CricketXI – County Championship 2018: Season Review

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At the start of the year I stumbled upon CricketXI, an alternative fantasy cricket competition. This game focused purely on the County Championship (First Class) campaign.

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I selected a team of young guns and as you can see things went really well! It was great to see the likes of Jonny Tattersall, Zak Crawley and Will Jacks develop. Harry Brook, Ben Twohig (Love his name!) and Matthew Carter also made great strides.

Unfortunately Surrey pacer Matt Dunn got injured early in the campaign and disappeared from the professional radar once again. Wicketkeeper Lewis McManus lost his place in the Hampshire First XI. Teammate Asher Hart and Essex spinner Aron Nijjar (Who fooled me by playing in a pre-season university match!) couldn’t get near their respective first XIs. Neither could spinner Sukhjit Singh who was sadly released by Warwickshire at the end of the campaign. Warwickshire clearly have little interest in developing their own young players and much prefer to sign absolutely anybody. While that’s great for players like Will Rhodes and Olly Stone, it’s not for players like Singh and Andy Umeed.

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As well as my outfit of kids, I also selected a more ‘serious’ side but following early season injury, Sam Northeast failed to really get going having relocated from Kent to Hampshire and has fallen way down the England pecking order. Disappointingly, Sussex batsman Luke Wells and Nottinghamshire’s Riki Wessels failed to back-up productive 2017 campaigns.

On the plus side, James Hildreth was amongst the runs as ever, meanwhile Tom Bailey, Ben Sanderson and everybody’s favourite ex-England cricketer Jade Dernbach, contributed with the ball.

Well, there’s always next year!

Reserved Rashid and Wessels’ Special!

Post all the hullabaloo of Adil Rashid’s recall to England’s Test side, the Yorkshire leg-spinner wasn’t even required to bat or bowl as England annihilated India in the second Test at Lords.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/18018/scorecard/1119550/england-vs-india-2nd-test-ind-in-eng-2018

It’s all well and good England’s pace bowlers exploiting home conditions but we’ll be left with the same question as always next time we tour Australia…

Do we retain our swing bowlers or substitute them for out and out pace bowlers who have little experience?

In the meantime, should we risk weakening the team at home by dropping a swinger for Jamie Overton, Saqib Mahmood or Olly Stone etc. so as to provide said pacemen with Test experience prior to our next trip to Oz?

Meanwhile, onto Riki Wessels exploits in the T20 Blast. Last night, the Nottinghamshire opener struck 55 runs from just 18 deliveries against Worcestershire. He didn’t hit any fours but struck nine sixes. That equates to 54 from nine deliveries plus one single, so eight dot balls. Ridonculous!

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/8053/game/1127556/worcestershire-vs-nottinghamshire-north-group-vitality-blast-2018

If Wessels were from a number of other nations, he would surely have won white-ball international (ODI/T20I) recognition. He’s been a consistent performer on the English county (First Class, List A and T20) circuit for a number of years. Some ambiguity regarding his international allegiance early in his career and younger more fashionable options at present, mean that Wessels will likely remain forever uncapped.

England Uncapped XI

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Imagine that England’s cricketers have gone on strike. They’re upset about that car sponsorship deal ending or they all want to play in the new Kazakhstan T20 league. England’s selectors are reluctant to return to players that’ve failed to produce the goods at international level before. They decide to select an extremely experienced squad so ignore the likes of Ollie Pope, Joe Clarke and Sam Curran amongst others. The below is what an England Test squad might then look like.

First XI

James Adams

Daryl Mitchell

Sam Northeast (Captain)

James Hildreth

Darren Stevens

Keith Barker

John Simpson (Wicketkeeper)

Ollie Rayner

Luke Fletcher

Steve Patterson

Chris Rushworth

12th Man

Steven Mullaney

Tourists

Luke Wells

Riki Wessels

Ben Brown (Wicketkeeper)

James Harris

Stand By

Chris Nash

Joe Leach

I’ve selected Northeast as captain so as not to burden either of my openers, Adams and Mitchell who make for a strong left-hand/right-hand combo. Hildreth is at four ahead of Stevens and Barker who provide all-round options with Barker’s left-arm variety essential. Simpson dons the gloves meanwhile Patterson and Rushworth take the new ball backed up by Fletcher as well as Barker and Stevens. Spin options are a bit limited but Luke Wells makes the touring party as spin back-up to Ollie Rayner. Steven Mullaney makes the squad as 12th man, providing strong all-round cover with bat and ball.

