Cricket 19: NWHTC – Found the Edge but Where’s Bono?

The Irish batsmen raise their bats to recognise the applause upon reaching their half-century… oh no, wait!

50 all out before lunch and having even gone off for rain!

Paul Stirling achieved duck avoidance with an edge for four but it was his only scoring shot and set the tone for what was to come. James Anderson, dancing on his home deck, had Stirling superbly caught in the slips by Rory Burns and things didn’t get any better for the visitors. Anderson soon doubled his tally when he bagged Andrew Balbirnie for a duck before Stuart Broad also struck twice. Surrey’s Sam Curran, our leading wicket taker in the competition, struck with his second delivery and thought he’d done so again the very next ball. The LBW decision was overturned however before we reviewed one ourselves the following delivery. It was an almost identical ball and was correctly given not out… just! Chris Woakes, fresh from being rested for the USA match then made an immediate impact by striking with the post rain-break’s premier delivery. Warwickshire’s Woakes went onto claim absurd analysis of 3-6 including the prize scalp of opening bat William Porterfield. Porterfield grafted for 18 from all of 70 deliveries, the only real resistance in the Irish batting effort though James McCollum made a pretty 11. Spin-bowler Moeen Ali got in on the act too courtesy of a sharp catch by gloveman Jonny Bairstow.

We’d expected to be presented with a real challenge from Ireland as both sides competed for second spot in the table and keeping table-topping Scotland in sights. We won the toss, chose to bowl in difficult batting conditions at Old Trafford and thoroughly exploited said conditions. Though ripping through a side is enjoyable we much prefer a challenge. It wasn’t a great start from Ireland but we knew there was still a long way to go.

Credit then to Ireland who surprised everybody by opening the bowling with spin and it soon did the trick. Rory Burns fell in all too familiar fashion, caught behind off the bowling of James Cameron-Dow for only 9. His dismissal left his place in the XI on a precipice.

Ben Duckett promptly took guard then relocated the ball into the outfield and off he set. Sadly Haseeb Hameed, fresh from a ton against America and hoping to repeat the feat on his home turf, was run out for 6 coming back for a second. Duckett then batted as he often has before, looking comfortable and striking two or three wonderful boundaries. At lunch he’d reached 33 from 36 meanwhile captain Joe Root had raced to a run-a-ball 44. The pair aided our recovery from 17-2 to 99-2. The question was could Root, having made a three fifties in the competition so far, go big and could Duckett save his Test career?

Root soon surpassed fifty and he and Duckett had compiled 113 when the captain nicked behind off the spin of Andy McBrine for 60. Then, just when Duckett seemed to have cemented his place for the immediate future, he ran himself out for 49. The Shamrock spinners stymied the left-hander’s scoring and he allowed the pressure to manifest itself. He was far too casual when trying to sneak a single and failed to ground his bat in time. It was a horrible end to an innings that had promised so much and rather summed up Duckett’s Test career so far.

Suddenly it was all going off as Jos Buttler, having made just one, was put down off the next ball. The drop didn’t prove costly as Buttler fell for only 6 before Moeen inexplicably joined the run out victims having made just 4. It was an embarrassing and unacceptable passage of play on our part.

The procession continued at break neck speed as Sam Curran was caught behind for 6 then Bairstow joined for only 10. YJB dragged on via his boot from possibly the slowest delivery in history. Broad was next to go, clean bowled for 8 to become part-timer Stirling’s (3-25) third wicket. When George Dockrell dismissed hometown hero Anderson for 6, we’d lost 8 wickets for 58 runs and our self-implosion was complete. We totalled 188, a lead of 138 with Chris Woakes stranded on 15. Despite a healthy lead the boys headed back to the changing room to take a long hard look at themselves and face some harsh truths!

After our batting collapse the team came out fired up and determined to right some wrongs. We soon made a crucial breakthrough before tea when local lad Anderson trapped Stirling (14) LBW and Ireland closed the session on 28-1. The final session was then entirely lost to rain. Though 21 wickets fell on the first day’s play, the NWHTC Pitch Inspection Squad were happy with the surface. Three of the wickets fell to run outs, our bowlers exploited a juicy deck on a damp morning before our batsmen then crumbled under pressure against spin. In short, the pitch wasn’t at fault.

