Matthew Gilkes and the Beauty of Cricket

So a rarity occurred today. I actually had the opportunity to watch some cricket, the subject that I blog about!

Perth Scorchers hosted Sydney Thunder and to the third delivery of the match, debutante wicketkeeper Matthew Gilkes dropped the mother of all sitters, despite three attempts, off the edge of Shaun Marsh’s first ball. He later displayed some village style glove work when letting four byes go through his legs.

How did he respond though?

By making a measured and assured 51 from 38 deliveries, sensibly playing second fiddle to the amazing Callum Ferguson (113 not out). To the first delivery he faced, he gloriously drove through the covers for four and continued to stay on top of the ball and not go too hard.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/8044/scorecard/1152551/perth-scorchers-vs-sydney-thunder-41st-match-big-bash-league-2018-19

Gilkes displayed great character and temperament after such an inglorious entry to his Big Bash and professional career.

Instant redemption. The beauty of cricket!

Oz go Backwards to go Forwards… or Sideways… or Backwards Again?!

Australia have gone all retro-England on us with their latest ODI squad selection. Potential but inconsistent T20 performers Chris Lynn, D’arcy Short and Ben McDermott have all been ditched to make way for the likes of less explosive but more reliable players such as Shaun Marsh and Usman Khawaja. Though Marsh has done well in the IPL, you can’t help but think that Australia have pushed the panic button… and kept pressing! The selectors can’t seem to make their mind up about Peter Handscomb and one innings from him in the Big Bash seems to have confused them even further. All this fuels pressure on their bowling attack to limit opposition to totals that were the norm five years ago but not today.

Could it all click for Oz at this summer’s World Cup or will their fall continue?

Please don’t forget to check out my YouTube channel…

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCE7Dc2rxjmHdT09xofaoAXg

Will Marsh Come in Handy?

If, as predicted, batsman Peter Handscomb is dropped from Australia’s Test side once again, then it’s hard to see much of an international future for the twenty-seven-year-old. That said, teammate Shaun Marsh has had more lives than a suicidal cat, so maybe PH will be back again in time to be dropped again this time next year!

India have kept ‘Pistol Pete’ down just as England have before them. At 27, Handscomb is no pup. He’s acquired plenty of experience playing in both his homeland (Australia) and his motherland (England). In truth, it would seem a sensible move for elitely honest Australia to bring in Mitchell Marsh. MM’s contribution could help alleviate some of the strain on the hosts’ pace bowling attack. As for his potential output with the willow, despite an inauspicious start, Marsh has previously stepped up at crucial times but Australia desperately need an entire batting order that can contribute as is the case with the England side. India, whilst having non-existent openers but a respectable lower order have, most crucially, a number of middle order batsman for whom scoring a century is not as rare as a lunar eclipse! What Peter Handscomb would give to score a ton… or even another chance!

Disclaimer: You Watch, he’ll play and score a hundred!

Solving Australia’s Batting Woes!

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Will Pucovski (243) and Josh Phillipe (41 & 104) were amongst the runs in the opening round of 2018-19 Sheffield Shield matches. It was good to see young batsman such as Sam Heazlett and Will Bosisto in their respective state XIs as well, even if they didn’t quite churn out Pucovskiesque innings. Question marks still linger over much of Australia’s batting line-up, what with Shaun Marsh’s inconsistency, Mitchell Marsh batting far too high at times and Usman Khawaja (Now injured) and Aaron Finch both needing to back-up encouraging performances against Pakistan in UAE, Pucovski could well have put himself to the front of the selection queue. With Peter Handscomb having fallen away horribly after a promising start to his Test career and Glenn Maxwell clearly not fancied by the selection panel, the twenty-year-old Victorian’s path to the national XI is being cleared of obstacles.

Another player that peaked interest in the opening round of this year’s Shield was leg-spinner Lloyd Pope. Not all that long ago, Pope terrorised England at the Under-19 World Cup with an eight-wicket haul that went viral. In truth, aside from that match-winning performance he had a quiet tournament. His maiden First Class wicket, trapping Steve O’Keefe LBW, saw him go viral again even though his two wickets cost in excess of a hundred runs. It was extremely alarming however to see the reaction of the Australian media. Labelling Pope as the “New Warne” is surely both unnecessary and unoriginal.

