X-Factor!

In this year’s edition of the Big Bash in Australia, teams will have the option to utilise an X-Factor replacement (Basically like the hugely successful supersub!).

Can you detect my lack of enthusiasm?

The rules are that the player been subbed out can’t have batted or bowled more than one over. The X-Factor can only be introduced after the 10th over of the first innings. Teams will have named a 12th and 13th player and can bring either person into the game.

For me, cricket is an eleven per-side sport. If a team has to turn to a batsman that doesn’t usually bowl for an over or two or a lower order batter has to come up trumps with some runs or even just hold an end up then that’s part of the beauty of the game. That’s how players increase their experience and skillset. If teams keep subbing in a batter for a bowler (I know it’s only if they bowled one over) when chasing in the second innings, bowlers will continue to regress as batsmen. Take England for example. We all know how capable Adil Rashid, Jofra Archer and Mark Wood etc are with the bat but because they only very occasionally come out slogging at the end of a T20 innings, when they’re required to construct an innings following a collapse in a fifty-over game or perform in a Test match, they’re already struggling to do so. Stripping them and their peers of more batting opportunities may take us to a game where we literally do divide batsmen and bowlers… maybe batsmen bat twice and bowlers never do!

What does it say about a team’s preparation if they’re having to utilise this option and maybe admit that they got their team selection wrong or misread the surface?

I just feel that it will ruin the integrity of the game. Yes it’s the same and available to everyone but though we have tactical substitutes in other sports as well as concussion and currently Covid replacements in cricket, for me… X-Factor just isn’t cricket!

Suggested England Squad for Tour of Sri Lanka

First XI

Zak Crawley

Dom Sibley

Joe Denly

Joe Root (Captain)

Ben Stokes

Ollie Pope

Ben Foakes (Wicketkeeper)

Dom Bess

Chris Woakes

Sam Curran

Matthew Parkinson

Reserves

Dan Lawrence

Sam Billings (Wicketkeeper)

Liam Dawson

Craig Overton

Mark Wood

Amar Virdi

Young opening batsmen Zak Crawley and Dominic Sibley merit retaining their places at the top of the order. At number three and despite drying up somewhat with the bat, Joe Denly is a good fielder and useful leg-spin bowling option. I’ve therefore resisted the temptation to recall Keaton Jennings. It seems likely that in reality Jennings will be recalled. Yes he has scored hundreds in Asia but he’s also had quite a few failures. He’s a useful part-time bowler but not a spinner and Ollie Pope is equally adept in the short leg position. I’ve named experienced England Lions player Dan Lawrence in the squad because as well as being a competent batsman, he’s a useful spin-bowling option.

In the middle order, captain Joe Root, who deserves credit for his leadership in recent times, Ben Stokes and Ollie Pope pick themselves. The time has come however to omit both Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow. Ben Foakes has performed well in Sri Lanka before and deserves an opportunity to own the wicketkeeping gloves. Sam Billings is a bit of a wildcard but he’s a good player of spin and if selected would, unlike his limited overs opportunities, be able to contruct an innings. As oppose to selecting Buttler or Bairstow as backup, having somebody fresh to the Test environment would be good and could be the making of Billings. We’ve seen recently how illness and injury can present opportunities for reserve players. He and Lawrence both provide good top/middle order cover.

On the spin front, Dom Bess fully merits retention having displayed both control and wicket taking ability in South Africa. I’m also backing Matthew Parkinson to get some warm-up games under his belt and press for selection. It’s been a frustrating winter for him having been usurped by Bess but he provides the leg-spin to compliment Bess’ off-spin. If Jack Leach isn’t fit then slow-left-armer Liam Dawson is a dependable alternative to help England cover all angles of spin. There really aren’t many other left-arm options available to England. Off-spinner Amar Virdi will benefit from being around the first team squad. If Moeen Ali isn’t up for it then England shouldn’t go begging him.

Messrs Anderson, Broad and Archer may as well be rested to ease injury niggles. It makes sense to go with the all round abilities of Chris Woakes and Sam Curran to help yield as many runs as possible. A right-arm/left-arm contrast in the attack is also maintained. Craig Overton can hit the deck hard for a few overs if required as can Wood. Wood has performed superbly in South Africa so could be used to bowl a few overs at the beginning of the innings. Like Overton he can bat too but it may also be worth resting him rather than him being primarily just a fielder in a spin dominated environment.

