Twenty20 Vision?!

England have named their squad for the T20I series against West Indies and I can’t say that I’m enthused…

https://www.ecb.co.uk/england/men/news/1058447/sam-billings-and-dawid-malan-named-in-england-s-it20-squad

I back whoever plays for England (Unless there’s a serious reason that I shouldn’t. We’ll come to that!) but some of the selections in this squad are puzzling.

I’m a huge Dawid Malan fan but he’s hardly been tearing it up on the franchise circuit recently. Yes his international record is outstanding but he’s in no form whatsoever to maintain that record. This opportunity, as with his previous ones, have only come about because of squad rotation. He fully merited selection when he replaced a ‘rested’ Eoin Morgan however, in what was effectively at T20I final. Contrary to his recent franchise efforts, he had been tearing it up for England Lions. I just don’t feel that he’s primed to perform at international level right this moment. I hope that I’m wrong though and that a strong showing can put him back on the Test radar.

The selection of Chris Jordan is a generous one for me. He struggled in the Big Bash this season but is part of the T20I fabric for England. He benefits from the absence of senior bowlers to get game time in this format and of course he does take wickets. Anybody should be able to keep tallying wickets when the opposition are slogging away at the end though. He’s a good fielder but needs to take more wickets for less runs… obviously!

James Vince was superb in the Big Bash, Harry Gurney was steady away and Laurie Evans has backed up strong white-ball seasons in England by becoming an in-demand player on the franchise merry-go-round. None of the above make the squad but…

… Sam Billings does! I can understand the frustration for and with Sam Billings. It’s not easy when you’re a fill-in player, particularly in T20Is when there’s often just one match in a series. This series has three matches though, so Billings will desperately hope to bat in the top four to have a chance to impress. If he can hit the ground running then he could make the most of the series but then again, he’s just filling in. Like Malan, he’ll likely then get dropped again to accommodate the returning Roy, Buttler and Stokes.

I understand the logistical reasons but did England really need to name their squad so soon?

Liam Plunkett could be letting his World Cup place slip away though knowing him, he’ll probably take four wickets in the next ODI. If he fails to take a wicket and gets dropped during the series though, will he still be what England want in the T20Is?

What if Vince hits a couple of hundreds in the PSL between now and the start of the series? Could he be drafted into the squad? Ed Smith is sending out very mixed messages regarding Vince. He was pretty curt when he originally axed the Hampshire man, despite Vince making 76 in his previous Test innings. He did recall him because of injuries for a One-Day International, only for Vince to run himself out… again! Now following sparkling form in the Big Bash, he’s been omitted again.

Another player that’s been mentioned on forums is Joe Clarke. I think that a lot of people don’t know or don’t care why he’s been ignored. My understanding is that he wasn’t dropped from England Lions because of what a teammate may have got up to in his bed. He was dropped because of the list of women on his phone and the competitive element of that. If he matures then I’m quite happy for Joe Clarke to play for England in years to come. As it stands however, I (And that’s just me. I’m not speaking for anyone else) don’t want him anywhere near the England cricket team. Clarke can argue that he’s unfortunate it all came out and of course we don’t know what all players get up to away from work but… tuff!

Another thing that I may have mentioned before. ODIs are ODIs so I call the T20 version T20Is not IT20s… so there!

Cricket Captain 2018: Afghan Dreams Can Come True!

Screen Shot 2018-07-19 at 18.41.34

When I accepted the challenge of performing the dual role of National Selector and Coach, ultimately being Team Manager for the Afghanistan Men’s National Cricket team, though I knew that a new dawn was about to commence, little did I envisage that the players would be writing history on such a grand scale so early in our relationship.

Having lost a competitive T20I series against Bangladesh 2-1, even if the deciding match looked a little one sided, we headed to India for my adopted nation’s first ever Test match. When a Kohliless India won the toss and chose to bat on the first morning, the following eleven men became Afganistan’s first ever Test cricket team:

Ashgar Stanikzai (c), Mohammad Shahzad, Usman Ghani, Noor Ali Zadran, Rahmat Shah, Mohammad Nabi, Haji Murad (w), Hamza Hotak, Dawlat Zadran, Fareem Ahmad, Hameed Hassan

By the time India neared 100 without loss on the first day, romance had been replaced by reality on our Test debut. With the score on 97 however, Shikhar Dhawan was run out for fifty exactly. That leaves a tricky quiz question regarding who took Afghanistan’s first ever Test wicket. When Cheteshwar Pujara perished for 91, the second wicket to fall, it was left-arm quick Fareem Ahmad who claimed the honour of being the first Afghanistan bowler to take a wicket.

