Filling the Void

James Anderson and Stuart Broad won’t be around forever, so who can fill the void for England when these two have rolled into retirement?

In English conditions then Chris Woakes and Sam Curran should be reliable options but overseas it’s a different story.

Could any of the following step up for England with the new ball in the future…

Jamie Porter 275 First Class wickets @ 23.78

Is Porter destined to be a nearly man?

He continues to take wicket upon wicket at domestic level but by the time Anderson and Broad have departed, will the ship have sailed for Porter?

The spearhead of Essex’s attack has overcome injury, not unlike Anderson and could be primed to fill the void.

Ben Coad 103 @ 19.70

Yorkshireman Coad is behind Porter in the pecking order and is absurdly still awaiting Lions recognition. Any suggestions of him being a one season wonder have already been dispelled. Another campaign of the sort he’s had in recent seasons should surely see him knocking the door down.

Tom Bailey 155 @ 26.05

Anderson’s Lancashire colleague Bailey had nearly slipped under the radar despite his regular ripping up of wickets on the county scene. This winter however he got the recognition he deserved with a call-up to the England Lions squad.

Has he learnt a few tricks from England’s record wicket taker that he can bring to the Test arena himself?

Jamie Overton 130 @ 33.22

Were it not for injuries then Somerset’s Jamie Overton may have already debuted for England. His extra pace and bounce would be welcomed on Australian decks (Hopefully by England, not Australian batsman!) but can he last five days or even ten overs?

Steven Finn 531 @ 28.96

254 international wickets but little case can be made for selecting Middlesex man Finn. If he can hit the ground running in 2019 however and snaffle a giant bag full of wickets then maybe England could yet get the best out of him.

There are plenty of other options and it will be interesting to see who England turn to when the time comes to… fill the void!

Something in the Genes!

They’re not bad these Curran brothers are they?

I don’t actually think that most diehard cricket fans were surprised at how Surrey’s Sam Curran has taken to Test cricket. He’s an absolute star, capable of batting at six (Maybe higher) and opening the bowling for his country. His left-arm variety will be essential to England’s attack and compensates for any perceived lack of pace. I previously said that he is the axis around which England should build their team but given England’s abundance of all-round talent, just to be a cog will suffice. He’s already made his buck courtesy of the IPL (He’s been snapped up by Kings XI Punjab) but hopefully he’ll keep his feet on the ground and stay engaged with the longest form of the game as well as the pyjama affairs.

Brother Tom struggled for wickets in the 2017-18 Ashes series in Australia but displayed chutzpah with both bat and ball. He performed well in white-ball (ODI/T20I) cricket and it’s a shame that injuries limited his England outings in 2018. He’s been on absolute fire for Sydney Sixers in the Big Bash this winter, already claiming a hat-trick of three-wicket hauls and scoring a swashbuckling half-century. I still think he’s capable of being a viable Test option for England at least in home conditions. He and Sam clearly have attitude which I like. It’s not ugly but there’s a little bit of ‘In your face!’ and that’s healthy against some competitors.

Then there’s brother Ben. It would be easy to get discouraged by being a little behind his brothers or for him to be the butt of jokes but BC has won a contract with Northamptonshire on the back of an encouraging showing late last season. That included signing off with a match-winning 83 not out against Sussex in the County Championship and he’ll be keen to kick on this term for a side that have lost Ben Duckett to Nottinghamshire. How far BC can go remains to be seen. There’s no disgrace in having a solid county career without international recognition but whilst Sam and Tom might look destined for greatness, remember how compatriot Steven Finn as well as India’s Irfan Pathan sadly fell away. In the case of Ben, we might yet see a Mike Hussey style post thirty Test debut followed by thousands of runs!

England Cricket Trading Cards

Who’s the guy top left? He doesn’t play for England!

Dawid Malan, Tom Helm, Katherine Brunt: Where are you? There’s only so many Dom Bess and Fran Wilsons that I can stand! In fact, I’ve got more Keaton Jennings than Keaton Jennings has got runs this year!

Ben Duckett, Haseeb Hameed, Nick Gubbins: Why is it so hard to find an English opening batsman?

One England opening batsman I have found is no longer an England opening batsman!

In summary, I’ve got most of the standard cards. The missing few are:

Men’s Test: Jonny Bairstow, Ben Duckett, Steven Finn (I have the shiny version but not the white version), Dawid Malan, Ben Stokes

England Lions: Haseeb Hameed, Joe Clarke, Nick Gubbins, Alex Davies, Tom Helm, Sam Curran

Women’s: Katherine Brunt, Laura Marsh, Any Shrubsole

Though Amy Jones is one of my favourite players, I don’t need one of her for every day of the week!

