Cricket 19: Collapses, Comebacks and… err, more Collapses!

Win the toss… check. Opt to bat… check. 75-6… that wasn’t in the script!

Following an uncomfortable tour game against Western Australia, we fronted up against the whole of the nation on the very same turf in Perth. Opening duo Jean-Luc Chevalier (10) and Enzo Petit (19) started steadily as ever, reaching 25-0 before the former was bowled through his legs by a sensational swinging delivery from Mitchell Starc (2-56). That prompted an ugly collapse as the terribly out of form pair of Gilles Smith (4) and Youssef Rizvi (11) as well as an out of sorts Petit, all fell to the short ball. Zvonimir Pitko (5) and Marwan Leroy (0), two young players who both came out of the India tour with their reputations enhanced, soon followed as ignominy awaited our side. Cue Zidane Thomas, who mustered only 17 runs @ 4.25 in the India Test series, an aggregate that included a tortuous 15-ball duck in his final innings. Having retained his place he stuck to his guns to score a swashbuckling and crowd-lifting 41 from just 34 balls. He compiled a fifty partnership with his skipper Xavier Le Tallec who led from the front himself.

The recalled Paco Georges, fresh from first innings figures of 5-52 on the very same deck only a few days earlier, then cavaliered his way to a pulsating 52 from only 27 deliveries. Off-spinner Nathon Lyon (1-46) copped some disdainful treatment from the tall left-hander meanwhile Mitchell Marsh (0-27), who claimed 11 wickets in the tour game, went wicketless. Tailenders Louis Martin (0) and Mehdi Qadri (1) didn’t last long but Le Tallec finished 59 not out to haul his side to 236. Having being 75-6 we’d recovered to 144-7 and 223-7 before subsiding rapidly to 236 all out. Josh Hazlewood (7-63) was tormentor in chief meanwhile Joe Burns claimed four catches.

Despite folding quickly at the end, our lower order and importantly our captain had dug deep to keep us competitive. Le Tallec, Thomas and Georges displayed guts and were unfazed by having their backs firmly against the wall. They attacked and cleared the ropes on numerous occasions but this wasn’t just slogging. The trio played their own game and made the right shot selection, something our top/middle order could learn form.

On that note, an anxious wait… awaited the woefully out of form Smith and Rizvi who would need to contribute scores of substance in the second dig to retain their places in the playing XI come Sydney.

In response to our batting efforts, Australia then raced to 194-0 during which time we dropped four catches… none of which the game allowed me to try and catch! This included two edges off part-timer Jean-Luc Chevalier’s first over, the first over after tea. When we eventually clung onto an edge from Burns (58) off Chevalier (1-28), it was actually dropped by wicketkeeper Leroy but the fielding circle did at last appear and Smith reacted at slip. ANNOYING/FRUSTRATING/INSERT AS APPROPRIATE!

Our luck turned however as captain fantastic Le Tallec (1-38) struck with his first ball, the first after drinks, to dismiss David Warner for a magnificent 140, Leroy holding a smart catch. Leroy then clung on once again when Georges (1-121) lured Labuschagne (18) to nick his first delivery having switched to bowling around the wicket. We then ran Steven Smith (20) out as Australia tried to run on overthrows. We should’ve then run out Marsh without scoring but threw to the wrong end. After his outstanding performance in the warm-up match however Marsh’s (4) disappointing Test continued when he edged Qadri (1-86) to Chevalier. Qadri then found the edge again, this time off Oz captain Paine. The ball deflected off Leroy to Smith at slip who got his fingers under the ball yet the decision was not out. Tim Paine and his team can spout about “Elite honesty” but if they don’t back up their talk then their words are hollow!

Paine and Head survived one more over to reach the close on 274-5, a lead of 38 but that was some collapse having being 194-0. As the players left the field there were heated exchanges between our incensed fielders and the Australian batsmen. As things threatened to boil over an enraged Le Tallec shepherded his herd away and with the TV cameras and mics listening in to every word, he demanded that his side wait until tomorrow to respond… with the ball! We’d fought back superbly… twice. Could we do it again?

There are people in this world who think that Test cricket is boring, people who wouldn’t ever give it the light of day. Well those people missed out on a day of epic drama, collapses and comebacks, ebbs and floes and a little controversy too in Australia’s far west. What were they doing instead?!

Despairingly day two began with any hopes we had of continuing our fightback soon shattered. Australia’s overnight pair set about causing us severe and prolonged head pain! Travis Head reached fifty off the last delivery of the old ball as he and captain Paine lifted the hosts to 354-5, a distant 118 runs ahead.

The new ball did the trick though not in the way we’d expected. Head, set on 52 and with the Paine partnership up to 93, was run out courtesy of a boundary throw from Enzo Petit. By lunch however Australia were up to 381-6, a lead of 145.

Paine ascended into the nineties and seemed destined for a ton before Zidane Thomas intervened. Thomas trapped the Australian captain deep in his crease but Paine opted to review. For a moment it looked like height might save the Tasmanian but he’d used up all his luck in the infancy of his innings. It would’ve been a hollow Test ton and the bitterest of pills for our team to swallow. Paine departed for 90 and Thomas (1-92) provided him with the farewell send off that he merited!

