England Crumble to Chase in… Chase!

A massive well done to West Indies on comprehensively and deservedly defeating England in the first Test.

We could talk about selection until the cows come home but can’t you always?

There’s no doubt that England’s preparation was pathetic. These everybody has a bat affairs don’t promote competitiveness. It would be far better to have a couple of eleven-a-side First Class fixtures, actually breed some competition between the players and put some pressure on them for their place, as there should be in Test Cricket. There’s value in the new buzzword, destigmatising being dropped but some intensity between teammates is needed in order to be successful. There is of course an argument about volume of cricket and time with family but maybe this highlights the need for different squads for different formats and the longer form almost becoming a completely separate sport.

As is typical with English pundits, a player who took an eight-wicket haul still got criticised and derided for being nothing more than a village cricketer. Maybe England should select some village cricketers. If so, I’m available!

The selection of Darren Bravo doesn’t say a lot about the state of willow wielders in West Indies cricket. He was selected based on history but wasn’t primed to perform given how little regional four-day cricket he’s played in recent times. Having said that, it’s probably a bit rich for an England supporter to be criticising the home team’s batting. He’ll likely score a ton now in the second Test. What a Test match for debutant John Campbell to be part of too!

It’s hard to see Adil Rashid playing in the next Test and Sam Curran might be struggling too but please don’t write him off. Please don’t lump him in the “Only good in home conditions” category, after one underwhelming performance.

Keaton Jennings will probably survive as Joe Denly has hardly made a case…

… and the likelihood of Moeen Ali being promoted to open after a pair is slim. Rory Burns did at least make strides and can hopefully back that up during the rest of the tour.

Fingers crossed for a couple more fascinating Test matches in the Caribbean. Oh, should probably mention Jason Holder too… well batted!

Ashes Cricket (PS4): Global Test League – Calypso Calapsyco!

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Calypso music originated in Trinidad and that’s where England’s cricketers collapsed in epic fashion to squander a first innings lead and succumb to defeat against West Indies in the latest round of Global Test League fixtures.

Disclaimer: Let’s step aside from pretending this is all real for a moment. Ashes Cricket’s developers Big Ant Studios released a mid-match patch whilst I was sailing to victory against the home side. Ultimately Big Ant have made the game harder/better. Batting in Tests is now actually like batting in Tests in real life. Well maybe not quite but you get what I mean! I’m looking forward to playing more and adapting my game, having to graft with the bat but in regards to this match, when you’ve become used to smacking the ball to all parts, it’s a difficult habit to break.

In the first innings of the match, England reached 60-0 having chose to bat but lost both openers (Jennings 38/Stoneman 22) in quick succession before being bundled out for 222. Wicketkeeper Ben Foakes top scored with 55 and England were indebted to a career best 34 from Durham pacer Mark Wood on Global Test League debut.

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West Indies lost opener Kraigg Brathwaite before a run was scored and the wickets were shared around as England gained a 50-run first innings lead. The Caribbean side were aggrieved at a couple of umpiring decisions, including the one above that was given out would you believe? After David Willey claimed his first victim of the match, England actually took a team hat-trick that included back-to-back run outs!

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Mark Wood (11-3-34-2) claimed two wickets in two balls to mop up the West Indies’ tail in their first innings.

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As well as Wood, James Anderson (2-39), Stuart Broad (2-32) and the critic silencing David Willey (2-25) each claimed two scalps as did run outs.

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It soon went all wrong for England though. The visitors were 32-6 at one stage in their second innings before Dawid Malan (34) and Mark Wood (24) grafted 63 for the sixth wicket. On GTL debut, Wood put a number of senior batsmen to shame. Captain Joe Root’s horror show of a competition continued. Scores of just 5 and 1 bring the Yorkshireman’s tournament total to a paltry 211 runs at a woeful average of 16.23. This is the worst of any specialist batsman in the inaugural Global Test League. Root has been able to get away with this whilst his team have been winning but when the team starts losing, both his captaincy and place in the team will come under scrutiny.

West Indies were left needing 154 for victory and though England occasionally checked the hosts’s progress and hinted at pulling off a heist when reducing the home side to 107-4, a missed run out chance put paid to their chances. Shai Hope (54 not out) and Roston Chase (24 not out) saw West Indies to a famous victory.

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Young Hampshire spinner Mason Crane bowled respectably enough in the West Indies first innings but was let down by numerous misfields in the second. Crane finished with figures of 16-1-66-0 but in truth there was little threat. His Hampshire team-mate Liam Dawson (17 & 1) failed with the bat having been promoted to number six and barely turned his arm over (7.3-2-24-0) in this match. He now averages a competition high 382.00. A record not to be proud of!

Congratulations to West Indies on a thoroughly deserved victory. England now head to Zimbabwe having lost to them at home in the opening round of the competition. England need to get back to winning ways immediately at the race for the title of Global Test Champions hots up. With the hosts’ pitch expected to favour spin, the composition of England’s XI will be fascinating and may present an opportunity for England’s spinners to finally prove their worth. Mark Stoneman will be sweating over his place while the likes of Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid amongst others will hope for a recall.

