Cricket Captain 2017: 2020 T20I World Cup Review

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… or 2020 2020 Review if you prefer?

By the time England secured victory over Bangladesh in their final match of the Caribbean staged tournament, their fate had already been sealed.

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The welcome rare win had been preceded by defeats against India, South Africa and Pakistan. At least all the island hopping allowed England’s players to enjoy the sights and sounds of the West Indies! England’s batting throughout the competition was at best woeful. Only captain Liam Livingstone (101 runs @ 25.25) and Zimbabwe born Ryan Higgins (91 runs @ 22.75) walked away from the tournament with their reputations in tact. The likes of Dawid Malan, Riki Wessels and Joe Clarke all failed to really get going during the competition.

On the bowling front, Toby Roland-Jones repaid the optimistic faith (He averaged 167.00 not long ago!) shown in him by the selectors by claiming 11 scalps @ just 10.36 apiece including two four-wicket hauls.

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Having performed well on the tour of New Zealand winter past, the Middlesex man now looks set to be presented with the opportunity to lead England’s Test attack against South Africa this summer.

For others however, their international futures are uncertain. Ross Whiteley arrived on the international scene with a reputation for frequent six-hitting. The left-handed bat has however only mustered a paltry return of 99 runs in ten T20I innings to date. In truth, given that he can’t even get a game for his county side, he probably shouldn’t have been included in the World Cup squad at all.

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The likes of Matt Coles and Lewis Gregory will also be sweating over their international futures though Toby Roland-Jones’ redemption may help provide others with further opportunities.

Next for England it’s demanding back-to-back home and away series against South Africa before a challenging trip to Bangladesh. After an abysmal last twelve months for a beleaguered England side, it can only be hoped that the selectors make the right calls and the players apply themselves better than has recently been the case.

Batsmen Brett D’Oliveira, Aneurin Donald and Sam Hain as well as bowlers Tom Helm and Jamie Porter are among some of the players who could force their way into the international reckoning this season.

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Possible Test squad for the first Test against South Africa: Luke Wells, Max Holden, Tom Westley, Liam Livingstone (c), Riki Wessels, Sam Curran, John Simpson (w), James Harris, Jofra Archer, Toby Roland-Jones, Jack Leach, Hamidullah Qadri

Cricket Captain 2017: 2019 Season Round-up… Wheels Come Off!

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Following the ODI World Cup win and Ashes defeat, England secured a 3-2 ODI series win against Australia to at least gain partial revenge for the 3-0 Ashes drubbing. Australia’s victories in the ODI contest both came with the series already lost. They did however claim the T20I series 1-0.

Once departed from home shores however, the wheels well and truly came off for new skipper Liam Livingstone and his men. Having ditched the old guard and promoted the likes of Dawid Malan and John Simpson to the first XI, a 4-0 Test drubbing in South Africa was followed by a 5-0 whitewash in the ODI series. This was despite two centuries for Kent’s Sam Northeast. A 2-0 T20I series defeat left England winless on their African jaunt.

Things didn’t get much better in New Zealand either. Despite posting 437 in the first innings of the first Test against the Kiwis, including captain Liam Livingstone’s maiden Test hundred (164), the series was lost 2-0. After losing the opening match of the ODI series, Daniel Bell Drummond’s magnificent 152 helped England draw level, only to lose the decider before a wretched T20I showing resulted in a 2-0 series loss.

The sum of all parts left England’s rankings looking pretty abysmal…

In Tests…

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Somehow England remain top of the ODI rankings however!

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The same can’t be said for T20Is…

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There were positives though, including the standout performances of captain Liam Livingstone. His efforts with the bat in all formats of the game leave his career stats looking none too shabby…

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As well as Livingstone, Sam Northeast was phenomenal in ODIs, striking three centuries on the winter tours but couldn’t replicate such form in Tests. The selection of Hampshire’s 39-year-old opening batsman James Adams (34 runs @ 8.50) in T20Is didn’t work out however and his selection is just one of many to have been brought into question by the media.

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Meanwhile Middlesex spinner Ollie Rayner kept his head above water in ODIs whilst his teammates desperately splashed whilst searching for reinforced armbands! Another spinner, Sussex’s Will Beer selection wasn’t quite as effective. After four matches, he averages a whopping 128.00 runs @ 9.85 per over. A dropped catch by wicketkeeper Joe Clarke in his first over in international cricket didn’t help his cause!

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2020 brings a T20I World Cup followed by home and away series against… South Africa, again, as well as a trip to Bangladesh. England will need to improve rapidly in order to compete and some tough selections calls lay ahead. The likes of Mark Stoneman, Dawid Malan and Ben Coad are just some of those who’ll be sweating over their international futures.

Cricket Captain 2017: 2019 Ashes Review

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It turns out that we can forget those knighthoods after all!

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In the first Test of the 2019 Ashes series, Worcestershire’s 35-year-old opening batsman Daryl Mitchell made 73 on Test debut but was dismissed after adding only one to his overnight total. He failed to reach fifty again in the series and was dropped for the final Test.

Ben Stokes compiled a 77-run partnership with Ben Coad who made just two from 12 deliveries as England held on for a draw in the first duel of the series. Coad then put on an unbroken 51 with Chris Woakes in the second Test to save England again. This was after Australia delayed and delayed their declaration.