Back to batting and another player who could possibly solve Australia’s batting problems… Meg Lanning. There are some that say there’s no need to suggest women cricketers aim to play in men’s teams and that women’s cricket is a good enough sport on in its own right. I’m not necessarily suggesting that run-express Lanning represent her country’s men’s team but it’s worth pointing out just how good she is. Still only twenty-six, she has in excess of 3000 ODI runs from just 68 matches. She averages north of 53 with twelve tons and eleven fifties. She’s fresh off the back of another hundred against Pakistan in Kuala Lumpur.

It’ll be interesting to see just how much Lanning can achieve in her international career and who lines up for Australia’s men’s team come next year’s Ashes encounter in England.

Burns, Renshaw & Handscomb: 12-3 – Welcome Back Boys!

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Steven Smith, David Warner & Cameron Bancroft. Please come back. All is forgiven. (Say Australian fans!)

For those of you that have been living in a cave for the past week, I feel obliged to inform you that batsmen Steven Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft have all returned home from Australia’s tour of South Africa.

The good news for Australia fans is that Joe Burns & Matt Renshaw have joined the squad whilst Play Station Portable Handscomb has been promoted from 12th man duties. Unfortunately for Australia’s fans, the trio’s combined contribution to their team’s response to the home side’s first innings total of 488 is… 12-3. Renshaw made an epic 8, Burns a fluent half as many and Pistol Pete kept it simple… quack quack. Shaun Marsh is at the crease having failed to reach fifty in the series. He’s made starts but hasn’t backed up his Ashes tons.

There’s still hope for Australia. They’ve got their new captain Tim Paine to come, he of one century in 100 First Class matches (172 innings!). No Seriously, I like Paine and hope that he goes well.

It was great to see Temba Bavuma in the runs for South Africa though he rather unfortunately got left stranded on 95. This was in part due to Morne Morkel’s anti-climatic follow-up to receiving a guard of honour… quack quack first ball! It does seem a bit weird that the home side have mucked Bavuma about. They brought Theunis de Bruyn into the side again but don’t seem to understand what de Bruyn’s role is and have promptly mucked him around again by dropping him again.

Keep tabs on the fourth Test in Johannesburg by clicking on the link below…

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/10908/commentary/1075985/south-africa-vs-australia-4th-test-australia-tour-of-south-africa-2018

What Now?

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This is not the time for fancy headlines. Where does English cricket go from here?

Alastair Cook and Stuart Broad will surely score runs and take wickets in England for years to come but having been found wanting in Australia and with thoughts of our next trip to Oz, is it time to move on?

Many questioned the selections of England’s ‘newer’ players but it is the likes of Stoneman, Vince, Malan and Overton who whilst not doing brilliantly, have exceeded the performances of senior players such as Cook, Root, Woakes and Moeen not to mention Broad. Anderson has at least taken some wickets.

Regarding Australia’s selections, for a side that was in selectorial chaos just one year ago, their selectors deserve huge credit. The decisions to call-up Cameron Bancroft, Shaun Marsh and Tim Paine have been rewarded. Each player has made a significant contribution on at least one occasion in this series and though there are no guarantees that they’ll back it up, they’ve played their part in Australia’s Ashes success. At 2-0 to the good, it would’ve been easy to have persisted with a winning team but the hosts dropped Peter Handscomb and recalled Mitchell Marsh. Like the aforementioned players, he has contributed significantly. Looking back, none of the players that Australia called up one year ago, Matt Renshaw, Handscomb or Nic Maddinson played in the third Test but Australia were proven right in their selections. Even if Paine etc don’t last, if Oz keep rotating guys that come in and contribute and the team win then they’re doing something right.