Ashes Cricket (PS4): Global Test League – New Zealand Run Out… of Ideas!

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When your bowlers need claim only fourteen wickets, you can’t help but think that Test match victories shouldn’t come quite so easily!

Post victory in the Shamrock state, Warwickshire’s Chris Woakes was recalled to the side for the hosting of New Zealand at Edgbaston. Woakes soon snaffled a wicket on his home ground, that of Kiwi opener Jeet Raval, caught behind for seven by debutant wicketkeeper Ben Foakes. That’d be bowled Woakes caught Foakes then! Brought into the side at the expense of Jonny Bairstow following the Yorkshireman’s shabby showing against Ireland in Malahide, Foakes duly put in an exemplary performance behind the timbers. Surrey head honcho Alec Stewart will be proud.

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Woakes made the most of his familiarity with the surroundings. With the new ball in hand whilst Stuart Broad sat this match out, Woakes claimed impressive figures of 3-28 as New Zealand capitulated to 143-9 in their first innings. Only a last wicket stand of forty between Neil Wagner and Trent Boult helped lift the visitors to a slightly more respectable 183 all out. New Zealand’s ineptitude with the bat on such a run-welcoming surface was soon highlighted by England’s willow wielders, not to mention the Kiwis’ own efforts come their second innings.

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Mark Stoneman compiled a career best 82 in an opening partnership of 186 with former Durham colleague Keaton Jennings but was rightly gutted on missing out on a maiden Test century. The Surrey lefty played an unnecessary and inexplicably expansive shot when three figures were peeping above the horizon whilst crying out “Come and get me Mark, please!”.

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Perennially in-form Jennings made no such mistake. His monumental 222 was a dominational knock that left him sitting pretty at the top of the Global Test League run charts whilst averaging an epic 83.29! #Bradmanesque was soon trending on social media. In the interest of fairness, Roston Chase, Dean Elgar and Ross Taylor have all clocked up higher GTL scores in the first four rounds of games.

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Dawid Malan registered his third hundred of the GTL, the most by any individual thus far in the inaugural edition of the competition. The Middlesex man fell for a Test best 155, his partnership of 194 with Adil Rashid was England’s competition high so far as was the team cumulative of 765-9. Regarding the bowling, Neil Wagner claimed absurd figures of 3-256!

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Following his reintegration to the Test side against Ireland, Adil Rashid continued his authoritative all-round performance and seemed destined for a maiden Test century. The Yorkshireman was controversially adjudged run out when on 79 however, though in truth it was an almightily risky run, even if the cameras suggested he’d made his ground.

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As was the case against Ireland, England saw their opposition produce a strong second innings batting display. It was only day three and the pitch was still a good one. How much more the Kiwis 410 could have been if it were not for five run outs in the innings, added to one in their first, will forever remain unknown. Had the tourists not conceded such village dismissals (No disrespect to village cricketers across the land!) and had they applied themselves better in their first innings then this could have been a far more evenly contested high scoring affair. Tim Southee’s run out for a career best 87, a dismissal that sealed the home side’s victory was disappointing, embarrassing, amateur, heart-breaking and inevitable all at the same time. Even the England fans wanted to see him reach a ton.

Moving on from my journalistic report and bringing to the fore my role as Team Manager and Chairman of Selectors of the England national side, we’d prefer to have to work harder for our wickets, even if we can claim to have applied pressure to bring them about. Our performance against spin, Jeetan Patel finished with figures of 0-98 on his home ground, was extremely encouraging. Pakistan in Lahore however will be a different kettle of the proverbial fish. We look forward to the challenge though. We currently sit joint top of the GTL table alongside South Africa and India. They too have won three matches and lost one. Entertaining ‘The Proteas’ at home will follow the trip to Pakistan.

The squad to travel to Pakistan will be named after careful consideration has been provided. Rotation of our pace bowlers continues to be of paramount importance as we look to sustain our intensity throughout the duration of the competition. Thoughts of adding additional spin options to the XI will be weighed up as will selecting spin-skilled batsmen. The players continue to be humbled by the support of the fans.

Hope for West Indies

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It’s fair to say that since the turn of the century Caribbean cricket hasn’t been at it’s peak. The West Indies national side have not been the force they once were. Potential stars such as Kieron Powell packed the game in altogether to try their hand at baseball, though he’s recently returned to cricket whilst Darren Bravo’s future is in serious doubt following a recent Twitter outburst.

There is however a glimmer of hope for West Indies. When Shai Hope made his Test debut against England it was in truth probably a little too soon but a career best knock of 211 just prior to the Test got him the nod. Over eighteen months later he is still awaiting a Test match half-century but did make a career best 41 in his last Test outing before striking 47 on ODI debut earlier today.

It’s not just Shai either. His elder brother Kyle, four years Shai’s senior at 27 is still awaiting a First Class century but a batting average of 29.35 suggests that he has no problem getting going. He recently struck 107 for West Indies A against Sri Lanka A in a List A match.

Amongst others, the encouraging signs displayed by Roston Chase early in his Test career, Nicholas Pooran debuting in T20Is and Rahkeen Cornwall’s domestic performances also provide West Indies with optimism for the years ahead.