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…

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

A Rash Decision?/Leach Sucking Blood!

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I can’t say that I’m not disappointed. I thought that on the back of good white ball contributions for England and potentially backed up by a good county season, Yorkshire leg-spinner Adil Rashid could push for a Test recall. That now seems highly unlikely given that he’s committed to a white-ball only contract with his county this term. Rashid is only 29 and though he didn’t claim a hatful of County Championship wickets (10 @ 50.00) last term, he’s also played a vital hand with the bat for Yorkshire over the years, batting and batting successfully as high as number six in First Class cricket.

Meanwhile Jack Leach may reap the benefits of not being rushed into the England first team too soon. It seemed as though he wasn’t the selectors preferred choice and has had to remodel his action. He’s just put in a record-breaking shift (8-110) for England Lions in an unofficial Test against West Indies ‘A’. Admittedly Jomel Warrican and Rahkeem Cornwall bagged plenty of wickets too and the Caribbean is the home of many spin bowlers with averages in the teens but ‘The Bloodsucker’s’ figures and current confidence are highly encouraging. Curiously and in contrast to Rashid, the Somerset spinner has, at the age of 26, never played a T20 match and clocked up only fifteen List A appearances. In 52 First Class outings however, he’s totalled 175 wickets at 25.89. For the record, Mason Crane has 77 at… 46.07! Adil Rashid has 490 (Yes 490!) First Class wickets as well as ten centuries.

What Rashid’s decision means for him, Yorkshire, England and cricket in general remains to be seen. If the longer format of the game does survive, it’s looking as though it and T20 might be considered completely different sports entirely. As for the man in the middle, List A and ODIs, you can’t help but fear a slow but certain death!

A Complete Restructure of International Cricket… Again!

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Following Australia’s annihilation of England in the 2017-18 Ashes, there’s surely no better time to once again campaign for my proposed changes to the structure of international cricket, namely the fact that all Test series should consist of three matches.

Here’s the link to my last foray into global alterations…

https://sillypointcricketsite.wordpress.com/2017/08/31/a-complete-restructure-of-international-cricket-revisited/

Admittedly I keep struggling to remember why I ever thought an odd number of teams was appropriate but even with tweaks, this is the crux of it:

All tours consist of three matches of each format, that’s Tests, ODIs and T20Is. There is an amalgamated points table covering all three formats. There has to be, you can’t have different teams getting relegated and promoted in different formats. It just wouldn’t be logistically possible in future cycles of the competition. The top division would have Test, ODI and T20I status but the division below would only have First Class, List A and T20 status. Nobody should have a divine right to have top status and every country the world over should have the opportunity to work their way to the highest echelons of international cricket. Players, media and fans would have the chance to travel to ‘unvisited’ parts of the world. The league would also provide the very clear qualification process for both ODI and T20I World Cups. That’s that the top positioned teams in each format at the end of each cycle qualify for the respective tournament.

On a side note, it’d be fascinating to see the career statistics of players only in matches that matter. Should Tom Curran and Mason Crane be recorded as actually having played Test cricket? Does Don Bradman average 99.94 if you strip away ‘Dead rubbers’?

Returning to the restructure of the global game, the scaremongers will point to the possibility of Armenia touring Australia, or India (Or whoever?) and all the telly money being relegated but if Armenia did play Australia then the gap will have been closed over many years. Armenia will have played competitive cricket for sometime and earned the right to challenge the historical might. If India or whoever fell from the top table then maybe China, USA of Timbuckzimbaboutermongolialand will pump tons of money into the game.

There are some half-hearted nonsensical league formats coming into place in international cricket shortly but quite frankly they’re a joke. Cricket continues to embarrass itself with an inability to identify a fair structure. Well if you’re reading ICC…

Extras: An Ashes Tour Themed Question Filled Extras!

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Bye: Is Mason Crane the first player to make his Test debut in a city with which he shares his middle name?

http://www.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/660889.html

Leg Bye: Have the following players misunderstood an instruction to have Don Bradman like averages?

Tom Curran: 100.00

Jake Ball: 114.33

Mason Crane: 193.00

Yet Craig Overton (37.66) doesn’t average over a ton. Go figure!

No Ball: Will Chris Lynn ever be fit?

http://www.espncricinfo.com/story/_/id/21998811/chris-lynn-injury-raises-glenn-maxwell-question

Wide: After returning figures of 0-108 in Melbourne, has Jackson Bird played his last Test?

http://www.espncricinfo.com/australia/content/player/215152.html

Crane Soars… but will Crane Reign?

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Could this week get any better for Mason Crane?

