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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Cricket Captain 2018

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It’s back folks. Cricket Captain is with us for another year. I’ll be assuming my role as Selector/Coach of the England side and attempting to lead them to glory in the Test, ODI and T20I formats… probably on easy mode!

Why have Ed Smith and Trevor Bayliss take up two roles when yours truly is capable of performing them as one?

We had some great moments on Cricket Captain 2017, notably Mark Stoneman’s 296 against West Indies, David Willey’s 8-14 versus Australia and Adil Rashid’s 166/7-61 in Sri Lanka! What can we achieve on Cricket Captain 2018?

You can of course play many domestic (First Class, List A and T20) leagues in the game as well as creating custom series. Afghanistan and Ireland are fully playable as Test nations in this year’s release.

I’m hoping to be able to record some of my game play on the Mac. I’ll possibly upload that YouTube and put the links here on WordPress.

If you have any questions about the game, maybe you’re thinking about purchasing, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch. I’ll include the link to the forum below…

https://childishthings.com/forum/forum/current-and-future-games/cricket-captain-2018

Root Responds/Poysden Plucked!

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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!

Duckett Delivers!

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Well it’s a start anyway!

Just a few days after posting my audio cast that primarily focused on Northamptonshire batsman Ben Duckett’s struggles with the willow, namely his fiftyless start to the season…

https://sillypointcricket.com/2018/05/29/ducketts-despair/

… he’s only gone a scored a One-Day Cup half century against Derbyshire in his very next match…

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/8335/game/1127812/northamptonshire-vs-derbyshire-north-group-royal-london-one-day-cup-2018/

Maybe had another Silly Point favourite, Mark Footitt been playing, then things might have been different!

No, I’m sorry Mark Stoneman but I just don’t have the time to record an audio cast about your fiftyless campaign!

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

Stoneman’s Rocky Patch!

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No sooner have you’ve released an audio recording proclaiming that England’s batting options are limited, do all the contenders go big right on cue!

Mark Stoneman’s grip on the England opener’s slot is rapidly slipping from his grasp, literally as he’s just grassed teammate (?) Jonny Bairstow in Surrey’s match against Yorkshire. Of course knowing my luck, he’ll register a double ton in the second dig and cement his place in the England XI. In my audio post I mentioned that Stoneman’s challenge could most likely come from his domestic partner Rory Burns. Burns made 193 in Surrey’s last match and many have wondered how, with a record far superior to Stoneman’s, that Rocky got the gig in the first place.

Middlesex man Nick Gubbins, who batted well in the North v South series has recovered from injury and made 99 last time out for the London outfit. He could be primed for the call. Another left-handed opener, Keaton Jennings, has ticked off a maiden ton for his new home side Lancashire. Stoneman desperately needs runs and soon.

The middle order is a little trickier, unless captain Joe Root will move to number three. Dawid Malan has made a ton and a seventy-odd in his last two County Championship matches but is best served staying at five for England. He deserves to stay in the team following his Ashes hundred, a fifty in England’s last Test (Stoneman and Vince made fifties in their last innings too!) and his domestic form. He may have to move to four though in order to accommodate either Surrey’s Ollie Pope of more likely, Worcestershire’s more experienced Joe Clarke. Both have made two Championship tons this term but neither are batting at number three. If England do select the obdurate Burns alongside Cook (Assuming Cook is in!) at the top of the order then that may save the more aggressive and fluent James Vince at number three, meaning Pope and Clarke will have to wait. If Pope and Clarke don’t get their chance now then they may do so in the future or they could become the next James Hildreth. The Somerset stalwart also now has two County Championship centuries this campaign. That’s just the 43 First Class tons at an average of… 43 for Hildreth then!

Of course picking players on early season form is what England did with Gary Ballance and Stoneman (And Ed Smith!) and look where we are now? When Stoneman hit the ground running last year, so many supposed experts came crawling out of the woodwork claiming that they’d campaigned for Stoneman for England for years. Where are they now? Weren’t they the same people that have been banging on about Hameed? Runs or no runs only serves to highlight how difficult Ed Smith’s job is. It’s so easy to be swayed. It’s not art or science but a little bit of both!

Quite frankly, I give up predicting England’s batting order for the first Test against Pakistan. Let’s just wait and see…

Ashes Cricket (PS4): Global Test League – Calypso Calapsyco!

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Calypso music originated in Trinidad and that’s where England’s cricketers collapsed in epic fashion to squander a first innings lead and succumb to defeat against West Indies in the latest round of Global Test League fixtures.