As well as Wells and Mullaney, Wessels and Harris provide a good variety of cover. Brown backs up behind the stumps whilst Wessels is also an emergency ‘keeping option.

Top order bat Chris Nash who can bowl decent spin and dependable all-rounder Joe Leach are officially on stand-by.

Disclaimer: The likes of Rory Burns, Benny Howell and Tom Bailey are among the unfortunate omissions. Daniel Bell-Drummond, Sam Hain, Liam Norwell, Lewis Gregory, Jamie Porter and Ben Coad join that list but I was generally plucking for the most experienced players.

Telegraph Fantasy Cricket: CC/ODC 2017 – Season Review

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9,748th place, a comfortable finish in the top 10,000! The team I picked for my daughter finished in 11,213th place, so at worst I was in the bottom 1,500. Who knows? Maybe there were over a million players!

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Starting with my captain, Gloucestershire gloveman Gareth Roderick.

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I simply got his selection completely wrong. Had he been fit or whatever he needed to be to play then he would have made serious contributions but he missed the early part of the season for ‘unknown reasons’ and later broke a finger. To be fair, he dug deep to score 78 not out with the damaged digit. Before you consider the double points element, if you’re captain isn’t your top scorer then you’ve messed up. South African born Roderick registered 400 runs at a respectable average of 36.36 as well as claiming 24 dismissals but just didn’t play enough.

Steven Croft basically doesn’t bowl anymore. Lancashire seem to have an array of spin bowlers, whether they be part- or full-time (Parkinson, Parry, Livingstone, Kerrigan – who himself went out on loan) and like Roderick, Croft missed significant chunks of the season. Aside from a blast of a knock early in the campaign and a score in the final round of matches, Croft just didn’t contribute anywhere near significantly enough. The White Rose’s skipper’s figures: 409 runs at an underwhelming 29.21.

Huge kudos to Worcestershire’s Tom Fell for battling back from cancer and hopefully, with a new contract under his belt, he can score big next year.

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This year was a horror show however. He failed to reach fifty nor did he ever don the gloves. Fell totalled 323 runs at a paltry 14.68 in the County Championship. Contrary to the above image, his form (Or lack of!) didn’t earn him and England call up!

Welsh willow wielding wizard Aneurin Donald didn’t hit the heights hoped for this campaign but did manage four First Class fifties either side of being mucked around by Glamorgan, batting as low as seven in One-Day Cup matches.

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For the record ‘Ducky’ totalled 487 County Championship runs at 25.63. In One-Day cricket he scored 20 runs at an average of just 4.00!

It’s a funny old game. My most successful batsman was the one I expected the least from. I had anticipated Riki Wessels might deliver for me in limited overs matches but didn’t really expect him to play regularly in the First Class game. In a pre-season university fixture, he followed a duck with a hundred and went on to score three centuries with a top score of 202 not out in the County Championship. He had a mare though in the One-Day Cup final where he dropped a catch off the first ball of the match and made only six runs but away from the cameras he delivered. He also claimed a couple of catches when standing in as wicketkeeper. Across the County Championship (832) and One-Day Cup (302) the Nottinghamshire batsman totalled 1,134 runs.

Worcestershire’s Brett D’Oliveira doesn’t have a great average for an opening batsman but I think that there’s an element of the old Trescothick/Vaughan vibe about him. He could be better suited to the higher level. This year he made three First Class hundreds but lacked consistency. He didn’t claim a single wicket in the County Championship but snared seven in the One-Day Cup. His best years could yet be ahead of him. In 2017 BDO notched up 891 County Championship runs alongside 222 in the 50-over game.

Ravi Bopara will have been in many people’s teams but will probably suffer from that very thing I’ve moaned about previously when it comes to Bopara. He’s done okay but you can’t help but want more from him. 576 County Championship runs at 32.00 puts him way down title-winning Essex’s run charts. He claimed a disappointing twelve wickets in fourteen matches in the same competition. He did however rack up 329 One-Day Cup runs at 54.83 and claimed nine wickets but didn’t win a recall to England’s ODI side!

