Ben Duckett and Nelson Mandela in the same Sentence!

The last time that England’s cricketers were in Asia, batsman Ben Duckett was there. Despite scoring three fifties (ODIs/Tests) in Bangladesh, he had a torrid time of things in India then literally pissed off top brass the following winter in Oz. Whilst the senior team lap it up in Sri Lanka and the Lions travel to UAE, Duckett can be found playing in the Mzansi Super League in South Africa. It’s the latest T20 league to pop up on the global calendar (Yeah that’s right, Canada and Hong Kong had competitions before SA!).

Representing the wonderfully named Nelson Mandela Bay Giants, The stocky left-hander smashed 75 (5×4, 5×6) runs from just 45 deliveries. Hopefully it’s a sign of things to come after some lean patches post that run-laden summer a couple of years ago. Next year he’ll join Ben Slater and Joe Clarke in an exciting new batting line-up for Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge. He’s probably still quite some way off an England recall but the shoots of recovery have started sprouting.

Another left-handed batsman who’ll be hoping to use the Mzansi league as a springboard back to international selection is Dawid Malan. The discarded Middlesex stalwart will lead Cape Town Blitz while domestic colleague Eoin Morgan will turn out for Tshwane Spartans. Morgan is a left-hander who doesn’t need to work his way back into the England fold, he’s already there!

Nick Compton Retires!

One of England’s more complex characters of recent years has bowed out after failing to make a single first team appearance (First Class/List A/T20) for Middlesex last season. That is not meant as a criticism, more an observation that Nick Compton doesn’t appear like a Graeme Swann type one of the lads or to a lesser extent somebody such as James Anderson but that he comes across as an extremely insular character. It seems more a trait of batsmen but not all (Chris Gayle/David Warner) are reserved or appear as intense as Compton.

Compton seemed to thrive on an old fashioned approach: pitch a tent, occupy the crease as long as possible and pretend that the fate of mankind rested on his shoulders… sprinkled with the odd beautiful boundary. He seemed a player who exhausted so much energy, mental and physical, getting into the England team that, particularly second time around, he then had nothing more to give. Flummoxed by Trevor Bayliss’ comments Compton forgot how to be himself. This resulted in some unnecessary dismissals in South Africa and a limp international ending at home to Sri Lanka. He never recovered and took time away from cricket but good on him for going to Sri Lanka and adapting and performing well on their domestic circuit.

I hope that Compdog writes an autobiography. I anticipate it would be far more insightful and introspective than those of many cricketers.

England Ignored XI

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England have named their Test and ODI squads for the winter tour of Sri Lanka as well as announcing the Lions squads for matches against Pakistan A in UAE:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_cricket_team_in_Sri_Lanka_in_2018–19

http://www.espncricinfo.com/story/_/id/24802981/jason-roy-named-england-lions-four-day-squad

Here’s a party of players who must feel unfortunate not to have at least made the Lions cut…

First XI

Ben Slater (Derbyshire/Nottinghamshire) 349 CC runs @ 43.62 (Div 1) / 676 CC runs @ 42.75 (Div 2) / 386 ODC runs @ 55.14

Left-handed opening bat Slater’s consistent run plundering earned him a move from Derbyshire to Nottinghamshire. He made runs in both the First Class (Divisions 1 & 2) and List A format. Next year he’ll hope to continue to go well amongst many new faces at Trent Bridge.

Will Rhodes (Warwickshire) 972 CC runs @ 44.18

Having departed Yorkshire, Rhodes grew and grew at his new home finishing the campaign with four tons in the County Championship. He and Dominic Sibley look a strong foundation for a Warwickshire side that like a signing!

Daryl Mitchell (Worcestershire) Captain 957 CC runs @ 38.81

With a lot on his plate off the field, Mitchell made four tons in Division One having previously been criticised for scoring the majority of his centuries in Division Two. He’s a more than handy asset with the ball too and could captain the side.

James Hildreth (Somerset) 1089 CC runs @ 45.38 / 438 ODC runs @ 62.57

Runs, more runs for the Somerset veteran, not just in the First Class arena but with the white-ball too. Somehow he remains ignored by yet another selection panel.

Tom Abell (Somerset) Vice-Captain 883 CC runs @ 40.41 / 19 wickets @ 25.89

Similar to Mitchell in that he’s a batsman come all-rounder, Abell’s batting has started to fall into place again and he and Mitchell would make a good leadership brains trust.

Ed Barnard (Worcestershire) 516 CC runs @ 23.45 / 49 CC wickets @ 23.22 / 153 ODC runs @ 76.50 / 16 ODC wickets @ 28.88

It’s utterly absurd that Barnard’s efforts haven’t been recognised by the selectors this season. With both bat and ball and in red and white-ball cricket, Barnard has  consistently starred.

Ryan Higgins (Gloucestershire) 48 CC wickets @ 18.38 / 195 ODC runs 65.00

Like Rhodes, a move has been a good move for Higgins and like Barnard, he’s performed in all facets in all formats having joined Gloucestershire from Middlesex.

