Sliding Doors!

Hi all

Yesterday I watched a DVD (I know, old school!) of the 2010 T20I World Cup final between Australia and England in the Caribbean.

I’m delighted to announce that England won! Australia recovered from 8 for 3 to post a semi-competitive total, thanks in the main to the brothers Hussey. A proud day for their parents if not a victorious one. There was only the slightest hint of a wobble late in England’s run chase but not enough of one to really register on the Richter scale.

The performance of Craig Kieswetter lends itself to further analysis. He actually dropped a pretty straight forward catch off Shane Watson (2) in what I think was the first over of the match. Fortunately for England, an alert Graeme Swann who was positioned at slip, reacted magnificently to just about cling on. It was a sliding doors moment if ever there was one. If the ball had tumbled to the ground without Swann’s interception, would England’s heads have dropped? How many runs would Shane Watson have plundered? Would Kieswetter have recovered to produce the match winning batting display that he did?

For poor Kieswetter, his man of the match performance would forever remain a career high. Of course there would’ve been no shame in that but having to retire early courtesy of a horrific eye injury meant that opportunities to scale such heights again were cruelly cut short.

I’ve got the 2005 Ashes box set that I can watch now but also have a wife and two kids!

Something in the Genes!

They’re not bad these Curran brothers are they?

I don’t actually think that most diehard cricket fans were surprised at how Surrey’s Sam Curran has taken to Test cricket. He’s an absolute star, capable of batting at six (Maybe higher) and opening the bowling for his country. His left-arm variety will be essential to England’s attack and compensates for any perceived lack of pace. I previously said that he is the axis around which England should build their team but given England’s abundance of all-round talent, just to be a cog will suffice. He’s already made his buck courtesy of the IPL (He’s been snapped up by Kings XI Punjab) but hopefully he’ll keep his feet on the ground and stay engaged with the longest form of the game as well as the pyjama affairs.

Brother Tom struggled for wickets in the 2017-18 Ashes series in Australia but displayed chutzpah with both bat and ball. He performed well in white-ball (ODI/T20I) cricket and it’s a shame that injuries limited his England outings in 2018. He’s been on absolute fire for Sydney Sixers in the Big Bash this winter, already claiming a hat-trick of three-wicket hauls and scoring a swashbuckling half-century. I still think he’s capable of being a viable Test option for England at least in home conditions. He and Sam clearly have attitude which I like. It’s not ugly but there’s a little bit of ‘In your face!’ and that’s healthy against some competitors.

Then there’s brother Ben. It would be easy to get discouraged by being a little behind his brothers or for him to be the butt of jokes but BC has won a contract with Northamptonshire on the back of an encouraging showing late last season. That included signing off with a match-winning 83 not out against Sussex in the County Championship and he’ll be keen to kick on this term for a side that have lost Ben Duckett to Nottinghamshire. How far BC can go remains to be seen. There’s no disgrace in having a solid county career without international recognition but whilst Sam and Tom might look destined for greatness, remember how compatriot Steven Finn as well as India’s Irfan Pathan sadly fell away. In the case of Ben, we might yet see a Mike Hussey style post thirty Test debut followed by thousands of runs!

Malan Scammed… and Other Cricket Snippets

Dawid Malan

Hello and welcome to Silly Point. Please have a listen to my latest audio cast by clicking the play button just below…

England ODI/Lions Squads: https://www.ecb.co.uk/england/men/news/742530/sam-curran-and-craig-overton-added-to-england-odi-squad-and-chris-jordan-added-to-england-lions-squad

England T20I Squad: https://www.ecb.co.uk/england/men/news/738367/england-name-squad-for-it20s-against-australia-and-india

Dawid Malan: http://www.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/236489.html

Jonny Tattersall: http://www.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/517247.html

Malan’s the Man!

Not content with notching up Test hundreds in computer games, Dawid Malan’s only gone and got one in real life!

Although fellow England newbie Mark Stoneman hasn’t registered a century yet and is developing a penchant for contributing both classy and at the same time gritty fifty-somethings, I sincerely hope that England stick with these guys post Ashes and don’t just move onto their next new toy like they did after Michael Carberry. These thirty-somethings have developed their game on the county circuit and having been presented with the obvious fact that Test cricket is a step up, they’re raising their game and learning to adapt. Come home series against subcontinental sides, you’d like to think that ‘Rocky’ and ‘AC’ will now feel at home in the England shirt and can prosper. As for James Vince…

It’s not just against India or Pakistan at home that you’d like to think Stoneman and Malan could deliver. Having displayed their skills and character in ‘The Land of Oz‘, they’ve shown they might posses the required nous to adapt against all sides, home and away. Of course touring places like Bangladesh is like playing on another planet.

Mike Hussey didn’t arrive on the Test scene until he was aged thirty, Andy Flower blossomed around thirty-two and the likes of Kumar Sangakarra and Misbah-ul-Haq peaked much later. Here’s hoping and believing that Stoneman and Malan follow suit and inspire those players who aren’t bred through the normal modern development channels. As for James Vince…

On a serious note, hopefully Vince can be inspired by the the efforts of Stoneman and Malan. If the Hampshire man can adapt where necessary but trust his own game where appropriate, he could register the sort of scores that win matches and earn long careers.

