Cricket Captain 2018: Statistical Highlights… and Lowlights!

Five full years into my tenure as Coach/Selector of the England cricket team, here’s a round-up of the highs and lows that we’ve experienced as a collective thus far…

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Yes that does say 43 all out against Pakistan at Edgbaston! That’s an England all-time low and a slap in the face for our decision to bat exclusively (And optimistically) for a draw. The sweet success of 806 against Sri Lanka in Kandy seems a long time ago.

Joe Root’s 292 against India in Nottingham, came after he’d been dismissed for 230 twice during my tenure and in the same innings that James Vince briefly (Very briefly) held the record when making 246.

Leg-spinner Matthew Parkinson’s 7-82 against New Zealand, also at Edgbaston, are the best individual bowling figures in an innings while Stuart Broad’s 11-98 against West Indies in Jamaica in 2019 remain our best match analysis.

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The year before the 43 all out debacle, 436 against the same opponents in Leeds, had been a none too shabby effort in a One-Day International. In truth, our limited overs batting has regressed since then. As in the Tests, it’s former captain Joe Root who leads the way with a rare double ton (214) in the fifty over format, indeed it was in that innings of 436 against Pakistan in front of a packed and vibrant Headingley crowd.

Somerset speedster Jamie Overton claimed astonishing figures of 6-14 against Australia in the infancy of his international career but lost his way a little in ODIs. He is however averaging sub 30 in the Test format and has become a valuable option in the longer format. He’s no slouch with the bat either.

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Errrr, yeah, 41 all out against South Africa in a T20I. Like I said, highs and lows. Never an easy place to bat is Cape Town!

Alex Hales 124 against arch-enemy Australia in Bristol has been the best batting output in the format whilst the often economical Tom Curran’s 5-26 against West Indies in Delhi at the World Cup is our best individual bowling analysis.

It’d be great to post 1000 runs in a Test innings but with the need for declarations this can often only be feasible in a dead rubber. 500 in a ODI and 250 in T20Is would also be welcome. It’d also be great to see an individual batsman reach a triple ton in a Test match but should they approach Sir Len Hutton’s 364 then I might have to declare!

Cricket Captain 2018: From One Extreme to the Other!

2020-21 Season Review

West Indies Tests: Won 3-0

Australia ODIs: Lost 2-1 (Sam Hain 145, 105 and 88)

Australia T20Is: Lost 2-1 (Tom Kohler-Cadmore 101, maiden ODI century)

Pakistan Tests: Lost 2-1 (Ed Barnard match figures 9-85)

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Alastair Cook and Haseeb Hameed opening partnership 346.

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43 all out!

Pakistan T20Is: Lost 3-0

Ireland ODIs: Won 2-1 (Tom Kohler-Cadmore 133, century on ODI debut, 62 and 141)

India ODIs: Lost 3-0 (Ed Pollock 102, maiden ODI century)

India T20Is: Lost 3-0

T20I World Cup: Won 1, Lost 3 – Knocked out at group stage (Jofra Archer 4-21 vs. West Indies)

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India Tests: Won 4-0 (Achieved highest ever run chase in history of Test cricket: 489-2 (Vince 204*, Root 198*))

South Africa ODIs: Lost 2-1

South Africa T20Is: Lost 3-0

Tests:

Won: 8 Drew/Tied: 1 Lost: 2

ODIs:

Won: 4 Drew/Tied: 0 Lost: 8

T20Is:

Won: 2 Drew/Tied: 0 Lost: 14

Cricket Captain 2018: Heading North Down South… then Heading South Again!

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I’m delighted to announce that the England cricket team, selected and coached by myself, sealed a magnificent 2-0 Test series win in South Africa.

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Following draws in the first two Tests, our strength in depth, particularly in our pace bowling depths, helped us claim a sensational series win.