Ben Brown (Sussex) Wicketkeeper 912 CC runs @ 43.43 (52ct/1st)

Another strong campaign from the Sussex gloveman. A genuine top six willow wielder and has handy captaincy experience to support Mitch and Abell behind the stumps.

Matthew Carter (Nottinghamshire) 16 CC wickets @ 32.81 / 13 ODC wickets @ 15.23

Carter didn’t rack up phenomenal stats but the potential is there and it was good to see him get more experience under his belt. England should ‘Get Carter’! Sorry, I’ve used that one before but couldn’t resist!

Tom Bailey (Lancashire) 64 CC wickets @ 19.66

Bailey’s consistent wicket-taking means that he’s another odd one to be so obviously neglected. He poses a constant threat for batsman and averaged sub 20 with the ball in County Championship Division One.

Ben Coad (Yorkshire) 48 CC wickets @ 16.33

Like his Lancashire rival and in this squad, opening bowling partner, Coad is another strange one to miss out. Despite his excellent Division One performances he’s rarely mentioned in England dispatches. There’s possibly a reluctance on the part of the selectors to pick another Yorkshireman.

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The following players could also make the squad with some selections geared towards limited overs cricket in particular.

Ian Cockbain (Gloucestershire) 208 ODC runs @ 69.33

Laurie Evans (Sussex) 243 CC runs @ 60.75 / 614 T20B runs @ 68.22

Ben Cox (Worcestershire) Wicketkeeper 396 ODC runs @ 79.20 (18ct)

Sam Cook (Essex) 27 CC wickets @ 25.33

Ben Sanderson (Northamptonshire) 60 CC wickets @ 16.70

Amir Virdi (Surrey) 39 CC wickets @ 30.36

Even beyond this squad there are yet more England qualified players to have been neglected. Maybe Ed Smith and crew will pull another surprise on us soon!

Cricket Captain 2018: Caribbean Cruise!

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Another Test series, another victory and a comprehensive one at that. We comfortably saw off our hosts by a whitewashing scoreline of 3-0.

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Having assumed a 2-0 series lead, courtesy in no small part due to Alastair Cook’s mammoth 238, the highest individual Test score of my tenure so far, the opportunity to perform some squad rotation was performed in the third Test.

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In the final match of the series, debuts were presented to Sam Hain, Ollie Pope, Ed Barnard and Dom Bess. Despite the absence of many senior players, our strength in depth was highlighted with yet another victory. Hain hit a magnifienct 195 not out at the top of the order, Ollie Pope sealed victory with 43 not out in the second innings, Ed Barnard made 90 and spinner Dom Bess claimed his maiden Test wicket.

Nottinghamshire’s Stuart Broad led the way with 16 series wickets at just 10.44 apiece. Left-arm quick Mark Footitt also stepped in and claimed 9 victims at 23.22. That’s four consecutive Test series wins  for the team during my tenure.

The ODI series wasn’t quite as successful and ultimately began and finished with frustration. Despite losing only two wickets, we messed up a run chase of just 230 in the first encounter. Well set to assume a series lead, we somehow contrived to only tie the match. West Indies then gained the upperhand before we fought back to lead 2-1. Having posted 314 in the decider, we were confident of sealing a much needed series win. Disappointingly, West Indies knocked off the required runs with consummate ease, leaving the score all square at 2-2.

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A series draw is however a step in the right direction, coming as it was off the back of two series defeats. The left-field selection of Chris Wood continued to prove one of my shrewdest selections to date. The Hampshire left-armer claimed two four-fors in the series and finished with 9 wickets at 28.44. He has been a constant wicket taking threat throughout his short England career so far and provides a point of difference for the team.

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A familiar pattern emerged for Wood’s new-ball partner Jamie Overton however. Once again the Somerset quick started well before falling apart at the seams. Figures of 10-0-96-0 in the final match of the series confirmed that Overton is a player whose workload requires managing. He has claimed wickets since coming into the side though and needs to remain part of the squad even if not playing in every match.

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Worcestershire all-rounder Ed Barnard’s versatile qualities in both multi-innings and limited overs cricket have been a vital addition to our composition. Still only 23, Barnard should bring a lot to our culture in the future.

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Following the ODIs, we emphatically won the T20I series with a scoreline that mirrored the Test series result, 3-0. Alex Hales totalled 214 series runs at an average of 71.33. This included a top score of 116. Middlesex man Dawid Malan returned to the squad following injury and promptly blitzed 60 and 77 not out before being run out for 42. Those runs were achieved at a whopping strike-rate of 182.6! Josh Tongue claimed figures of 4-23 on debut whilst Olly Stone claimed 3 series victims at 15.67 in his international induction. Craig Overton and Yorkshire wicketkeeper Jonny Tattersall also made their T20I debuts.

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The series result was a great one for skipper Eoin Morgan but he has struggled for runs in both the ODI and T20I format throughout the past year. Without an ODI series win in three, the Irishman’s place in the team comes under serious scrutiny ahead of the 2019 World Cup.

England Test Squad Announcement (The Real Life One!)