On a rain interrupted second morning Ireland progressed to 57-1 before normality resumed. Anderson feasted in familiar surroundings having Balbirnie caught behind for 12, the crucial wicket of Porterfield played on for 53 then Kevin O’Brien inside edged to Bairstow first ball. Stumper Stuart Poynter survived until drinks but Ireland were 88-4, still half a century behind. Because of the rain and interruptions in play, Anderson and Broad bowled in tandem for the opening 23 overs of the innings before Curran and Woakes entered the fray. Woakes was soon in on the act picking up where he left off in the first innings. Poynter had reached 10 before he became yet another victim of the Bairstow catching machine, nicking a full and unplayable delivery from Woakes. Batting then got easier as the pitch dried out but take nothing away from the Irish batsmen who resisted well. In fact McCollum (56 not out) and Stuart Thompson (53 not out) did more than resist and lifted Ireland from 99-5 to 201-5 at tea, a lead of 63.

After a period of immense frustration for our side, Stuart Broad (1-66) finally split the partnership when he trapped McCollum plumb in front for an excellent 71. At 227-6 the Irish lead was up to 89. Sam Curran (1-53) then dismissed Dockrell for 9 before Moeen cruelly terminated Thompson’s innings twelve runs short of a maiden Test ton. Moeen (2-42) also accounted for McBrine on 11. Skipper Root then brought back Anderson in search of the final wicket and a five-wicket haul. It turned out to be a regrettable move as the Lancashire Express (4-70) sustained an injury when executing the final delivery of the over. Ireland closed day two on a commendable 294-9, a lead of 156 runs.

On the third day rain again delayed the start but after some overthrows helped get Cameron-Dow on strike, Woakes (2-39) duly snapped him up caught behind by Bairstow (10 catches in the match) for his second wicket of the innings. 308 was the Irish innings total meaning that we required a potentially tricky 171 to win. For under pressure opener Burns it had the potential to be a career defining day.

Haseeb Hameed’s hometown horror continued when he was clean bowled by Tim Murtagh for just 1. Something about a show and a Lord Mayor! Burns and Duckett then progressed to 36-1 when the heavens opened once again.

To the very first delivery after rain Burns swiped at a full length Murtagh delivery outside off stump that was angling away from him, nicked it to Poynter and having made only 16, walked off the field leaving us with a difficult decision to make for the trip to the Netherlands.

Duckett knuckled down however, kept the boundaries in his locker and ran his way to 51. He then edged behind off Dockrell but his match aggregate of 100 runs was absolutely essential. In this innings he stepped up under huge pressure and can hopefully build on this. Duckett’s departure brought Buttler to the crease and he and Root batted sensibly to move from 120-3 to 165-3 at tea. We tucked into our tea and scones just five runs from victory but with an eagle eye on the clouds.

In the second over after the interval Root (77 not out) and Buttler (20 not out), on his adopted home ground, reached their fifty partnership and saw us comfortably home for a seven-wicket victory.

There were some ups and downs in the match and Ireland made us work hard which was something we needed after a few relatively easy victories in previous matches. Our first innings batting performance was below par but the boys applied themselves well second time around. Root made fifties in both innings and the contributions of Ben Duckett were particularly welcome.

Clearly Rory Burns double failure was disappointing. His sequence of scores in the competition reads 26, 44, 9, 57, 34, 9 & 16 at an average of 27.86. That’s by no means a disgrace but Test cricket demands greater returns.

Our bowling unit maintained their high standards and wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow has now claimed 32 dismissals in just four matches, ten clear of the next best in the competition.

Next up for us it’s a trip to the continent to take on the Dutch. It’s an opportunity for our batsmen to test themselves against one of the NWHTC’s leading bowlers in the form of Fred Klassen. Look out for our squad announcement soon.

Cricket 19: NWHTC Round Four – Squad Announcement

Following back to back victories against North American opposition in the shape of Canada and USA, we now host more familiar foe in the form of Ireland.

We’ve made one change to the squad that defeated USA at Edgbaston. Dawid Malan, who acted as twelfth man in that match, drops out and Chris Woakes is recalled

A final decision between spin bowler Liam Dawson, who performed well at Edgbaston and Chris Woakes will be taken on the morning of the match.

