Cricket Captain 2018: Cook Serves Another Feast!

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My first series as Coach and Selector of the national side and it’s a thumping series win for the boys. Victory margins of 199-runs and ten-wickets confirm our dominance. Both victories were built around the monumental batting of stand-in skipper Alastair Cook. Chef followed his 160 not out at Lords with an epic 198 in Leeds.

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Pakistan actually won the toss and chose to bat but soon regretted it. Opening batsman Sami Aslam’s 24-ball duck was absolute torture. To their credit, the tourists recovered from 111-6 to a respectable 335 all out. As was the case at Lords, this was again in the main courtesy of their leader Sarfraz Ahmed. The wicketkeeper-batsman made his second ton (117) of the series.

We then posted 476 to gain a healthy first innings advantage. As well as Cook’s monster 198, James Vince again looked good for 66 and Joe Clarke made a magnificent 80 in only his second Test. Mohammad Amir was the pick of the bowlers though still expensive. He finished with analysis of 4-154.

Pakistan then made only 151 second time out. Again Ahmed top scored but this time with only 39. The in-form Mark Wood claimed Test best figures of 4-31.

Haseeb Hameed, recalled at the expense of Mark Stoneman (7 not out) and Dawid Malan (4 not out) then knocked off the mammoth victory target of eleven without loss. Hameed made only 17 in the first innings but batted for 99 minutes in compiling 50 with Alastair Cook. Having made only one in the first innings at Headingley, then it is Dawid Malan who’s place seems most vulnerable should Joe Root return to full fitness. Of course questions will be asked about the captaincy given Cook’s splendid showing in this series.

For the immediate future it’s the white-ball (ODI/T20I) affairs for the team. Next up is a one-off ODI against Scotland in Edinburgh. We may use the opportunity to rest senior players and explore our strength in depth.

Cricket Captain 2018: Start as we Mean to go on!

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I’m delighted to announce that my England side have commenced the summer with victory in the first Test against Pakistan at Lords. With captain Joe Root unfortunately unavailable through injury, the sensible option to entrust experienced former skipper Alastair Cook with the armband was one that I made without hesitation. Worcestershire’s twentyone-year-old right-handed batsman Joe Clarke was provided the honour of becoming the 685th England Test cricketer.

After fifties in the last Test before my tenure, the second Test in New Zealand, batsmen Mark Stoneman, James Vince, Dawid Malan as well as pace bowler Mark Wood, all retained their places. Despite playing no First Class cricket this term, Ben Stokes IPL form was enough to earn him selection provided the quality batting and bowling options around him. The uncapped duo of Lancashire leg-spinner Matthew Parkinson and Nottinghamshire left-arm quick Mark Footitt also made the squad. Parkinson was rewarded for outstanding form in the County Championship whilst Footitt’s left-arm pace provides the squad with a point of difference.

Alastair Cook won the toss and we opted to bat but were soon in trouble at 17-3. Cook himself was first to go, clean bowled for one. Mark Stoneman made eight and unfortunately debutant Clarke was caught at point without scoring. James Vince (89) and Dawid Malan (49) repaired the damage with a fantastic partnership, both justifying their retentions in the team. Malan was frustratingly run out when trying to reach his fifty however, a single that was optimistic at best and foolish at worst. Jonny Bairstow made a brisk 44 and Ben Stokes cracked some boundaries late in the piece before falling for an excellent 92. That helped lift us to what we thought was a par score of 307.

Maybe 307 was above par however as Pakistan succumbed to 209 all out. The visitors’ skipper Sarfraz Ahmed made a magnificent 104 from number seven. The next highest score was just 23! Mark Wood (4-63) led the way but their were contributions from throughout our bowling attack.

In our second innings, stand-in skipper Alastair Cook produced one of his masterclasses, batting throughout the entire innings and finishing undefeated on 160. Cook weathered the tempest when Stoneman (Again!) and Vince fell in single figures. Joe Clarke made a counter-attacking 28 to get off the mark in Test cricket and with Joe Root still injured, will likely keep his place for the second Test. Jonny Bairstow rapidly caught up with Cook and surpassed him to register the first Test ton of my tenure as selector/coach. Jonny B fell for a crowd-pleasing 111 before all the bowlers chipped in around Cook.

Pakistan set about their chase of over 500 well but when the second wicket fell their batting line-up collapsed like a deck of cards in a full force gale! Somerset spinner Jack Leach was entrusted with lots of responsibility and finished with Test best figures of 3-94. Yet another example of a player justifying his selection. There were even maiden Test wickets for Dawid Malan and James Vince, to compliment his Test best batting effort and supreme fielding display.

All that equated to a thumping 199-run win for us and we look forward to the challenge that Pakistan will respond with in the second Test at Headingley. Surrey’s Mark Stoneman may have some sleepless nights, what with Haseeb Hameed breathing down his neck.

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Ashes Cricket (PS4): Global Test League – Pakistan vs. England

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Another match, another win. That’s four in a row now for the team. Next up we host South Africa in a top of the table clash at Sussex. Like us, they’ve won four matches and lost only one.

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We were pleased to be pushed hard by Pakistan. We’ve performed well to win four consecutive matches but would’ve welcomed stronger opposition. We got that from Pakistan, well, for three quarters of the match at least.

In our first innings, opening batsman Keaton Jennings (125) cemented his place at the top of the Global Test League run charts with yet another hundred. Dawid Malan (80 & 142) stayed in touching distance of Jennings with a counter attacking ton in our second outing. Jennings now has 712 tournament runs to Malan’s 688 despite Malan having four tons to Jennings’ three.

Pakistan gained a healthy first innings lead of 105 however, courtesy of three batsmen (A Shehzad 132, H Sohail 109 & J Khan 100) scoring centuries. This was despite the efforts of our opening bowlers, messrs Broad (3-87) and Woakes (3-101). Adil Rashid (2-86) also claimed two victims to add to his first innings knock of 61. The Yorkshireman has cemented his place as both England’s number six batsman and number one spinner. Rumours of him focusing on white ball cricket only are purely that. Fellow twirler Liam Dawson, 43-7-147-0, toiled however.

After a difficult start to our second innings, Malan (142) and Rashid (40) put together a combo of 201 for the fifth wicket. This was our highest partnership of the competition thus far. Moeen Ali stroked a useful 43 not out to help set the hosts 318 for victory.

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They couldn’t have got off to a worse start with first innings centurion Ahmed Shehzad run out first ball. Their next two wickets were also run outs and they were soon 21-4 before stumbling to 89-7. Gloveman Sarfraz Ahmed contributed a well fought but stylish 43 before Junaid Khan (51 not out) and Imad Wasim (47) showed resistance and ability in the lower order. If only their top three hadn’t gotten themselves out in such shambolic circumstances, then this could have been a great Test match. Adil Rashid (2-18) claimed ‘Player of the Match’ and this was probably deservedly so, despite competition from the likes of Dawid Malan. Stuart Broad wrapped things up in Lahore. The above DRS confirming that there was no doubt about the final wicket. He and Chris Woakes both bowled well and look in good form ahead of the hosting of fellow table toppers South Africa.

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As for Liam Dawson however, his match figures of 61-10-210-0 leave him with a Global Test League average of 328.00. It seems unlikely that the Hampshire all-rounder (He made just 4 & 10 with the bat), will wear England whites again anytime soon.