Telegraph Fantasy Cricket: T20 Blast 2019

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Here are my Telegraph Fantasy Cricket teams for the 2019 edition of the T20 Blast:

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After a disappointing World Cup with Afghanistan, can spin bowler Rashid Khan lead Kings of Khan to glory?

Aside from Rashid, paceman Tom Helm is highly thought of while the likes of Steven Mullaney and Wayne Parnell should make all-round contributions. Wicketkeeper Ben Cox is another proven performer in the shortest format while teammate Callum Ferguson excelled in the latest edition of the Big Bash.

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Lancashire’s Liam Livingstone will lead 2020 Vision and hope to catch the eye of the England selectors having fallen of the radar somewhat. It may be the last time that we see Michael Klinger in action and David Willey will want to prove that he should still be in England’s T20I squad having missed out on selection for the ODI World Cup. Pat Brown will also hope to back up some impressive performances in previous seasons having being touted as an England candidate while the likes of Laurie Evans (Prominent on the franchise circuit), Ryan Higgins and Ollie Robinson could also make a case for an England call-up.

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One of the season’s stars in Somerset’s Tom Banton will skipper Ghetto Blasters. Tom Curran and Liam Dawson will want to put the frustrations of sitting on the sidelines at the World Cup behind them whilst the likes Dawid Malan and Chris Jordan as well as possibly Sam Northeast, the precociously talented Delray Rawlins and even Banton himself might hope to catch Ed Smith’s eye.

I’ll let you know how I got on come the competition’s conclusion.

Cricket Captain 2018: Test Hat-trick!

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India, done! Ireland, done! Zimbabwe, done!

That’ll be three one-match Test series wins out of three then. Having previously benefited from an opposition bowler getting crippled in each of our first two Tests, this time it was ourselves who had the misfortune of going a bowler down. After an impressive World Cup, Rashid Khan finally won a Test cap but retired hurt having made 13 before even having a chance to bowl!

It mattered little though as yet again all our players contributed in one way or another. After losing both openers a little early, Nasir Khan, promoted to three after making 72 on debut, made 53 in an impressive partnership of 127 with another youngster, Waheedullah Shafaq.

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Shafaq won his Test cap on the back of impressive performances at the World Cup and went onto make 102 in his first Test innings.

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Captain Ashgar Stanikzai also picked up where he left off at the World Cup to make a national record 167. Zimbabwe spinner Graeme Cremer claimed a solitary wicket for all of 142 runs. Ouch!

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Left-arm pacer Shapoor Zadran, who after an impressive start to the World Cup failed to take a wicket in his last six matches, repaid the faith with fantastic figures of 5-30. That analysis, as well as his match figures of 6-82, were, like his skipper’s knock of 167, a new Test record for Afghanistan. He was far too hot for Zimbabwe’s cool batsmen.

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In the second innings, spin bowler Mujeeb Ur Rahman stepped up in the absence of Rashid Khan. Selected for the Test on the back of strong T20 form, Ur Rahman claimed figures of 3-31 to ensure that no batsman made forty let alone fifty in the entire match for the hosts.

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Having defeated bottom placed sides Ireland and Zimbabwe, next we set our sights on hauling ourselves above Bangladesh in the Test rankings. We also play West Indies before long and will be seeking World Cup revenge as well as Test superiority. First though are some white-ball games against the Chevrons.

Cricket Captan 2018: World Cup Wonders… well almost!

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Prior to the 2019 ODI World Cup, we participated in a ODI tri-series involving Ireland and Bangladesh. The less said about that the better! Safe to say that few people were expecting much from us come the World Cup. Had we beaten West Indies in our final game however, we would’ve qualified for the semi-finals. So fine were the margins that losing that match meant we finished third from bottom in the table!

Here’s how our World Cup played out:

Australia, lost by 6 wickets

Shahzad 56, Zazai 56, Ghani 50

Ahmadzai 2-46, Janat 1-28, Zadran 1-40

Sri Lanka, won by 7 wickets

Khan 4-41, Zadran 3-41, Nabi 2-41

Shahzad 72, Ghani 60, Zazai 41

New Zealand, lost by 20 runs

Shahzad 73, Zazai 43, Ghani 40

Janat 1-33, Nabi 1-41, Zadran 1-51

South Africa, lost by 8 wickets

Zazai 52, Khan 38*, Hassan 19

Khan 2-57, Hassan 0-24, Zadran 0-31

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England, won by 111 runs

Shahzad 132, Zazai 128, Shafaq 25

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Janat 7-50, Nabi 1-41, Khan 1-61

India, lost by 4 wickets

Shahzad 116, Stanikzai 107*, Janat 37

Janat 1-43, Hassan 1-52, Khan 1-61

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Bangladesh, tied

Stanikzai 81, Shafaq 66, Shah 30,

Janat 3-39, Khan 3-48, Hassan 2-47

Pakistan, won by 10 runs

Ghani 104, Shafaq 65, Stanikzai 55

Khan 5-54, Janat 4-30, Ahmadzai 1-80

West Indies, lost by 6 wickets

Janat 49*, Shafaq 47, Ghani 46,

Khan 3-43, Janat 2-33, M Ashraf 0-52

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Well, we did better than host nation England!

