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!

Another Fall for Tymal!

Firstly, the headline does rhyme, providing you pronounce his name correctly!

Left-arm quick Tymal Mills has been ruled out of this season’s Big Bash due to a hamstring injury. It’s yet another cruel blow for the Yorkshire born former Essex sometime Sussex player.

Mills, who suffers from a congenital back condition, is a million miles away from a recall to England’s T20I squad and missing out on opportunities such as this one could prove costly both on the financial and international front.

Hobart Hurricanes will have to do without their potential speed merchant in their quest for wickets this winter (Or summer). Fingers crossed that Mills can fully recover from this setback and take to the field regularly in the years to come.

CricketXI – County Championship 2018: Season Review

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At the start of the year I stumbled upon CricketXI, an alternative fantasy cricket competition. This game focused purely on the County Championship (First Class) campaign.

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I selected a team of young guns and as you can see things went really well! It was great to see the likes of Jonny Tattersall, Zak Crawley and Will Jacks develop. Harry Brook, Ben Twohig (Love his name!) and Matthew Carter also made great strides.

Unfortunately Surrey pacer Matt Dunn got injured early in the campaign and disappeared from the professional radar once again. Wicketkeeper Lewis McManus lost his place in the Hampshire First XI. Teammate Asher Hart and Essex spinner Aron Nijjar (Who fooled me by playing in a pre-season university match!) couldn’t get near their respective first XIs. Neither could spinner Sukhjit Singh who was sadly released by Warwickshire at the end of the campaign. Warwickshire clearly have little interest in developing their own young players and much prefer to sign absolutely anybody. While that’s great for players like Will Rhodes and Olly Stone, it’s not for players like Singh and Andy Umeed.

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As well as my outfit of kids, I also selected a more ‘serious’ side but following early season injury, Sam Northeast failed to really get going having relocated from Kent to Hampshire and has fallen way down the England pecking order. Disappointingly, Sussex batsman Luke Wells and Nottinghamshire’s Riki Wessels failed to back-up productive 2017 campaigns.

On the plus side, James Hildreth was amongst the runs as ever, meanwhile Tom Bailey, Ben Sanderson and everybody’s favourite ex-England cricketer Jade Dernbach, contributed with the ball.

Well, there’s always next year!

Telegraph Fantasy Cricket: CC/ODC 2018 – Season Review

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It says it all that my Fifth XI finished the 2018 County Championship campaign as my top team!

Tom Bailey (1912), Ryan Higgins (1819) and Morne Morkel (1636), when he eventually got going, led the way for me. However an overall position of 7454th is nothing to write home about!

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As the above graphic displays, Kent’s Kiwi quick Matt Henry, his domestic teammate and potential England Test debutant Joe Denly and Sussex’s former Yorkshire tearaway Ollie Robinson led the way in the overall points scoring. Ollie Robinson, oh look, another player that Yorkshire have either failed to develop or/and allowed to blossom elsewhere (Carver, Rhodes, Lees?)! There’s a theme developing here isn’t there?

Ed Barnard, Tom Bailey, Ryan Higgins and James Hildreth all made my England Ignored XI…

https://sillypointcricket.com/2018/09/27/england-ignored-xi/

… having been consistent performers throughout the campaign. Please remember that this competition was specific to the County Championship (First Class) and One-Day Cup (List A). The T20 Blast had a completely separate fantasy competition.

My five teams did at least resign my wife and daughter’s XIs to the bottom of the family table. Anyway, there’s always next year!