In the first two Tests, opposition opening batsmen Aiden Markram (195 in the first Test) and Dean Elgar (251 in the second Test) prevented us from being able to gain anything more than a draw. This was despite Alastair Cook (105), Joe Root (135) and Haseeb Hameed (104) all registering tons in the first match. We were perilously placed at 29-4 in the second Test but again skipper Root (121) as well as Jonny Bairstow (117) ensured we avoided defeat.

In the third Test, we bravely opted to bowl first. James Vince (182) and Joe Clarke (195) both recorded career best performances in a partnership worth 268. Clarke’s innings was particularly satisfying following a lean spell after which he’d been left out of the XI. He performed well in the warm-up match to get the nod ahead of Ollie Pope and after a quiet first two Tests, stepped up to surpass 1000 Test runs.

Olly Stone claimed 3-51 on Test debut before we went onto win by six wickets in the final session of the match. Bairstow (27) and Ben Stokes (4) opened the batting with Joe Clarke (4 not out) and Dom Bess (5 not out) promoted to number six, seeing us to a famous win.

In the fourth Test we again bowled first. Yorkshire’s Ben Coad was recalled and swung the ball prodigiously in claiming Test best figures of 4-40. Hameed (93), Vince (82) and Root (77) led the way with the bat before Jamie Porter, who like Coad was brought into this match for the first time in the series having been extremely unfortunate to miss out in the first three Tests, took 4-57. The old wise heads of Alastair Cook (70 not out) and Joe Root (40 not out) saw us home in a fashion far more comfortable than our run chases sometimes are.

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As the above graphic shows, all our senior batsmen averaged in excess of forty.

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We rotated our bowlers well, making bold decisions to rest players when it would’ve been tempting to stick with them and risk burning them out. James Anderson (14 wickets @ 24.79) continued to defy his age as the younger bowlers ran in hard alongside him. Stuart Broad, dropped after a wicketless first Test, has an uncertain future given that our next tour is just a two-match trip to Sri Lanka. He may come into contention for selection in the ODIs.

Though the young spin duo of Matthew Parkinson and Dom Bess didn’t excel statistically, they stuck to their task hard and will hope to reap the fruits of their labours as we seek another second Sri Lanka away series win during my tenure.

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We’ll need a win to retain third place in the Test ranking. Only three points separate ourselves, Pakistan, Australia and New Zealand down in sixth place.

Unfortunately, come the limited overs matches, we reverted to type and lost both the ODI and T20I series by 2-1 scorelines.

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Warwickshire opener Ed Pollock was in scintillating form in the ODIs. He accumulated 251 runs at an average of 83.67. His series contrasted with Alex Hales, who though he scored runs, they were rather laboured innings. The pair compiled back-to-back century stands (153 and 109) in the second and third ODIs.

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Joe Root’s rollicking 92 not out from just 43 deliveries did at least seal us a phenomenal consolation victory in the third and final ODI. Jonny Bairstow (61 not out from 41 balls) also made a welcome limited overs contribution. Disappointingly Stuart Broad went wicketless in two outings having been recalled to the ODI team.

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The T20Is were lost 2-1 having gone 1-0 up. Sussex’s Jofra Archer continued his encouraging introduction to international cricket, as the above graphic highlights. The recalled Jake Ball was in outstanding form. He claimed seven wickets in three matches at just 10.71 apiece. Joe Root again demonstrated why he should be an automatic selection in the limited overs side by striking 84 not out from 59 deliveries… but we still lost.

Next it’s to Sri Lanka for two Tests but no white-ball matches.

Cricket Captain 2018: A Sinking Feeling in New Zealand!

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We ended a run of six Tests without a win by defeating New Zealand in the first Test in the Land of the Long White Cloud. This was despite our hosts, who opted to bat first, been in a position of extreme supremacy when placed at both 150-0 and 217-1. Much like his debut in the Ashes, Jamie Porter endured a wicketless first spell but came back to deliver senational figures of 6-71 with New Zealand collapsing to just 290 all out. Ben Stokes’ magnificent 148 then lifted us to 399 before Porter (3-54) again and left-armer Mark Footitt (4-82) dismissed the hosts for a second time, leaving us requiring 186 for victory. We knocked them off for the loss of four wickets to assume a 1-0 series lead.

