Starc Reality!

If fit, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc will lead the line for Australia against England come this summer’s Ashes series.

Which English batsman will be taking them on is anybody’s guess!

Up until only recently, it seemed as though Australia were in turmoil and that England were near-certainties for Ashes success. With home advantage and the returning Steven Smith and David Warner likely to be undercooked, at least in the longest format then England probably can still wear the favourites tag.

The identity of the England players and in which order they’ll walk to the wicket is somewhat uncertain and because of that, this summer’s Ashes encounter seems tantalisingly poised.

Australia had a few questions answered in their most recent Test. Admittedly there’s a lot of cricket (Though not Test) between now and the Ashes but Australia’s likely XI is as follows:

Warner, Burns, Khawaja, Smith, Head, Patterson, Paine (C&W), Cummins, Starc, Hazlewood, Lyon

England’s XI is not so predictable. At the very least, opening batsman, number three and first change pace bowler are places that are very much up for grabs, though Mark Wood might have just solved the latter and the top order have today to cement their places.

England Test XI

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Please ignore any previous suggestions for England’s Test XI. Like any good selector, I’m prone to the odd wave change though of course some will criticise England’s selectors for not changing the side but now the selectors themselves are changing!

Here’s my England Test XI for the start of the summer. This does of course highlight the fact that I’m not picking a team based on the first few weeks of the First Class season.

Opening Batsmen

Haseeb Hameed and Ben Duckett

I genuinely think that the defensive/offensive contrast of messrs Hameed and Duckett could blossom for England. That’s not to say that I don’t think Hameed is capable of attacking when necessary and Duckett can’t survive when he has too. Yes I’ve criticised England for not preparing properly for New Zealand and Duckett is currently injured but he can be England’s David Warner. He has the ability to make big hundreds. He struggled in Asia but in home conditions against subcontinental opposition is the perfect scenario in which to just let him at ’em!

Number Three

Moeen Ali/Liam Livingstone

This is a tough one because I’ve always wanted Moeen to have a run in his domestic role but such has been his ineptitude recently that Livingstone is pushing his case. Both offer something with the ball to support my number one spinner (We’ll come to him later) but it’s for batting alone that we need to select a number three, though Livingstone is a bloody good fielder. Both are attacking batsman and could help England really get themselves ahead of the game by the time Joe Root comes to the crease. Joe Clarke and Daniel-Bell Drummond will be waiting in the wings should Mo and Livingstone fail to deliver.

Middle order

Joe Root and Dawid Malan

Move them back to four and five for goodness sake!

Root doesn’t want to bat at three and Malan has delivered at five so I just don’t understand the logic of moving them each up a position. Based on the XI that I’ve selected, I’m sticking with Root as skipper. If the top three can perform as I believe they can then the burden and pressure on Root will be eased. The captain can come out and play, enjoy himself and not just have to look to survive. With Hameed, Duckett and Moeen/Livingstone up top, Root can come to the crease with the score more 100-2 not 20-2, sometimes at least.

Malan performed well in Australia but must now back it up. I’m very content with him staying at five. I guess that it’s the easiest place in the order for a specialist batsman but he’s earned that right. There’s still enough to come after him for him to be able to make big scores.

Late Middle Order

Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow and Chris Woakes

A fully fit and focused Stokes at six helps England immensely with bat and ball. Now is the time for him to deliver some Flintoffesque performances.

Jonny Bairstow has been efficient behind the stumps and if he can transfer his ODI batting to the Test side, not that he’s been performing that badly in Tests, then England are in for a treat.

The higher Chris Woakes bats the more England will get from him. Like Moeen, it’s about mentality and if you bat higher and closer to your domestic position then you’re more likely to bat appropriately. In England against India and Pakistan should be the sort of summer that Woakes enjoys with the ball.

Opening Bowlers

Ben Coad/Mark Footitt and James Anderson

James Anderson can and should still lead the line for England. His skill coupled with his current fitness mean that there’s no need to rush to replace him. I’ve dropped Stuart Broad. He could be recalled based on domestic form and rotating of the pacers. He could also very likely be in my ODI and possibly T20I side but I’d start the summer without him in the Test XI.

I see Ben Coad as a Josh Hazlewood type bowler. I mean this in the sense that he can go a little under the radar when batsman are worrying about Mitchell Starc, James Anderson or have been with Ryan Sidebottom at Yorkshire. I’m sure that lots of people would campaign for others. In fact Toby Roland-Jones would be mighty close and probably come into the equation during the summer.