The full squad is as follows:

Joe Root (Captain)

Rory Burns

Haseeb Hameed

Ben Duckett

Jos Buttler

Moeen Ali

Jonny Bairstow (Wicketkeeper)

Sam Curran

Liam Dawson

Chris Woakes

Stuart Broad

James Anderson

We’re expecting plenty of rain in Manchester and this will likely effect our selection of the playing XI for what we anticipate will be a fiercely contested encounter.

Ashes Cricket (PS4): Global Test League – Malan of the Match!

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Following the disappointing defeat at the hands of Zimbabwe at Old Trafford in the opening round of Global Test League fixtures, it was essential that we upped our game against India at Lords and register our first championship points.

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Records tumbled on day one as our batsmen recovered from a precarious position of 12-2 to make hay against an insipid India attack. No less than six willow wielders passed fifty but it was Dawid Malan who stood tallest on his home ground. The Middlesex man reached his maiden Test hundred before eventually being dismissed for a grand 133. Having made scores of 8 and 32 at Old Trafford, Malan seized the opportunity of playing on familiar ground to cement his immediate future in England’s middle order.

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The hosts had been 198-6 when Moeen Ali joined Malan at the crease but the pair combined to construct a mammoth partnership of 176 to deflate the Indian players. Moeen was cruelly denied a Test hundred, courtesy of a fantastic slower ball from Jasprit Bumrah that trapped the Worcestershire man in front. It was a rare piece of intelligent and well executed bowling from the away side. Bumrah, for his batting as much as his bowling, was one of the few Indian players to walk away from this match with their reputation enhanced.

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By the end of first day, we’d been dismissed for a mighty 536 and still had time to bowl a few overs at the visiting batsmen. The opening over, bowled by James Anderson as the sun set over London, was a sublime display of swing bowling. Having seen their side total a record breaking opening day score, the home fans had already received their money’s worth but were treated to Anderson’s torrid torture of India’s top order. Swinging the ball like no one before him, Anderson was close to claiming another two LBWs in his first over on top of trapping the dumbstruck Shikhar Dhawan. Dhawan would later fall to Anderson in the second innings, caught on the boundary in one of the most embarrassing displays of an international cricketer running scared ever seen!

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Registering scores of just five and three, Chris Woakes clearly had a disappointing match with the bat and the experimentation of him batting at number six may have to come to an end. The Warwickshire man made a solid contribution with the ball however, collecting match figures of 25-8-64-3 and easing the burden on messrs Broad and Anderson.

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Seamer Toby Roland-Jones, called into the side at the expense of spinner Liam Dawson, joined Middlesex colleague Malan in making a positive impression on his home ground. Having recored a maiden Test half-century (61) in England’s epic first innings, T R-J claimed three catches as India’s batsmen were suckered into the same trap time and time again. With his international career still in its infancy, the county veteran finished with match figures of 25.4-10-62-3. Like Woakes, Roland-Jones confirmed that England’s back-up brigade of pace bowlers are blessed with plenty of skill and wicket taking nous.

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Though we were keen to enforce the follow-on, a miscommunication (A bug!) with the officials resulted in us having to bat again. Provided the rapid nature of our first innings batting and as a result, the amount of time left in the match, we weren’t too concerned about having to do so. Of all the England players, only opening bat Mark Stoneman (7 & 8) will walk away from the match disappointed but fellow opener Keaton Jennings (73 & 51) made fifties in both innings. That’s three in four in the inaugural GTL for the new Lancashire recruit. Hampshire’s James Vince made an attacking 92 before Dawid Malan, not content with one Test century on his home ground, promptly made another. There are many great players never to have made the honours board at Lords but Malan etched his name twice in the space of a couple of days. He fell soon after as England presented the undeserving Hardik Pandya (3-55) with three cheap (And I mean very cheap!) wickets in one over, as thoughts turned towards a declaration. Despite there being ample time left in the match, it was felt unnecessary to have our bowlers exert energy whilst batting. There’s another twelve rounds of Test fixtures and the workload of the pace bowlers in particular must be managed accordingly.

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Few would have thought that James Vince would lead the way with the ball in India’s second innings but with captain Joe Root letting senior bowlers, the likes of James Anderson and Stuart Broad take it easy in the field, Vince followed up his batting exploits with figures of 2-40 from ten overs. Freakishly, India were dismissed for 208 in both innings. In truth, it may only have been England’s decision to rest senior bowlers second time around that allowed India to ascend from 98-8 and total that many.

