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.

Application for Role of National Selector

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https://www.ecb.co.uk/news/642891/ecb-announces-new-approach-for-england-men-s-selection

Dear Andrew Strauss

Please find enclosed my application for the role of National Selector as advertised on http://www.ecb.co.uk

On the MAC version of Cricket Captain 2017 (Admittedly on Easy Mode!), I was responsible for the selection of the England side that won the 2017 Champions Trophy on home turf. Who can forget David Willey’s 8-58 against Australia?! That summer, I had already made the brave decision to recall batsman Ben Duckett to the Test side despite his tough baptism the previous winter.

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Duckett repaid the faith by averaging 82.89 in the respectable 2017-18 2-2 away Ashes series draw.

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In 2018 I introduced Yorkshire seamer Ben Coad to Test cricket and he duly struck with his first delivery against Pakistan. Coad went on to claim just shy of 200 wickets as well as surpassing 1000 runs during my time as selector. As was the case with the recall of Duckett, there was resistance from some quarters towards the selection of Coad. Some in the media believed that I was applying Yorkshire bias and only selecting Coad because we were born in the same town. Proving the doubters wrong, his performances with bat and ball throughout his career confirmed that I possess nous when it comes to identifying under the radar talent.

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Mason Crane’s dismissals of three Indian batsmen, all first ball on T20I debut was another highlight of that summer.

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Another spinner, Adil Rashid, excelled in Sri Lanka where he famously followed up figures of 7-66 with a monumental knock of 161. Again, there were those that campaigned against the selections of said spinners, at least in the respective formats in which they would go onto succeed. Again, those doubters were silenced.

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Following our Champions Trophy success in 2017, we promptly won the 2019 ODI World Cup. Once again the nation were euphoric in their celebrations of home soil success.

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My insistence that Moeen Ali replace Jason Roy at the top of the order was both ruthless and crucial to our success. Moeen’s blazing knock of 112 from 80 deliveries in the final against India will live long in the memory of many.

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Alongside Moeen, Ben Duckett totalled 562 runs at 80.29, again this demonstrates my ability to get the best out of mischievous players. Many would’ve left the Northamptonshire batsman on the international scrapheap but his performances in both the Ashes and ODI World Cup were immense.

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Chris Woakes claimed twenty tournament wickets at just 12.55 apiece and please don’t ignore the contribution made by left field selection Luke Fletcher. This included a vital wicket in the final at Lords.

Yes we lost the 2019 Ashes 3-0. Thirty-five-year-old Daryl Mitchell failed to back-up his debut knock of 73. He didn’t make another fifty before being dropped for the fifth Test and James Harris (0-102) had an ignominious introduction to Test cricket. The selection of thirty-nine-year-old Jimmy Adams’ (34 runs @ 8.50) in T20I cricket didn’t work either.

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Nor did the selection of Ross Whiteley (99 runs @ 9.90). However, there would be over 200 Test wickets for Jack Leach, a Test century for Max Holden and many Test tons for Will Rhodes as well as numerous ODI tons for Daniel Bell-Drummond during my time as Selector. Sometimes you have to sift through the dirt to find the diamonds.

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I would like to think that the T20I career of sometime captain Benny Howell…

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… and ODI career of Ollie Rayner, the latter also earning two Test caps, will reflect well on my ability to identify talent and think outside the box when selecting the composition of a side. Even if these players didn’t excel statistically, they were under rated efficient contributors to the side.

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Other highlights during my tenure included: In Bangladesh in 2021, having lost the first Test by just one wicket courtesy of Jofra Archer’s no ball, we chased down 431 in the second Test to level the series. Liam Livingstone (122 & 166) and Will Rhodes (111 & 128*) famously made tons in each innings.

Middlesex’s Harry Podmore claimed figures of 3-51 on ODI debut but disappointingly we failed to progress from the round robin stage of the 2022 Champions Trophy. Paul Coughlin (Two six-wicket hauls) though was for a time the number one bowler in the world in ODI cricket.

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In the 2022 T20I World Cup we reached the semi-final before we were cruelly defeated by India. Hampshire’s Lewis McManus, another shrewd selection, contributed 225 runs at 56.25 including a swashbuckling ton against Pakistan.

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Another gloveman, Sussex’s Ben Brown, registered fifties in his first two T20I caps.

Unfortunately by the time 2023 came around we were ranked as low as 8th in ODI cricket and 9th in both Tests and T20Is. We scored 447 in the fourth innings of an Ashes Test but still lost!

