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.

A Change is Gonna Come

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Prepare to be shocked!

Forgot my ‘Pick ‘n’ stick’ selection policy, it’s time for change. It’s just so predictable that England will wait to go 3-0 down in the Ashes before making changes rather than doing so at 2-0. Okay okay, they replaced Jake Ball with Craig Overton for the second Test but Alastair Cook, Moeen Ali and maybe even Jonny Bairstow, your time is up! I back these guys to come good in the third Test, that’s just who I am but meritocracy combined with necessity tells me that they should make way.

At the top of the order, I’d bring back the left-handed Ben Duckett. I think he should have been persevered with throughout the summer following his mid-winter axing. I like his positive approach and alongside the contrastingly stoic right-handed Haseeb Hameed long term, could be ‘Warneresque’ for England. Forget who’s officially in the squad, it doesn’t matter because the England Lions are shadowing the full side anyway.

On the spin front, Moeen Ali isn’t even fit. He’s cut his finger yet England won’t dare entertain the idea of picking someone else. I’d prefer the left-arm variety of Jack Leach to Mason Crane and really don’t understand this attitude of selecting Crane if he’s only to be trusted as a second spinner on maybe one ground. Chris Woakes is capable of more with the bat and this isn’t the time for worrying about the length of the tail.

As for the glovemen, Jonny Bairstow doesn’t seem to be in the right place, so let’s throw caution to the wind and welcome Surrey’s Ben Foakes to the XI.

Cook, Moeen and Bairstow, I love these guys but now is the time for ruthlessness. It doesn’t have to mean the end of their careers and some may call it panic but the current side has left us 2-0 down. A change is gonna come… or not, probably not, definitely not!

Ashes Extras

It’s been a while since the last Extras post but here’s an Ashes treat. It’s a kind of quiz question special!

Bye: Should Peter Handscomb make way for Glenn Maxwell?

Handscomb looks jittery at the crease while Maxwell is performing well in the Sheffield Shield. There’s an old adage that ‘You shouldn’t change a winning team’ and with Oz 2-0 to the good, this could be a good opportunity to let Handscomb ride out the tempest. Some however may argue that you should make changes when you’re winning if those alterations strengthen the side.

Leg Bye: Should England drop Moeen Ali?

He’s probably not fully fit, looks ineffectual with the ball and limp with the bat. His potential to score runs though makes a straight swap with Mason Crane seem unlikely.

No Ball: Can Dawid Malan convert starts?

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Malan seems to be winning over some doubters with his effort and application but teens and twenties won’t keep him in the Test side forever. The Middlesex man will be seeking at least a half-century in Perth.

Wide: Would Jake Ball be better off with England Lions?

Jake Ball

If JB3 is now only around to serve beverages then he may as well get some game time with the back-up brigade. If any of the senior bowlers trip up on the morning of a Test, is Ball next in-line anyway?

Something About Burned Wood!

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So ‘The Ashes’ are nearly upon us. (I mean the real one not just a computer game!) At the risk of sounding detached and lacking enthusiasm, I guess that I should write something about the impending contest.

Despite being an England fan I’m actually quite confident. Not all that long ago the Australian side were accused of using the national team as a development squad. That accusation was levied at them by one of their own, Cameron White none the less. When it comes to fast bowling at least (In fact spin bowling too!), England appear to be following a similar trajectory. Ignore any notion of getting proven county vets like Steve Patterson, Keith Barker or Liam Norwell (Not that old!) into the side or even recalling Tim Bresnan but call up the ‘potential’ instead, the likes of Tom Helm and George Garton. Things are eerily parallel to the current makeup of the national football team.

I have huge respect for the likes of Helm and Garton and back them to have successful international careers but it must be frustrating for proven players such as Chris Rushworth and Joe Leach to see ‘raw talent’ selected ahead of them. That’s not to say that I think England or anybody should hold back someone that’s good enough, just like they did with Haseeb Hameed and should’ve done with Sam Curran.

This post isn’t really going where I’d intended. I wanted to buck the general consensus and say how I believe England can do well this winter but I’ve just ended up having a whinge. It’s so unlike me!

Attempting to return to the point, I’m backing Stoneman, Vince and Malan to pile on the runs. I’m expecting Alastair Cook to find form. I’m backing whoever the bowling line up consists of, whether it be Ball, Overton or Crane to come good, or at least be better for the experience. Australia have some good players. They also have some lesser players who may step up to the plate and they may introduce some new players who commence their international careers with a Peter Handscombesque start. England however can go head to head (Or toe to toe) with them. I envisage a competitive series with a 2-1 or maybe even 2-2 result.

Will England cook the Ozzies? Will Stoneman rock? Will Vince be invincible? Will Ball be on the ball? Will Crane reign? Will England find the root (Route) to victory?

We’ll find out soon…

Dawson’s Creek’s Banks Haven’t Burst!

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File photo: Liam Dawson brings up his maiden ODI fifty against Scotland in Edinburgh.

That’s right, a headline announcing that something hasn’t happened!