Disclaimer: Let’s step aside from pretending this is all real for a moment. Ashes Cricket’s developers Big Ant Studios released a mid-match patch whilst I was sailing to victory against the home side. Ultimately Big Ant have made the game harder/better. Batting in Tests is now actually like batting in Tests in real life. Well maybe not quite but you get what I mean! I’m looking forward to playing more and adapting my game, having to graft with the bat but in regards to this match, when you’ve become used to smacking the ball to all parts, it’s a difficult habit to break.

In the first innings of the match, England reached 60-0 having chose to bat but lost both openers (Jennings 38/Stoneman 22) in quick succession before being bundled out for 222. Wicketkeeper Ben Foakes top scored with 55 and England were indebted to a career best 34 from Durham pacer Mark Wood on Global Test League debut.

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West Indies lost opener Kraigg Brathwaite before a run was scored and the wickets were shared around as England gained a 50-run first innings lead. The Caribbean side were aggrieved at a couple of umpiring decisions, including the one above that was given out would you believe? After David Willey claimed his first victim of the match, England actually took a team hat-trick that included back-to-back run outs!

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Mark Wood (11-3-34-2) claimed two wickets in two balls to mop up the West Indies’ tail in their first innings.

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As well as Wood, James Anderson (2-39), Stuart Broad (2-32) and the critic silencing David Willey (2-25) each claimed two scalps as did run outs.

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It soon went all wrong for England though. The visitors were 32-6 at one stage in their second innings before Dawid Malan (34) and Mark Wood (24) grafted 63 for the sixth wicket. On GTL debut, Wood put a number of senior batsmen to shame. Captain Joe Root’s horror show of a competition continued. Scores of just 5 and 1 bring the Yorkshireman’s tournament total to a paltry 211 runs at a woeful average of 16.23. This is the worst of any specialist batsman in the inaugural Global Test League. Root has been able to get away with this whilst his team have been winning but when the team starts losing, both his captaincy and place in the team will come under scrutiny.

West Indies were left needing 154 for victory and though England occasionally checked the hosts’s progress and hinted at pulling off a heist when reducing the home side to 107-4, a missed run out chance put paid to their chances. Shai Hope (54 not out) and Roston Chase (24 not out) saw West Indies to a famous victory.

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Young Hampshire spinner Mason Crane bowled respectably enough in the West Indies first innings but was let down by numerous misfields in the second. Crane finished with figures of 16-1-66-0 but in truth there was little threat. His Hampshire team-mate Liam Dawson (17 & 1) failed with the bat having been promoted to number six and barely turned his arm over (7.3-2-24-0) in this match. He now averages a competition high 382.00. A record not to be proud of!

Congratulations to West Indies on a thoroughly deserved victory. England now head to Zimbabwe having lost to them at home in the opening round of the competition. England need to get back to winning ways immediately at the race for the title of Global Test Champions hots up. With the hosts’ pitch expected to favour spin, the composition of England’s XI will be fascinating and may present an opportunity for England’s spinners to finally prove their worth. Mark Stoneman will be sweating over his place while the likes of Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid amongst others will hope for a recall.

Ashes Cricket (PS4): Global Test League – England vs. South Africa

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Following England’s win in Pakistan, the side hosted South Africa in a Global Test League top of the table clash at Sussex. The performances of Stuart Broad and James Anderson (Pictured above) would be crucial to England’s chances of success…

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David Willey (0 & 4) failed to make an impression with the bat but claimed some vital South African scalps (1-60 & 2-98) on Test debut.

The left-arm pace of David Willey replaced the left-arm spin of Liam Dawson following the Hampshire twirler’s wicketless display in Lahore. Unfortunately for Willey, the Yorkshire and former Northamptonshire all-rounder would be dismissed first ball on his maiden Test outing but did claim match figures of 3-158. Those figures might not sound too great but Willey snapped up the crucial dismissals of Quentin de Kock (35) in the first innings and Hashim Amla (96) in the second. Having made 104 in the first innings, Amla fell just four runs short of registering a century in each innings.

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Left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj (6-115 & 3-67) was the key reason for some all too familiar England batting collapses.

Maybe Liam Dawson can learn from the tourist’s own left-arm spinner, Keshav Maharaj. Whilst pacers Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel failed to take a wicket between them, Maharaj finished with figures of 9-182.