Leading run scorer: Mohammad Shahzad – 485

Best batting average: Ashgar Stanikzai – 58.50

Leading wicket taker: Karim Janat – 20

Best bowling average: Karim Janat – 16.20

Cricket Captain 2018: You Win Some You Lose Some!

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Following Test success we played Ireland again, this time in yet more limited overs matches. Having won the previous ODI series against the shamrock side by a margin of 3-0, we soon assumed an unassailable 3-0 lead in this series too, making it six wins out of six in the format against the Greens. Only after clinching the series did we let our guard down having rotated the squad, the series finishing 3-2.

In the opening encounter we posted 337-3 however an incredible maiden bowled by spinner Andy McBrine in the final over of our innings left Najibullah Zadran (98 not out) and captain Ashgar Stanikzai (99 not out) short of their centuries. This was despite compiling an unbroken partnership of 205. Ireland reached 165 without loss courtesy of Ed Joyce (108) and William Portefield (85) but crumbled to 271 all out. Twenty-one-year-old debutant spin bowler Zia ur-Rehman claimed figures of 3-63 from his full allocation of overs on debut.

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Opening batsmen Usman Ghani and Mohammad Shahzad etched their names into the record books.

In the second match, Mohammad Shahzad (223 not out) and Usman Ghani (138) compiled a gargantuan first-wicket stand of 364.

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A breakdown of Mohammad Shahzad’s monumental knock, beehive included.

Shahzad’s 223 came from just 165 deliveries and included a whopping 40 fours (160 of his runs!). The only wicket to fall came when Ghani was run out off the last ball of the innings.

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Painful reading for Irish fans!

The partnership was only eight runs short of equalling the world record for any wicket in ODI cricket set by West Indies duo Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels just three years ago. Ultimately we defeated Ireland by 146 runs.

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Not for the first time, Andy McBrine frustrated our bowlers as Ireland recovered from 58-6 to post 197.

In the third game we had Ireland in all sorts of strife at 58-6 but lower order batsman Andy McBrine, who frustrated us with a fifty in the Test, did so again before being stumped of Mohammad Nabi for 62. Leader of the attack Hamid Hassan…err, led the attack with figures of 4-37. The insatiable Mohammad Shahzad just picked up where he left off in the last match and carried the team to victory with an unbeaten 88. We won by seven wickets to seal the series.

For the fourth match we rested Shahzad and Hassan and paid the price. We were going steady at 80-0 (Ahmadi 44, Ghani 39) but could only double our run tally for the loss of all ten wickets. Beanpole Boyd Rankin claimed 5-30 to bundle us out for just 160. Despite some serious nerves, Ireland got home with four wickets in hand. Eighteen-year-old debutant wicketkeeper Ikram Ali Khil snaffled the first two Irish wickets in style but it wasn’t enough.

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Noor Ali Zadran returned to form in style but also in vain.

In the final match, we generously invited Ireland to bat first and they posted 266-5 from their fifty overs. After scores of 28, 11 and 8, Noor Ali Zadran returned to form in spectacular style with a knock of 159 but was run out near the end as we fell five runs short. Only opener Javed Ahmadi (42) offered anything else with the bat, the next highest score being only 12.

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Confirmation of the 3-2 series win.

Unfortunately the theme of one side dominating over a period of matches remained when we headed into the T20I series. Ireland won the first two matches to make it four wins on the spin against us in all formats before, as Ireland did in the ODIs, we won the dead rubber.

Such was Ireland’s onslaught in the opening exchanges of the first match (38-0 from 3 overs) that we adapted our tactics by bringing on spin during the powerplay. Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi both struck in their first overs but Ireland still totalled an imposing 184-9.

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Hazratullah Zazai came into the side at the top of the order and duly took his excellent domestic form onto the international stage.

Despite Hazratullah Zazai’s 73 from only 49 balls and despite losing only three wickets to Ireland’s nine, we succumbed by 28 runs.

In the second match we fell fifteen runs short when chasing 163. Dave Rankin (38) was dropped, including early on, twice by Mohammad Shahzad who was not wearing the gloves but stood at slip.

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The highest partnerships for each of our first three wickets in T20I cricket have all been recorded during my tenure.

In the final game, we gained an important consolation victory to end the bad streak. Shahzad (102 from 73) and Zazai (58 from 45) batted the entire twenty overs without being dismissed. 163-0 was not a massive score though but we kept Ireland down as they fell 24 runs short. Slow-left-armer Sharafuddin Ashraf claimed outstanding analysis of 3-12 from four overs and there was a welcome return to form for Rashid Khan.

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Coming in off the back of strong domestic showings, leg-spin sensation Rashid Khan returned to the side and returned to form.

Khan claimed two wickets in each match to finish the series with six wickets at 16.50.

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Mohammad Shahzad’s insatiable appetite for runs just doesn’t quench. Whatever the format, wherever the location, whoever the opposition… runs, runs, runs!

It was disappointing to concede ranking points in the T20I format but it’s been a fabulous year for our side. We look forward to next season with much anticipation and are confident of putting in a good showing at the 2019 ODI World Cup in England. Look out for the squad announcement nearer the time.