I’ve campaigned for Footitt before. The variety of a left-armer in the attack would be welcomed by Joe Root. I’d just leave Sam Curran for now, probably introduce him in ODIs. I don’t see Footitt playing every Test or taking hundreds of wickets but as an occasional option to turn to from time to time, he could be invaluable. Yes he would leak a few runs but that can be tolerated if Anderson and Woakes etc are keeping it tidy and Footitt can deliver three or four unplayable wicket taking deliveries to see off opposition batsmen. Craig Overton is a little unlucky to miss out but would also be considered for ODIs. I don’t see Mark Wood as our saviour.

Spin Bowling

Jack Leach

He’s earned it, had more than just one good season now, returned from technical changes and should be provided the entire summer to take the rough with the smooth. There’s enough batting to not be concerned about that. So he took some tap in Australia on tour but so did Nathan Lyon. If anything, Leach’s main threat may come from his Somerset teammate Dom Bess but come trips to the subcontinent or West Indies, pairing the two of them together is the same applied logic as Dele Alli playing behind Harry Kane for England’s football team… although that’s a poor comparison because I’m hinting that Alli hasn’t really performed recently (Start a football blog Paul!).

There it is:

Hameed, Duckett, Mo/LL?, Root (C), Malan, Stokes, Bairstow (W), Woakes (VC), Coad/Footitt, Anderson, Leach

I’m certain that many people will scoff at the notion of players such as Duckett, Coad and Footitt being anywhere near the England team but I don’t want this new selection panel to sit on fences. They need to make big and brave calls. I believe the selectors should be seen more than they are. I mean that rather than television and newspaper reporters interviewing the coach it should be the selectors, the one at the top at least, that are interviewed. They should be very open and honest about players, those in the team and those that are not and players should be able to deal with what the selectors say in public.

That’s my team and I’d stick and run with it for the summer, only rotating one pacer every Test or two which I think is necessary.

Now let’s all watch Mark Stoneman score a century and Moeen Ali, Craig Overton and Stuart Broad each score fifties and take a five-for in the second Test in New Zealand!

World Cup Judgement Day for Khan

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Afghanistan’s teenage spin sensation Rashid Khan is just one wicket and one match away from becoming the fastest player to chalk up 100 ODI scalps. If he achieves it in his next match then he’ll have shaved a whopping nine games off Australian quick Mitchell Starc’s current record of 52 outings required to reach the ton but…

40 of Khan’s wickets have come against Zimbabwe and 33 against Ireland. That’s 73 out of 99 whilst his best of 7-18 came against West Indies in St. Lucia. Contrary to some old fashioned opinions, the Caribbean is as much a spin bowler’s paradise as is India or Pakistan. That’s 80 wickets right there. In total, he’s claimed eleven victims against West Indies, a side perceived by many to be the weakest Test nation as backed up by the fact that they’ve been playing in the ICC World Cup Qualifier. For the record, the rest of Khan’s wickets have come against Bangladesh (7), United Arab Emirates (5) and Scotland (3). He averages 14.12 and has an ODI economy rate of 3.94. These are absurdly good figures. His First Class average is 15.05 and his highest figure is actually his domestic T20 figure of 15.14! He averages over 40 with the bat in First Class cricket (Admittedly a very small sample size) and is still only nineteen years of age.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/afghanistan/content/player/793463.html

Khan is clearly head and shoulders above his associate and latest Test nation peers. He’s also performed admirably well in the Big Bash and IPL amongst other global T20 competitions but at full international level and despite his stats, he is ultimately unproven. Given the fact that the ICC have limited the 2019 ODI World Cup to ten teams, it is against the supposed world’s best and in English conditions, not generally favourable to spin, that we’ll really find out how good Khan is.

This article is not meant to be a slight on Khan nor the opposition that he’s faced. As the old adage goes “You can only beat what’s in front of you”. It’s great to see Afghanistan cricket thriving, particularly during a competitive ICC World Cup Qualifier filled with promising associate nations. Khan is at the very heart of that.

Ashes Cricket (PS4): Career Mode – 2023 First Class Round-up

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Following our One-Day Plate success, we, Yorkshire, turned our attention back to the First Class format. The knockout stages of the One-Day competition were actually played intertwined with the First Class season. Obviously there was a lot of attention around how I would back-up last year’s introduction to the four-day game given my epic knock of 325 against Sussex.

