Cricket Captain 2018: Omani Odyssey!

It was both an honour and a privilege to perform the dual role of Team Manager and Coach of the Oman Men’s Cricket Team at the T20I World Cup in India. I’m immensely proud of the effort of the squad and how competitive we were at various times in the tournament. I’m only sorry that we were unable to achieve even one victory for the people of Muscat and beyond to celebrate.

Here’s a recap of how our matches played out.

Match One versus Ireland

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Despite losing the toss and being put into bat, we soon reached 82-1 against Test nation Ireland. At the top of the order, Khawar Ali’s 38-ball 54 laid the platform for a competitive total before Aaqib Ilyas’ 42 not out from thirty deliveries helped us kick on. Frustratingly, very few runs came from the last two overs. Seamer’s Shane Getkate’s three-wicket over and Craig Young’s outstanding analysis of 2-17 from four overs, saw us collapse from 148-5 to 149-9!

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We kept Ireland in check during the powerplay but our spinners lacked both control and penetration as Ireland coasted towards victory courtesy of messrs. Stirling 74 not out and Porterfield 73. Only a late run out of the latter helped us avoid a ten-wicket defeat.

Match Two versus Netherlands

Again, we lost the toss but this time were made to bowl first. What’s frustrating about Netherlands massive total of 216-5 is that, in part at least, our bowlers performed well. Spin duo Mehrab Khan (2-40) and Khawar Ali (1-31) were much improved from the Ireland match but a third spinner, the experienced Ajay Lalcheta, brought in having been omitted for the opening match, was expensive, conceding fifty-two wicketless runs from his four overs. Who else but Ryan ten Doeschate (67 not out) was destroyer in chief.

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Khawar Ali then followed his 54 in the opening match by carrying his bat when making an excellent 86 not out. He faced exactly half the innings’ deliveries and twenty-five of his runs were gloriously driven through the extra cover region as the above graphic demonstrates.

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He shared an opening stand of 54 with Zeeshan Maqsood. Maqsood swashbuckled 35 from just sixteen deliveries to keep the Dutch honest. Ali then went onto share a stand of 70 with gloveman Naseem Khushi. Khushi only fell for 30 to the last delivery of the innings.

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Our effort of 173-6 is something to be proud of but having conceded 216, we fell short by 43 runs. As with the batting, it was a player with exhaustive experience of county cricket that proved the difference. Roelof van der Merwe finished with figures of 5-25. Take away the county stars and there really isn’t much between the two teams.

Match Three versus Bangladesh

In our final match against the mighty Bangladesh, we made it a hat-trick of toss losses and if we thought that Netherlands’ 216 was an imposing total, The Tigers 270-4 was always going to be an ask to chase down!

If you blinked, you’ll have missed Tamim Iqbal’s amazing 101 from a meagre 47 balls. Animul Haque (54 from 26) helped Tamim put on a gargantuan 153 for the first wicket. Shakib Al-Hasan then smacked 62 from just 22 deliveries to propel Bangladesh to within sight of 300!

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Debutant Jayesh Odedra’s international debut (4-0-63-0) was one to forget and he may never get another chance.

Mehran Khan’s 2-56 meant that he finished the tournament as our leading wicket taker with four victims at 34.00 apiece. His economy rate of 11.33 is nothing to write home about however.

Khawar Ali followed up his 54 and unbeaten 84 with… a golden duck, to end his World Cup on a low. He did finish as our leading run-scorer with 140 runs at an average of 70 and an impressive strike-rate of 141.40.

Against Bangladesh, it was his namesake Aamer Ali (28 from 18) and Alyas Iqbal (38 from 20) who put on an entertaining 58 to help us put a score on the board and avoid a truly embarrassing scoreline. Ilyas finished the tournament with 91 runs at 45.50. Noorul Riaz, a thirty-nine-year-old batsman who before the competition had played only one List A game… and duly ducked in it, followed up his nine against Netherlands on international debut with an ability demonstrating 39 not out. Throughout the tournament our batting unit fully committed to playing a selfless and attacking brand of cricket.

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The efforts of Ali, Ilyas, Riaz and co. amounted to 150-9 from our allocation. A respectable effort against a Test nation but still 120 runs short of parity.

