Will Marsh Come in Handy?

If, as predicted, batsman Peter Handscomb is dropped from Australia’s Test side once again, then it’s hard to see much of an international future for the twenty-seven-year-old. That said, teammate Shaun Marsh has had more lives than a suicidal cat, so maybe PH will be back again in time to be dropped again this time next year!

India have kept ‘Pistol Pete’ down just as England have before them. At 27, Handscomb is no pup. He’s acquired plenty of experience playing in both his homeland (Australia) and his motherland (England). In truth, it would seem a sensible move for elitely honest Australia to bring in Mitchell Marsh. MM’s contribution could help alleviate some of the strain on the hosts’ pace bowling attack. As for his potential output with the willow, despite an inauspicious start, Marsh has previously stepped up at crucial times but Australia desperately need an entire batting order that can contribute as is the case with the England side. India, whilst having non-existent openers but a respectable lower order have, most crucially, a number of middle order batsman for whom scoring a century is not as rare as a lunar eclipse! What Peter Handscomb would give to score a ton… or even another chance!

Disclaimer: You Watch, he’ll play and score a hundred!

Solving Australia’s Batting Woes!

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Will Pucovski (243) and Josh Phillipe (41 & 104) were amongst the runs in the opening round of 2018-19 Sheffield Shield matches. It was good to see young batsman such as Sam Heazlett and Will Bosisto in their respective state XIs as well, even if they didn’t quite churn out Pucovskiesque innings. Question marks still linger over much of Australia’s batting line-up, what with Shaun Marsh’s inconsistency, Mitchell Marsh batting far too high at times and Usman Khawaja (Now injured) and Aaron Finch both needing to back-up encouraging performances against Pakistan in UAE, Pucovski could well have put himself to the front of the selection queue. With Peter Handscomb having fallen away horribly after a promising start to his Test career and Glenn Maxwell clearly not fancied by the selection panel, the twenty-year-old Victorian’s path to the national XI is being cleared of obstacles.

Another player that peaked interest in the opening round of this year’s Shield was leg-spinner Lloyd Pope. Not all that long ago, Pope terrorised England at the Under-19 World Cup with an eight-wicket haul that went viral. In truth, aside from that match-winning performance he had a quiet tournament. His maiden First Class wicket, trapping Steve O’Keefe LBW, saw him go viral again even though his two wickets cost in excess of a hundred runs. It was extremely alarming however to see the reaction of the Australian media. Labelling Pope as the “New Warne” is surely both unnecessary and unoriginal.

Back to batting and another player who could possibly solve Australia’s batting problems… Meg Lanning. There are some that say there’s no need to suggest women cricketers aim to play in men’s teams and that women’s cricket is a good enough sport on in its own right. I’m not necessarily suggesting that run-express Lanning represent her country’s men’s team but it’s worth pointing out just how good she is. Still only twenty-six, she has in excess of 3000 ODI runs from just 68 matches. She averages north of 53 with twelve tons and eleven fifties. She’s fresh off the back of another hundred against Pakistan in Kuala Lumpur.

It’ll be interesting to see just how much Lanning can achieve in her international career and who lines up for Australia’s men’s team come next year’s Ashes encounter in England.

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.

Stoined!

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Admittedly he wasn’t the headline but scroll a little way down in this article and you’ll find me politely suggesting that Marcus Stoinis was due a recall to the Australian squad.

https://sillypointcricketsite.wordpress.com/2017/01/10/another-string-to-australias-bowe/

That was all of six days ago and since then he’s hit a match winning 40 not out from just 23 deliveries for Melbourne Stars against Perth Scorchers.

Well guess what happened today?

The ever reliable The Guardian or The Australian Cricket Newspaper as I call it, advises that Stoinis is indeed the recipient of a recall to Australian colours.

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/jan/16/injured-mitchell-marsh-ruled-out-of-australias-third-odi-in-perth

Stoinis has been drafted in as cover for Mitchell Marsh in the ODI series against Pakistan. Marsh was dismissed first ball in the most recent match of the series as the tourists levelled the score at 1-1 with three matches to play. As well as Mitchell Marsh being injured, Chris Lynn has been sent home for scans and you just get the feeling that injury upon injury are going to cost Lynnsanity a regular place in the Ozzie line-up.

Disclaimer: I know that it’s a crap headline but other than Stoinis Join Us I was struggling for alternatives!

International Duck Watch!

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The ever impressive Mitchell Marsh lasted all of one delivery whilst batting at the dizzy heights of number four in Australia’s second ODI against Pakistan in Melbourne. Pat Cummins lasted triple Marsh Jnr’s crease occupation but too fell to Mohammad Amir without troubling the scorers. A comfortable six-wicket win was a long awaited victory for the tourists and sees them level the five-match series at 1-1.

International Duck Watch!

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A resurgent Australia defeated neighbours New Zealand by 68 runs in the first ODI in Sydney earlier today. In the course of the match the following players were inaugurated into International Duck Club:

Australia

Aaron Finch

Only a few days after saying that he still hopes to play Test cricket, Finch fell to the third delivery of the match for a golden duck!

New Zealand

Mitchell Santner

Santner, who also went wicketless (9-0-40-0) but to be fair was New Zealand’s most economical bowler (4.44 rpo) as the hosts piled on 324-8, lasted seven deliveries before falling to spinner Adam Zampa.

Lockie Ferguson

Debutant Ferguson who had earlier recorded figures of 9-0-73-1, the one being David Warner, fell third ball to Mitchell Marsh (2-38) as the home side sealed victory.

Australia 0-1 South Africa

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South Africa have gained a 1-0 lead in their Test series in Australia with a 177-run victory at Perth. Australia had actually been 158-0 in their first innings response to South Africa’s 242 but suffered an Englandesque collapse losing all ten wickets for just 86 runs and so finishing 244 all out, a lead of just two. Dean Elgar (127) and Jean-Paul Duminy’s (141) partnership of exactly 250 helped South Africa soar to 540-8 declared against the Birdless Ozzies (See previous post: The Bird and the Lyon). Despite 97 from Usman Khawaja and 60 not out from wicketkeeper Peter Nevill, Kagiso Rabada’s 5-92 saw the hosts bundled out for 361.

Australia’s selectors will now surely ponder possible changes to the side for the second Test and might do no worse than to ‘Go West’ as the Pet Shop Boys would say. Western Australia’s Ashton Agar (Remember him?) was unlucky to finish on the losing side as his team were beaten by New South Wales in Sydney in the latest round of First Class fixtures down under. Agar recorded career best bowling analysis of 6-110 in the first innings and match figures of 10-141. He also registered scores of 15 and 35 batting at number five. The Australian selectors might be tempted to bring the twenty-three-year-old back into the fold though national selector Mark Waugh already seems to have confirmed that it won’t be at the expense of Mitchell Marsh.

The second Test of the three match series commences on November 12th at Hobart down in Tasmania, down in Tasmania!