Men’s ODI: Sam Billings, Steven Finn, Alex Hales

Men’s T20I: Moeen Ali, Sam Billings, Liam Dawson

Actually that’s more than a few. What Sam Billings’ repeated absence tells us about his international career is unclear!

Fire & Ice: James Anderson/Joe Root, Danielle Hazell/Heather Knight

Here’s where it gets patchy…

Milestones: Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Moeen Ali, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Joe Root, Alex Hales

Portraits: Joe Root, Alastair Cook, Stuart Broad, Heather Knight, Ben Stokes,

Patch Card: Stuart Broad Reemption, Stuart Broad Patch Card… there’s one selling on ebay for £500.00 though. I’m keen but I’m not that keen!

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.

Will England Take the Plungekett?

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England head to the Land of Oz for the Ashes later this year and if past expeditions are anything to go by then the selectors are sure to stock the plane with plenty of pace bowling options. James Anderson and Stuart Broad will go, as of course will Chris Woakes and Ben Stokes.

But who else?

Jake Ball, Steven Finn and Toby Roland-Jones are contenders as are the Curran brothers, Tom and Sam. Mark Wood is surely one that the England selectors will be keen on and Mark Footitt is an outside bet. He’s erratic but he does take wickets (As I’ve banged on about (Campaigned) in previous articles!). A name that doesn’t seem to come up often when it comes to Test squad discussions is Liam Plunkett. Remember that the England selectors won’t be looking or needing players that have to stay fit for five Tests. The back up pacers will slot in for a Test or two at a time in order to rest senior members of the attack and to catch the hosts by surprise. But for Afghanistan’s teenage spin sensation Rashid Khan’s seven-fer against West Indies yesterday, Yorkshire’s Plunkett was the leading ODI wicket taker in the last year. He actually did well when he returned to the Test side in 2014 before incurring injury. England have the opportunity and possibly the necessity to view alternative options in this summer’s home Test series’ against both South Africa and West Indies. With injury concerns present regarding both Anderson and Woakes then surely it’s worth England having a look at the likes of Plunkett and Footitt in the red (Or pink) ball arena.

Here’s my squad come England’s first Test of the summer with Plunkett and Footitt providing cover if Woakes and Anderson aren’t fit:

Alastair Cook

Keaton Jennings

Joe Root (Captain)

Gary Ballance

Moeen Ali

Ben Stokes

Jonny Bairstow (Wicketkeeper)

Adil Rashid

Chris Woakes / Liam Plunkett

Stuart Broad

James Anderson / Mark Footitt

Here are the players to add to the squad come the Ashes:

Haseeb Hameed

Jos Buttler (Reserve Wicketkeeper)

Liam Dawson

Mark Wood

Hameed’s domestic form, an equation of three into two for the opening slots, Ballance’s demanding of a recall, Moeen’s desire and merit to bat at five and Rashid’s time to lead the spin bowling attack equates to Hameed missing out at the start of the summer but making the tour. I’m happy with Root captaining the side from three ala Australia’s Steven Smith as Ballance has been so productive at four this year at Headingley. Lancashire’s Liam Livingstone could also come into the equation but that would balloon the party to eighteen. LL was England Lions standout performer last winter and presumably the back-up brigade will be waiting in the wings if England need to call for reinforcements. Of course Dawson and Buttler will already provide genuine batting cover. Dawson bats at five for Hampshire and Buttler will be in the squad as second choice gloveman.

Regarding spin, Mason Crane could return to Oz after playing First Class cricket there last winter but needs to really set the word alight in the County Championship from this point on. Alternatively England could turn to Somerset’s Jack Leach but you get the impression that the selectors aren’t convinced and that Dawson will do seen as it’s Australia not Asia.

Of course if Jennings averages 15.00 against SA, Broad breaks down injured playing for Nottinghamshire and Rashid goes at 6.00 an over against WI then the Ashes squad could have a completely different complexion to the one presented above.

You’ll have to excuse me. The article headline suggested that it would be all about Liam Plunkett but has descended into a general England squad predictor/requestor. I definitely think that Plunkett and Footitt would be great weapons in England’s attack for three to five Tests each in our next three series.

We’ll see what happens…

Toby Rolls In!

