Extras

Bye:

ODI status attained by USA!

Leg Bye: Bad news for one England wicketkeeper but good news for another… then bad news for another!

A dislocated shoulder for Sam Billings.

An England white-ball call-up for Ben Foakes.

Errr… insert picture of Ollie Pope!

A Billingsesque dislocated shoulder for Foakes’ Surrey teammate Ollie Pope.

No Ball:

A reported drugs fail for Alex Hales… but why try to hide it?

Wide:

Not cricket but loyal followers will be aware of my association with FC Nantes. As with all the above, this merits a post of its own but you’ll have to forgive me.

Farewell Horacio Sala. May you and Emiliano be reunited. Wishing your family great strength.

Free Hit:

190 from 154 balls for Hampshire’s occasional England player James Vince against Gloucestershire!

Preparation Stagnation

England commence their long anticipated Test series in Sri Lanka very shortly but their preparation has lacked serious intensity. I appreciate that the climatic conditions have dealt an unfavourable hand but this scenario is nothing new to England’s cricketers.

I have always been in favour of a couple of official First Class matches on tour. These whole squad get involved matches are little more than a glorified net and are not treated as competitive matches. Whilst the individual element may seem like good prep, I strongly believe that an individual playing only one First Class warm-up rather than participating in two exhibition affairs, would be more akin to playing Test Cricket. Had Rory Burns and Keaton Jennings opened in the first of two official warm-up games in the knowledge that Joe Denly was to be presented with a chance in that slot in the second match, the pressure on them to perform would surely be more akin to actually playing Test cricket.

On the subject of Denly, he may well have played himself out of a Test debut with a shoddy performance in the warm-up matches. With mid-series tour matches almost eradicated, how do the likes of Denly or Ollie Pope restate their case for selection in situations such as these? This is a feeling that’s all too familiar to Gary Ballance!

As is often the case with any selection related article that I’ve scripted, either the landscape has changed very quickly or I was just completely misguided in my initial assessment. Surrey’s Ben Foakes now looks a likely Test debutant in the first Test and could really muddy the selection waters ahead of Jonny Bairstow’s return to fitness, by producing a good performance. Imagine if Jos Buttler falls twice to spin for single figure scores!

Somerset spinner Jack Leach also seems likely to return to skipper Joe Root’s XI and hopefully he and Foakes can convert consistent county career contributions to the international stage. England will be desperate to bounce back in Asia following their abysmal attempts in Bangladesh and India a couple of years ago.

Frustrated Foakes!

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Surrey’s Ben Foakes spent last winter warming the bench during a lengthy Ashes tour and could now be set to do the same in Sri Lanka. Since last winter, Jos Buttler has returned to the side not only as a specialist batsman but also as second choice wicketkeeper. As a result, even though Jonny Bairstow injured himself playing football, former Essex-man Foakes remains unlikely to play in the first Test. If Bairstow is anything shy of 100% fit then based on his attempts at playing when injured during last summer, he should be nowhere near the XI. The England management need to be brave enough to make the sort of calls that Italy’s football coach Arrigo Sacchi did with star player Roberto Baggio during the early stages of World Cup USA ’94. England also have Foakes’ Surrey teammates Ollie Pope and rather less likely, uncapped opening batsman Rory Burns as alternative wicketkeeping options. That’s just the five glovemen in the squad then!

Based on what we saw last winter, it’s quite possible that England’s XI in the third Test may be rather different to what we see in the first encounter. With little game time under his belt, Somerset spinner Jack Leach may be unlikely to start the series but if England fall behind then he may well be called upon. It may also be the case that the delicate Olly Stone benefits from not playing though you’d think some overs under his belt would be helpful.

Much maligned opening batsman Keaton Jennings missed out in his only opportunity on tour so far as did Joe Denly. Though Denly’s return to England’s T20I side went romantically well, the nature of the game means that he was able to claim wickets without bowling at his best. That is unlikely to be the case in the Test series. It’s tough to call but with rumours that Stuart Broad may be rested and Sam Curran’s left-arm variety useful, particularly if Leach is omitted, could England’s line-up in the first Test look like this?

Rory Burns

Keaton Jennings

Joe Denly

Joe Root (c)

Ben Stokes

Jos Buttler (w)

Moeen Ali

Chris Woakes

Sam Curran

Adil Rashid

James Anderson

If the weather allows, England basically now have a one-day game before the first Test. Wickets for the likes of Broad and Leach or runs for Pope or Foakes could yet have a bearing on the make-up of England’s XI. Of course if Buttler were to get injured during a Test, it’d be perverse if Foakes and Pope were sat on the bench alongside Bairstow whilst Rory Burns assumed the gloves on what would turn out to be a heck of a demanding introduction to international cricket for the Surrey skipper.

Stone Certainty?

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Warwickshire’s Olly Stone is a player who featured in Silly Point’s Six to Watch feature this year…

https://sillypointcricket.com/2018/01/14/six-to-watch 2018/

https://sillypointcricket.com/2018/09/22/six-to-watch-2018-season-review/

He follows in the footsteps of another player from this year’s selection, Surrey batsman Ollie Pope, to have now graced the international stage.

Coming off the back of a productive domestic campaign, Stone made his international debut for England in the ODI series in Sri Lanka that started last week. Both matches were affected by the rain but after not getting an opportunity in the first (Due to the weather in Dambulla), Stone collected his maiden England wicket in the second match.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/18602/scorecard/1140379/sri-lanka-vs-england-1st-odi-eng-in-sl-2018-19

Stone possibly owes his chance in part due to the hosts flipping of the tour schedule, leaving Liam Plunkett (Wedding arrangements already made) high and dry. If the pictures are anything to go by, high and dry is not something that many Sri Lankan cricket grounds are at the moment. The rain has been of biblical proportions!