In summary, I’d like to put on record my appreciation for the efforts of the team during the World Cup. As hinted at, every individual in the squad committed to the tactics of the collective and gave their all in the pursuit of glory. Though we were soundly beaten, we did manage to express ourselves against two Test playing nations and the most experienced non-Test playing nation. I’d like to thank the Omani Cricket Board and the fans for providing me with this wonderful opportunity and the support provided. Having reached the conclusion of my contract, we part on good terms and I wish all involved with Oman cricket the very best in years to come.

Six to Watch: T20I Status – Men’s Special

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From 1st January 2019, all Associate cricket nations will have full T20 International status. These are really exciting times for cricketers as well as fans throughout the globe. As I do each year when the county season comes around, I’ve identified six players to keep an eye on as T20 Internationals start to be played out across the world.

Simon Ateak (Ghana)

24-year-old Ghanaian Simon Ateak was Player of the Tournament at the 2018 ICC World Twenty20 African Sub Regional (North-Western) Qualifier. Ateak notched back-to-back fifties against Sierra Leone and Nigeria in Lagos. Ateak had actually been in poor form in ICC World Cricket League Division Five prior to the T20 Qualifier but delivered when needed to help Ghana reach the finals. Simon’s younger brother Vincent also chipped in with the ball during the Qualifier.

Harrison Carlyon (Jersey)

Still only seventeen-years-old, Jersey’s Harrison Carlyon made his international debut against Oman in Los Angeles at the tender age of just fifteen. The off-spinner’s father and uncle have both represented the island’c cricket team and injuries even meant that father and son turned out for the same side. Carlyon has since appeared for Jersey U-19s and made some useful contributions in ICC World Cricket League Division Four. He’s also been in and around the youth set ups at Sussex CCC.

Ahmad Faiz (Malaysia)

How about this for form: 50, 86, 20, 47, 45 & 50. Those were the batting contributions of Malaysian skipper Ahmad Faiz in ICC World Cricket League Division Four earlier this year. The right-handed batsman clearly enjoys the surface in Kuala Lumpur. Admittedly those were one-day matches and his T20 form beforehand wasn’t quite as strong but Malaysia will be relying on their former U-19 World Cup captain when it comes to run-getting.

Andrew Mansale (Vanuatu)

Andrew Mansale is Vanuatu’s experienced leader, having debuted for his country when just fifteen years of age. Now 29 and having gained experience of playing club cricket in Australia, Vanuatu will be looking to Mansale’s leadership as well as his right-hand batting and off-spin to help them rise to prominence in T20I cricket. Joshua Rasu, another right-hand bat who has played for the same Australian club as Mansale is another Ni-Vanuatu worth looking out for.

Calum MacLeod (Scotland)

Scotland’s Calum McLeod already has 28 T20I caps as well as double that amount of appearances in ODI Cricket where, for the record, he’s notched an impressive six centuries. His attacking nature was imperative in Scotland qualifying for the 2015 ODI World Cup and there were glimpses of his talent at the ICC World Cup Qualifier in March of this year. As with many Scots, he’s been around the English county second XI circuit, most recently representing Hampshire.

Carl Sandri (Italy)

34-year-old Carl Sandri’s experience will be vital if Italy are to develop as a T20I nation. Australian born Sandri, a right-hand bat and off-spin bowler represented Sydney Thunder in the 2013 edition of the Big Bash. He was Italy’s leading wicket taker in the most recent ICC World Cricket League Division Five. Peter Petricola, who has played alongside Sandri in Ozzie club cricket, is another old head that Italy will look at to spearhead their efforts.

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Elsewhere, could county players such as Middlesex’s Ollie Rayner (Germany) and Gloucestershire’s Benny Howell (France) be eligible to represent the countries of their birth?

Could Hampshire’s Gareth ‘Ice’ Berg return to the Italian side alongside Sandri and Petricola having played with them six years ago? Berg claimed figures of 4-20 against Uganda and scored 47 against Namibia in 2012 ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier in UAE. He’s been an underrated performer on the English county circuit (First Class, List A, T20) for a number of years.

If USA can sort out their political infighting, could Durham’s Cameron Steel or Hampshire’s Ian Holland represent the Stars and Stripes in T20I Cricket? It seems inconceivable that USA aren’t a cricketing nation to be reckoned with.