Short Term Memories

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Warning! The following article strays into rant territory.

So Joe Root’s first England Test squad has been announced and all hell has broken loose on the bottom of BBC Sport, Cricinfo and the likes’ web pages.

Even on commentary of the ODC Final yesterday, former England batsman James Taylor was querying why Keaton Jennings has been moved from three to opener and you’d think that Mark Stoneman had a fan club who’ve been campaigning for his selection for years. Funny that, I haven’t heard many people push for Stoneman to be in the England squad before but half a season of runs and everybody claims they’ve wanted him in since time began.

“What’s Liam Dawson doing in the squad?” many people are asking.

“Gary Ballance has had enough (Two) chances. It’s a step backwards” is the sort of thing that people are saying.

“Why isn’t Mason Crane in the squad?” they ask.

I’m relieved that we’ve got selectors who sit down and discuss things thoroughly before selecting a squad, otherwise we’d have a different XI for every match.

Let’s clear things up. Keaton Jennings opened for England in their last two Tests. He scored a century on debut and a fifty in the next match. We’ve selected and dumped enough opening batsmen (Even ones that have scored centuries). Let’s stick with one for a change!

Hameed hasn’t scored a First Class fifty all season. He doesn’t merit selection.

Mark Stoneman averaged 32 in First Class cricket before this season. To put that in perspective, his fellow Surrey opener Rory Burns averages in excess of 40. Have you ever heard anyone call for Burns to be selected for national honours?

Stoneman is a good player and having just turned thirty years of age, it may be that he’s put everything he’s learned together and is ready to be the new Mike Hussey. Hopefully age wasn’t a factor in his omission as some people have suggested. He could have at least five or six years scoring thousands of runs in the international arena but at this moment in time there simply isn’t a requirement to select him because we’ve already got two openers. Cook doesn’t deserve to be dropped and neither does Jennings. Jennings has done okay not brilliant in domestic cricket this year but as I said before, we’ll be changing the XI every match if we’re making decisions based solely on domestic form. Some of the same people that want Stoneman selected on form and Jennings dropped on form want out of form Hameed selected on potential!

In the case of the middle order vacancy then domestic form does come into the equation because there’s a vacancy! Gary Ballance is by far and away the player that merits selection and the fact he has played Test cricket before is a positive not a negative. He’s got four Test hundreds for goodness sake! He was actually quite harshly dropped the first time. We’re looking for a middle order batsman not an opener so correctly the selectors have selected Ballance not Stoneman. The likes of Steve Waugh and Jacques Kallis didn’t just rock up to Test cricket and average 55.00 from the get go. English fans always seem to want the new but when they don’t average 60.00 with the bat or 20.00 with the ball then they move onto their new favourite toy.

In the case of Dawson, he scored 66 not out on Test debut in England’s last Test. Maybe, just maybe the England selectors think that two players (Jennings and Dawson) scoring fifties in the team’s last match are the sort of performances that keep you in the team not get you dropped. Shall we just drop every player that doesn’t score a century or take a five-for?

As for Mason Crane, his last two First Class matches (For Hampshire and England Lions) have been against South Africa A and South Africa and how many wickets did he take?… 0 (Zero), none, zilch!

When and if Hameed, Stoneman and Crane get their chance, I’ll back them to the hilt. They’re all good enough and deserve a shot but the selectors have pretty much picked the right squad. We’d all pick a different team. I like the variety of having a left-armer in the attack but nobody can deny that Toby Roland-Jones deserves a chance. He hasn’t been in sparkling form recently but it’s not about form. Form often clouds the mind of people. It’s about ‘Is this person good enough for international cricket?’. If the fact that this week’s match is on his home ground has come into the equation then good. England need to rotate their pacers anyway so let’s maximise the chances of players performing well and England winning.

Maybe I’m a hypocrite, just another person putting forward his team but I’ve seen it all before, the fickle nature of the fan. All those campaigning for Stoneman and Crane, as soon as those players don’t do well then they’ll move onto shouting out for somebody else and later say “Oh we can’t pick them again, it’s a retrograde step”.

The selectors have done their job, now let’s back the chosen ones.

Disclaimer: Well there we go. I’ve probably just alienated myself from about two thirds of England’s cricket fan base. Though to be fair, if two thirds of England’s fan base are following this blog then I have come a long way!

Malan With a Plan!

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Dawid Malan. It’s now or never, boom or bust!

England captain Eoin Morgan said that all squad players would get a game during the three-match T20I series against South Africa. Following the second match and with just one encounter remaining, Morgan said that there’ll definitely be one more debutant in the third match. This may be a bit concerning for Morgan’s Middlesex colleague Dawid Malan, given that another uncapped player, Somerset’s Craig Overton joined up with the party after the first match.