Antarctic T20 Ice Blast! (Silly Point Ultra-Exclusive Story!)

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Cricket’s administrators recently proposed suggestions to help preserve Test cricket. This was in part due to the potential risk of some billionaire creating yet another global T20 franchise tournament and stealing players. Well those moves may have come too late because an unnamed mogul is rumoured to be ready to inject millions into the launching of a new T20 competition. The Antarctic Ice Blast is believed to be prepped for launch as early and appropriately as 2020. Like the identity of the league’s founder, the potential franchise owners remain unknown though TV’s Jon Snow, former Netherlands footballer Arron Winter and New Zealand cricketer Tim Southee are all rumoured to have put down a deposit. Silly Point has however seen the names of the proposed teams and they are as follows:

Bentley Subglacial Trench EmperorsLake Vostok LakersMcMurdo Station PinnipedsMount Erebus MountaineersOnyx River NematodesRiiser-Larsen Ice Shelf IcefishRoss Island Seals and Vinson Massif Explorers.

Englishmen Samit Patel, Ravi Bopara and Joe Denly are all rumoured to have signed up for the inaugural draft as is Test captain Joe Root. There is even a suggestion that recently retired Kevin Pietersen may come out of retirement for one last Blast. English players are perceived to be a vital addition to the franchises because of their experience of playing in cold conditions. Northerners in particular, players from the likes of Durham, Yorkshire and Lancashire are particularly sought after. Franchise owners are rumoured to have been dialling the mobile numbers of Steve Harmison, Darren Gough and Andrew Flintoff in audacious bids to lure the former England trio out of retirement.

West Indies’ Chris Gayle and Kieron Pollard, Indian skipper Virat Kohli, Pakistan’s Shahid Afridi, Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan and Australia’s Michael Klinger as well as former national skipper Steve Smith, are also rumoured to have put their names forward for the first draft. With Silly Point having seen exclusive advertising, we can advise that former Italy all-rounder Gareth Berg has already emerged as the league’s poster boy. Soon it’ll be hard to move around London Underground, Sydney Business District or the streets of Mumbai without seeing Berg’s flop of blond hair, his arms folded, in front of a mass of ice and a set of stumps… made of ice! That’s right, they’ll be replaced every time they’re broken or maybe they’re unbreakable ice!

It’s understood that the Blast’s benefactor is willing to contribute funds towards the building of renewable energy laden environmentally friendly stadiums for each franchise. These stadiums will have both training and accommodation facilities as well as purpose built wickets. Retractable roofs will come as standard.

Again, Silly Point has gained exclusive access to information and the names of the stadiums are set to be as follows:

Bentley Ballpark, Vostok Park, McMurdo Station, Erebus Arena, Onyx Bowl, Riiser-Larsen Cricket Ground (RLCG), Ross Dome and Vinson Field

The league’s creator is also set to launch their own airline, Antarctic Fantastic Air, to assist fans when travelling to matches.

Some in the cricket world are sceptical regarding the prospect of yet another T20 league in an already congested calendar, about the less than desirable cricket weather and how exactly fans will attach themselves to a team. For some though this is seen an excellent advert for spreading the global appeal of the game. Given the reduction of teams at the 2019 ODI World Cup, many cricket lovers as well as administrators are delighted to see cricket venture into an untapped market. The ICC are already lining up Antarctica as host for both an ODI World Cup and T20 World Cup as well as Champions Trophy venue post 2030.

One frustrating thing about the proposed tournament is that it’s expected to be played out behind a TV pay wall. Rumours are that the competition will have its own channel and will cost a one-off fee of around £250.00 before requiring subscribers to enter a 20 digit code followed by another 20 digit code on their remote control. Pommie Mbangwa, Michael Slater and everybody’s favourite insighter Graeme Swann, are tipped to be among the commentary and punditry team. Instagram and Dave are believed to have exclusive rights to highlights packages whilst if you sign up with the league founder’s rumoured planned new mobile phone company, Antarctic Connexions Mobile, you can gain exclusive access to almost immediate video wicket alerts! Continuing on the screen front, renowned film maker Werner Herzog is set to return to Antarctica and shoot a documentary about the competition’s inception, infancy and general learning to walk.

With some international teams still reluctant to travel to Pakistan for security reasons, Pakistan are rumoured to have already enquired about the possibility of playing home matches there following some disappointing results in UAE conditions. English county side Hampshire are said to be extremely frustrated to have missed out to Antarctica as an English Test venue. Because of the technicalities of Antarctic ownership, it’s understood that all nations could potentially play home games in Antarctica if they wish. Boyd Rankin, Ed Joyce and Johan Botha are believed to have already relocated to the southern continent in order to meet residency requirements ahead of rumoured bids to join the Antarctic national team. Peter Moores is slated as coach… slated, he will be if results don’t go too well! Essex are believed to have enquired about whether players, hell just people, could join them on Kolpak deals as soon as this summer.

Silly Point is delighted to present this exclusive story to you and will keep our loyal followers abreast of any further developments.

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.

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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.

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