This was a truly emphatic and utterly dominant display from England. The 455-run margin of victory was the sixth highest in the history of Test cricket. Our first innings total of 536 was the highest ever score reached on the opening day of a Test match and the second most runs scored on any day in Test history. There were contributions from throughout the side and standards have now been set extremely high. There’s excitement amongst the players as they seek to be the leading run-scorers or wicket-takers respectively in the Global Test League. Malan currently sits third on the overall batting charts and Anderson leads the way for England with the ball. That friendly competition is good for the team and the tournament as a whole. After a disappointing outing against Zimbabwe, it will be pleasing for captain Joe Root to have made 55 in the first innings but even more pleasing to see all those around him perform so productively.

Our next match sees us voyage overseas for the first time, not far though, just a short traverse of the Irish Sea to take on Ireland in Malahide. We’ll review conditions prior to confirming any amendments to the squad.

Ashes Cricket (PS4): Global Test League – England Squad Announcement

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Following the disappointing defeat at the hands of Zimbabwe in the opening round of Global Test League fixtures, England now take on India in another home encounter, this time at Lords.

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We’ve opted to make one alteration to the squad and one change to the XI. Spinner Liam Dawson bowled well in patches but struggled for effectiveness at Old Trafford and against a side strong against spin, Liam will be better served honing his skills in domestic cricket.

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Toby Roland-Jones steps up from 12th man to compliment our seam bowling attack and is expected to do well on his home ground.

Liam Plunkett is another pace bowling option that still has something to offer in the longest format of the game and joins the squad as 12th man.

Be sure to revisit the site to see if Joe Root and his men can bounce back from defeat against Zimbabwe and pick up their first ever Global Test League points with a positive result against the mighty India. Many thanks for your support.

Ashes Cricket (PS4): Global Test League

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Top of the Global Test League… but for how long?

The Global Test League is here folks!

Unfortunately due to contractual issues neither Australia or Sri Lanka feature in the competition. There are eight teams (England, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, West Indies and Zimbabwe) and each side will play each other home and away. That’s a total of fourteen matches per side to decide the best Test team on the globe.

As Team Manager and Chairman of Selectors of the England team, it’s my responsibility to keep you up to date with how the side perform during the competition. So here it goes…

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Liam Dawson (1-83 & 0-65) struck early in Zimbabwe’s first innings but was a juxtaposition of maidens and expensive overs from there on.

Our first match of the inaugural Global Test League was a home fixture against Zimbabwe at Old Trafford. Many observers rather disrespectfully suggested that the result was a formality. It turned out to be anything but!

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James Anderson (3-107) didn’t immediately find his groove but came back in sensational style, at one point being on a hat-trick!

Zimbabwe won the toss and batted first. At 344-4 early on the second day, the visitors seemed destined for a huge score. James Anderson (3-107) had other ideas however as the Lancashire quick found another gear on his home ground. Zimbabwe lost their last six wickets for just 38 runs to subside to 384 all out (Masakadza 106, Raza 88). A still decent total but not as imposing as they would have liked given their position before Anderson’s exploits.

In our first innings, we seemed guaranteed to claim a first innings lead when a 126-run partnership between Mark Stoneman (77) and James Vince (71) took us to 162-1. Both batsmen were naively run out though and there then followed what can only be described as kamikaze batting by the home side. 162-1 rapidly became 239 all out. A loss of nine wickets for just 77 runs. This included the fall of captain Joe Root for a golden duck. Part-time spinner Sean Williams (4-31) was the chief destroyer, backed-up by seamer Chris Mpofu (3-61).

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Craig Ervine survived a clear glove behind as Zimbabwe set England a mammoth 471 to win the Test match.

Zimbabwe then maintained the pattern of the batting side laying a strong platform and had reached 167-1 before Dawid Malan (2-32) intervened. The part-time Middlesex spinner struck with his second delivery immediately after the interval and went onto claim a further wicket as well as effect a run out and take a catch. Malan’s success with the ball only served to highlight Liam Dawson’s lack of penetration. England then took regular wickets but not in clusters as the away side totalled 327 (Mire 90, Broad 3-75) second time around. Not wanting to be bitter, we were frustrated by some of the umpiring decisions during Zimbabwe’s second innings, not least the clear glove behind by Craig Ervine (See image above) that was given not out.

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James Vince, having been run out for 71 in the first innings, posted a maiden Test hundred in the second.