In the second Test, with a tour of South Africa on the horizon, we rested Stuart Broad and recalled Yorkshire’s Ben Coad. Having won the toss, we opted to bowl first and Mark Footitt maintained his strong from with career best Test figures of 5-36 to help bowl the home side out for a paltry 204. At 244-5 we seemed well set for a healthy first innings lead but there was no wag in our tail as we collapsed to just 254 all out. New Zealand then made 337 in their second dig, despite Mark Footitt (4-79) causing yet more havoc! Requiring 287 runs for victory, yet again we put ourselves in pole position. We were 91-0 and 155-1 courtesy of Alastair Cook (94) and Haseeb Hameed (75). Hameed hung around as wickets fell but again our tail offered next to nothing. We folded for 256 and to a 31-run defeat.

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As is often the case, we competed, we got ourselves in good positions but let them slip. What could’ve been an excellent away Test series win ended in a disappointing draw.

For the record: Ben Stokes topped the run charts for our side with 241 at 80.33 whilst Mark Footitt, 13 wickets at 20.00 was our leading bail knocker.

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There then followed a five-match T20I series in which the only senior played rested was Test and ODI skipper Joe Root. Unfortunately, following a 3-0 defeat at home to Australia in the summer, new T20I captain Ben Stokes is still seeking his first win. We went down 5-0 in New Zealand and found all manner of ways to lose. Among the positives were Tom Kohler-Cadmore’s 179 runs at 44.75, Jofra Archer’s six wickets at 14.83 as well as a swashbuckling 49 not out from 25 deliveries on debut as well as Ben Sanderson’s five series wickets at just 10.40 apiece. Unfortunately the likes of Matt Critchley and Ross Whiteley endured tough series. Derbyshire’s Critchley conceded 20 from his first over in international cricket whilst Whiteley has a highest T20I score of just 16. Dawid Malan possibly saved his place in the side with a rapid 53 (29) in the fifth and final match, a match lost by just 3 runs!

Tom Kohler-Cadmore and Alex Hales broke the record for our T20I first wicket stand but despite putting on 134, we still managed to mess that match up too!

Bring on South Africa. We’ve always wanted to go on safari!

Cricket Captain 2018: CrAshed and Burned!

Firstly, prior to the 2019 Ashes series, there was an oddly scheduled trio of T20I matches of which we managed to lose each one. Well at least we were consistent!

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Alex Hales’ 124 from just 64 deliveries in the third encounter was a rare highlight. The next highest score in the innings was Ross Whiteley’s career best 10 from six balls.

Onto the Ashes and the first Test ended in a frustrating rain-affected draw. Having bowled Australia out for 250 (Footitt 4-45), we compiled a mammoth 594-9 (Bairstow 173). Australia managed to hold out though and finished on 286-7. In doing so the visitors acquired the momentum for the matches forth.

In the second Test, we again had Australia in strife but Travis Head’s excellent 126 was the difference between the two sides as the visitors assumed a series lead courtesy of a brutal 272-run victory.

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Then, the darkest of days. There have been many bad days in the history of the England cricket team but few Tests have been lost from a position of such supremacy. Having dismissed Australia for 325, Alastair Cook (153) and Haseeb Hameed (140) compiled an opening partnership of exactly 300 (THREE HUNDRED!). Even though an archetypal English collapse ensued, James Vince (113) ensured that each of our top three registered tons to provide us with a first innings lead of 171. The tourists then made a strong second innings score of 368 but that still meant we only needed 198 to square the series. We didn’t even get close, bowled out for a pathetic 124!

In the fourth Test there was at least a return to form for captain Joe Root. The Yorkshireman made 114 in another draw that meant Australia sealed the 2019 Ashes.