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On the plus side, Surrey all-rounder Sam Curran, originally bravely selected whilst still in his teens, passed 100 wickets ODI cricket. Another find was Nottinghamshire batsman Billy Root, who stepped out of his brother’s shadow to register an ODI century against West Indies. I’m extremely proud of his selection because both the media and public were extremely sceptical.

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After a run of ten straight Test defeats, we did at least beat Zimbabwe 2-0 at home. Liam Livingstone and Ben Foakes’ partnership of 351 proving crucial.

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Somerset speedster Jamie Overton claimed nine wickets at just 15.56 upon his introduction to Test cricket.

Opening batsman Mark Stoneman went onto pass 4000 Test runs though we probably shouldn’t have allowed him so much opportunity to close in on 5000 when clearly past his sell by date!

Lewis McManus and Sam Northeast recorded a record-breaking partnership of 263 in an ODI and Sam Evans scored centuries in each of his first three Tests.

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Defeats against Namibia and Canada in the 2023 ODI World Cup was a disappointing way to bow out. Durham bowler James ‘Killer’ Weighell’s figures 0f 10-0-102-0 against the North American side were confirmation that I’d persisted with him too long.

I don’t think Hamidullah Qadri’s Test bowling average ever got below 60.00 and Mark Footitt (7 wickets in 5 Tests) was another one I probably got wrong. Don’t let those performances against associate nations, world rankings or runs of defeat after defeat deflect from my achievements though. A Champions Trophy and ODI World Cup win are not to be scoffed at, particularly when under the pressure of playing in front of the expectations of a home crowd. The selections and performances of Will Rhodes (Tests), Daniel Bell-Drummond (ODIs) and Lewis McManus (ODIs/T20Is) as well as Jack Leach, Ben Coad, Jofra Archer and Liam Norwell (Tests), Jamie Overton and Paul Coughlin (ODIs) demonstrate my ability to see beyond the obvious and identify players capable of succeeding at international level.

I’m extremely confident that I can transfer my success (Mediocrity, call it what you will!) in virtuality to reality and excel in the role of National Selector. I’m available for interview at any time and await your response with much anticipation.

Yours faithfully

 

Paul Morris

Century Seeking Siaka Seriously Stalling!

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No that’s not Papua New Guinea batsman Lega Siaka’s mobile number. It’s his last seven innings in ODI cricket! His contribution to Papua New Guinea’s attempt to reach the 2019 ODI World Cup has been a pretty limp one. His most recent outing against Zimbabwe, caught in the field having accrued just 7 from all of 31 deliveries when batting at three with his team chasing 264, pretty much sums up where he’s at at the moment.

This is an especially frustrating time for the island nation’s great hope, one of the few associate cricket teams to actually field mostly if not entirely indigenous players. Siaka has an ODI ton against Hong Kong early in his career but now averages just 17.47 from 17 innings. Remove his 109 against Hong Kong from the equation and Siaka becomes fiftyless and would average 11.75. I’m always wary of chopping and changing a player’s statistics, it’s a little unfair but put that one extreme career best aside and Siaka has struggled big time. The Port Moresby native actually has three List A tons but an average of only 25.27. Again this highlights the extremes of his scoring pattern. It’s either feast or famine but the feasts are rare, like at Christmas or on your birthday!

Siaka is twentyfive-years-old. He’s not a kid, has represented Melbourne Renegades in the Big Bash and turned out for the Australian Prime Minister’s XI. Of course the problem for associate players such as Siaka is the quality and volume of cricket they’re playing between tournaments. Siaka has represented Essendon in rookie cricket Down Under but compare that to the likes of Netherlands’ Ryan ten Doeschate and Roelof van der Merwe, both of whom are regulars on the English county circuit or Afghanistan’s young skipper Rashid Khan playing in the IPL and Big Bash and the experience aquired just doesn’t compare. It may be that Siaka is more suited to the longer format, he averages 32.69 in First Class cricket but in truth, that’s not the format to prosper in if you’re an associate player. That of course opens a whole can of worms regarding developing Test cricket around the world but I’ve written plenty on that already!

Fingers and toes crossed that if Siaka is presented with another chance in the ICC World Cup Qualifier that he can reach double figures and then clock up at least a second ODI half-century.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/player/440990.html

Could Gleeson Gleam?

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Not making your professional debut until the ripe old age of twenty-seven has a distinctly Australian vibe about it but no, Blackpool born former Cumberland representative and now England Lions wicket-taker Richard Gleeson is English and pushing for what would be an inspiring national selection.