Ultimately that left us needing to score a world record 471 to win the Test match. At various intervals including when positioned on 127-1, 221-3 and 375-6 we had high hopes of making history. James Vince (107) led the way with a maiden Test century at a little over a run-a-ball but the Hampshire man was dismissed not long after reaching his hundred.

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Moeen Ali smashed the record for Test match cricket’s fastest ever half-century in a thrilling demonstration of clean hitting entertainment for the loyal but bedraggled England following.

Alongside Jonny Bairstow (71 from 45), Moeen Ali had the home crowd struggling to believe their eyes as we dared to pull off cricket’s greatest ever heist. The Worcestershire all-rounder clobbered 58 from just 17 deliveries. Though it was part-timer Sean Williams that dismissed Moeen, it was Zimbabwe captain Graeme Cremer who held his nerve as we went on the attack in our quest for victory. In regards to field placements, the away side’s bold skipper didn’t panic in the face of Moeen and JB’s onslaught. Cremer would finish the innings with sensational figures of 7-105 and deservedly claim the Player of the Match award!

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Our tail were soon back in the pavilion as Zimbabwe claimed a deserved victory, one that has sent shockwaves around the cricket world. The margin of defeat a mere 78 runs. We’re obviously disappointed to have lost but I’m proud of the team for sticking at it with the ball in each of Zimbabwe’s innings and restricting them to sub 400 totals on both occasions. I’m also proud of the boys for scoring nearly 400 on a worn and degrading pitch in the fourth innings of a Test match. It was our inept batting display in our first innings though that has cost us the match. Things won’t get any easier next up against India at Lords, as we go in pursuit of  our first Global Test League points. Despite the loss we don’t anticipate wholesale changes to the side. A squad for that Test match will be named in due course with Toby Roland-Jones possibly coming into contention on his home ground.

Disclaimer: The simulation of other teams’ matches crashed when Australia featured and the on-disc Sri Lanka team has not yet been complimented with genuine players, hence their absence from the Global Test League. As the old adage goes: “You can only beat what’s in front of you”, or not as the case may be!

Don Bradman Cricket 17: England v Kenya Test Match

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After the Ireland and Hong Kong results the boys and myself had some pretty intense discussions about where we want to be as a cricketing nation. I’m proud to say that the team really stepped up in this match and displayed the sort of qualities that we hope will keep our supporters believing that the England cricket team can summit some huge peaks in the future.

Under pressure batsman Ben Duckett was retained, as was spin bowler Ollie Rayner after an impressive debut against Hong Kong. The Old Trafford pitch caught us by surprise so unfortunately for left-arm seamer Mark Footitt, he missed out and a debut was given to another spinner, Somerset’s Jack Leach. From the Hong Kong match, Mason Crane also missed out.

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Our first innings followed a familiar pattern as wickets tumbled all around. Opening batsman Keaton Jennings batted defiantly until the very end when after debutant Jack Leach managed to eek out a single to get off strike, Jennings, rather than selfishly take an easy single to reach his half-century, was dismissed for 49 as he tried to clear the ropes, therefore narrowly missing out on carrying his bat through the entire innings.

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Positive contributions from lower order batsman Ollie Rayner (28) and an in-form Stuart Broad (34) helped us stumble to a disappointing 141 all out.

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Broad (2-106) then put in a much improved showing with the ball and debutant Jack Leach looked right at home in the Test arena, claiming figures of 3-81. Kenya declared on 394-6, rather cruelly leaving their not out batsman stranded on 93 and 82 with plenty of time still left in the game and little threat of rain.

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In our second innings we lost early wickets again, including that of Duckett for 3. His Test future will have to come under great scrutiny ahead of our next match. Our batsman committed to a positive brand of cricket however and despite an almighty close LBW call whilst in the 90s, captain Joe Root produced a magnificent 132 to lead us to a second innings total of 422.

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Haseed Hameed (75), Jonny Bairstow (61) and James Hildreth (54) also made half-centuries.

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That left Kenya with a target of 170 for victory. All our bowlers bowled well, particularly young Sam Curran who went at just 3.88 an over but ultimately our limp first innings effort cost us.

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Kenya sealed a seven-wicket victory but for the third match in a row we improved and if we can bat as we did in our second innings of this match twice in our next match then we will finally provide ourselves with a real chance of tasting success.