The series then ended like it began, with a frustrating draw. In the fifth and final Test Australia compiled 454 in their first innings but we responded with 469. Root (162) maintained his return to form whilst Somerset spinner Dom Bess (79) made an entertaining maiden international fifty. We then bowled Australia out for 327 in their second innings. Essex debutant Jamie Porter responded to a wicketless (23-1-101-0) first innings showing by claiming figures of 3-83. The equation boiled down to us requiring 312 for victory. We committed to go for it. We may as well have lost the series 3-0 than 2-0 playing for a draw. We got mightily close (286-9) and only for the final four overs did we abandon the chase and shut up shop in an attempt to avoid another defeat.

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2-0 is not a thrashing. If time had been limitless we would’ve won the first Test. We should’ve won the 4th but fair play to Australia because they did and we didn’t. We had a real go and came almightily close to winning the fifth. In the early part of the series we dominated their top order but allowed their lower order to score runs. In the latter matches we allowed the top order to make big runs but limited the contribution of the tail. Yes we lost the series and to lose the third Test in the manner that we did was inexcusable. However we regularly competed and are not a million miles away from where Australia are.

For the record: Joe Root (485) topped our run charts, closely followed by Alastair Cook (477) and James Vince (445). Ben Stokes topped the averages with 55.43.

James Anderson and Stuart Broad, with 22 and 18 wickets respectively, silenced their critics. It was a young spinner with 11 wickets at 26.00 who topped the averages however…

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Dom Bess, recalled part way through the series, made an encouraging impression not only with the ball but with the bat too. Our immediate tours however are to New Zealand and South Africa so not necessarily spin paradises. We’re spoilt for choice on the spin front so we’ll see what happens this winter before a short trip to Sri Lanka.

At the conclusion of the Ashes there was a trio of ODI matches. I’m delighted that we restored some pride with a deserved 2-1 win.

Jos Buttler’s 127 not out paved the way for a win in the first match but Australia fought back in the second. Buttler again top scored with 82 but our bowling lacked penetration. David Warner feasted on some insipid deliveries to finish unbeaten on a dominant 161.

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Cometh the hour cometh the man! In the deciding ODI, Surrey starlet Sam Curran, having been dismissed for a duck and gone wicketless on debut in the second encounter. struck 27 from 24 deliveries before claiming astonishing analyse of 6-37!

Another newcomer, Warwickshire tearaway Ed Pollock, followed scores of 2 and 21 with 70 from 77 deliveries at the top of the order. Ben Stokes, promoted to three in place of the recalled James Vince who suffered a disappointing return, made 87 from just 79 deliveries. Jos Buttler again made runs with 54 off 51 in his new position at number five. Having players of the quality of Stokes and Buttler so high in the order rather than leaving them at six or seven is the way forward. After Chris Wood had dismissed danger man David Warner first ball, Aaron Finch was run out off a free hit before Sam Curran took over. #priderestored

More Footsteps for Footitt!

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Left-arm pace bowler Mark Footitt is on the move once again. Footitt, who came so close to a Test cap on the tour of South Africa two winters ago, only left Surrey to rejoin Nottinghamshire towards the end of last season. Unable to break into a first XI that includes Stuart Broad, Jake Ball, Luke Fletcher and crucially fellow left-armer Harry Gurney, Footitt has rejoined another ex-employer, Derbyshire, on a 28-day loan. If Ball can join Broad in the England XI and finally transfer his county pedigree to international level then Footitt could be required for Notts upon his return.

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During the off-season, another very good seamer in Brett Hutton, realised that opportunities at Nottinghamshire would be limited and has made an impressive start to life at new county Northamptonshire.

Back to Footitt, he did represent England in a tour match but was somewhat erratic and the likelihood of him wearing the shirt pictured above (Well not that actual shirt!) seem extremely slim. Still, if Cricket Captain 2018 ever gets released then, in my Ed Smith role, I’ll try my best to present Footitt with an England cap!

Cricket Captain 2017: 2023-24 – Namibian Desert and Canada Dry!

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The 2023-24 campaign culminated with back-to-back ODI World Cup defeats against associate nations Namibia and Canada. Against Namibia, England’s skill set simply deserted them, whilst against Canada, their quality ran dry.