Keith Barker is another one who did well without sparkling. Six fifties at 29.78 is a really useful contribution with the willow but just 26 County Championship wickets this term is a bit disappointing for a left-armer many thought should’ve been on England’s radar. Of course Warwickshire’s season as a whole was a torrid one.

Off-spinner Ollie Rayner did well for England Lions last winter but never really got going this year.

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His twenty First Class wickets in eleven matches cost nearly 40 apiece. For reference, Middlesex teammate Ravi Patel totalled fourteen victims in two outings.

Durham’s James ‘Killer’ Weighell surprised many this season but injuries dogged him. He wasn’t in the County Championship side at the start of term but took wickets aplenty (18 @ 23.11) in the One-Day Cup. Unfortunately he got injured and so didn’t play as many First Class games as he would have liked but when he did he made some decent contributions with the bat (162 @ 40.50) to go with his eleven wickets. If he can stay fit, he could be essential to Durham’s hopes of a renaissance in the upcoming years.

Finally, onto Sussex’s Jofra Archer. My team should’ve been Archer’s Army not Roderick Brotherhood. Archer was by far and away my top points scorer with nearly double the next man’s total. His 638 County Championship runs came at 45.57 including five fifties at a whopping strike rate of 88.00! His 61 wickets came at 25.30 and if it weren’t for lack of eligibility (Damn ineligibility!) he could well have being headed to Australia for the Ashes. No seriously, he’s that good but a few years away from qualifying having migrated from the West Indies. Whether or not he could join up with England Lions as early as this winter is an interesting consideration. Actually, I should save this for my ‘Six to Watch – Season Review’ article as Archer is one of the six!

I’ll repeat what I’ve said previously about how I think The Telegraph should alter their game. Currently there’s one competition for the County Championship and One-Day Cup combined and a separate one for the T20 Blast. I propose amending it to three individual competitions so that you can select three different teams. Some players specialise in only First Class or List A cricket so grouping the two together does require skill in one way but is limiting in another. There could be three first place finish prizes and an overall winner prize.

For me, any prize remains allusive. There’s always next year…

Telegraph Fantasy Cricket: T20 Blast 2017 – Season Review

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The T20 Blast has reached its conclusion but I’m no richer. In my original article regarding my selection for the competition, I spoke about the importance of making transfers come the knock-out stages…

https://sillypointcricketsite.wordpress.com/2017/06/24/telegraph-fantasy-cricket-t20-blast/

Unfortunately, what with a certain hospital visit and whatnot, I didn’t stay on top of things and so my team rather went through the motions. Anyway, it’s only fair to provide the promised round-up.

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Riki Wessels, Gareth Roderick and Brett D’Oliveira were the players who made both my County Championship/One-Day Cup team and my T20 Blast XI. Clearly the selection of Roderick as stumper was a misguided one. Having recently returned from absence for ‘unspecified reasons’ the Gloucestershire gloveman didn’t feature in the quick fire format at all. Wessels maintained his good form in all competitions however and D’Oliveira contributed some useful performances.

Mark Cosgrove, Ryan Higgins, Dominic Sibley (Who transferred from Surrey to Warwickshire during the competition), a belatedly arrived Moises Henriques as well as D’Oliveira all totalled 500odd points.

Durham’s Cameron Steel, Lancashire’s Stephen Parry, Gloucestershire’s Chris Liddle and due to injury, Surrey’s Jade Dernbach, were provided little opportunity to impress.

The sum of all parts meant that at least I registered more points than my wife’s and daughter’s teams but finished way down the overall league. Come the end of the 2017 CC/ODC competition, I’ll let you know how I finished in that too.

Cricket Captain 2017: 2020 T20I World Cup Review

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… or 2020 2020 Review if you prefer?

By the time England secured victory over Bangladesh in their final match of the Caribbean staged tournament, their fate had already been sealed.

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The welcome rare win had been preceded by defeats against India, South Africa and Pakistan. At least all the island hopping allowed England’s players to enjoy the sights and sounds of the West Indies! England’s batting throughout the competition was at best woeful. Only captain Liam Livingstone (101 runs @ 25.25) and Zimbabwe born Ryan Higgins (91 runs @ 22.75) walked away from the tournament with their reputations in tact. The likes of Dawid Malan, Riki Wessels and Joe Clarke all failed to really get going during the competition.