Not only is he likely to be called up to the England side for the Global Test League match against Pakistan in Lahore, a virtual Test debut but a Test debut in reality awaits too! Crane will step out for England against Australia in the fifth Test in Sydney. We don’t want another Scott Borthwick episode though. I would like to have seen Crane play earlier rather than a “Why the hell not?” selection in the final match. That is no slight on Borthwick, a more than decent cricketer who claimed wickets in his sole Test outing, only to raise the example that he’s never played again and certainly not come close to doing so in that role. Crane would definitely welcome four wickets on Test debut ala Borthwick.

Meanwhile AJ Tye and Jhye Richardson make the cut for Australia’s ODI squad. Both have played T20Is and I’ve enjoyed watching them in the Big Bash. Tye doesn’t look special but is a clever bowler. Richardson is an exciting young cricketer and is well worth the investment.

Jhye Richardson

In other news, West Indies Chadwick Walton got another international duck. Walton, a player I like, clocked up a century against England in a tour match but his international stats make for extremely grim reading…

http://www.espncricinfo.com/westindies/content/player/315586.html

At 32, there are unlikely to be any more chances for the Jamaica native.

Back to Crane, there are no guarantees that things will go swimmingly for the Hampshire spinner but hopefully even if he suffers a Simon Kerriganesque debut, England will be brave enough to go back to him.

What Now?

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This is not the time for fancy headlines. Where does English cricket go from here?

Alastair Cook and Stuart Broad will surely score runs and take wickets in England for years to come but having been found wanting in Australia and with thoughts of our next trip to Oz, is it time to move on?

Many questioned the selections of England’s ‘newer’ players but it is the likes of Stoneman, Vince, Malan and Overton who whilst not doing brilliantly, have exceeded the performances of senior players such as Cook, Root, Woakes and Moeen not to mention Broad. Anderson has at least taken some wickets.

Regarding Australia’s selections, for a side that was in selectorial chaos just one year ago, their selectors deserve huge credit. The decisions to call-up Cameron Bancroft, Shaun Marsh and Tim Paine have been rewarded. Each player has made a significant contribution on at least one occasion in this series and though there are no guarantees that they’ll back it up, they’ve played their part in Australia’s Ashes success. At 2-0 to the good, it would’ve been easy to have persisted with a winning team but the hosts dropped Peter Handscomb and recalled Mitchell Marsh. Like the aforementioned players, he has contributed significantly. Looking back, none of the players that Australia called up one year ago, Matt Renshaw, Handscomb or Nic Maddinson played in the third Test but Australia were proven right in their selections. Even if Paine etc don’t last, if Oz keep rotating guys that come in and contribute and the team win then they’re doing something right.

Back to England, Steven Finn has suggested that the county grind is to blame for the absence of serious pace bowling options available to England. That’s why I’d bring to attention again my suggestion to restructure the English First Class game. The structure would be as follows:

Three divisions consisting of six teams

Each team plays the five other teams in their group both home and away

A total of ten games per side

Group winners and best 2nd place qualify for semi-finals

Final at Lords

Maximum twelve matches for any one team

Increased importance and more Test like matches

I’ve written before about the fickleness of the England fan, longing for the new but quickly turning against damaged goods. They want Crane but when he’s 0-100 on debut they’ll want Leach. They want Clarke but when he’s out first ball they’ll want Lawrence. They wanted Malan gone and dismissed his progress and potential to do better, then he scored a Test hundred!

I’ve also written before about Mark Wood. Only ever semi-fit and one wicket in two Tests this year, is he really the answer? Well maybe given that the Ashes are gone and the Ozzies might just switch off. David Warner hasn’t been at his best at the top of the order so could be vulnerable but may now just go hell for leather. In regards to our batting, I’d prefer a right-hander to partner Stoneman at the top of the order but it’s Jennings and Gubbins who are playing for the Lions.

How about this XI for the next Test:

Stoneman

Jennings

Vince

Root (Captain)

Malan

Bairstow (Wicketkeeper)

Woakes

Curran

Wood*

Anderson

Crane

*Assuming Craig Overton is unfit.

Moving Woakes up the order might bring out the best in his batting. Might?

How about this one at the start of next summer:

Stoneman

Bell-Drummond/Hameed

Root

Malan

Bairstow

Stokes

Foakes (Wicketkeeper)

Woakes (Captain)

Overton.C

Curran

Leach

This is of course dependent on the performances in the Australia matches. If Keaton Jennings comes in and scores four Ashes hundreds then I’m not suggesting he gets dropped. There’s a good right-hand/left-hand mix in the top six of my above composition. Bairstow above Malan is however an option. James Anderson and Stuart Broad don’t have to necessarily be banished forever and their experience could still be useful in home conditions. England might like to rotate in order to limit injury to the likes of Overton and co. I’d like Liam Livingstone to be there or thereabouts too.

Can English cricket’s phoenix rise from the ashes?

Disclaimer: I rather inconveniently forgot that there’s a post Ashes tour of New Zealand but maybe one opening batsman aside, my team for next summer needn’t be that far off.