Once T20I status has really taken ahold, look out for future posts to see how Ateak, Carlyon, Faiz, Mansale, McLeod and Sandri have got on… and who I should have previewed!

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In the near future, I’ll also be compiling a Six to Watch for the T20I Women’s game as well as a team special. Be sure to look out for those posts soon.

Desert Delight / Desert Disaster!

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Afghanistan have won the inaugural Desert T20 Challenge after thrashing Ireland in the final in Dubai.

Ireland had actually produced a thrashing of their own earlier in the day with a 98-run demolition job on their Scottish neighbours after amassing an intimidating 211-6 in the allotted 20 overs.

The Afghan Hounds chased down 149 to overhaul Oman in the other semi, thanks in the main to the lynchpin of their side, opening batsman Mohammad Shahzad, who struck 80 from 60 deliveries.

The Irish had clearly used up all their energy in the semi as come the final they were dismissed for a paltry 71 in just 13.2 overs. Afghanistan then romped to their crown with a ruthless ten-wicket victory, the effervescent Shahzad (52 not out) again leading the way.

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Though a more evenly contested final would have been better, the tournament can surely be considered a great success for associate cricket and the global spread of the game and we’ll wait with baited breath to discover whether or not this will be an annual, bi-annual, tri-annual, quad-annual, pent-annual, you get the idea, arranged tournament.

Though this is a T20 tournament the result comes at a convenient time for Afghanistan as speculation mounts that they’ll soon put forward a bid for Test status. If they achieve such then it could be a bitter pill for the Irish to swallow, unless of course they too are granted Test status.

Dislcaimer: I can’t find any evidence of the Afghanistan cricket team actually being nicknamed the Afghan Hounds but I hope that it comes across as affectionate and is not in anyway meant in a derogatory way, not that I have any reason to think it would unless of course Afghan Hounds have a bad reputation and the Afghanistan cricket team don’t want to be named after dogs!

Desert Anybody!

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A T20 tournament in the desert. Sounds a bit dodgy. Don’t worry, Allen Stanford is nowhere in sight!

There’s nothing we love more on this site than seeing the game make progress on the global stage. An eight-team associate tournament is surely an example of that.

Group A

Afghanistan, United Arab Emirates, Ireland, Namibia

Group B

Netherlands, Hong Kong, Scotland, Oman

Hold on a minute. Two groups of four, teams play each other once, top two teams go through to semi-finals, semi-finals and final played on the same day. This is far, far too logical. What have the ICC been drinking?!

Afghanistan have been pencilled in as favourites by many and with rumours circulating that they’ll be applying for full membership complete with Test status soon, a strong showing here could be crucial.

It’s good to see Namibia back on the scene but there’s no place for the likes of Nepal, Papua New Guinea or USA.

The first matches will take place in Abu Dhabi tomorrow.

Disclaimer: Apologies to Hong Kong and Scotland re: the pic but Flags of the World doesn’t recognise you as independent nations!

A Complete Restructure of International Cricket

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Some teams play each other twice, some three, four or even five times. The team with the most points isn’t top of the table and the team at the bottom doesn’t get relegated. Well that makes a lot of sense! I could go on but I’m going to assume that if you’ve come this far and you plan on going any further that you share my opinion and what appears to be the general consensus that international cricket requires a complete overhaul or as the players themselves call it: context. Here are my plans:

International Championship

10 teams

Test, ODI and T20I status

Australia

Bangladesh

England

India

New Zealand

Pakistan

South Africa

Sri Lanka

West Indies

Zimbabwe

 

International Division One

10 teams

First Class, List A and T20 status

Afghanistan

Hong Kong

Ireland

Kenya

Namibia

Nepal

Netherlands

Papua New Guinea

Scotland

United Arab Emirates

 

International Division Two

10 teams

First Class, List A and T20 status

Bermuda

Canada

Denmark

Italy

Jersey

Malaysia

Oman

Singapore

Uganda

Unites States of America

 

Please note that the selected countries are based on various status and rankings not all of which seem in sync thus highlighting the need for such drastic restructure in the global game. Whether or not further divisions would merit First Class, List A or T20 status would require additional research and consideration.