India closed the day on 268-3 and though we lacked penetration, we had contained our hosts and not yet allowed them to amass a terribly imposing total. On the second day, India progressed to 326-3 before Ahmad (3-127) led the fightback to restrict them to 444 all out. As well as Pujara’s 91 and Dhawan’s 50, Murali Vijay contributed a determined 90.

Our batsmen were not to be intimidated however. Mohammad Shahzad (29) and Usman Ghani (60) put on 83 for our first ever Test partnership. Rahmat Shah, who didn’t feature in the Bangladesh matches, followed Dhawan’s example by scoring 50 exactly. Making India bat again had looked a certainty but a little middle order wobble caused concern. It was left to 29-year-old debutant wicketkeeper Haji Murad to come to the rescue. Before the match, I’d decided that it was far too much to ask even a player as talented as Mohammad Shahzad to both open the batting and keep wicket. I didn’t want him wasted down the order though, so I insisted that he reside at the top of the order. That left a difficult choice as to who to select behind the stumps. There was some reticence when I selected an uncapped (In all international formats) nearly thirty-year-old to gatecrash the big occasion. Oh how it turned out though! Murad made an assured 45 alongside Dawlat Zadran (53) in a magnificent partnership of 90 for the eighth wicket to help us avoid the follow-on. Zadran had been disappointed not to play in the T20Is against Bangladesh and responded by making vital contributions throughout his country’s first ever Test match. His attacking 53, which included seven fours and a six, was his highest score at any level while Ravi Ashwin claimed strong figures of 5-97 for India.

India then wasted a promising start for the second time in the match when 213-3 became 296 all out. Shikhar Dhawan top scored with 89 while Ajinkya Rahane made 52. There were contributions from all our bowlers including part-time spinner Rahmat Shah. Shah claimed a crestfallen Karun Nair for just 8 to the last ball of the day in his first over. Perhaps the most crucial wicket to fall however would be that of Umesh Yadav. Yadav was forced to retire hurt first ball and would not be able to bowl when we came to bat second time around.

Screen Shot 2019-02-17 at 20.53.51

We were set 413 to win, just five short of the highest run chase in Test history. Rahane surprisingly opened the bowling but was ineffectual alongside an expensive Ishant Sharma. Sharma (18-0-92-0) conceded his runs at in excess of five an over. Mohammad Shahzad (148) and Usman Ghani (83) put on 163 for the first wicket. Shahzad also compiled 106 with Noor Ali Zadran to take us to 269-1 and make the entire cricket world turn their heads and believe in the impossible. Even a cricketer as exuberant as Shahzad was restrained in his celebrations upon scoring his country’s first ever Test match hundred. He knew that although his innings was special, it could yet be part of something incredible. There was a wobble as India opened the door. 304-2 became 373-7 resulting in a nervy tea for our boys on the fifth and final day.

Debutant Haji Murad (21) played his part again but it would be captain Ashgar Stanikzai (57 not out) who would write the script. He put on an unbroken 41 with Zadran and had the honour of hitting the winning cover drive for four to seal an earth-shattering victory that sent shockwaves throughout the cricket world and announced Afghanistan on the Test stage.

Screen Shot 2019-02-17 at 20.53.39

Credit to India for their grace in defeat. The absence of their captain and of a member of their bowling attack in our second innings proved fatal but for Ravi Jadeja to bowl only eight overs in the entire match was criminal. I take little credit for this victory. I have been with the boys for only a short time and they are a truly talented bunch. It is they who performed and etched their place in cricketing history. Their names and their exploits will be spoken about in a hundred years time. Whatever happens in their careers from this point forth, they will always have the first Test against India to reflect upon with immeasurable pride.

Disclaimer: Don’t ask me how Dhawan robbed Shahzad of Man of the Match!