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James Weighell’s figures of 10-0-102-0 against Canada, summed up a selection policy that has been found out and confirmed that competitiveness is a trait long since departed from England’s cricket team.

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Following the World Cup exit in India, Middlesex legend Toby Roland-Jones retired at the end of an injury hit campaign. TR-J had his moments in an England shirt, most notably his 49-ball 75 against South Africa in a Test match and strong Test and ODI series against Zimbabwe at home at the start of last year.

England finished the season placed 9th out of ten in Test, ODI and T20I rankings, superior only to Zimbabwe, another team that defeated them in the World Cup.

Among few positives, young batsman Sam Evans scored centuries in the first innings of his first three Test matches. Those matches were in South Africa and it is the same opposition that England will entertain in the summer of 2024. Such is England’s fall from grace that in the 2024 T20I World Cup they will face the might of Nepal, USA and once again, Canada. The days of such encounters being ‘walk in the parks’ for England’s cricketers are long, long gone!

Cricket Captain 2017: 2021 Bangladesh Test Tour – Nearly the Greatest Series of All Time!

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After the huge strides made in South Africa, a trip to Bangladesh was always going to be an awkward proposition for England. The first Test between the two sides was one of the greatest matches in the history of cricket. Had England’s resolve held out a little longer in the second match then it could have been one of the greatest series of all time. The sum of all parts however was a 2-0 loss for England.

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Opening batsman Max Holden (97) and wicketkeeper Gareth Roderick (91) helped England total 380 in their first innings of the series. Jack Leach (4-76) then led the way as England restricted Bangladesh to 424 all out in theirs. The tourists then cancelled out the 44-run defect (Gubbins 91 not out)and managed to set the hosts 184 for victory. Again spin bowler Leach (4-64) was the star on a turning track but England were left to rue the run out of Will Rhodes when well set in their first innings as well as a dropped catch by captain Liam Livingstone. The missed opportunity by the normally reliable skipper in the home side’s first innings paved the way for ‘The Tigers” tail to wag. Most crucially however England will rue the no-ball bowled by Jofra Archer that had it not been a no-ball would have a been an LBW decision in England’s favour and one of those rarest things in Test cricket, a tie. It wasn’t to be however and Bangladesh, via just one wicket, assumed a series lead.

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In the second Test England again batted first and again posted a decent total, this time 352. Captain Liam Livingstone (122) and Will Rhodes (111) both struck centuries. In Rhodes’ case it was his first in only his third Test outing but no other batsmen passed fifty. Like in the first Test the hosts gained a useful first innings lead by totalling 415 all out. Jack Leach (5-90) completed a long awaited second Test five-wicket haul in his 37th Test. History was made in England’s second innings as Liam Livingstone (166) and Will Rhodes (128 not out) both hit career bests as they both recorded centuries in both innings. For Rhodes of course it was hundred numbers one and two. The battle for the all-rounder spot in this England team between Rhodes (A better batsman) and Sam Curran (A better bowler) should make for a compelling future. Back to the second Test and England declared on 431-5 leaving Bangladesh requiring a mammoth 369 for victory. Following their exploits in South Africa and having competed so intensely upto this point in Bangladesh, England simply ran out of gas as the hosts chased down the imposing total for the loss of just three wickets. In hindsight, the selection of Hamidullah Qadri (1-80 & 0-101) as second spinner looked a severely misguided one by the England management. First choice twirler Jack Leach claimed 14 series victims at 23.00 apiece but only one in the final innings of the series.

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Jofra Archer will hope not just to be remembered for being the player to bowl ‘that’ no ball in the first Test of this series. His 81 on Test debut and current tally of 51 Test wickets at an average of 31.55 suggest that he won’t be. Archer is capable of quadrupling his Test wicket tally at the least and playing a vital role in England’s endeavours for years to come.