On the bowling front, Toby Roland-Jones repaid the optimistic faith (He averaged 167.00 not long ago!) shown in him by the selectors by claiming 11 scalps @ just 10.36 apiece including two four-wicket hauls.

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Having performed well on the tour of New Zealand winter past, the Middlesex man now looks set to be presented with the opportunity to lead England’s Test attack against South Africa this summer.

For others however, their international futures are uncertain. Ross Whiteley arrived on the international scene with a reputation for frequent six-hitting. The left-handed bat has however only mustered a paltry return of 99 runs in ten T20I innings to date. In truth, given that he can’t even get a game for his county side, he probably shouldn’t have been included in the World Cup squad at all.

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The likes of Matt Coles and Lewis Gregory will also be sweating over their international futures though Toby Roland-Jones’ redemption may help provide others with further opportunities.

Next for England it’s demanding back-to-back home and away series against South Africa before a challenging trip to Bangladesh. After an abysmal last twelve months for a beleaguered England side, it can only be hoped that the selectors make the right calls and the players apply themselves better than has recently been the case.

Batsmen Brett D’Oliveira, Aneurin Donald and Sam Hain as well as bowlers Tom Helm and Jamie Porter are among some of the players who could force their way into the international reckoning this season.

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Possible Test squad for the first Test against South Africa: Luke Wells, Max Holden, Tom Westley, Liam Livingstone (c), Riki Wessels, Sam Curran, John Simpson (w), James Harris, Jofra Archer, Toby Roland-Jones, Jack Leach, Hamidullah Qadri

Hong Kong Sixes 2017: England Squad?

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The Hong Kong Sixes tournament is back on the cricket calendar after a five-year absence. The pint-sized cricket competition will make a welcome return this October.

http://www.hkcricket.org/en/hk-sixes/hong-kong-sixes-2017

Historically the various cricketing nations around the globe have treated the tournament with a variety of seriousness and not so seriousness, with some teams sending amateurs or ex-pros. England normally send a reasonable bunch of fringe limited overs players.

Silly Point has composed an England squad and put forward one or two other possible candidates as well. Remember that every player bar the wicketkeeper must bowl.

My squad is as follows:

Tim Bresnan, Yorkshire (Captain)

He bats, he bowls, he captains, he’s my selection to lead the side. I find it difficult to comprehend that Bresnan’s England career is over. He required surgery and is no longer the spring chicken that rocked up for Yorkshire’s first XI aged 15 but in limited overs cricket at least, he could surely still have a role to play for the national side. He’s led Yorkshire this year following injury to Gary Ballance and the other squad members would learn from his international experience and professionalism.

Ben Duckett, Northamptonshire (Wicketkeeper)

Duckett just pips Joe Clarke for the ‘keeping gloves. It would be a good way to reintegrate Duckett into England colours following a difficult winter. After a slow start to the domestic season he has started to make significant contributions with the bat as well as keeping wicket on occasions. Sam Billings, more of a genuine gloveman option in T20I/ODI cricket could also come into consideration.

Lewis Gregory, Somerset

Gregory made the England squad a few years back for a one-off ODI against Ireland. Unfortunately for the Somerset man, he was the one squad member to miss out on the final XI leaving him cap-less. A series of injuries have meant that he remains so but when fit Gregory possesses the all-round strengths that make him an extremely tempting selection in this format.

Ryan Higgins, Middlesex

Higgins has contributed some brutal batting displays for Middlesex in limited overs cricket this term and has also dislodged Ollie Rayner from the County Championship side. The Zimbabwe born former England Under-19s player is one of a handful of capable all-round players that make my squad.

Benny Howell, Gloucestershire

A shrewd performer for Gloucestershire, particularly in the shorter forms of the game. French born Howell has cropped up in both the BPL and PSL. His experience and all-round capabilities would make him a valuable asset to the the squad.

Liam Livingstone, Lancashire

LL’s introduction to international cricket was slightly underwhelming but he’s an almost irresistible selection for this tournament. His destructive batting, much improved bowling and reliable fielding win him a place in my squad. Like Bresnan, Livingstone has gained captaincy experience this season and is capable of coming back stronger following his tough international baptism.