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Mitchell’s opening partner Mark Stoneman’s Ashes career record leaves a lot to be desired. His average of 21.29 is almost exactly half his overall career average. He needed eight Tests to register a half-century against Australia.

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Middlesex’s James Harris debuted in the fourth Test but finished with figures of 0-102 whilst Chris Woakes made a valiant 89 not out. The wholesale changes for the final Test, including nine debuts, offer confirmation of what England’s priorities were come the final Test… one eye on the future. Stand-in skipper Liam Livingstone as well as Kent’s Sam Northeast both made fifties. Left-arm-seamer George Garton claimed one wicket and bowled 26 dot balls, including four straight maidens before conceding a run. The Sussex man finished with impressive figures of 4-89.

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After just clinging on for back to back draws in the first two Tests, England then suffered three straight innings defeats! Joe Root’s position as captain will come under severe scrutiny.

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The paltry record partnerships for each wicket in the series sum up how woeful England’s batting was. The bowling was even worse. England’s leading wicket takers in the series (Chris Woakes and Jack Leach) claimed just ten wickets each.

Following World Cup victory earlier in the summer and the nationwide euphoria that came with it, notions of knighthoods have been put firmly on hold. Following the Ashes debacle, England now have much to mull over in regards to selection for the ODI series as well as this winter’s tours to South Africa and New Zealand.

Anatomy of Trying to Save a Test Career

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South Africa’s Stephen Cook had to wait a long time to play international cricket. Despite scoring run upon run at domestic level year after year the selectors had ignored him. Finally at the age of 33 the right-handed opening batsman made his debut against England earlier this annum. Representing South Africa A he had carried his bat for an unbeaten 53 in a warm-up match against the tourists before eventually getting the call-up to the full side following failures by the likes of Stiaan van Zyl.

He made 115 on his first Test outing and added 25 in the second innings. At home to New Zealand Cook recorded scores of 20, 56 and 4. He has struggled to get going down under registering contributions of 0,12 and 23 in the first two Tests. All this added up to Cook needing to deliver in the third and final Test, a pink ball day/night affair against Australia in Adelaide. Though South Africa have already won the series there is still much to lose… or gain for Cook. Remember that star batsman AB de Villiers is absent through injury and will almost certainly be immediately reinstated to the side. The other aspect that Cook is up against (Other than Australia’s bowlers!) is South Africa’s selection quota. Current regulations state that they must have six ‘black’ players in the XI. Stand-in captain Faf du Plessis certainly isn’t getting dropped and Cook’s fellow opener Dean Elgar probably has enough in the bank too. Basically Cook needed to go big in the third Test.

Did he?

I’ll admit that when I got up early doors to watch the Test I had hoped to watch a fellow Yorkshireman, Middleborough born debutant Matthew Renshaw opening the batting for Australia but it was the tourists that won the toss and chose to bat. Having got off the mark with a streaky boundary Cook was soon the very definition of plumb LBW to Mitchell Starc. He shook his head as Dean Elgar hinted at a review and marched towards the pavilion. But hold on!

Is it a no ball?

The big screen replays suggest that it might be. Cook is stopped from crossing the boundary rope. Had he done so he would not have been allowed to return. He looks up at the screen but he’s not sure, he looks rather bewildered and the episode goes on for what seems like an eternity. Part of you thinks that he doesn’t particularly want to go back. Almost with a sigh of resignation he returns to face Starc again. You sense that this is Cook’s moment. That dismissal could have been his Test career dead and buried but for an epic second innings century. He would have been stuck in the field for a day or two mulling over all that he’s worked towards slipping away from him when he’s barely had a sip. Now he has the chance to go on and make a score, plunder thousands of Test runs from this moment forth and look back on that no-ball as the moment that changed his entire life.

Before long Dean Elgar is out. Hashim Amla and Jean-Paul Duminy both follow soon after, all freakishly for five runs. This seems to be shaping up as a Stephen Cook type innings, it is everything that he is designed for, him to just stay there as wickets tumble at the other end. The commentators, nearly all past Australian players are tearing his technique to shreds but hold on, he’s the one that’s still there and runs are starting to flow. Cook is having a torrid time against Starc. He is averaging 46 against right-arm bowlers in Test cricket but just ten against left-armers, i.e. Starc & co. Josh Hazlewood is bowling really well too but Jackson Bird’s opening spell is a pressure reliever and when Nathan Lyon, wicketless for about a fortnight comes on, skipper du Plessis and Cook step to off and work singles on the leg-side. At lunch Cook has made it to 40 and soon after he and du Plessis register a fifty partnership but Cook just can’t get going again and following some not so subtle field changes he’s expecting a short one. He doesn’t get it and edges Starc to Steven Smith at second slip. Cook punches his bat in frustration.

In all probability he needed at least another ten runs to save his Test career, fine margins. One senses that at 33 once he’s gone he’s gone. Barring an Australian batting debacle he’ll have one more innings in this match but will need to get toward triple figures to ensure that it isn’t his last in Test cricket.

Hopefully he can cook Bird, starve Lyon, send Starc around the park and …err… get Hazlewood… err… stuck in the mud!