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Captain Liam Livingstone has ascended to fifth in the Test batting rankings whilst spinner Jack Leach is just outside the top ten of the bowling rankings. He’s currently placed eleventh

There’s a three-match ODI series followed by a two-match T20I series to complete the tour. On the Test front, the arrival of Will Rhodes on the scene, development of Max Holden and progress of the likes of Tom Curran and Jofra Archer bode well for England’s Test side next summer. This was however a disappointing loss for Liam Livingstone and his men.

Later edit: Aneurin Donald hit a six off the final delivery of the third ODI to win the game for England, which would have been great had they not failed to defend in excess of 380 in the second match and were therefore already 2-0 down in the series. The T20I series (0-2) was also lost.

Cricket Captain 2017: South Africa, South Africa!

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Following England’s early exit from the 2020 T20I World Cup, it was South Africa all the way for Liam Livingstone’s men. From the darkest seeds of cricketing despair grew firstly the shoots of competitiveness before blossoming into fully blown victoriousness… before a couple of T20I defeats at the end!

Having lost the opening dual of the summer, England secured a rare Test win in the second battle, thanks in no small part to Toby Roland-Jones’ 49-ball 75 to compliment captain Livingstone’s masterly knock of 147. Middlesex’s Roland-Jones recorded a tenth-wicket stand of 76 with number eleven Jack Leach (0 from 13 deliveries) to help the hosts square the series but the home side were unable to back that performance up. Two more defeats were followed by a draw in the fifth and final Test thus ‘The Proteas’ claimed a 3-1 series win.

In the ODI matches, England were 2-1 up and headed for series victory before making a ‘right pig’s ear’ of a run chase and therefore conspiring to lose the fourth ODI by 16 runs. The home side didn’t recover from letting a golden chance slip and rather predictably failed to win the deciding match as South Africa claimed the series 3-2. The visitors also won the sole T20I match.

England vs. South Africa series results:

Tests: Lost 3-1

ODIs: Lost 3-2

T20I: Lost 1-0

Encouraged by their increasing competitiveness though, England followed South Africa home and experienced what can only be described as a renaissance or resurgence or redemption or…

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While in South Africa, Somerset spinner Jack Leach reached 100 Test wickets!

Going into the third and final Test 1-0 down in the series, England recorded a famous victory to seal a more than respectable away series draw. Persisted with young opening batsman Max Holden produced a career best maiden Test century (121) in the tourists’ second innings while debutant Will Rhodes was one of a trio of players to have scored 54 in England’s first venture to the crease. One of the others to do so was Ben Coad. The recalled quick bowler claimed two four-wicket hauls (8 wickets @ 18.75) in the series and registered a valuable maiden fifty in his 23rd Test. The bold decision to ‘drop’ Sam Curran was justified with the aforementioned Rhodes also claiming match figures of 4-73 with the ball.

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Daniel Bell-Drummond has excelled in ODI cricket but will have to wait for a Test recall.

In the ODI series, England maximised momentum and raced into an unassailable 2-0 lead. Opening batsman Daniel Bell-Drummond maintained his excellent form in fifty-over cricket since his debut last year. Having recorded back to back centuries in the home ODIs, the Kent batsman struck his fifth ODI career hundred in the first match of the series before Middlesex’s Dawid Malan blitzed 87 to help England win the second.

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Benny Howell has become an essential member of England’s T20I outfit, even captaining the side on a couple of occasions.

The T20I series was lost 2-0 but England still showed increased signs of competitiveness. Despite falling short of their target, England passed 200 in the second match, courtesy of two career best performances: Ryan Higgins’ 79 not out and Benny Howell’s 58 not out. The Zimbabwe/France born duo manufactured an audacious unbroken partnership of 128.

South Africa vs. England series results:

Tests: Drew 1-1

ODIs: Won 2-1

T20Is: Lost 2-0

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Tom Curran has started to look the part in the international environment whilst his brother Sam should return a better player after being ‘rested’.

Next for Liam Livingstone and his troops, it’s onto Bangladesh for a tough assignment. England supporters will be hopeful that the likes of Tom Curran and company can continue to display their improved showings. The selectors however have some tough calls to make in all forms of the game when selecting the Bangladesh touring party.