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I’ll admit that TRJ’s latest call-up to the England squad on the eve of the third ODI against South Africa had passed me by, so I was pleasantly surprised to see a thoroughly deserving county stalwart’s name on the scorecard when I got home from work yesterday. It eased the pain of the scorecard as a whole.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/1031429.html

Toby Roland-Jones made England’s Test squad last summer but not the XI. He performed admirably with bat and ball for the Lions in the winter and has been a consistent performer on the domestic circuit for a number of years. He played a huge part in Middlesex’s final day County Championship title clinch last season and possibly the fact that Middlesex haven’t played a match this week and that the third ODI was at his domestic home ground of Lords probably helped he and Steven Finn make the squad. England had niggles to the likes of Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes and Moeen Ali and clearly decided not to take any risks with their other fit but injury prone first choice pacers. Liam Plunkett and Mark Wood were rested. Liam Dawson, perennial 12th man was also added to the squad but not surprisingly provided the greenness of the pitch, he again failed to take the XI. Jake Ball responded to his figures of 0-81 in the second ODI by claiming two wickets at Lords and back to Roland-Jones, he came out swinging (Not slogging!) to hit a run-a-ball 37 not out on debut after England had been 22-6 inside five overs! TRJ also took his and England’s first wicket. Hashim Amla is not a bad maiden international victim. It says bowled in the scorebook and mentions nothing about playing on!

Credit the ECB that have some good pieces on their website. It won’t let me post links to the specific video pages but only the main page. Have a look at the post match interview with TRJ and the match highlights that are a decent nearly six minutes long and available soon after the match conclusion, providing the frustrated fan with some action in an era of no bat ‘n’ ball on free to air television. Hopefully that’s about to change!

https://www.ecb.co.uk

Ahead of the Ashes this winter, England seem likely to experiment with their squad come the ODIs against West Indies later this summer and will probably rotate their seamers before taking plenty of them Down Under. Roland-Jones could yet don the full England kit again soon.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/370535.html

Don Bradman Cricket 17: England v Namibia Test Match

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After our battering at the hands of the Scots north of the border, we were grateful to return to home comforts when we entertained Namibia in Arundel. Tom Curran and Jack Leach were dropped from the XI, with Jake Ball recalled to the side and Toby Roland-Jones handed a Test debut.

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Toby Roland-Jones snapped up his first Test victim.

Such was the unrelenting quality performed by the opening bowlers, Roland-Jones had to wait until after lunch for his opportunity but soon claimed his first Test wicket. In truth however, it was his Middlesex colleague Steven Finn (5-34), man of the match against the Scots, who really shone, ably supported by the returning Jake Ball (3-24).

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Aneurin Donald (16), was unlucky to be given out LBW in the first over of the final session.

After restricting the visitors to just 110 in their first innings, for the second match in a row Kent opener Daniel Bell-Drummond held things together before being run out for 46. Stumper Jonny Bairstow (35) and fellow Yorkie, captain Joe Root (30), both innings consisting of just twenty deliveries, complimented DBD to lift us to a slightly underwhelming 173 all out but a vital lead of 53.

Jake Ball (4-31) led the way as we made early breakthroughs in Namibia’s second innings. Hampshire spinner Mason Crane (2-36) struck in the first over of the day and was a constant threat whilst debutant Toby Roland-Jones (2-45) looked like taking a wicket at any point before eventually doing so, claiming two more victims on Test debut. Namibia recovered well from 67-5 but Keith Barker (11-5-31-0) built pressure with his economical and consistent line before Steven Finn (2-42) removed both the African side’s top scorers, Bagel (69) and wicketkeeper Gardiner (32). After they were gone, Namibia collapsed from 176-6 to 189 all out. The number of maidens that we bowled was a vast improvement on past efforts as was our catching, only letting ourselves down on a couple of occasions late in the piece. Credit must also go to skipper Joe Root, his bowling changes or even non changes and tactics as a whole, were outstanding.

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Sam Northeast (55 not out) recorded a maiden Test fifty and in doing so, led his country to victory.

Ben Duckett (0) and Aneurin Donald (5) were amongst those soon back in the hut as we slipped to 59-4 in pursuit of 127 for victory. Despite strong performances in the field, their Test futures now hang by the finest of threads. The fact that it may be fair to stick with a winning side will possibly, possibly save them. The likes of Liam Livingstone (12th man in this match), Alastair Cook, Nick Compton and Scott Borthwick to name a few, wait in the wings should we opt to make changes. Number three Sam Northeast showed how it should be done, as he put on a fifty partnership with Warwickshire’s Keith Barker (28) to alleviate any fears of an England slip-up. Barker was needlessly run out before Jonny Bairstow (8 not out) clobbered the winning runs. It was Kent batsman Northeast’s composure though, in striking a maiden Test fifty (55 not out) in only his second Test match to lead the side to victory, that can provide an example beacon to others in England’s batting line-up.

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A five-wicket win was a welcome response to the Scottish episode. Though some places in the team are still up for grabs, many players have really placed two hands on their position in our strongest XI.