Ross Whiteley, Worcestershire

Whiteley hit the headlines this term when he struck six sixes in an over against Yorkshire in a T20 match (I was there, remember?). Yes it was an extremely short boundary and yes it was a third choice spinner but rather audaciously, Whiteley sits in the top ten of the sixes per (T20) match ratio, modestly and unobtrusively placed alongside the likes of Brendon McCullum, David Warner and Chris Gayle. He would probably be the weakest bowling option in the team but has clocked up 29 First Class victims.

Some other players that could come into consideration:

Adam Lyth

Riki Wessels (Wicketkeeper)

Brett D’Oliveira

Liam Dawson

Paul Coughlin

Craig Overton

Tymal Mills

Telegraph Fantasy Cricket: CC/ODC 2017 – Roderick Returns!

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I’m clinging onto a place in the top 10,000, currently lying in 9763rd position!

Skipper and stumper Gareth Roderick has returned to the field of play for Gloucestershire so his points (279), doubled for being captain (578), are propelling me towards… respectability?!

My batsmen continue to underwhelm. Steven Croft (548 points) seems to have given up bowling too. Riki Wessels (1054) is leading the way but had a disappointing ODC final. Tom Fell’s horror show continues. He’s registered just 268 points. Inconsistent Aneurin Donald has 556 points to his name.

In the all-rounder slots, Brett D’Oliveira has reached a respectable if not spectacular 892 points whilst the ever reliable Ravi Bopara has 1227.

Onto bowling and the Boparesque reliable Keith Barker has 995 points to his name. Ollie Rayner (520) has seriously disappointed and James ‘Killer’ Weighell’s injury problems have limited him to 619 points despite displaying some good form. Then there’s Jofra Archer. His 1665 points lead the way for my team Roderick Brotherhood.

Please remember that this is for the County Championship and One-Day Cup only. There’s a separate competition for the Natwest T20 Blast. An update on Silly Pointers’ failings will be provided in due course.

Telegraph Fantasy Cricket: T20 Blast 2017

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Telegraph Fantasy Cricket run an exclusive T20 Blast competition, separate to the County Championship/One-Day Cup combo. It would make more sense to me for them to have three separate competitions, each with a winner as well as having an overall winner.

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Anyway, three players from my CC/ODC side make it into my T20 side. They are Riki Wessels, wicketkeeper Gareth Roderick and Basil’s grandson Brett D’Oliveira. D’Oliveira is an opening batsman who bowls and is listed, fairly enough, as an all-rounder in the CC/ODC game but is down as a bowler in the T20 comp.

I’ve very deliberately (Wessels aside) selected players that aren’t in many people’s teams. It’s no good having the same players as everybody else because you simply don’t gain any advantage. To be successful at fantasy sports, it’s imperative that you identify and select players not picked by many but who will go onto put in the performances.

Mark Cosgrove and Ryan Higgins are listed as batsman but Higgins in particular, after a good showing on First Class debut recently, should contribute with the ball.

Dominic Sibley (T20 bat ave: 49.40) hit the headlines with a double hundred in the County Championship in 2013 aged just eighteen and has become a dynamic batsman at the top of the order for Surrey.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/county-cricket-2013/content/story/674737.html

California born bat Cameron Steel has come to the fore for Durham this year and should be provided with an opportunity in the shorter form of the game on the back of his CC/ODC efforts. He bowls a bit of leg-spin too.

https://sillypointcricketsite.wordpress.com/2017/06/04/century-for-steel-stars-stripes-and-steel/

Ex-England men Stephen Parry (Now a CC regular) and Jade Dernbach lead my bowling attack. Dernbach is a player despised by many and therefore ignored by a number of Telegraph selectors but if not for injury he would likely have qualified for next year’s North v South encounters. Chris Liddle is also a fly under the radar pick. A journeyman pro and holder of an unhealthy First Class average, his limited overs stats are respectable though and he could be a surprise performer. Like Dernbach, he wasn’t far away from automatic North v South selection.