Gleeson averages sub-28 in all three formats (First Class, List A and T20) at domestic level and has claimed ten wickets in four outings for England Lions in West Indies on the current tour.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/473191.html

This on a trip where it’s been the spinners that have done most damage but right-arm-fast-medium bowler Gleeson hasn’t been able to help himself.

As raw as he was in senior cricket in 2016, Gleeson got a gig with Rangpur Riders in the Bangladesh Premier League. There are some who may scoff at the notion of an England call-up for a thirty-year-old with less than sixty professional outings spread across the three formats to his name but it could be that having earned this chance, having waited so long that Gleeson wants it more than some, that in a way he’s younger than his years such will be his enthusiasm and passion to seize an opportunity that he may well have thought would never come. A full England cap for Gleeson would be an inspiring tale to all minor county cricketers out there and indeed to the equivalent in various countries the globe over. The likes of Chris Woakes, Tom Curran and Mark Wood etc won’t make it easy for Gleeson to win a full cap but given the injuries to the likes of Liam Plunkett and with some rotation likely in T20Is at least as England focus on the 2019 ODI World Cup, an England debut for Gleeson might not be as far fetched as some would have thought only a short time ago.

Chapman Flappin’!

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Welcome to international cricket Mark Chapman! Well, proper and regular international cricket against Test opposition anyway. It’s all well and good scoring an ODI century against United Arab Emirates but having switched allegiance from the country of his birth, Hong Kong, to New Zealand and despite being in good touch at domestic level, the twenty-three-year-old left-hander has produced innings of 8, 1 & 0 in his three ODI outings for his adopted home so far. It’s been a pretty inauspicious introduction to New Zealand colours in the fifty-over format.

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Meanwhile his ex, Hong Kong, are at present attempting to qualify for the 2019 World Cup in England. They’re one of ten nations currently competing in the ICC World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe. What they would give to have Chappers in their batting line-up when competing against mostly other associate nations.

You can keep track of how the Road to 2019 is progressing here:

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/_/id/8038/season/2018/icc-world-cup-qualifiers/

Given New Zealand’s small pool of depth, the country has a population of just shy of 4.7 million people and not all of them are cricketers (No really, not all of them are!), Chapman, who did at least make starts in the T20I matches, will likely get another opportunity but unlike against England in the past couple of weeks, he’d better seize the chance with both hands.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/newzealand/content/player/438563.html

2019 Cricket World Cup

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I’ve thrown my e-mail address into the ticket ballot for the 2019 One-Day Cricket World Cup that is scheduled to take place in England next summer. Quite what this means I’m not sure. Could I end up with tickets to see Papua New Guinea vs. Bangladesh in Cardiff? I should probably point out that I’m a Yorkshire based England fan! Here’s the link to the ICC’s ticket page:

https://www.icc-cricket.com/media-releases/595204

The tournament qualifiers are currently taking place in Zimbabwe with two teams from ten progressing to the World Cup. Can you call it a World Cup when there’ll only be ten countries taking part? It’s a bit of a lottery as to which matches count as ODIs and which ones count as List A only. It’s pretty crucial stuff when a player registers a hundred or claims a five-for!

Many of the associate nations taking part at the qualifiers are missing key players because they’ve jumped ship and joined Test nations (Mark Chapman, Hong Kong to New Zealand) or because they’re working on doing the same (Michael Rippon, Netherlands to New Zealand). They’re also missing players because they can’t afford to play and need to work, e.g.: Preston Mommsen (Scotland) and Jamie Atkinson (Hong Kong).

Cricket needs to spread and develop the game globally. It could be that Test cricket will be saved by the associate nations. As players abandon the longest format for the T20 dollars and Test cricket becomes less competitive then the likes of Kenya and Nepal may join Afghanistan and Ireland in dining at the main table. Having said that, Rashid Khan and Nepal’s Sandeep Lamichane have already had a taste of the global T20 league so already even the second tier teams are potentially losing players from competing internationally to the domestic dollar competitions.

Back to the qualifiers, Scotland have already upset Afghanistan who were captained by nineteen-year-old Khan, whilst Zimbabwe posted nearly 400 in imposing defeat against Lamichane’s Nepal. You can keep up to date with proceedings here:

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/_/id/8038/season/2018/icc-world-cup-qualifiers/

Hopefully next year’s World Cup will catch the fans’ attention like last year’s Champions Trophy did. Here’s to some fine English weather come 2019!