Shehan Karunatilaka: Chinaman Book Review

Errr…. ?

So I’ve finished reading this book and don’t quite know what to make of it but fortunately not in the same way as that ‘cricket‘ book that Barack Obama was reading!

It’s absurdly fictitious (I think!) but based on reality (Well, sort of).

I don’t read much fiction at all but being cricket literature written in the first person, Karunatilaka’s Chinaman is not that far removed from my usual readings.

I was starting to find it a little drawn out during the fourth day’s play but a change of innings on the final day re-awoke my interest.

Some people might scorn at one or two slightly fanciful things that appear on various pages and many of the character names are a little too ‘combine two genuine Sri Lankan cricketers’, see Marvan Arnold but the book is still original. Chinaman manages to stay on track despite heading off in different directions. Go figure!

I enjoy writing but am utterly hopeless at reviewing things (Can you tell?). At least I made it to the end unlike that 700-page sci-fi work about living on Mars. Next up I have Barry Richards’ autobiography but might be squeezing in some non-cricket books beforehand.

Back to Chinaman, Shehan Karunatilaka’s effort reaches the close of play undefeated on…

78 not out

A Story of Sir Alastair, Keaton and Rory

If England win this summer’s Ashes or/and World Cup, then we could have a host of new MBEs!

The chances of Keaton Jennings playing in the World Cup are slim. The chances of Rory Burns doing so are… even slimmer!

The likelihood of the pair playing in the Ashes and possibly earning knighthoods will be defined on the Test tour of West Indies. No disrespect to the current Caribbean collective but if you offered an opening batsman an away destination to cement their place in their own team then West Indies would currently be high on most player’s list.

Jennings was previously dropped on the eve of a home series against West Indies. He’ll hope not to be dropped post a Caribbean encounter this time. He played spin well in Sri Lanka and was razor sharp in the field but questions of his ability against pace linger. Based on the evidence and scars inflicted by South Africa, answering those questions against Australia won’t be easy!

Burns performed well in the second Test in Sri Lanka after a disappointing debut. He failed in the final Test however and his aesthetics aren’t to everybody’s pleasure. If he leaves the door even slightly ajar and some young gun plunders runs on the county scene or even Surrey teammate Jason Roy produces a run gluttonous World Cup then Burns will follow another Surrey man, his opening partner Mark Stoneman, back to the county game and with little chance of a Jennings style recall.

Should KJ and RB perform well in West Indies, help England regain the Ashes, go on to score a few thousand Test runs and even captain England (They’ve got experience) then maybe they could yet join Alastair Cook by having a new prefix!

It’s Back to the Cricket…

Face it folks, Christmas is over… so it’s back to the cricket and there are Test matches galore all over the globe this Boxing Day…

Australia are hosting India where Mayank Agarwal has registered an encouraging 76 on debut for the touring side:

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/18693/scorecard/1144995/australia-vs-india-3rd-test-india-in-aus-2018-19

Sri Lanka take on New Zealand for whom Tim Southee struck a typically Tim Southee-like 68 to rescue his side from the depths of 64-6 to what will be a competitive 178. He then went onto claim three wickets before Sri Lanka planted the seeds of recovery:

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/18812/scorecard/1153839/new-zealand-vs-sri-lanka-2nd-test-sri-lanka-in-nz-2018-19

Meanwhile in South Africa, Imam-ul-Haq is already back in the hutch having dined on duck not turkey for visitors Pakistan:

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/18649/scorecard/1144153/south-africa-vs-pakistan-1st-test-pak-in-sa-2018-19

New Zealand Select Young to Avoid Growing Old!

Wherever Will Young is, the Central Districts batsman better leave right now! He’s been called up to New Zealand’s Test squad for the home series against Sri Lanka. Young will be hoping to light my fire (Or maybe his own fire) and have an evergreen international career for Aotearoa. The twenty-six-year-old will be determined to commence an all time love with the national side.

Meanwhile, spinner Will Somerville has rather harshly been omitted from the playing party, despite claiming match figures of 7-127 against Pakistan on debut.