Back to England, Steven Finn has suggested that the county grind is to blame for the absence of serious pace bowling options available to England. That’s why I’d bring to attention again my suggestion to restructure the English First Class game. The structure would be as follows:

Three divisions consisting of six teams

Each team plays the five other teams in their group both home and away

A total of ten games per side

Group winners and best 2nd place qualify for semi-finals

Final at Lords

Maximum twelve matches for any one team

Increased importance and more Test like matches

I’ve written before about the fickleness of the England fan, longing for the new but quickly turning against damaged goods. They want Crane but when he’s 0-100 on debut they’ll want Leach. They want Clarke but when he’s out first ball they’ll want Lawrence. They wanted Malan gone and dismissed his progress and potential to do better, then he scored a Test hundred!

I’ve also written before about Mark Wood. Only ever semi-fit and one wicket in two Tests this year, is he really the answer? Well maybe given that the Ashes are gone and the Ozzies might just switch off. David Warner hasn’t been at his best at the top of the order so could be vulnerable but may now just go hell for leather. In regards to our batting, I’d prefer a right-hander to partner Stoneman at the top of the order but it’s Jennings and Gubbins who are playing for the Lions.

How about this XI for the next Test:

Stoneman

Jennings

Vince

Root (Captain)

Malan

Bairstow (Wicketkeeper)

Woakes

Curran

Wood*

Anderson

Crane

*Assuming Craig Overton is unfit.

Moving Woakes up the order might bring out the best in his batting. Might?

How about this one at the start of next summer:

Stoneman

Bell-Drummond/Hameed

Root

Malan

Bairstow

Stokes

Foakes (Wicketkeeper)

Woakes (Captain)

Overton.C

Curran

Leach

This is of course dependent on the performances in the Australia matches. If Keaton Jennings comes in and scores four Ashes hundreds then I’m not suggesting he gets dropped. There’s a good right-hand/left-hand mix in the top six of my above composition. Bairstow above Malan is however an option. James Anderson and Stuart Broad don’t have to necessarily be banished forever and their experience could still be useful in home conditions. England might like to rotate in order to limit injury to the likes of Overton and co. I’d like Liam Livingstone to be there or thereabouts too.

Can English cricket’s phoenix rise from the ashes?

Disclaimer: I rather inconveniently forgot that there’s a post Ashes tour of New Zealand but maybe one opening batsman aside, my team for next summer needn’t be that far off.

Batting Mentality

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Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow and Chris Woakes currently find themselves at positions six, seven and eight in England’s Test batting order. If it weren’t for the absence of Ben Stokes then Moeen would be at eight not six and Woakes would drop to as low as number nine.

At domestic level, in First Class cricket Moeen would either open or be first drop, JB would find himself positioned at four or five and Woakes would come in at six. If England are to get a grip or at least be competitive in the 2017-18 Ashes then each of the aforementioned players must remember that they are top order batsmen, regardless of where they sit in the England line-up. They each have many a First Class century to their name. Moeen and Bairstow obviously have a few at Test level too and Woakes is capable of achieving such.

It’s this supposed strength in depth of England’s batting order that should be crucial in helping the team compete in Australia. England’s tail, in particular Stuart Broad, have regressed over recent times and are likely to be peppered with short stuff for the remainder of the series. For that reason it’s even more important that England’s engine room deliver. Of course it’s understandable that when there is less batting to come, a player will be more inclined to be extra aggressive and risky but Moeen and JB should be comforted by the knowledge that they’ve still got one (Woakes for JB) or two (JB and Woakes for Mo) quality batsman behind them.

Australia will be cocksure after their victory in the first Test in Brisbane but England were on top on more than one occasion during the series opener. If the visitors can put the home side under pressure again then they are there for the taking.

Switching to the home side’s batting, Usman Khawaja is under extreme pressure to convince otherwise his international career may become like Shaun Marsh. Marsh is another man who remains under pressure and unloved by some, that’s despite a vital half-century in Brisbane. Wicketkeeper Tim Paine is also part of the Ozzies’ batting line-up and his domestic record won’t fill any home fans with confidence. England may need to turn to the likes of Mark Wood, Craig Overton or more excitingly Tom Curran, if they are to exploit Australia’s weaknesses.

It’s quite simple then. Bat like batsmen and bowl better. That’s England’s tactical pep talk ahead of the second Test in Adelaide. Come on boys!