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Hi followers

Please have a listen to my latest audio cast here…

The England squad in full can be found by clicking below…

https://www.ecb.co.uk/england/men/news/788975/england-name-squad-for-first-test-against-india

Telegraph Fantasy Cricket: T20 Blast 2018

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Here’s my Telegraph Fantasy Cricket team for the T20 competition.

Sticking to my tried and tested formula, I’ve selected batsmen that can bowl. Kent’s Joe Denly will surely contribute with the white ball and Ryan Higgins is definatley an all-rounder. He’s been opening the bowling for Gloucestershire in First Class cricket this year following his move from Middlesex. Ross Whiteley is a destructive T20 hitter who as broken into Worcestershire’s County Championship of late. He produced some strong innings in the One-Day Cup and has been collecting the odd wicket too. Sussex’s Harry Finch complete’s my batting line-up.

Tom Moores has seamlessly assumed Chris Read’s position behind the stumps at Nottinghamshire and he’s my gloveman this year.

Hampshire’s Liam Dawson has broke the record for England Lions One-Day bowling figures three times this year and fellow slow-left-armer Samit Patel performed superbly when opening the bowling in the Pakistan Super League last time out. With dry pitches all around the country these two should prosper and might be competing for a place on England’s tours of Sri Lanka and West Indies. Patel, with his all-round capabilities dons my captain’s armband.

AJ Tye didn’t have in easy against England in the ODI series or T20I but will come good for Gloucestershire at domestic level. Many county batsmen just can’t read what’s about to come out of his hand. Matt Coles has broke into the Essex XI and could actually be a useful option for England. He’ll take wickets and biff it with the bat too. Adam Zampa should enjoy the current Australian like English terrain Harry Brookes has broke into the Warwickshire side this year. He’s a capable willow wielder despite his listing s a bowler.

They’ll be an update at the end of the T20 Blast to see how my team performed.

Panesar for Yorkshire!

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In my previous post, an audio cast about various things cricket, I touched upon Yorkshire’s necessity to acquire an experienced and quality spin bowler. England’s limited overs spinner Adil Rashid’s First Class future remains unclear, Azeem Rafiq seems to have fallen off the radar again and young Karl Carver continues to struggle. Whilst at work the other day, patrolling my stockroom as I do, a thought came to mind… Monty Panesar! That’s right, a romantic signing it would be but if Yorkshire were to snap up Monty and the fifty-Test veteran promptly spun a few county batsmen out during the second half of the County Championship, Panesar could then gate crash England’s tours to Sri Lanka and West Indies in one of the greatest sporting comebacks of all time!

http://www.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/18655.html

On a serious note, it is often said that England lack depth in their spin bowling stocks however that simply isn’t the case. It’s such a shame that Jack Leach got injured and has now suffered concussion, meaning he’ll miss more Somerset matches. Following the original injury, he subsequently lost his England place to county teammate Dom Bess, who performed admirably in the Test series against Pakistan.

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Hampshire’s Mason Crane

Mason Crane had also been bowling well in limited overs cricket after missing England’s tour of New Zealand through injury. Remember that he displayed great temperament against South Africa in T20Is last year, keeping his head above water to dismiss AB de Villiers. Said injury returned however. When England tour this winter, they’ll ideally take all of Bess, Leach and Crane. That’s an offie, a leggie and a slow-left-armer. Moeen Ali (OS)and Liam Livingstone (LS) would then be sensible back-up batting options provided they bowl effective spin. Don’t forget Liam Dawson (SLA) who continues to perform well, whether it be in English county cricket, for England Lions or in the Pakistan Super League. Samit Patel (SLA) is another option but then just look at the genuine spinners England can consider in years to come… Matthew Parkinson (LS), Amir Virdi (OS), Matthew Carter (OS) (He’s very good!), Hamidullah Qadri (OS) and Ravi Patel (SLA), that’s on top of Bess, Leach and Crane, all of whom have more than ten years at the top remaining.

Moving onto pace bowling, I wonder if England are really looking into the injury situation. Many people wanted Oli Stone selected for England after one good game earlier this season but he’s hardly played since. Jamie Overton is another great hope but is always injured. Saqib Mahmood performed superbly in the North v South matches but hasn’t played all season. Experienced England internationals Chris Woakes and Ben Stokes are obviously missing the current ODI series against Australia off the back of rapidly trying to increase their workloads from four overs per match at the IPL to countless overs in Tests.

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Durham’s Mark Wood

Mark Wood is being rested from the T20I series, Reece Topley is limited to white-ball (List A/T20) cricket only, Toby Roland-Jones is a long-term absentee and particularly alarmingly, both Jake Ball and Tom Curran managed to get injured whilst with the England squad but not having actually played!

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Middlesex’s Toby Roland-Jones

It’s worth noting that TR-Js injury only came about post playing for England?! Other solid domestic players such as Jamie Porter, Liam Norwell and James Weighell have had their injury problems too. I really hope that behind the scenes some studies are being put in place to identify trends, manage player’s workloads and help keep players fit for England.

Anyway, as I was saying… Panesar for Yorkshire!