt (4-82) dismissed the hosts for a second time, leaving us requiring 186 for victory. We knocked them off for the loss of four wickets to assume a 1-0 series lead.

In the second Test, with a tour of South Africa on the horizon, we rested Stuart Broad and recalled Yorkshire’s Ben Coad. Having won the toss, we opted to bowl first and Mark Footitt maintained his strong from with career best Test figures of 5-36 to help bowl the home side out for a paltry 204. At 244-5 we seemed well set for a healthy first innings lead but there was no wag in our tail as we collapsed to just 254 all out. New Zealand then made 337 in their second dig, despite Mark Footitt (4-79) causing yet more havoc! Requiring 287 runs for victory, yet again we put ourselves in pole position. We were 91-0 and 155-1 courtesy of Alastair Cook (94) and Haseeb Hameed (75). Hameed hung around as wickets fell but again our tail offered next to nothing. We folded for 256 and to a 31-run defeat.

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As is often the case, we competed, we got ourselves in good positions but let them slip. What could’ve been an excellent away Test series win ended in a disappointing draw.

For the record: Ben Stokes topped the run charts for our side with 241 at 80.33 whilst Mark Footitt, 13 wickets at 20.00 was our leading bail knocker.

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There then followed a five-match T20I series in which the only senior played rested was Test and ODI skipper Joe Root. Unfortunately, following a 3-0 defeat at home to Australia in the summer, new T20I captain Ben Stokes is still seeking his first win. We went down 5-0 in New Zealand and found all manner of ways to lose. Among the positives were Tom Kohler-Cadmore’s 179 runs at 44.75, Jofra Archer’s six wickets at 14.83 as well as a swashbuckling 49 not out from 25 deliveries on debut as well as Ben Sanderson’s five series wickets at just 10.40 apiece. Unfortunately the likes of Matt Critchley and Ross Whiteley endured tough series. Derbyshire’s Critchley conceded 20 from his first over in international cricket whilst Whiteley has a highest T20I score of just 16. Dawid Malan possibly saved his place in the side with a rapid 53 (29) in the fifth and final match, a match lost by just 3 runs!

Tom Kohler-Cadmore and Alex Hales broke the record for our T20I first wicket stand but despite putting on 134, we still managed to mess that match up too!

Bring on South Africa. We’ve always wanted to go on safari!

Cricket Captain 2018: CrAshed and Burned!

Firstly, prior to the 2019 Ashes series, there was an oddly scheduled trio of T20I matches of which we managed to lose each one. Well at least we were consistent!

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Alex Hales’ 124 from just 64 deliveries in the third encounter was a rare highlight. The next highest score in the innings was Ross Whiteley’s career best 10 from six balls.

Onto the Ashes and the first Test ended in a frustrating rain-affected draw. Having bowled Australia out for 250 (Footitt 4-45), we compiled a mammoth 594-9 (Bairstow 173). Australia managed to hold out though and finished on 286-7. In doing so the visitors acquired the momentum for the matches forth.

In the second Test, we again had Australia in strife but Travis Head’s excellent 126 was the difference between the two sides as the visitors assumed a series lead courtesy of a brutal 272-run victory.

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Then, the darkest of days. There have been many bad days in the history of the England cricket team but few Tests have been lost from a position of such supremacy. Having dismissed Australia for 325, Alastair Cook (153) and Haseeb Hameed (140) compiled an opening partnership of exactly 300 (THREE HUNDRED!). Even though an archetypal English collapse ensued, James Vince (113) ensured that each of our top three registered tons to provide us with a first innings lead of 171. The tourists then made a strong second innings score of 368 but that still meant we only needed 198 to square the series. We didn’t even get close, bowled out for a pathetic 124!

In the fourth Test there was at least a return to form for captain Joe Root. The Yorkshireman made 114 in another draw that meant Australia sealed the 2019 Ashes.

The series then ended like it began, with a frustrating draw. In the fifth and final Test Australia compiled 454 in their first innings but we responded with 469. Root (162) maintained his return to form whilst Somerset spinner Dom Bess (79) made an entertaining maiden international fifty. We then bowled Australia out for 327 in their second innings. Essex debutant Jamie Porter responded to a wicketless (23-1-101-0) first innings showing by claiming figures of 3-83. The equation boiled down to us requiring 312 for victory. We committed to go for it. We may as well have lost the series 3-0 than 2-0 playing for a draw. We got mightily close (286-9) and only for the final four overs did we abandon the chase and shut up shop in an attempt to avoid another defeat.

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2-0 is not a thrashing. If time had been limitless we would’ve won the first Test. We should’ve won the 4th but fair play to Australia because they did and we didn’t. We had a real go and came almightily close to winning the fifth. In the early part of the series we dominated their top order but allowed their lower order to score runs. In the latter matches we allowed the top order to make big runs but limited the contribution of the tail. Yes we lost the series and to lose the third Test in the manner that we did was inexcusable. However we regularly competed and are not a million miles away from where Australia are.

For the record: Joe Root (485) topped our run charts, closely followed by Alastair Cook (477) and James Vince (445). Ben Stokes topped the averages with 55.43.

James Anderson and Stuart Broad, with 22 and 18 wickets respectively, silenced their critics. It was a young spinner with 11 wickets at 26.00 who topped the averages however…

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Dom Bess, recalled part way through the series, made an encouraging impression not only with the ball but with the bat too. Our immediate tours however are to New Zealand and South Africa so not necessarily spin paradises. We’re spoilt for choice on the spin front so we’ll see what happens this winter before a short trip to Sri Lanka.

