Northeast Finds Direction!

Following a frustrating injury hit first campaign with his adopted county, former Kent captain Sam Northeast commenced the new season with an impressive knock of 169 for Hampshire against Essex.

It’s easy to assume that Northeast has fallen down the pecking order in terms of England selection but if he can back up his opening knock with more of the same then there’s no reason why he couldn’t gatecrash the Ashes. Incumbent Joe Denly is currently sat on the bench at the IPL. He is very much an Ed Smith selection however. Denly made 69 in his last Test innings but then James Vince made 76 in his. With Northeast performing at three and Vince opening, could the Hampshire duo both make England’s next Test squad?

Yorkshire’s Adam Lyth made runs too. He’s a very good player but the fact that previous Test shortcomings occurred against Australia in England will probably count against him. There’ll be a clamour for Joe Clarke who let his cricket do the talking when making a debut ton for Nottinghamshire meanwhile Haseeb Hameed registered a double century against the students.

Ultimately the early season signs are that unlike recent seasons, England might have some difficult selection choices to make but in a good way.

CricketXI – County Championship 2018: Season Review

Screen Shot 2018-09-30 at 10.11.05

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.

Screen Shot 2018-09-30 at 10.10.06

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.

Screen Shot 2018-09-30 at 10.10.42

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!

England Uncapped XI

IMG_4028

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 2018

Screen Shot 2018-03-30 at 15.22.07

The above is my first XI. It’s in the all-rounder roles that I’ve gambled with Rhodes and Rawlins. Rhodes has moved from Yorkshire to Warwickshire so should see increased game time and will be keen to show what he’s capable of. Rawlins made an impression in the North v South matches and this should be his breakout season. Simpson is a reliable wicketkeeper and I think there is real logic in the stumper being captain. I’ve plucked for a possibly slightly under the radar bowling attack and expect Mennie and hopefully Hutton to contribute runs too. I’ve very deliberately selected batsman that will at least occasionally bowl and should get opportunities in both formats of the game.

Screen Shot 2018-03-30 at 15.22.24

For my second XI, I’ve gone for the two all-rounders that I consider guaranteed runs and wickets. I’ve opted for a reliable batting unit and expect Fell to return to form this year. Though my bowling unit may not be guaranteed outings in both codes, Coad and Footitt are wicket takers in the First Class format. Mahmood is coming into the campaign off the back of impressive performances in North v South and Nijjar, a useful spin bowler, has been opening the batting for Essex pre-season. What happens to Alastair Cook with England may determine Nijjar’s opportunities. If Roderick is available throughout the season, he should be steady away behind the stumps and with bat in hand.

Screen Shot 2018-03-30 at 15.22.45

Have I ever mentioned that I like Ben Duckett?

Mitchell is as consistent as they come and bowls too. Smith has returned to Durham and I expect plenty of runs from the experienced head back up north. Alongside him, Brook is primed for his breakthrough campaign after debuting last term. Kuhn may not keep wicket but is a solid performer at domestic level. My bowling attack may receive England and England Lions call-ups but have runs as well as wickets in them in both formats. Bresnan is as solid an option as Patel and Bopara and van der Merwe is a destructive player.

Screen Shot 2018-03-30 at 17.44.56

In my fourth XI, I’ve gone Warwickshire and England veteran heavy in my batting line-up, messrs Trott and Bell leading the charge. Bell-Drummond will be looking to kick-on and fingers crossed for a run-filled renaissance from Nick Compton. Like Kuhn, Pope may not always keep wicket but will be playing regularly and in the runs this year. Berg is as reliable as anyone with the ball and Procter prospered last term having relocated to Northamptonshire. I want a bit more from Barker and Rayner this year. Fletcher is back from injury and if Overton, rated 3!, can stay fit then he’s a shrewd selection.

Screen Shot 2018-03-30 at 15.23.20

In my fifth XI are the other players that I like who I couldn’t squeeze into my first four teams. Northeast has moved to Hampshire but is as reliable as they come with the bat. Wells is solid in the First Class game as is Burns. Dent is an under rated player too. McManus gets the gloves with the experienced Clarke, back at Surrey, and less experienced but quick Chappell in the all-rounder roles. Hopefully Norwell has shrugged off any injury niggles. Ball will be left to play county cricket this term whilst Patterson is another of my reliable picks. Qadri made an impressive debut last year and will look to back it up.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve avoided selecting players that will be on England duty. It’s steady away county pros that you need sprinkled with one or two yet to be discovered gems just primed to be this year’s Ben Coad.

Let me know what you think about my teams and which one is likely to win me the massive cash prize of……….. £3,000!

https://fantasycricket.telegraph.co.uk/county

Disclaimer: I’ve since been tinkering away, so my teams don’t look quite the same as above. I’ll keep you up to date once the campaign commences!

Application for Role of National Selector

IMG_2121

https://www.ecb.co.uk/news/642891/ecb-announces-new-approach-for-england-men-s-selection

Dear Andrew Strauss

Please find enclosed my application for the role of National Selector as advertised on http://www.ecb.co.uk

On the MAC version of Cricket Captain 2017 (Admittedly on Easy Mode!), I was responsible for the selection of the England side that won the 2017 Champions Trophy on home turf. Who can forget David Willey’s 8-58 against Australia?! That summer, I had already made the brave decision to recall batsman Ben Duckett to the Test side despite his tough baptism the previous winter.