Ben Duckett and Nelson Mandela in the same Sentence!

The last time that England’s cricketers were in Asia, batsman Ben Duckett was there. Despite scoring three fifties (ODIs/Tests) in Bangladesh, he had a torrid time of things in India then literally pissed off top brass the following winter in Oz. Whilst the senior team lap it up in Sri Lanka and the Lions travel to UAE, Duckett can be found playing in the Mzansi Super League in South Africa. It’s the latest T20 league to pop up on the global calendar (Yeah that’s right, Canada and Hong Kong had competitions before SA!).

Representing the wonderfully named Nelson Mandela Bay Giants, The stocky left-hander smashed 75 (5×4, 5×6) runs from just 45 deliveries. Hopefully it’s a sign of things to come after some lean patches post that run-laden summer a couple of years ago. Next year he’ll join Ben Slater and Joe Clarke in an exciting new batting line-up for Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge. He’s probably still quite some way off an England recall but the shoots of recovery have started sprouting.

Another left-handed batsman who’ll be hoping to use the Mzansi league as a springboard back to international selection is Dawid Malan. The discarded Middlesex stalwart will lead Cape Town Blitz while domestic colleague Eoin Morgan will turn out for Tshwane Spartans. Morgan is a left-hander who doesn’t need to work his way back into the England fold, he’s already there!

2018 Women’s World T20

In just under a week’s time on November 9th, the 2018 Women’s World T20 takes place in West Indies, the land of the defending champions.

Click on the link below for full details…

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/2018_ICC_Women%27s_World_Twenty20

The hosts will hope to defend the title in their own backyard via performances from players such as Cheandra Nation and the destructive Deandra Dottin. Current World ODI Champions England will also be confident however. Their squad includes inventive players such as Nat Sciver and Danielle Wyatt while Amy Jones (Pictured above) will wear the ‘keeping gloves in the absence of Sarah Taylor.

In captain Meg Lanning, Australia have the women’s game’s best player but in truth, T20 isn’t her strongest suit. Ashleigh Gardner could be key in this format. Neighbours New Zealand have talented individuals such as run-machine Amy Satterthwaite and spin sensation Amelia Kerr to keep them competitive.

India, with players such as Mithali Raj and Smriti Mandhana, will have high hopes for the tournament, though their neighbours, an out of form Pakistan, seem less likely contenders. They’ll rely heavily on the exploits of Diana Baig.

South Africa have some high quality cricketers, Laura Wolvaardt and Sune Luus amongst them but will need to discover consistency if they’re to challenge for this year’s crown. Chamari Atapattu will lead Sri Lanka’s charge.

It’ll be interesting to see how competitive the likes of Bangladesh and Ireland can be. Both teams had to make it through the qualifier to get this far. For Bangladesh, keep an eye out for eighteen-year-old spinner Nahida Akter. For Ireland, who took an almighty battering at the hands of New Zealand in ODIs not all that long ago, look out for talented all-round sportswoman Mary Waldron. Not content with representing her nation at cricket, she’s played football at international level as well as playing hockey to a high standard.

Here’s hoping for a great tournament to further develop and promote the women’s game.

Preparation Stagnation

England commence their long anticipated Test series in Sri Lanka very shortly but their preparation has lacked serious intensity. I appreciate that the climatic conditions have dealt an unfavourable hand but this scenario is nothing new to England’s cricketers.

I have always been in favour of a couple of official First Class matches on tour. These whole squad get involved matches are little more than a glorified net and are not treated as competitive matches. Whilst the individual element may seem like good prep, I strongly believe that an individual playing only one First Class warm-up rather than participating in two exhibition affairs, would be more akin to playing Test Cricket. Had Rory Burns and Keaton Jennings opened in the first of two official warm-up games in the knowledge that Joe Denly was to be presented with a chance in that slot in the second match, the pressure on them to perform would surely be more akin to actually playing Test cricket.