My captain is another ‘to be scoffed at by many’ selection. What Moises Henriques was doing batting at four for Australia at the 2017 Champions Trophy as Chris Lynn sat on the bench nobody knows. Well actually, it was because he bowls a bit of dibbly dobbly and at domestic level he’s an intelligent and belligerent batsman who will not be representing Surrey for the first time.

I will reiterate my key tips from previous posts for selecting a fantasy cricket team:

  1. Select batsman that bowl
  2. Select bowlers that can bat
  3. Select players that aren’t in many people’s teams

I’m advocating faith when it comes to selection for my CC/ODC team but transfers will be a crucial part of the T20 comp come Finals Day. Don’t be left with few players playing additional matches. When the crunch comes ensure that your side is full of players participating for silverware!

Telegraph Fantasy Cricket: CC/ODC 2017 – Early Season Update

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We’ll start by getting the elephant out of the room. My captain hasn’t made a single first team appearance this season. His absence put down to personal reasons. He’s made a hundred for the seconds this month so fingers crossed he’ll be back in the Gloucestershire outfit very soon. The advantage of this is that when he returns nobody else is likely to have him in there team (He’s actually only in 0.21% of teams in the game). It’s all well and good having the best players in your team but it’s no good just having a side composed of the most selected players because you really don’t gain any advantage.

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The contribution of my batting line-up has been frustrating. Steven Croft was injured for a few weeks but did strike a blistering 127 against Warwickshire in the One-Day Cup. I had hoped he’d contribute with the ball but that hasn’t been the case so far. Lancashire are well stocked for spinners.

Glamorgan’s Aneurin Donald has hit a few fifties in the County Championship but had a torrid time in the One-Day Cup, reaching double figures just once. Being shunted down the order and batting as low as seven probably didn’t help and seemed a bit odd for such a potentially destructive batsman. Donald has been selected in barely 3% of teams meaning that there’s not many selectors gaining his points when he does deliver.

Tom Fell did well to return from cancer with a century last year but just hasn’t got going this term. He’s made a double hundred for the seconds but is yet to reach a quarter double hundred for the firsts. He’s not keeping wicket either. Those catches could have been a brucy bonus.

Nottinghamshire batsman Riki Wessels has led the way with an undefeated double century in the County Championship followed by a series of starts in the One-Day Cup followed by another century once back to the First Class format. With Chris Read injured last week, RW snapped up some catches behind the stumps as well.

In the all-rounder slots, Ravi Bopara of Essex has been steady if unspectacular. Lots of 30s, 40s and fifties and two or three-wicket hauls. They all add up though and he did make an undefeated 92 in the ODC.

Worcestershire’s Brett D’Oliveira made a slow start to the season but has found form of late. This included reaching 150 in the last round of County Championship matches. BD isn’t even in 1.5% of teams in the game so when he’s contributing it’s great to know that not many other Telegraph Fantasy Cricket players are benefiting from his performances. It’s a good example of why you should stick with someone that has a poor start. If you changed him and went with a form player then you’re just getting the same points as everybody else but if you stick with a player that’s not in many people’s teams then that players points can be decisive.

Onto the bowling department and Durham’s James Weighell (Rated 2 out of 10, team max is 60) has been a shreud selection. He wasn’t initially in the County Championship side but took wickets for fun in the One-Day Cup (18 @ 23.11) and recorded a maiden half-century in his last First Class outing. Weighell is in less than 10% of teams (That will have gone up since the start). As mentioned before, it’s these sort of under the radar performers that you need in your team… from the start.

I deliberately selected bowlers that can bat. Keith Barker and Jofra Archer should probably be considered all-rounders but maybe the fact that they open the bowling led to them been labelled exclusively as bowlers in the game. Sussex’s Archer’s has racked up two fifers and two fifties in the longer format and Barker, though not quite setting the world on fire, has been steadily chipping away in both the runs and wickets columns and it was a bonus to see him get so much game time in the One-Day Cup.

Ollie Rayner has slightly underwhelmed so far. He didn’t get much action in the One-Day Cup but as pitches around the country seem to be turning spin friendly and teams return to the longer format of the game then hopefully the wickets will come soon. I expect him to contribute with the bat too.

I’m currently in 9605th position! It’s a marathon not a sprint. Hare and the tortoise and all that. We’ll revisit things later in the campaign to see if I’ve ascended the table.