Six to Watch: 2019

img_1408

The 2019 English domestic cricket season is nearly upon us, beginning as it does as soon as April 5th. The campaign consists of the County Championship (First Class), One-Day Cup (List A) and T20 Blast (T20) competitions. Players will be pushing for international recognition in the Test, ODI and T20I formats or if not that then at least England Lions places. County players should be spurred on by the knowledge that a spectacular start to the season could see them gatecrash England’s (Or other nations’) squads for the 2019 ODI Cricket World Cup or Ashes series. England Women have their multi-format Ashes encounter this summer too.

This is the last season of English cricket as we know it because next year we’ll have The Hundred… yay! I know that we all can’t wait for some unofficial exhibition cricket in 2020!

Here are this year’s http://www.sillypointcricket.com’s Six to Watch:

Daniel Bell-Drummond, Kent

Daniel Bell-Drummond featured in my 2017 edition of Six to Watch. Two years on, he’s earned a recall!

It was against a touring Australia side a few years past that DBD scored a hundred and seemed a shoe-in as a future England opener. It was in Australia this past winter that the right-hander popped up in club cricket and hit the headlines hitting a hundred when David Warner and Steven Smith faced off. In the intervening years DBD hasn’t spectacularly failed but neither has he made an insatiable case for national recognition. Too inconsistent for Tests and possibly unfairly perceived as not quite destructive enough for ODIs, he even spent the end of last season in the middle order for Kent. With players such as Haseeb Hameed hoping to rediscover their golden touch and push for an England recall, Bell-Drummond needs to plunder runs and make himself the next cab off the rank. Given the all-round abilities of England’s current squad, opportunities for specialist batsman are few and far between but top order vacancies are there for the taking.

Welsh Willow Wizard Aneurin Donald, having relocated from Glamorgan to Hampshire as well as Ben Duckett, who has journeyed from Northamptonshire to Nottinghamshire and dispatched some demons on England Lions’ tour of India, are other batsmen worth keeping an eye on this year.

Danny Briggs, Sussex

It’s been a while since slow-left-armer Briggs donned England (ODI/T20I) colours but he was a surprise selection for England Lions this last winter so maybe National Selector Ed Smith has seen something he likes in the former Hampshire man. It’s hard to see Briggs knocking Jack Leach off his perch but if his white-ball competition is Liam Dawson then a strong campaign could see Briggs earn a romantic recall ala Joe Denly. Briggs has been generally economical and got plenty of overs under his belt for England Lions this winter even if he hasn’t taken a bucket load of wickets.

On the spin front, hopefully Mason Crane and Matthew Parkinson can put injury problems behind them and create a cluster of competition for England places.

Jack Burnham, Durham

I’m not being lazy, honest, but like Bell-Drummond, Burnham has featured before. He missed the entirety of the 2018 campaign having failed a hat-trick of drugs (Recreational) tests.

In 2019 Durham need Burnham to come out from the cold and warm the hearts of their most loyal supporters with a run-laden summer.

Amy Jones, Warwickshire

Jones has displayed hints of her talent at international (ODI/T20I) level, particularly behind the stumps but her batting continues to cause frustration. She’s got over fifty international caps to her name now so must kick on with the willow at international level. She made some really encouraging contributions in the latest edition of the Big Bash but it’ll be interesting to see how things play out at England level when Sarah Taylor’s around. Taylor is unarguably first choice with the gloves and though she may seek respite due to her health on occasions, if Jones isn’t pulling up trees with the bat then she’s at risk of not being in the first choice XI. That’s not where she’ll want to be during an Ashes summer!

Jack Plom, Essex

After seeing that Plom had taken a few-wickets in an England Under-19 game, I picked him as my protege in my England career on International Cricket Captain 2018. If not exactly a regular, he was reliable and never let me down. In truth, 2019 might be a bit soon for first team action but Plom might surprise me, get selected and bowl with… aplomb!

Other pace bowlers who’ll hopefully see more action this year include Lancashire’s Saqib Mahmood, Middlesex’s Tom Helm and Sussex’s George Garton.

Issy Wong, Worcestershire

The women’s game continues to go from strength to strength and to be honest, probably merits a Six to Watch of its own. For now though, having already mentioned Amy Jones, Worcestershire’s Issy Wong was one of just thirty-nine 13-20 year-olds selected for the 2018 ECB School Games National Finals. She’s already contributed some significant performances for Worcestershire and could well have England honours in her sights! A bit of a wildcard selection but it’ll be interesting to follow her progress.