Despite the departure of their captain Australia batted on… and on… and on… messrs Cummins and Starc took them to tea on 504-7 with the lead having ballooned to a whopping 267. Eight deliveries after the interval, Australia declared on 507-7 with Cummins 57 not out and Starc undefeated on 40. The lead was up to 271.

In our quest to make our hosts at least bat again, we lost Chevalier for just 1 with the score on only 11. The left-hander unconvincingly edged Hazlewood to Smith in the slips. That brought the hugely under pressure Gilles Smith to the crease. Yet to make a fifty in nine Test innings, Smith needed nothing less in order to retain his place for the second Test in Sydney. Pressure… what pressure? He promptly smacked Mitchell Starc (0-72) all over the park. His innings included a 97-metre 6 that nearly landed in the Indian Ocean! He passed fifty for the first time at the highest level and when stuck on 60 for almost half an hour, didn’t panic. He defended, left then eventually got going again. He did the same again when pausing on 84. All the while Enzo Petit, like Smith, kept the pull and hook shots in his locker to keep the Australian bowlers at bay. Petit’s innings was more attritional than Smith’s but it displayed classic Test match opening batting application and temperament. At the close the pair had compiled a partnership worth 126, Petit resolute on 28 and Smith sleeping a little uncomfortably on 86. Placed at 137-1 we still required a further 134 to make Australia bat again but once more we’d shown great heart and fight.

Australia commenced day three by providing byes and overthrows to help the partnership grow to 136 but soon made a breakthrough. With only nine minutes on the clock, Petit (33) defended a short delivery from Cummins but edged high to Smith in the slips and his 80-ball vigil had reached its conclusion. The score was 147-2 and the fall of wicket brought Youssef Rizvi, sweating over his place in the team, to the crease. Rizvi got off the mark first ball but to the next delivery Smith, like Petit, defended only to nick behind, this time to gloveman Paine. The Australian captain claimed the catch high above his head. Only ten minutes on the clock and all the previous day’s hard work was rapidly unraveling courtesy of Cummins’ (2-23) short stuff. Smith (87), trudged forlornly back to the pavilion. 148-2 still 123 behind. The century he had spent the night dreaming of remained just that… a dream!

Australia soon replaced spinner Nathan Lyon with paceman Josh Hazlewood and Zvonimir Pitko promptly became the third wicket to fall in the space of twelve minutes. Like Petit and Smith before him, he was at least trying to defend a ball that posed a question but Paine dived to his right to pouch another catch. Scores of just 5 and 1 in the match for The Iceman and 147-1 had slipped to 149-4. Next up Zidane Thomas resisted for a few minutes but then couldn’t, err… resist! The right-hander top edged a pull off Hazlewood into the grateful hands of Smith. 155-5 and Marwan Leroy striding to the crease on a pair. It would be Youssef Rizvi (5) who fell next however. His cluttered mind coming to the fore as be needlessly attacked Lyon and was bowled around his legs. In that moment, Rizvi knew that his responsibilities in Sydney would be limited to ferrying beverages. Having started the India tour with a First Class ton and Test fifty the runs have since evaporated for the diminutive dasher. Back to things at hand and we were floundering at 156-5 having lost five wickets for just nine runs!

Make that 9-6 as Le Tallec (0) joined the procession! The skipper played an unnecessary and ugly hoik off Lyon that was snaffled by Hazlewood. It was a poor end to a proud performance on his part. Leroy and Georges fought back with a whopping partnership of … 11 before Georges (4) went skyward off Lyon and into the hands off the waiting Warner. 167-8 still 104 away from avoiding an innings defeat. Three balls later Leroy (5) prodded forward off the roaring Lyon into the gleeful hands of the fielder positioned at silly point. 147-1 had become 167-9! Moments later Qadri (1) top edged to Warner off Hazlewood (4-33) and we’d lost nine wickets for just 21 runs. 147-1 had ignominiously subsided to 168 all out. All the character and guts we’d displayed up to that point had vanished. The margin of defeat an innings and 103 runs. Off-spinner Nathan Lyon finished with astonishing figures of 4-5!

On behalf of the team I’d like to apologise for the inexcusable nature of the batting collapse. Take nothing away from the opposition but our display on day three shaded all the progress, fight and never say die attitude that we’d shown on the first two days. Some players will pay with their places. Multiple changes will be made to the playing XI come Sydney!

Ashes Cricket (PS4): Career Mode – 2024 Season

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Here’s a quick round up of the 2024 campaign.

In the One-Day Cup, I commenced the season with scores of 79 and a List A best of 174 from 86 deliveries at the top of the order. I then scored 27 and was promptly dropped to number four! I was pretty peeved at the demotion and some low scores then ensued. After only 21 runs in four outings, I then walloped 90 off 28 having reached 50 from 14 whilst passing 1000 career List A runs in the process.