What are your thoughts? Should some of the senior players be retained? Do England have any other spin bowling options?

What if Archer Doesn’t Hit the Target?

England coach Trevor Bayliss has all but confirmed that Jofra Archer will win his first cap for England in the home ODI series against Pakistan. Presumably Selector Ed Smith is on the same page as Bayliss but what if Archer doesn’t merit selection? What if he’s only taken two One-Day Cup wickets @ 92.50 when the series comes around?

Archer is a good player but whether or not he’s worth all the furore remains to be seen. English cricket has a habit of demanding undamaged goods but should Archer record figures of 10-0-87-0 on international debut and go onto claim only a few wickets at 50 apiece in the series, will it be seen as part of his development or will he be written off as another tried and tested player who didn’t cut it?

http://m.espncricinfo.com/westindies/content/player/669855.html

Mark Wood has cemented his place (Fitness providing) and good for him. As for Liam Plunkett, Tom Curran and even Chris Woakes, their World Cup places suddenly don’t seem so certain. As for David Willey, who couldn’t even get on the pitch in the West Indies ODIs, a strong showing in the shortest format is vital. I was particularly disappointed for Curran. He was a star in the Big Bash but couldn’t impose himself in the ODIs.

When England line-up against West Indies in the World Cup, it’ll be interesting to see which personnel form their pace bowling attack. How has it come to this on the eve of the World Cup? Did England’s attack peak a year or two too early? Will Barbados born Jofra Archer take to the field in English colours against the maroon of West Indies that he wore at youth level?

Rooted!

Why is Joe Root so comfortable walking out to bat at three for England in ODI cricket but so reluctant to do so in Test cricket?

If Root were willing to operate at three in Tests, it would make it so much easier for England to accommodate a promising middle order player… or James Hildreth!

It’s the sort of inconsistency that irks me and talking of things that irk me… I wish that England were playing a Test tomorrow and Jason Roy was playing because I can’t stand all these ‘clever’ sods claiming that Roy could be our saviour in red ball cricket any longer. I CAN understand the logic if he scores over six hundred runs at the World Cup and the England management want to go with the flow but after all the talk of needing batsmen to reign in their attacking instincts, people want a feast or famine white-ball dasher who is at best a First Class number five to open in Tests against Starc, Hazlewood, Cummins and Lyon!

Oh and the Mark Wood bubble has burst already… 7-0-49-0!

Sorry, I’m being cynical (Or just joking) which is the reason why I stopped following 95% of all the other cricket blogs on WordPress!

Starc Reality!

If fit, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc will lead the line for Australia against England come this summer’s Ashes series.

Which English batsman will be taking them on is anybody’s guess!

Up until only recently, it seemed as though Australia were in turmoil and that England were near-certainties for Ashes success. With home advantage and the returning Steven Smith and David Warner likely to be undercooked, at least in the longest format then England probably can still wear the favourites tag.

The identity of the England players and in which order they’ll walk to the wicket is somewhat uncertain and because of that, this summer’s Ashes encounter seems tantalisingly poised.

Australia had a few questions answered in their most recent Test. Admittedly there’s a lot of cricket (Though not Test) between now and the Ashes but Australia’s likely XI is as follows:

Warner, Burns, Khawaja, Smith, Head, Patterson, Paine (C&W), Cummins, Starc, Hazlewood, Lyon

England’s XI is not so predictable. At the very least, opening batsman, number three and first change pace bowler are places that are very much up for grabs, though Mark Wood might have just solved the latter and the top order have today to cement their places.

Will Wood Burn or Flicker?

What do you do when you lose a player from a whole tour due to injury?

You call up a player with absolutely no history of injury ever right?

Err, wait… Mark Wood, IPL star (!), more time on a sickbed than Ralph Fiennes in The English Patient!

To be fair, it’s not as if the two Jamies, Overton and Porter, haven’t attended the treatment table so many times that they got a session free!

Let’s hope that in the absence of Olly Stone, Mark Wood can keep the English fires burning during an Arctic winter… yes I know, the cricket’s in the Caribbean!

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: Cook Serves Another Feast!

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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.

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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.