Surely the England management aren’t  going to turn around to Malan now and say “Sorry mate but we’ve changed our mind. You’re not playing”. Remember that Malan made the squad for the one-off T20I against Sri Lanka last year only to miss out on the final XI.

Malan has performed admirably well in limited overs cricket for England Lions, appeared in the recent PSL final and most notably pummelled runs in the North v South Series thus demanding selection. Malan’s 196 runs at an average of 98.00 at a strike rate of 104.81 with a top score of 109 not out saw him top the run scoring charts. To have omitted him following those performances would have brought into serious question the whole point of North v South.

Maybe Malan hasn’t had that big domestic season but sometimes those 1000+ runs campaigns that a batsman has can be misleading. I’ll always revert to Ed Smith and that one season he had making hundred after hundred but was he good enough to be a Test cricketer? To be fair his Test career is too small a sample size to judge. For the record, Smith did a great job at short leg against South Africa and I really like his insightful and balanced commentary.

Malan bowls useful leg-spin too but if he does play in the final T20I you can’t help but think he either needs a half-century or if he makes late twenties/early thirties then it needs to be struck at around 200% if he’s to ever wear the jersey a second time. A single figure score may well be the beginning and the end of Malan’s international career all in one. At the age of 29 a considerable international career could lay ahead but it’s easy to sense that England felt slightly forced to select him than actually wanting to. Andy Flower has vehemently campaigned for his call-up. That may be unfair on the England management but such is the competition amongst the batting ranks that as much as England want to mix things up selection could almost become convoluted. It’s arguable whether providing players with odd matches is any use at all as Sam Billings’ fill-in the gaps international career displays.

Growing up in the nineties and early 2000s I saw the likes of Mike Hussey and Darren Lehmann have to wait domestic run-glutinous years for a run in the Australian Test side and for Jamie Cox to not get a chance at all.

There’s nothing worse than seeing a batsman get one chance and fall for nought so fingers crossed that Malan at least gets some runs on the board if selected as promised.

Living the Dream!

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Liam Livingstone hit the headlines in early 2015 when he struck 350 off 128 deliveries in a club match…

http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/sport/cricket/liam-livingstone-world-record-350-9078151

Then he hit the headlines again later that year when he got glassed in a fight…

http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/sport/cricket/lancashires-liam-livingstone-lucky-injuries-9875869

A few weeks later he didn’t hit the headlines when he was dismissed first ball in the T20 Blast final…

http://www.espncricinfo.com/natwest-t20-blast-2015/engine/current/match/804711.htmlhttp://www.espncricinfo.com/natwest-t20-blast-2015/engine/current/match/804711.html

He hadn’t exactly hit the ground running in the shortest format of the game and still averages below 20 but he didn’t half hit the ground running in the County Championship last year. Though his season tailed off slightly, he still finished with in excess of 800 runs at an average of just over 50. Having played a lot of club and second XI cricket and in an era where many players make their professional breakthrough whilst in their teens, I was hesitant to the idea of Livingstone being rushed into the England set-up too soon. The structure of the England Lions however provides great opportunity for he and others to acquire more experience and develop. Oh and how he’s developed! In England Lions current match against a decent Sri Lanka A outfit, LL has made scores of 105 and 140 not out…

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/cricket/scorecard/ECKO41600

His First Class batting average has now soared to 54.52 and recalling England’s batting horror show in India, it’s encouraging to see a batsman prospering in the sub-continent. England head to Oz next winter for the Ashes but even if Livingstone doesn’t make the breakthrough to the full national side soon, it could be that he’s saved for the next time England head to spinning terrain.

Last term, even if he wasn’t making runs, his name was all over the scorecards as he claimed catch after catch (31 in 17 FC outings to date) and his leg-spin bowling has some potential.

Elsewhere for England Lions, Toby Roland-Jones has led the line and contributed with the bat whilst the Curran brothers (Tom and Sam) have continued to enhance their reputation. It’s been a bleak winter for Jack Leach however. The Somerset man has struggled with the required adjustments to his action and was left out of the Lions side because of those struggles. Upon his return, his first innings figures of 18-1-97-1 don’t make for pleasant reading. The winter has not been so bleak for the consistently penetrative Ollie Rayner however. The German turner has surely usurped Leach in the England spin queue.

It’s been good to see that the Lions set-up hasn’t just been for the kids and that seasoned county players such as Roland-Jones and Middlesex colleague Rayner have been presented with the opportunity to press their case for international selection. If they did so, they wouldn’t be the first players to have successful international careers having only entered the stage around the age of thirty mark… Mike Hussey, Chris Rogers, Adam Voges and Misbah-ul-Haq amongst them.

Update: Jack Leach immediately responded to my bleak assessment of his winter by claiming figures of 2-3 as England Lions nearly pulled off a marvellous heist in Dambulla. Stumper Ben Foakes also claimed ten dismissals (8c / 2s) and contributed scores of 30 and 54 in this match.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/1080255.html