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Stone could be a real asset for England come next year’s World Cup and future Ashes tours. He’ll need to remain fit and it could be that another player with a history of injuries, Somerset’s Jamie Overton, could help provide some healthy competition for Stone. Then there are also the likes of Saqib Mahmood, Zak Chappell, George Garton and in time, Jofra Archer.

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Another player that I’m delighted to see get further opportunities in an England shirt is Hampshire’s Liam Dawson.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/211855.html

I felt that he was badly handled during his stint as a Test spinner. He performed admirably against India and South Africa, dismissing Hashim Amla twice but the England management buckled under media pressure and dropped the slow-left-armer. As a fill-in player, he’s been victim to attack when playing limited overs matches for England before but performed superbly in last year’s edition of the Pakistan Super League. He’s a constantly evolving player and England could do a lot worse than stick by him.

Cricket Captain 2018: The Greatest Series of All-Time!

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There have been many Ashes campaigns considered to be the greatest series of all time but surely none can trump the Ashes encounter of the summer of 2033 just gone! A series that ebbed and flowed until the last, that seemed in the firm grasp of Australian hands, only for them to lose grip in the very dying embers of the twenty fifth and final day’s flame!

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With Australia 290-7 deep into the final session of the final day of the final Test and only seven runs away from victory, before then reaching 296-8 to tie the score, step forward Sam Curran.

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The left-arm legend took two wickets in two balls to break Australian hearts and rescue the most incredible of results for England.

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The often under performing Feroze Khushi had upped his game against the hosts’ greatest rivals and not for the first time it must be said.

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After a disappointing campaign Sam Hain finally found form when it mattered with two fifties in the fifth Test. With Hain not quite at his best for most of the summer, it was Ollie Pope’s run-getting of biblical proportions that led the way for the hosts.

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A recalled Matt Fisher and a rejuvenated Josh Tongue were a constant threat with the new ball throughout the series.

The two teams next series? An Ashes campaign down under. It’s got an awful lot to live up too!

Cricket Captain 2018: Personal Milestones

The year is 2032 and Alastair Cook need not sweat!

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The run-getting of captain Max Holden has been integral to England’s Test success. An unfortunate recent habit of getting run out, including twice in a sensational Ashes series victory in Australia, have contributed to his average returning to something near mortality. Not that long ago it exceeded sixty!

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Occasional gloveman Ollie Pope has been another reliable run getter. His conversion rate is particularly impressive and had until recently helped him maintain an average just shy of fifty.

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Sam Hain has also piled on the runs, not just in Tests but in ODIs and more recently T20Is as well. Like Pope, Hain’s Test conversion rate is outstanding as is the case for him in ODI cricket. Hain is England’s leading run-scorer ever in the fifty-over format.

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Joe Clarke, who like Pope has been known to don the gloves, has also chalked up plenty of runs if not quite finding the consistency he would’ve liked.

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Sam Curran’s averages might be a little disappointing but he’s been a crucial impact player and continues to improve with bat and ball in all formats of the game. He reached 200 Test wickets in the same innings as Josh Tongue who we’ll come to later.

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Spin-bowling all-rounder Brad Taylor…

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… and wicketkeeper Jonny Tattersall, are two players who have been known to really step up to the plate when the chips have been down!

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After a woeful start to his international career, Matt Critchley silenced the doubters by going onto become one of England’s most reliable middle order Test batsman!

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Josh Tongue had to wait patiently whilst Jamie Porter (180) and Ben Coad (233) assumed the mantle from James Anderson and Stuart Broad. Now though Tongue has in excess of 200 wickets at both Test and ODI level as well as nearing 100 victims in T20Is. He’s some way ahead of second placed Jofra Archer (82) as England’s leading wicket-taker in the shortest format.

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Spinner Matthew Parkinson’s star had appeared to wane but he’s upped his performances once again to attain 665 Test wickets. That puts him ahead of James Anderson at the top of England’s all-time list of Test wicket-takers. He’s also performed effectively in white-ball cricket despite his workload been managed over the years. Parkinson has relegated the unfortunate Dom Bess (287 wickets @ 28.76) to the role of Stuart MacGill to his own Shane Warne.

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Tom Kohler-Cadmore is England’s leading run-scored in T20I cricket and has been known to really turn it on at World Cups both in T20I and ODI cricket. Like the next man we’ll come too, his averages have dipped over time but a renaissance in the twilight of his career has been welcome..

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Alongside TK-C at the top of the order in limited overs cricket, Ed Pollock has had his moments but an ODI batting average that once exceeded forty has declined dramatically. He recently compiled a ninth ODI century to feast following famine!

Players such as Ed Barnard, Ryan Higgins, Saqib Mahmood, Feroze Khushi and Jack Plom are amongst those to have remained part of the squad over time and had their moments in the sun.

Cricket Captain 2018: No Target is out of Reach!

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When you chase down 390 two Test matches in a row…

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The year is 2031 and Brad Taylor is an integral part of the England side!

In the first Test in Zimbabwe, there were scores of 92 in each innings from captain Max Holden. The skipper now has in excess of 10,000 Test runs to his name and one eye on Alastair Cook’s national record.

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In the second Test, there was a five-wicket haul for pace bowler Josh Tongue, another undefeated innings from gloveman Jonny Tattersall and a rather fluctuating performance from the hosts’ spinner Brandon Mavuta. As if Holden’s pair of 92s wasn’t freaky enough, Mavuta claimed outstanding figures of 8-82 in the first innings but woeful analysis of 2-164 in the second. That’s the wickets quartered but the runs doubled… freaky!

They’ll be a statistical update shortly with Max Holden, Sam Hain and Ollie Pope’s run-getting as well as Matthew Parkinson’s 600 plus Test wickets particular highlights!