In the first round of matches against Middlesex, I got up and running with a first innings knock of 40 but that was only a prelude of what was to come. Come the second innings, I shared a partnership of 332 of which my contribution was all of 269. I was actually thinking about overhauling the 325 I had made last year but it wasn’t to be. The most frustrating element to this innings was that it would remain my highest knock of the 2023 campaign.

My reward for another double hundred was to be promoted up the order from five to three which suited me fine. I went on to make 118 and 32 against Glamorgan before enduring a frustrating period with the bat. My next run of scores was as follows: 30 & 32, 0 (1st ball!), 2 & 18 and run out for six before scratchily making 54 in the second innings of that match against Durham. Things improved thereafter as I went on to make at least a fifty in each of the next five matches (And in six out of seven in total). With the fixtures now in reverse, against Durham again, I registered scores of 27 and 67 before really enjoying myself against Kent. As was the case against Middlesex on the opening day, I dominated a lop-sided partnership of 246. I contributed 192 to the combo but went onto make another double century. Rather embarrassingly, I ran myself out with a lazy bit of work when returning for the second having been on 199. I’d reached 200 with the first run but the dismissal kind of took the gloss off any celebrations. With centuries in each innings of the match insight, I was gutted when I failed to execute a shot properly having made 87 in the second innings. I followed those knocks up with scores of 1 and 143 against Mitchell Starc’s Leicestershire.

Despite my List A and First Class contributions, I failed to earn a T20 gig with Yorkshire so returned to the club scene with Leeds. In the only outing that I was required to bat, I only faced the last two balls of the match. I promptly hit the penultimate ball of the game for six to tie the scores then ran two to seal victory. It was great to really give something back to Leeds and not be seen as some big show for whom professional cricket had gone to his head. I still care about my club side and the amateur game in general. It groomed me to be the professional that I’ve become.

Upon my return to Yorkshire and off the back my my recent knocks of 67, 200, 87, 1 and 143 I was promptly demoted in the order to number four in the batting line-up. I wasn’t particularly enthused about that. Following demotion, I fell for just eight against my Northamptonshire nemesis, South African spinner Tabraiz Shamsi. I was his victim again in the second innings but did at least briefly take him to the cleaners before falling for 54. There then followed solid knocks of 50 and 80 against Derbyshire but disappointment at failing to convert them into more hundreds. In the penultimate match of the season against Glamorgan, I batted abysmally and was deservedly mopped up for scores of just 1 and 17. Following that one poor performance, I went full circle, demoted back to number five in the batting order and so finished the campaign where I had started. There was no double ton against Middlesex this time but scores of 64 and 15 took me to a season tally of 1472 runs in First Class cricket. I finished as seventh highest run scorer in the top division though my average of 54.52 was some way down the rankings.

It was a disappointing season in the longest format for Yorkshire. Winning our final two matches restored some pride but we finished in an unacceptable sixth place, way, way off challenging for the title.

As for my career, I now total 2237 First Class runs at an impressive average of 65.79. I’ve reorder six centuries complimented by nine half-tons. Of those six hundreds, three have been doubles and one a triple. I’m very proud of those performances. I also average a healthy 63.73 in List A cricket but am under no illusion regarding the challenge ahead to maintain those figures. I’ve signed up with Yorkshire for both First Class and List A cricket in 2024 but do hope to finally win a professional T20 contract. If I can get some T20 game time with Yorkshire then I can push for gigs in the Irish or Afghan T20 competitions.

Tying Batsmen in Knots

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Andrew James Tye is 31-years-old and has played only eight First Class matches. He’s not played many more List A matches but is closing in on 100 wickets in the T20 format. He’s been a consistent performer in both the Big Bash and IPL. Oh and he’s now a vital cog in Australia’s limited overs’ sides. If it weren’t for the Big Bash, AJ Tye probably wouldn’t exist.

Tye’s a player I’ve really liked since watching him represent Perth Scorchers in the Big Bash last season. He looks relaxed but not arrogant. When watching the latest T20I, I was surprised at how pessimistic the Australian commentators were about the Perth native’s future. Because of Tye’s penchant for a slower ball, they were insistent that he’ll need to bowl faster in future or risk going the same way as James Faulkner. Tye duly dismissed England’s James Vince with an immaculately executed… slower delivery!