Water gently meandering along a creek, a tranquil and serene scene. The water levels rise though and the creek’s banks burst. For Liam Dawson however, the banks haven’t burst, the water levels haven’t risen and there’s been no drowning. The water has consistently gently meandered along.

2-129 in India on debut got him up and running. There have been worse starts to Test careers. Figures of 2-67, 2-34, 0-26 and 1-42 against South Africa leave Dawson with a more than respectable bowling average for a spinner of 33.80 in Test cricket in England. Along with a penchant for dismissing Hashim Amla, that’s a decent start. Dawson is 27, an age where he’s gained experience but should have his best years ahead of him. England’s selectors however have regressed, pressured by the public and media, they’ve already ditched ‘Daws’ and moved onto Mason Crane. Should 20-year-old Crane be left with a bowling average of 42.57 after four Tests and average a healthy 33.80 in England will he too be ditched?

Dawson’s axing on the cue of social media opinion reminds of the time that Ian Blackwell was chipping in with wickets and Anthony McGrath was keeping things tight for England. They weren’t setting the world on fire but they were, understatedly, making a contribution. An article in a newspaper questioned their returns and they were ditched never to be seen in England colours again.

I’ll bore myself let alone my readers if I repeat previous sentiment about English fans always wanting the new and undamaged goods as well as how investing and persisting in a player is of value but to cut through the trees to get to the wood… I’m suggesting that Dawson, like many players, may have been given up on too soon. Still, if he’s lucky, he might earn an England recall and carve out a decent international career when Ashes Cricket arrives on the PS4 in November…

Disclaimer: For the uneducated, please be aware that the lines between reality and virtuality on my blog often become very blurred, so much so that I can’t remember if Haseeb Hameed’s twin centuries against Thailand at London’s Olympic Stadium were in real life or only in my living room!

https://sillypointcricketsite.wordpress.com/2017/06/24/don-bradman-cricket-17-thaid-in-knots/

Six to Watch: 2017 – Season Review

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Jofra Archer, 22, Sussex, All-Rounder

The standout star of the six identified players, Archer could well have been on the plane to Australia this winter if it were not for the fact that, technically at least, his allegiance remains with West Indies. Archer scored 638 County Championship runs at 45.57 with a phenomenal strike rate of 88. His 61 wickets were claimed at 25.30. Still some years away from qualifying for England, could Archer go to Oz with England Lions this winter or does he need to spend as much time as possible in England to become eligible for his mother’s nation?

Daniel Bell-Drummond, 24, Kent, Right-Handed Opening Batsman

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DBD failed to register a First Class century and averaged a disappointing 25.50 in the longer form of the game. In the One-Day Cup however he clocked up two tons and finished the competition with an average of 63.29. Regarding his case for England honours, he isn’t scoring the runs to demand Test selection and despite a strong domestic campaign this year, probably isn’t perceived to be as destructive as others in limited overs cricket. Dependent on how England’s batsmen perform in Australia this winter, a strong start to the 2018 campaign could put him on England’s Test radar but the selectors’ penchant for another right-handed opener, Lancashire’s Haseeb Hameed, might not help DBD’s case. Like the first man on this list, he could in theory opt to represent West Indies.

Dom Bess, 20, Somerset, Off-Spin Bowler

Despite a strong finish last season, Bess was omitted from the Somerset side early in this year’s campaign. Once he got his feet under the table however, he made the most of it. Bess claimed 36 County Championship first division wickets at just 23.42. English cricket is often portrayed as having a dearth of spin talent but Bess, alongside the likes of Mason Crane, Matthew Parkinson, Sukhjit Singh and Hamidullah Qadri amongst others could provide great competition for England for the next two decades.

Jack Burnham, 20, Durham, Right-Handed Middle Order Batsman

Burnham missed a fair chunk of the season in the early stages and went on to register 223 runs at 24.78 with a top score of 93 not out in the County Championship. He has totalled less than 100 runs in all cricket since 28th July. Much was expected of him following the departures of Mark Stoneman and Scott Borthwick to Surrey and with Keaton Jennings heading to Lancashire, Durham desperately need Burnham to blossom come 2018.

Nick Compton, 34, Middlesex, Right-Handed Middle Order Batsman

Former England batsman Compton was one of many willowmen on the county circuit this season to endure a frustrating  campaign. The Middlesex player totalled a moderate return of 446 runs at 26.24. His season best of 120 was his only half-century let alone his only ton.

Mark Footitt, 31, Surrey/Nottinghamshire, Left-Arm Fast Medium Bowler

Footitt’s early season form for Surrey was so destructive that his performances went viral and there were calls from many quarters that England recognition was merited. By the end of the campaign however, he had returned to Nottinghamshire but made only a single first team appearance before the season was out. Footitt hasn’t played white ball cricket in over a year but this term totalled 23 division one wickets for Surrey and four division two wickets for Nottinghamshire in the County Championship. His averages (29.83/23.75) were sub 30 for both counties.

In 2018 we’ll start again with six fresh faces and see how they fare as the season pans out.