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Former Essex stumper Ben Foakes compiled a maiden Test ton in only his third Test match.

Surrey gloveman Ben Foakes (112) scored a crucial maiden Test century. This was when England had slipped from 212-2 to 261-7. Keaton Jennings (113) also made a hundred, his fourth of the competition. It will be Stuart Broad (103) and James Anderson’s (56 not out) last wicket stand of 126 that will live long in the memory though. That’s 118 runs in seven innings without dismissal for Lancashire’s Anderson in the GTL.

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England skipper Joe Root dropped Hashim Amla on 49 in South Africa’s second innings. Amla went onto make 96. In all, the home side dropped four catches in the visitor’s second dig!

After South Africa had been dismissed for 330 (Amla 104, Broad 3-63) and England for 565 (Jennings 113, Maharaj 6-115), South Africa set about erasing the defecit and went onto set England a testing total of 313 to win. The visitors having made 547 in their second innings. As mentioned before, Amla followed up his first innings 104 with 96 but it was the scintillating AB de Villiers, whose knock of 266 not out took him ahead of Jennings to the top of the competition run charts and helped get South Africa back in the match. James Anderson stuck to the task though and was rewarded for pitching the ball up and getting some movement. He claimed the home side’s first ever Global Test league five-wicket haul (5-121) and finished with match analysis of 7-198 to go with his undefeated half-ton. With 20 victims in total, Anderson is England’s top GTL wicket-taker.

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Dawid Malan (58 not out) and Stuart Broad (5 not out) saw England home though the result was not without a fright!

For the second time in the match, England’s opening batsmen, Keaton Jennings (73) and Mark Stoneman (53) put together a century partnership to lay the foundations for England’s run-chase. They were dismissed in quick succession however before England suffered an all too familiar batting collapse. Jonny Bairstow, recalled to the side at number three at the expense of James Vince and playing as a specialist batsman, followed his first innings seven with just nine. He did at least claim a maiden Test wicket in the match, Keshav Maharaj the unfortunate victim. Chris Woakes looked to be taking England to victory but fell for 53 with just five runs required. Dawid Malan remained composed however and finished 58 not out, fittingly being joined by first innings centurion Stuart Broad, who would hit the winning runs and secure England their fifth straight victory following the shock opening round loss at home to Zimbabwe.

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England now stand alone at the top of the inaugural Global Test League.

Next up for England are West Indies in the Caribbean. In terms of selection for that match, though Mark Stoneman failed to convert scores of 59 and 53 into a maiden Test hundred against South Africa, two century opening stands alongside Keaton Jennings mean that his place is safe for now. Jonny Bairstow will have to wait and see if he gets another chance at three following his double failure. Chris Woakes struggled with the ball but made a vital half-century in England’s run chase and though David Willey didn’t set the world on fire, he did claim some vital scalps on Test debut. Liam Dawson may get one more chance to prove himself in helpful conditions though Moeen Ali will be considered for a recall and Mason Crane could even win a Test cap. Until next time…

Bookends

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England’s long winter has reached its conclusion. It began with fifties for each of England’s Ashes virgins and it has ended the same way.

Mark Stoneman, James Vince and Dawid Malan have each bookended their Australasian adventure with half-centuries in Brisbane and Christchurch.

For Hampshire’s Vince, it began with 83, run out on that fateful day Down Under. The Ashes were lost there and then. It ended with 76 across the Tasman and in truth, there wasn’t a lot in between.

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For Middlesex man Malan, there was the most extreme performance of the three. His 140 in Perth means that whatever happens, he has a Test ton to his name. He made three fifties in four innings in the T20Is as well. His one failure coming when he was fantastically run out by… David Warner! Though he contributed little in his first three innings in The Land of the Long White Cloud, he has at least rounded things of with a fifty.

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For Surrey’s Stoneman, well, he did what everybody expected and what his track record, particularly when he was up at Durham, suggested he would do. He fought, he battled, he occasionally punched a couple of boundaries in quick succession but he didn’t go on. He didn’t register a century.

Without fifties in their final innings of the tours, Vince almost certainly and Stoneman possibly, would have bid farewell to their Test careers. Even another failure for Malan could have proven critical provided England’s desperation to have Ben Stokes bat at five. Malan need only look as far as Stoneman’s former county colleague and opening partner Keaton Jennings to know that a hundred doesn’t necessarily keep you in the team for long.

Of course England are currently advertising for new selectors, so whether or not any of said three batsmen ever play for England again is very much up in the air!