There’s a skill in being able to resist bowling fast and Tye possesses that ability. In his first couple of ODIs against England he went wicketless but was economical. Then he claimed a five-wicket haul before bagging a four-for in a T20I against Tasman rivals New Zealand. Taking pace off the ball and making the batsmen have to generate power themselves puts the onus on them. As well as the bowler getting the batsman out, they might well get themselves out when trying to hit big shots only to find that they don’t actually have the strength to do so.

It seems logical that Tye will be less effective in the longest format and so far the stats back that up. His First Class bowling average is 36.81 compared with mightily impressive figures of just 21.29 and 19.64 in List A and T20 cricket.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/australia/content/player/459508.html

It’s par for the course that most bowlers have lower averages in the shorter formats but there’s a hefty gulf in Tye’s figures. The First Class measurement is admittedly a small sample size and of course he may learn, adapt and lower his average. His measured approach should mean he stays fit as permanently semi-injured quicks, the likes of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Nathan Coulter-Nile are rotated around him.

Tye’s one of those non-superstar but effective players that I like, similar to Grant Elliot and I look forward to seeing how many international wickets he can claim.

Ashes Cricket (PS4)!

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Well well well. Having switched to Cricket Captain 2017 on the MAC and just when we’d all given up hope on Big Ant Studios and the future of console cricket, just look what’s coming out in November this year…

https://www.bigant.com/fully-licensed-ashes-cricket-video-game-to-launch-this-summer/

Don’t be put off by the Ashes tag either. Details released advise that the usual customisation elements of Don Bradman Cricket games are there: Career mode, unparalleled customisation and women amongst other elements. Let’s hope the bugs that were prevalent in Don Bradman Cricket 17 have been well and truly ironed out for the PS4, XboX One and PC release but this is extremely welcome news for the cricket gaming community.

Here’s a a teaser trailer on YouTube…

Just look at the pockmarks on Mitchell Starc’s visage. The realism! This is actually now the main reason why I wouldn’t want to be a professional cricketer, to have my ‘unblemished’ skin on the big screen. Oh and a cork and leather combo coming at me in excess of 90mph!

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Hopefully England’s batsmen can produce a few more innings like this one by captain Joe Root come Ashes Cricket’s release!

Don Bradman Cricket 17: Career Heading North!

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Yes I designed that bat and yes it looks great doesn’t it? Thank you very much!

After nearly a decade on the T20 club circuit, the call finally came. Yorkshire County Cricket Club selected the Leeds captain Paul Morris in their County Championship side. No messing about with the pyjama stuff for me. They sent me straight in at the deep end without any armbands to take on Australian pace ace Mitchell Starc.

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Always happy to provide free promotion to my friends at UNICEF.

I made my way to 8 runs on my First Class debut before Starkers came onto bowl. Three deliveries later I was back in the pavilion. After safely negating his first two deliveries via solid defensive shots, I then pushed at the third, got a nick and the ball flew (And I mean flew!) to third slip.

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Wouldn’t wanna get sunburnt!

I went onto dismiss Pakistan Test batsman Umar Akmal in Leicestershire’s second innings, my maiden First Class wicket.

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Day One pre lunch strike rate: 170.0. Let that sink in for a minute!

Derbyshire didn’t have Mitchell Starc and so I promptly made hay against their attack. Having registered only four half-centuries in ten years on the club scene, I smacked 61 before lunch on the first morning of my second professional outing but was disappointed to be out in the last over of the session. I’d arrived signed, sealed and delivered as a First Class cricketer then promptly got out to the last ball of the day for a duck in the second innings!

After a quiet third match, I batted really well against former England Test spinner James Tredwell and co. in making 48 against Kent but again was out to the very last ball before an interval, in this case lunch. I did however settle things after a wobble in our second innings by striking a composed 33 not out in partnership with skipper Gary Ballance.

I hope to get a call-up to the one-day (List A) side soon. If my international ambitions are to be realised then I really need to make headway at domestic level pronto.

It’s been a long hard slog on the club scene for the last decade and though I’ve been sincerely honoured to represent and captain the city of Leeds, to have finally played First Class cricket for my home county of Yorkshire has fulfilled a lifetime’s ambition and to have made a small contribution to the team so far provides me with great pride. I still have work to do to cement my place at this level and to have a fulfilling career as well as chasing international ambitions but I’d like to take this opportunity to put on record my gratitude to all that have supported me in my career thus far. Many thanks to you all.

Paul Morris

Leeds and Yorkshire Cricket