At the conclusion of the Ashes there was a trio of ODI matches. I’m delighted that we restored some pride with a deserved 2-1 win.

Jos Buttler’s 127 not out paved the way for a win in the first match but Australia fought back in the second. Buttler again top scored with 82 but our bowling lacked penetration. David Warner feasted on some insipid deliveries to finish unbeaten on a dominant 161.

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Cometh the hour cometh the man! In the deciding ODI, Surrey starlet Sam Curran, having been dismissed for a duck and gone wicketless on debut in the second encounter. struck 27 from 24 deliveries before claiming astonishing analyse of 6-37!

Another newcomer, Warwickshire tearaway Ed Pollock, followed scores of 2 and 21 with 70 from 77 deliveries at the top of the order. Ben Stokes, promoted to three in place of the recalled James Vince who suffered a disappointing return, made 87 from just 79 deliveries. Jos Buttler again made runs with 54 off 51 in his new position at number five. Having players of the quality of Stokes and Buttler so high in the order rather than leaving them at six or seven is the way forward. After Chris Wood had dismissed danger man David Warner first ball, Aaron Finch was run out off a free hit before Sam Curran took over. #priderestored

Cricket Captain 2018: Caribbean Cruise!

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Another Test series, another victory and a comprehensive one at that. We comfortably saw off our hosts by a whitewashing scoreline of 3-0.

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Having assumed a 2-0 series lead, courtesy in no small part due to Alastair Cook’s mammoth 238, the highest individual Test score of my tenure so far, the opportunity to perform some squad rotation was performed in the third Test.

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In the final match of the series, debuts were presented to Sam Hain, Ollie Pope, Ed Barnard and Dom Bess. Despite the absence of many senior players, our strength in depth was highlighted with yet another victory. Hain hit a magnifienct 195 not out at the top of the order, Ollie Pope sealed victory with 43 not out in the second innings, Ed Barnard made 90 and spinner Dom Bess claimed his maiden Test wicket.

Nottinghamshire’s Stuart Broad led the way with 16 series wickets at just 10.44 apiece. Left-arm quick Mark Footitt also stepped in and claimed 9 victims at 23.22. That’s four consecutive Test series wins  for the team during my tenure.

The ODI series wasn’t quite as successful and ultimately began and finished with frustration. Despite losing only two wickets, we messed up a run chase of just 230 in the first encounter. Well set to assume a series lead, we somehow contrived to only tie the match. West Indies then gained the upperhand before we fought back to lead 2-1. Having posted 314 in the decider, we were confident of sealing a much needed series win. Disappointingly, West Indies knocked off the required runs with consummate ease, leaving the score all square at 2-2.

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A series draw is however a step in the right direction, coming as it was off the back of two series defeats. The left-field selection of Chris Wood continued to prove one of my shrewdest selections to date. The Hampshire left-armer claimed two four-fors in the series and finished with 9 wickets at 28.44. He has been a constant wicket taking threat throughout his short England career so far and provides a point of difference for the team.

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A familiar pattern emerged for Wood’s new-ball partner Jamie Overton however. Once again the Somerset quick started well before falling apart at the seams. Figures of 10-0-96-0 in the final match of the series confirmed that Overton is a player whose workload requires managing. He has claimed wickets since coming into the side though and needs to remain part of the squad even if not playing in every match.

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Worcestershire all-rounder Ed Barnard’s versatile qualities in both multi-innings and limited overs cricket have been a vital addition to our composition. Still only 23, Barnard should bring a lot to our culture in the future.

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Following the ODIs, we emphatically won the T20I series with a scoreline that mirrored the Test series result, 3-0. Alex Hales totalled 214 series runs at an average of 71.33. This included a top score of 116. Middlesex man Dawid Malan returned to the squad following injury and promptly blitzed 60 and 77 not out before being run out for 42. Those runs were achieved at a whopping strike-rate of 182.6! Josh Tongue claimed figures of 4-23 on debut whilst Olly Stone claimed 3 series victims at 15.67 in his international induction. Craig Overton and Yorkshire wicketkeeper Jonny Tattersall also made their T20I debuts.

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The series result was a great one for skipper Eoin Morgan but he has struggled for runs in both the ODI and T20I format throughout the past year. Without an ODI series win in three, the Irishman’s place in the team comes under serious scrutiny ahead of the 2019 World Cup.

Cricket Captain 2018: England Squad Announcement

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England Test squad for the three-match tour of West Indies:

Alastair Cook (Captain), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow (Wicketkeeper), Ed Barnard, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Joe Clarke, Mark Footitt, Sam Hain, Haseeb Hameed, Jack Leach, Matthew Parkinson, Ollie Pope (Wicketkeeper), Ben Stokes, James Vince, Mark Wood

Joe Root was not considered due to injury. He is replaced by James Vince who missed the tour of Sri Lanka through injury. In Root’s absence the side will be led by Alastair Cook, as was the case against Pakistan last summer. Jack Leach, having returned to full fitness, replaces Liam Dawson in the only other change from the squad that toured Sri Lanka.

Cricket Captain 2018: England Squad Announcement

England Test squad for the three-match tour of Sri Lanka:

Joe Root (Captain), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow (Wicketkeeper), Ed Barnard, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Joe Clarke, Alastair Cook, Liam Dawson, Mark Footitt, Sam Hain, Haseeb Hameed, Matthew Parkinson, Ollie Pope (Wicketkeeper), Ben Stokes, Mark Wood

Jack Leach, Dawid Malan and James Vince were not considered due to injury.

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

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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.

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