Look out for my follow-up article once the season is complete.

Living the Dream!

Lancashire’s Liam Livingstone has commenced the 2019 Pakistan Super League in record-breaking fashion. The twice capped England player scored 82 from only 43 deliveries on debut for Karachi Kings. The innings included half a dozen of both fours and sixes. Livingstone put on a PSL record 157-run stand with Babar Azam who made 77 from 59 deliveries.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/18898/game/1168821/karachi-kings-vs-multan-sultans-2nd-match-pakistan-super-league-2018-19

Livingstone is contracted for an IPL gig as well and will hope that such stellar performances catch the eye of England Selector Ed Smith. The twenty-five-year-old Cumbrian was harshly criticised by some following his first England appearances. He’s a talented all-round x-factor player who should get another chance to prove his worth at international level. He performed superbly for England Lions in Sri Lanka a couple of years ago and was in England’s Test squad that toured New Zealand last year.

Meanwhile compatriot Laurie Evans who performed extremely well in the Bangladesh Premier League, continued to enhance his reputation in Pakistan. The Sussex batsman scored 49 from 39 balls before being run out in Multan Sultans’ reply.

As for Ravi Bopara… 2-0-33-0!

Disclaimer: I’m pretty sure that I’ve used this headline for a Liam Livingstone related article before but… so be it!

Unlikely England Comeback?

11 ODI wickets at 39.27 (5.69 rpo)

3 T20I wickets at 18.33 (6.87 rpo)

8 wickets in this season’s Big Bash, his first, at 23.50 (7.23 rpo)

How about an England recall for Nottinghamshire and Melbourne Renegades left-arm pace bowler, Harry Gurney?

Gurney is 32 and his domestic stats are okay if not outstanding. He’s performed reliably for Melbourne Renegades this term and could be an option for the brains trust of Ed Smith and Eoin Morgan in white-ball cricket. David Willey is not always a threat and his batting often not required. Sam Curran doesn’t need overloading at this stage of his career so getting a year or two out of Gurney could be a viable option for England. The experience that he’s gained from playing in the Big Bash could serve him well for a return to the international fold.

Age may count against Gurney but it certainly wouldn’t be the most ridiculous selection. In Twenty20 Internationals, to pair the left-arm variety of Gurney alongside Tom Curran, who starred in the Big Bash, could provide respite for senior England players and result in a glut of wickets for England.

Terry Turns Orange but Without the Chocolate!

A name that I was not expecting to see when scouring scorecards across the globe this morning was… Sean Terry but guess who’s rocked up for Perth Scorchers in the Big Bash?

I previously posted about Terry’s ‘retirement’…

https://sillypointcricket.com/2018/07/04/time-up-for-terry/

but it turns out that he’s been representing Melville in Grade Cricket down under. He’s been doing mightily well too, stepping up in some big games and thus earned an outing for the franchise from the West. Terry made only four in the Perth side’s final match of the campaign…

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/8044/scorecard/1152564/adelaide-strikers-vs-perth-scorchers-54th-match-big-bash-league-2018-19

so what the future holds remains to be seen.

Ireland travel to England later this year for their first overseas Test. Could Terry gatecrash England’s Ashes prep as he has the Big Bash?

Following On

I thought that I’d provide a little insight into how I acquire a following on my blog…

I’ve written nearly 600 posts now and have a pitiful (No disrespect!) 120 or so followers. My fatal two-year tagging error cost me dearly but I’m writing wrongs this year. My subscriptions go something like this.

580 cricket articles: 85 followers (Including forced family as well as those marketing and utter nonsense followers you get!)

10 book reviews: 15 followers

10 poems: 15 followers

1 blogging tip article: 5 followers

Now those poems and book reviews are cricket themed of course but it’s a little disproportionate for my efforts. Maybe I should stop writing about cricket altogether and just write poetry and book reviews!

A man in a field/car park holding a jug

For no reason at all, here’s a picture of me (Excuse the tint, we’ve all been through that phase!) winning a cricket trophy. I didn’t bat, bowl or take a catch in the final. I didn’t even stop the ball but did pick it up twice. Still, better than my previous efforts in a final… run out having been sent back (Quite rightly) first ball!