On the subject of Denly, he may well have played himself out of a Test debut with a shoddy performance in the warm-up matches. With mid-series tour matches almost eradicated, how do the likes of Denly or Ollie Pope restate their case for selection in situations such as these? This is a feeling that’s all too familiar to Gary Ballance!

As is often the case with any selection related article that I’ve scripted, either the landscape has changed very quickly or I was just completely misguided in my initial assessment. Surrey’s Ben Foakes now looks a likely Test debutant in the first Test and could really muddy the selection waters ahead of Jonny Bairstow’s return to fitness, by producing a good performance. Imagine if Jos Buttler falls twice to spin for single figure scores!

Somerset spinner Jack Leach also seems likely to return to skipper Joe Root’s XI and hopefully he and Foakes can convert consistent county career contributions to the international stage. England will be desperate to bounce back in Asia following their abysmal attempts in Bangladesh and India a couple of years ago.

Frustrated Foakes!

IMG_4192.JPG

Surrey’s Ben Foakes spent last winter warming the bench during a lengthy Ashes tour and could now be set to do the same in Sri Lanka. Since last winter, Jos Buttler has returned to the side not only as a specialist batsman but also as second choice wicketkeeper. As a result, even though Jonny Bairstow injured himself playing football, former Essex-man Foakes remains unlikely to play in the first Test. If Bairstow is anything shy of 100% fit then based on his attempts at playing when injured during last summer, he should be nowhere near the XI. The England management need to be brave enough to make the sort of calls that Italy’s football coach Arrigo Sacchi did with star player Roberto Baggio during the early stages of World Cup USA ’94. England also have Foakes’ Surrey teammates Ollie Pope and rather less likely, uncapped opening batsman Rory Burns as alternative wicketkeeping options. That’s just the five glovemen in the squad then!

Based on what we saw last winter, it’s quite possible that England’s XI in the third Test may be rather different to what we see in the first encounter. With little game time under his belt, Somerset spinner Jack Leach may be unlikely to start the series but if England fall behind then he may well be called upon. It may also be the case that the delicate Olly Stone benefits from not playing though you’d think some overs under his belt would be helpful.

Much maligned opening batsman Keaton Jennings missed out in his only opportunity on tour so far as did Joe Denly. Though Denly’s return to England’s T20I side went romantically well, the nature of the game means that he was able to claim wickets without bowling at his best. That is unlikely to be the case in the Test series. It’s tough to call but with rumours that Stuart Broad may be rested and Sam Curran’s left-arm variety useful, particularly if Leach is omitted, could England’s line-up in the first Test look like this?

Rory Burns

Keaton Jennings

Joe Denly

Joe Root (c)

Ben Stokes

Jos Buttler (w)

Moeen Ali

Chris Woakes

Sam Curran

Adil Rashid

James Anderson

If the weather allows, England basically now have a one-day game before the first Test. Wickets for the likes of Broad and Leach or runs for Pope or Foakes could yet have a bearing on the make-up of England’s XI. Of course if Buttler were to get injured during a Test, it’d be perverse if Foakes and Pope were sat on the bench alongside Bairstow whilst Rory Burns assumed the gloves on what would turn out to be a heck of a demanding introduction to international cricket for the Surrey skipper.

Four Star Denly!

Need I say more?

Okay then, if you insist!

Welcome back Joe Denly. After 384 matches and eight years in the international wilderness, the Kent all-rounder gate crashed England’s T20I against Sri Lanka in Colombo. earlier today. He promptly contributed 20 from 17 with the bat and claimed 4-19 with the ball.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/18602/scorecard/1140384/sri-lanka-vs-england-only-t20i-eng-in-sl-2018-19

It was really good to see Denly open the bowling. That’s what he does at domestic level so if it’s performances in that part of the game that got in him in the team then let him perform that role for the national side. It was also good to see England return to winning ways following the fifth ODI debacle. Another failure for Alex Hales however means that his international career stands at a crossroads.

The suggestion is that Denly claimed his wickets with some pretty ordinary deliveries so it remains to be seen whether or not this performance helps his Test cause.