Screen Shot 2017-07-20 at 09.46.51

Duckett repaid the faith by averaging 82.89 in the respectable 2017-18 2-2 away Ashes series draw.

Screen Shot 2017-07-22 at 19.03.26

In 2018 I introduced Yorkshire seamer Ben Coad to Test cricket and he duly struck with his first delivery against Pakistan. Coad went on to claim just shy of 200 wickets as well as surpassing 1000 runs during my time as selector. As was the case with the recall of Duckett, there was resistance from some quarters towards the selection of Coad. Some in the media believed that I was applying Yorkshire bias and only selecting Coad because we were born in the same town. Proving the doubters wrong, his performances with bat and ball throughout his career confirmed that I possess nous when it comes to identifying under the radar talent.

Screen Shot 2017-07-29 at 20.53.31

Mason Crane’s dismissals of three Indian batsmen, all first ball on T20I debut was another highlight of that summer.

Screen Shot 2017-08-03 at 13.17.12

Screen Shot 2017-08-03 at 13.17.37

Another spinner, Adil Rashid, excelled in Sri Lanka where he famously followed up figures of 7-66 with a monumental knock of 161. Again, there were those that campaigned against the selections of said spinners, at least in the respective formats in which they would go onto succeed. Again, those doubters were silenced.

Screen Shot 2017-08-24 at 21.51.39

Following our Champions Trophy success in 2017, we promptly won the 2019 ODI World Cup. Once again the nation were euphoric in their celebrations of home soil success.

Screen Shot 2017-08-24 at 21.50.28

My insistence that Moeen Ali replace Jason Roy at the top of the order was both ruthless and crucial to our success. Moeen’s blazing knock of 112 from 80 deliveries in the final against India will live long in the memory of many.

Screen Shot 2017-08-25 at 17.44.06

Alongside Moeen, Ben Duckett totalled 562 runs at 80.29, again this demonstrates my ability to get the best out of mischievous players. Many would’ve left the Northamptonshire batsman on the international scrapheap but his performances in both the Ashes and ODI World Cup were immense.

Screen Shot 2017-08-25 at 17.47.05

Chris Woakes claimed twenty tournament wickets at just 12.55 apiece and please don’t ignore the contribution made by left field selection Luke Fletcher. This included a vital wicket in the final at Lords.

Yes we lost the 2019 Ashes 3-0. Thirty-five-year-old Daryl Mitchell failed to back-up his debut knock of 73. He didn’t make another fifty before being dropped for the fifth Test and James Harris (0-102) had an ignominious introduction to Test cricket. The selection of thirty-nine-year-old Jimmy Adams’ (34 runs @ 8.50) in T20I cricket didn’t work either.

Screen Shot 2017-08-30 at 19.30.41

Nor did the selection of Ross Whiteley (99 runs @ 9.90). However, there would be over 200 Test wickets for Jack Leach, a Test century for Max Holden and many Test tons for Will Rhodes as well as numerous ODI tons for Daniel Bell-Drummond during my time as Selector. Sometimes you have to sift through the dirt to find the diamonds.

Screen Shot 2017-09-19 at 20.48.52

I would like to think that the T20I career of sometime captain Benny Howell…

Screen Shot 2017-09-17 at 20.26.40

… and ODI career of Ollie Rayner, the latter also earning two Test caps, will reflect well on my ability to identify talent and think outside the box when selecting the composition of a side. Even if these players didn’t excel statistically, they were under rated efficient contributors to the side.

Screen Shot 2017-09-03 at 20.11.27

Other highlights during my tenure included: In Bangladesh in 2021, having lost the first Test by just one wicket courtesy of Jofra Archer’s no ball, we chased down 431 in the second Test to level the series. Liam Livingstone (122 & 166) and Will Rhodes (111 & 128*) famously made tons in each innings.

Middlesex’s Harry Podmore claimed figures of 3-51 on ODI debut but disappointingly we failed to progress from the round robin stage of the 2022 Champions Trophy. Paul Coughlin (Two six-wicket hauls) though was for a time the number one bowler in the world in ODI cricket.

Screen Shot 2017-09-18 at 19.48.04

In the 2022 T20I World Cup we reached the semi-final before we were cruelly defeated by India. Hampshire’s Lewis McManus, another shrewd selection, contributed 225 runs at 56.25 including a swashbuckling ton against Pakistan.

Screen Shot 2017-09-19 at 20.47.01

Another gloveman, Sussex’s Ben Brown, registered fifties in his first two T20I caps.

Unfortunately by the time 2023 came around we were ranked as low as 8th in ODI cricket and 9th in both Tests and T20Is. We scored 447 in the fourth innings of an Ashes Test but still lost!

