No Wizards in Oz!

A review of the Cricket Australia XI’s batting efforts entertaining the touring Sri Lankan side.

Batsman Selected by Australia: 40-4

Matt Renshaw – 7

Joe Burns – 4

Marnus Labuschagne – 6

Will Pucovski – 23

Batsman not selected by Australia: 262-1

Kurtis Patterson – 157 not out

Jason Sangha – 3

Jake Doran – 102 not out

Have Australia picked the wrong players or is it all a very clever tactical ploy?

Burns, Renshaw & Handscomb: 12-3 – Welcome Back Boys!

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Steven Smith, David Warner & Cameron Bancroft. Please come back. All is forgiven. (Say Australian fans!)

For those of you that have been living in a cave for the past week, I feel obliged to inform you that batsmen Steven Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft have all returned home from Australia’s tour of South Africa.

The good news for Australia fans is that Joe Burns & Matt Renshaw have joined the squad whilst Play Station Portable Handscomb has been promoted from 12th man duties. Unfortunately for Australia’s fans, the trio’s combined contribution to their team’s response to the home side’s first innings total of 488 is… 12-3. Renshaw made an epic 8, Burns a fluent half as many and Pistol Pete kept it simple… quack quack. Shaun Marsh is at the crease having failed to reach fifty in the series. He’s made starts but hasn’t backed up his Ashes tons.

There’s still hope for Australia. They’ve got their new captain Tim Paine to come, he of one century in 100 First Class matches (172 innings!). No Seriously, I like Paine and hope that he goes well.

It was great to see Temba Bavuma in the runs for South Africa though he rather unfortunately got left stranded on 95. This was in part due to Morne Morkel’s anti-climatic follow-up to receiving a guard of honour… quack quack first ball! It does seem a bit weird that the home side have mucked Bavuma about. They brought Theunis de Bruyn into the side again but don’t seem to understand what de Bruyn’s role is and have promptly mucked him around again by dropping him again.

Keep tabs on the fourth Test in Johannesburg by clicking on the link below…

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/10908/commentary/1075985/south-africa-vs-australia-4th-test-australia-tour-of-south-africa-2018

A Shaw Thing?

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Whilst Cameron Bancroft does okay opening the batting for Australia’s Test outfit, his predecessor Matt Renshaw is sniffing for a recall at the earliest opportunity. Since the turn of the year the nearly twentytwo-year-old has reeled off First Class scores of 56, 32, 170, 0, 112, 12, 3, 143* & 8. If the opposition get him early then fair enough but if they don’t then the Middlesbrough lad cashes in. Remember that he’s got a Test high of 184 and averages just shy of 37.

Back to Bancroft. He produced one good knock during the 2017-18 Ashes and under huge pressure for his place, has made starts and got one fifty in South Africa. It’s a good little battle for the Australian selectors to have being played out. Western Australia’s Bancroft has three or four years on Renshaw and experience of opening at county level in England for Gloucestershire that will serve him well. Queensland’s Renshaw is clearly made of tough stuff though, even if he recently rather naively conceded five penalty runs!

Don’t forget Renshaw’s domestic partner Joe Burns either. He had a bit of a stinker in his last Test but he’s still only 28 and has three Test tons to his name. South Australia’s Jake Weatherald is another one to keep an eye on, though he’s failed to convert starts this term. Travis Dean is another who despite not backing up the absurdly good start to his First Class career, has recently notched up a couple of hundreds. His average is a disappointing 34 exactly but six tons seven fifties is a good conversion rate. Remember that opening the batting isn’t easy. I should know because I’ve done it in Division Seven of the Nidderdale League and Division Five of the Harrogate and District Evening League!!!

Like Renshaw, another player from the north of England worth keeping tabs on is Charlie Hemphrey. Despite a duck on First Class debut, the Doncaster native registered a century early in his Australian domestic career and following a difficult time thereafter, has made hundreds in each of his last two outings. Twentyeight-year-old Hemphrey has produced these performances batting at four for Queensland. Burns, Renshaw and Hemphrey helping contribute to a strong batting order.

Current Test incumbent David Warner is only thirty-one so there’s life in the old dog yet and unlike some, he seems committed to the Test cause and not yet seeking a purely T20 franchise existence.

Competition for the opening slots for Australia’s Test side is scorching hot and the selectors will be chuffed at the tough decisions to be made.

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.

International Duck Watch!

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Welcome to Test cricket Nic Maddinson! One of three Australian debutantes Maddinson lasted twelve deliveries before falling victim to South Africa’s Kagiso Rabada in the third Test at Adelaide. For the record the home side’s other debutantes, Middlesbrough born opening batsman Matthew Renshaw and former Gloucestershire middle-order player Peter Handscomb faired little and much better, registering scores of 10 and 54 respectively. Let’s not forget that successful Test players such as Graham Gooch, Phillip Hughes and Marvan Atapattu all registered ducks on their Test bows so all is not yet lost for Maddinson though the state of the game could leave the twenty-four-year-old without a second innings opportunity.