England Ignored XI

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England have named their Test and ODI squads for the winter tour of Sri Lanka as well as announcing the Lions squads for matches against Pakistan A in UAE:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_cricket_team_in_Sri_Lanka_in_2018–19

http://www.espncricinfo.com/story/_/id/24802981/jason-roy-named-england-lions-four-day-squad

Here’s a party of players who must feel unfortunate not to have at least made the Lions cut…

First XI

Ben Slater (Derbyshire/Nottinghamshire) 349 CC runs @ 43.62 (Div 1) / 676 CC runs @ 42.75 (Div 2) / 386 ODC runs @ 55.14

Left-handed opening bat Slater’s consistent run plundering earned him a move from Derbyshire to Nottinghamshire. He made runs in both the First Class (Divisions 1 & 2) and List A format. Next year he’ll hope to continue to go well amongst many new faces at Trent Bridge.

Will Rhodes (Warwickshire) 972 CC runs @ 44.18

Having departed Yorkshire, Rhodes grew and grew at his new home finishing the campaign with four tons in the County Championship. He and Dominic Sibley look a strong foundation for a Warwickshire side that like a signing!

Daryl Mitchell (Worcestershire) Captain 957 CC runs @ 38.81

With a lot on his plate off the field, Mitchell made four tons in Division One having previously been criticised for scoring the majority of his centuries in Division Two. He’s a more than handy asset with the ball too and could captain the side.

James Hildreth (Somerset) 1089 CC runs @ 45.38 / 438 ODC runs @ 62.57

Runs, more runs for the Somerset veteran, not just in the First Class arena but with the white-ball too. Somehow he remains ignored by yet another selection panel.

Tom Abell (Somerset) Vice-Captain 883 CC runs @ 40.41 / 19 wickets @ 25.89

Similar to Mitchell in that he’s a batsman come all-rounder, Abell’s batting has started to fall into place again and he and Mitchell would make a good leadership brains trust.

Ed Barnard (Worcestershire) 516 CC runs @ 23.45 / 49 CC wickets @ 23.22 / 153 ODC runs @ 76.50 / 16 ODC wickets @ 28.88

It’s utterly absurd that Barnard’s efforts haven’t been recognised by the selectors this season. With both bat and ball and in red and white-ball cricket, Barnard has  consistently starred.

Ryan Higgins (Gloucestershire) 48 CC wickets @ 18.38 / 195 ODC runs 65.00

Like Rhodes, a move has been a good move for Higgins and like Barnard, he’s performed in all facets in all formats having joined Gloucestershire from Middlesex.

Ben Brown (Sussex) Wicketkeeper 912 CC runs @ 43.43 (52ct/1st)

Another strong campaign from the Sussex gloveman. A genuine top six willow wielder and has handy captaincy experience to support Mitch and Abell behind the stumps.

Matthew Carter (Nottinghamshire) 16 CC wickets @ 32.81 / 13 ODC wickets @ 15.23

Carter didn’t rack up phenomenal stats but the potential is there and it was good to see him get more experience under his belt. England should ‘Get Carter’! Sorry, I’ve used that one before but couldn’t resist!

Tom Bailey (Lancashire) 64 CC wickets @ 19.66

Bailey’s consistent wicket-taking means that he’s another odd one to be so obviously neglected. He poses a constant threat for batsman and averaged sub 20 with the ball in County Championship Division One.

Ben Coad (Yorkshire) 48 CC wickets @ 16.33

Like his Lancashire rival and in this squad, opening bowling partner, Coad is another strange one to miss out. Despite his excellent Division One performances he’s rarely mentioned in England dispatches. There’s possibly a reluctance on the part of the selectors to pick another Yorkshireman.

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The following players could also make the squad with some selections geared towards limited overs cricket in particular.

Ian Cockbain (Gloucestershire) 208 ODC runs @ 69.33

Laurie Evans (Sussex) 243 CC runs @ 60.75 / 614 T20B runs @ 68.22

Ben Cox (Worcestershire) Wicketkeeper 396 ODC runs @ 79.20 (18ct)

Sam Cook (Essex) 27 CC wickets @ 25.33

Ben Sanderson (Northamptonshire) 60 CC wickets @ 16.70

Amir Virdi (Surrey) 39 CC wickets @ 30.36

Even beyond this squad there are yet more England qualified players to have been neglected. Maybe Ed Smith and crew will pull another surprise on us soon!