All teams in any one division play each other in either one or two Super Series (explained later) consisting of the following:

Three Tests (The middle one is always a day/night match)

Three ODIs

Three T20Is

All tours are structured in the order listed above.

Points are awarded as follows:

Test match win: 5pts

Test match draw: 2pts

Test match loss: 0pts

Test series win: 10pts (On top of match points)

Test series draw: 5pts (On top of match points)

Test series loss: 0pts (On top of match points)

ODI match win: 3pts

ODI match draw: 1pts

ODI match loss: 0pts

ODI series win: 5pts (On top of match points)

ODI series draw: 2pts (On top of match points)

ODI series loss: 0pts (On top of match points)

T20I match win: 2pts

T20I match draw: 1pts

T20I match loss: 0pts

T20I series win: 3pts (On top of match points)

T20I series draw: 1pts (On top of match points)

T20I series loss: 0pts (On top of match points)

If each team were to play each other home and away they would each be required to play 54 matches in each format meaning a five or six year cycle. At a stretch four years may be achievable but would not help guard against injury and in-turn product quality. Alternatively teams could play five home series and five away series providing a total of 27 matches in each format. This would mean that a three-year cycle is achievable. This shorter cycle would help maintain the interest of players below International Test Championship. Please consider hemispheres when entertaining the idea of teams playing more regularly. I would also like to make clear that I’m completely opposed to the notion of some journalists in world media that have suggested the possibility of teams playing just one match against each other. I think that this is unethical and that international cricket would be a stain (literally!) on the global environment if this were the case. Squad members would also soon lose interest and head for the T20 leagues.

At the end of the cycle the team in tenth place in each division would be relegated and the team in first place of the division below be promoted. Obviously for teams moving between International Championship and International Division One this means the gaining of or losing of Test, ODI and T20I status. To prevent mid to latter cycle stagnation it could be that two teams are promoted / relegated or even that a play-off between teams placed in positions IC9 and IDO2, consisting of one match in each format is put in place.

One Day and T20I World Cups could each be held once every three years. The ten teams (incl. relegated team) in International Championship would automatically qualify. From International Division One the six teams with the most points in the respective format at the end of the cycle would also qualify for the respective tournament. Each tournament would consist of a straightforward four groups of four with each team playing each other once and gaining football style points (as per ODI series points proposal). The top two teams from each group would progress to the quarter-finals and the rest of the tournament would follow a self-explanatory format. The winner would host the following tournament. A measure would need to be put in place for a team winning a major tournament and subsequently finishing in for example eighth place in International Division One at the end of the following cycle. Also if a smaller nation won it may not be practical for them to host a whole, or even part of a tournament.

Long term these changes to world cricket would provide players, support staff, fans and media etc. the opportunity to experience parts of the world and cultures that previously cricket wouldn’t have allowed. It would also be a structure that provides consistency, equilibrium, meritocracy and a necessity for equal importance to be placed on each format of the game. Ultimately it would also make cricket a truly global game complete with the current buzz word… context!

Believe it or not this was supposed to be a trimmed down version of a previous attempt at writing this post. I could go on (No really I could!) and detail who would play who home and away (Odds and evens) in the 27 match cycle etc. etc. but I’ll stop there and will attempt to answer any questions if any uncertainty is identified… or take this post down if someone explains that it just wouldn’t work!

Many, many thanks if you made it this far!

Amsterdam’s America Overcome Oman

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USA have won ICC World Cricket League Division Four after defeating table topping Oman by just 13 runs in the final in Los Angeles. Alex Amsterdam (You can guess what letter his two middle names begin with!) top scored for the Americans with exactly 50 but USA required some lower order contributions from Timroy Allen (45) and Jasdeep Singh (37 not out) to propel them to a competitive total. In reply to the host’s 208 Oman succumbed for 195, Zeeshan Siddiqui top scoring with 58 from 75 deliveries. Jasdeep Singh and Timil Patel both claimed three wickets to secure victory for USA and their captain Steven Taylor (No, not the former Newcastle United defender!)

USA winning is all very apt as Silly Point is on the verge of posting the long awaited and highly anticipated Stateside Smash article. Keep your eyes peeled over the next few hours as Silly Point presents the way forward for cricket Stateside.