In Hamilton New Zealand opening batsman Tom Latham fell first ball to Mohammad Amir in his side’s second Test against Pakistan. Latham made scores of 1 and 9 in the first Test so is currently averaging a mighty 3.33 in the series! New Zealand were 77-2 in their first innings when rain curtailed play.

Finally, in a crucial Tri-Series match in Zimbabwe the home team’s Sean Williams fell first ball to Ashley Nurse, caught by our man Shai Hope. As a result Williams will need nursing better! West Indies had their own goldie in the form of Johnson Charles. Charles was caught and bowled by Zimbabwe hero Tendai Chisoro. Chisoro scored 42 not out off 35 deliveries batting at number ten, putting on an unbroken stand of 91 with Sikander Raza before recording figures of 6-1-23-2 as Zimbabwe claimed a spot in the final.

Anatomy of Trying to Save a Test Career

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South Africa’s Stephen Cook had to wait a long time to play international cricket. Despite scoring run upon run at domestic level year after year the selectors had ignored him. Finally at the age of 33 the right-handed opening batsman made his debut against England earlier this annum. Representing South Africa A he had carried his bat for an unbeaten 53 in a warm-up match against the tourists before eventually getting the call-up to the full side following failures by the likes of Stiaan van Zyl.

He made 115 on his first Test outing and added 25 in the second innings. At home to New Zealand Cook recorded scores of 20, 56 and 4. He has struggled to get going down under registering contributions of 0,12 and 23 in the first two Tests. All this added up to Cook needing to deliver in the third and final Test, a pink ball day/night affair against Australia in Adelaide. Though South Africa have already won the series there is still much to lose… or gain for Cook. Remember that star batsman AB de Villiers is absent through injury and will almost certainly be immediately reinstated to the side. The other aspect that Cook is up against (Other than Australia’s bowlers!) is South Africa’s selection quota. Current regulations state that they must have six ‘black’ players in the XI. Stand-in captain Faf du Plessis certainly isn’t getting dropped and Cook’s fellow opener Dean Elgar probably has enough in the bank too. Basically Cook needed to go big in the third Test.

Did he?

I’ll admit that when I got up early doors to watch the Test I had hoped to watch a fellow Yorkshireman, Middleborough born debutant Matthew Renshaw opening the batting for Australia but it was the tourists that won the toss and chose to bat. Having got off the mark with a streaky boundary Cook was soon the very definition of plumb LBW to Mitchell Starc. He shook his head as Dean Elgar hinted at a review and marched towards the pavilion. But hold on!

Is it a no ball?

The big screen replays suggest that it might be. Cook is stopped from crossing the boundary rope. Had he done so he would not have been allowed to return. He looks up at the screen but he’s not sure, he looks rather bewildered and the episode goes on for what seems like an eternity. Part of you thinks that he doesn’t particularly want to go back. Almost with a sigh of resignation he returns to face Starc again. You sense that this is Cook’s moment. That dismissal could have been his Test career dead and buried but for an epic second innings century. He would have been stuck in the field for a day or two mulling over all that he’s worked towards slipping away from him when he’s barely had a sip. Now he has the chance to go on and make a score, plunder thousands of Test runs from this moment forth and look back on that no-ball as the moment that changed his entire life.

Before long Dean Elgar is out. Hashim Amla and Jean-Paul Duminy both follow soon after, all freakishly for five runs. This seems to be shaping up as a Stephen Cook type innings, it is everything that he is designed for, him to just stay there as wickets tumble at the other end. The commentators, nearly all past Australian players are tearing his technique to shreds but hold on, he’s the one that’s still there and runs are starting to flow. Cook is having a torrid time against Starc. He is averaging 46 against right-arm bowlers in Test cricket but just ten against left-armers, i.e. Starc & co. Josh Hazlewood is bowling really well too but Jackson Bird’s opening spell is a pressure reliever and when Nathan Lyon, wicketless for about a fortnight comes on, skipper du Plessis and Cook step to off and work singles on the leg-side. At lunch Cook has made it to 40 and soon after he and du Plessis register a fifty partnership but Cook just can’t get going again and following some not so subtle field changes he’s expecting a short one. He doesn’t get it and edges Starc to Steven Smith at second slip. Cook punches his bat in frustration.

In all probability he needed at least another ten runs to save his Test career, fine margins. One senses that at 33 once he’s gone he’s gone. Barring an Australian batting debacle he’ll have one more innings in this match but will need to get toward triple figures to ensure that it isn’t his last in Test cricket.

Hopefully he can cook Bird, starve Lyon, send Starc around the park and …err… get Hazlewood… err… stuck in the mud!