Six to Watch: 2018 – Season Review

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A little premature with the season not quite concluded but here’s 2018’s Six to Watch Review. This year two players from my selection have been promoted to the full England side. One has already debuted and one likely will in Sri Lanka. For the others, it’s been a bit of a mixed bag but should get better.

Tom Fell  (Worcestershire)

Another difficult year for cancer survivor Fell. There were glimpses of his determination and ability but little consistency. Fell has registered only four fifties in 22 innings this term but two of them, including a season best 89, came in the same match against champions Surrey. He’s currently averaging a disappointing 27.82 in the County Championship. Despite an impressive career record in List A cricket, white-ball opportunities have been harder to come by. Fell has only ever played three T20s.

Ollie Pope (Surrey)

So good have been Pope’s numbers (He’s averaging 70.50 in CC2018) that he was fast tracked into the England team. Unlike some sceptics, I think that Ed Smith has got a lot of qualities but his decision to parachute Pope in at number four in England’s Test side was misguided. Pope had never batted higher than six for Surrey! The Chelsea born bat has a good head on his shoulders however and will be better for the experience. This year he’s a Championship winner and breeding that winning mentality can only be good for his development. He’s likely to commence the Sri Lanka tour on the bench but the opportunity to tour will serve him well.

Hamidullah Qadri (Derbyshire)

A frustrating year with limited opportunity and limited success for Afghan born Qadri. Last year the then sixteen-year-old announced his arrival with an outstandingly effective performance against Glamorgan to help Derbyshire win for the first time in… years!

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/8204/scorecard/1068618/glamorgan-vs-derbyshire-specsavers-county-championship-division-two-2017

This year’s appearances have been fleeting but four more County Championship appearances is more than most for a man his age. He’s claimed eight wickets at 39.88 in CC2018.

Delray Rawlins (Sussex)

Precocious talent Rawlins’ opportunities have been limited to limited overs cricket but his batting caught the eye of many in this year’s T20 Blast. Rawlins made it to the final with Sussex and made starts in both matches on Finals-Day. The Bermuda born bat ended the campaign with 203 runs at 25.38. His strike-rate was 146.04. Little was seen of his bowling however or the red ball this term. Rawlins could be a potentially good draft for a Big Bash or PSL franchise this winter.

Will Rhodes (Warwickshire)

The move from Yorkshire to Warwickshire seems to have worked well for Rhodes. Yorkshire didn’t seem to know what to do with him and have had Harry Brook (Better suited to the middle order) opening while losing Alex Lees to Durham. Keeping and making the most of Rhodes may have been a good move by Yorkshire but Rhodes is yet another talent they failed to fully develop. Warwickshire are grateful to have been the beneficiaries of Yorkshire’s slacking. The Midlands outfit have persevered with Rhodes and former Surrey man Dominic Sibley as an opening pair, even when the runs haven’t flowed. Sibley can be feast or famine but Rhodes’ consistency has meant that he’s been one of the county circuit’s more successful openers this year. The left-hander has compiled three tons plus four fifties, a top score of 137 and is averaging a healthy 41.05. He’s also a viable bowling option.

Olly Stone (Warwickshire)

Rhodes’ Warwickshire ally Stone commenced the County Championship campaign with figures of 8-80 against Sussex, cue lots of calls for him to make the England side. Of course he promptly got injured again! Like his main rival for the speedster’s role, Somerset’s Jamie Overton, Stone has recently taken wickets in T20 and First Class cricket, crucially… he’s been on the pitch at all! The former Northamptonshire man has claimed 37 wickets in just six matches at a mightily impressive average of 12.27. With Liam Plunkett and his wedding arrangements undone by a flip of England’s tour schedule, Stone will go to Sri Lanka with both the ODI and Test side if not the T20I side. He should debut sometime on the tour and will have an eye on the West Indies trip too.

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.