I made a quick fire 46 in the quarter-final against Durham but that was as far as we got. I totalled 433 runs at 54.13 in the competition.

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I finally got the call to the Yorkshire T20 side and after a slow start, made 76 from 43 against Sussex.

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I dominated a rather one-sided partnership against Middlesex having equalled the world record for fastest fifty alongside Chris Gayle and Yuvraj Singh, just the twelve deliveries required. Later in the season, I went onto register a maiden ton from just 32 balls, two deliveries short of equalling Gayle’s record. I had a fantastic opportunity to smash the fifty record against Northamptonshire but having raced to 46 from nine, missed a free hit then failed to connect with the following two deliveries.

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I would go onto record another hundred, a career best 115 from just forty balls against Somerset. I was dismissed in the forties in both the quarter-final against Essex and semi-final against Derbyshire. Despite being favourites, we failed to get past Derbyshire in the semi and so yet again, there was to be no big day out for us.

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There were hundreds galore in the First Class arena. After a slightly slow start, I made 175 in a partnership of 209 against a Northamptonshire attack that included Australia’s Josh Hazlewood and my South African nemesis Tabraiz Shamsi.

Against Nathan Lyon and company at Worcestershire, I scored 175… again!

I made 99 against Surrey before being bowled around my legs. Having made 27 in the second innings I got dropped to four again. There must be something about the score of 27 and getting demoted from opener to four!

After a few low scores I was back to run-getting with 153 against Kagiso Rabada’s Derbyshire, then made 189 versus Leicestershire and 102 against Surrey. I reached fifty from twelve balls against Nottinghamshire and was then promoted back to opener. Against Glamorgan, I contributed my season high 216 having reached a century from just thirty deliveries. I fell for 95 in the second innings before scoring 92 in the final match of the season against Durham. I actually reached my half-century in a record breaking ten deliveries!

I was really satisfied with my ability to convert centuries into at least 150s more often than not. Unfortunately, as soon as the season finished, I was off to Australia and so couldn’t see the final County Championship standings or run charts! (Sort that out please Big Ant!)

I’ve signed as captain with Tasmania for the Sheffield Shield but then joined Auckland in the New Zealand T20 competition. This means that I’ll miss a load of Sheffield Shield matches. I’ve decided to sign up to as many T20 franchises as possible this winter to see how it works then review it and maybe be more selective next winter. I’ve signed for Hobart Hurricanes in the Big Bash and Khulna in the Bangladesh Premier League but it looks like I’ll only play snippets of each competition. I’m guessing that if I sign up for the Ireland T20 that I’ll miss some of the English county season. Like I said, I’ll sign up to every league possible this term then try and manage things better the following season.

For the record, my career record is as follows:

First Class: 3963 @ 66.05 incl. 14×50 & 12×100, TS: 325

List A: 1134 @ 59.68 incl. 4×50 & 5×100, TS: 174

T20: 757 @ 42.06 incl. 3×50 & 2×100, TS: 115

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!

International Duck Watch!

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South Africa have taken a 1-0 series lead in their home Test series against Sri Lanka with a comfortable win in Port Elizabeth. Dushmantha Chameera was the tourists’ sole second innings ducker but Sri Lanka still went down by 206 runs.

Meanwhile in Melbourne, Australia have assumed an unassailable 2-0 series advantage in their home Test series against Pakistan. Ducks from captain Misbah-ul-Haq, Wahab Riaz and Yasir Shah didn’t help the tourists’ cause.

Moving onto the third and final Test, Australia have recalled Steve O’Keefe, who would have replaced a now rejuvenated Nathan Lyon against South Africa but for injury and have dropped Nic Maddinson (Test batting ave: 6.75), despite the young batsman registering a career best 22 in this match. Ashton Agar has also been recalled for the dead rubber third Test…

http://www.espncricinfo.com/australia-v-pakistan-2016-17/content/story/1074685.html

… meaning that I wasn’t so crazy after all! (Please see below)

https://sillypointcricketsite.wordpress.com/2016/11/07/australia-0-1-south-africa/

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!

The Bird and the Lyon

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No it’s not the name of a pub, well actually it probably is. No it’s not a fable, well possibly. It’s the delightfully named bowling duo that the Australian selectors have decided to separate because ‘The Bird’ (As the Ozzy fans sat behind me at Durham a few years ago shouted every other delivery!) can’t bat. We’ve come a long way since the days I was growing up (The ’90s) if the Ozzies are picking their bowlers based on their batting ability.

Australia take on South Africa in the first Test in Perth starting tomorrow with BT Sport making their cricket debut. They’ll be looking to get in some net practice and get their eye in ahead of next winter’s Ashes when the viewing figures should go up a little.

Just incase you’re worried that the outfield looks a little rough, don’t worry, the image above wasn’t actually taken at the WACA!

Whilst we’re at it, here are a few more international cricketers with animal names:

Aaron Finch (Australia)

Greg Lamb (Zimbabwe)

Shaun Pollock (South Africa)