Screen Shot 2017-09-23 at 21.28.24

On the plus side, Surrey all-rounder Sam Curran, originally bravely selected whilst still in his teens, passed 100 wickets ODI cricket. Another find was Nottinghamshire batsman Billy Root, who stepped out of his brother’s shadow to register an ODI century against West Indies. I’m extremely proud of his selection because both the media and public were extremely sceptical.

Screen Shot 2017-09-24 at 22.05.14

After a run of ten straight Test defeats, we did at least beat Zimbabwe 2-0 at home. Liam Livingstone and Ben Foakes’ partnership of 351 proving crucial.

Screen Shot 2017-09-24 at 22.06.17

Somerset speedster Jamie Overton claimed nine wickets at just 15.56 upon his introduction to Test cricket.

Opening batsman Mark Stoneman went onto pass 4000 Test runs though we probably shouldn’t have allowed him so much opportunity to close in on 5000 when clearly past his sell by date!

Lewis McManus and Sam Northeast recorded a record-breaking partnership of 263 in an ODI and Sam Evans scored centuries in each of his first three Tests.

Screen Shot 2017-09-30 at 23.25.29

Defeats against Namibia and Canada in the 2023 ODI World Cup was a disappointing way to bow out. Durham bowler James ‘Killer’ Weighell’s figures 0f 10-0-102-0 against the North American side were confirmation that I’d persisted with him too long.

I don’t think Hamidullah Qadri’s Test bowling average ever got below 60.00 and Mark Footitt (7 wickets in 5 Tests) was another one I probably got wrong. Don’t let those performances against associate nations, world rankings or runs of defeat after defeat deflect from my achievements though. A Champions Trophy and ODI World Cup win are not to be scoffed at, particularly when under the pressure of playing in front of the expectations of a home crowd. The selections and performances of Will Rhodes (Tests), Daniel Bell-Drummond (ODIs) and Lewis McManus (ODIs/T20Is) as well as Jack Leach, Ben Coad, Jofra Archer and Liam Norwell (Tests), Jamie Overton and Paul Coughlin (ODIs) demonstrate my ability to see beyond the obvious and identify players capable of succeeding at international level.

I’m extremely confident that I can transfer my success (Mediocrity, call it what you will!) in virtuality to reality and excel in the role of National Selector. I’m available for interview at any time and await your response with much anticipation.

Yours faithfully

 

Paul Morris

Summer of Sam.. but Hopefully not Actually Like Summer of Sam!

IMG_3140

Occasional England gloveman Sam Billings has replaced his namesake and the likely departing Sam Northeast as captain of Kent, then gone and earned himself an IPL contract meaning that he’ll miss the first five County Championship matches of the 2018 season!

So who will captain Kent after all and should they win their first five games, will Billings actually walk straight in as skipper off the back of some T20 games in a foreign land and with little captaincy experience to his name?

I guess that the argument will be that Billings’ selection in the role is a long term one but he’s likely to spend some time bench warming for the national side in limited overs cricket too, so will probably miss some more cricket. Would it not be better to have a captain who will likely be available to perform the role throughout the entirety of the season?

This episode also brings to attention Billings’ role in the England squad as well as one or two others, David Willey for example. Is Billings able to do himself justice and prove himself by filling in for the odd game? Is rotation worth it or would England be better served just picking the strongest team and not resting players. Hopefully Billings can have a run in the T20I side in the upcoming triangular series against Australia and New Zealand. It’s an opportunity for teams to actually play a few T20I matches in succession rather than odd games splattered about the year.

Regardless of who captains Kent, the seemingly inevitable loss of Northeast will be a huge blow. It will surely be time for Daniel Bell-Drummond to step to the fore, for Joe Denly to continue his renaissance and for Sam Billings, whenever he plays, to deliver.

Cricket Captain 2017: Complacent Against the ‘Chevrons’ (No really, the ‘Chevrons’!)

Screen Shot 2017-07-18 at 08.19.17

After the 2-0 Test series success, England comfortably claimed the ODI series against Zimbabwe as well. After three matches England had assumed an unassailable 3-0 lead and went onto win the fourth courtesy of a record breaking partnership (More about that later). Up to that point England were only truly tested in the third match however Zimbabwe deservedly won a tight final encounter of the series.

Screen Shot 2017-09-26 at 17.06.59

England’s 4-1 win made their ODI ranking a bit more respectable.

Screen Shot 2017-09-26 at 17.06.50

Durham’s Paul Coughlin averaged just 7.71 with the ball in the series and is currently the tenth best ODI bowler in the world according to the rankings. Jamie Overton, Toby Roland-Jones and Sam Curran are also currently placed amongst the top twenty. Newcomer Matthew Taylor endured a tough time however, claiming just two wickets at 79.00 apiece.

Screen Shot 2017-09-26 at 17.36.00.png

In the fourth ODI, Lewis McManus (167) and Sam Northeast (142 not out) recorded England’s highest ever ODI partnership. McManus fell just four runs short of equalling England’s highest ever individual ODI score but does now hold the record for the highest ODI and T20I innings during the current management reign.

Screen Shot 2017-09-26 at 18.26.28.png

Will Beer, an average Don Bradman would’ve been proud of!

In the sole T20I, an at best England second team suffered a final over defeat as Zimbabwe finished the tour with back-to-back victories.