Wright Wronged!

Former England player Luke Wright recently signed a white-ball only contract for Sussex, putting an end to a First Class career that earned nearly 8000 runs and in excess of 100 wickets.

http://m.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/23460.html

Remember that Wright was extremely close to winning a Test cap in South Africa some years ago but England plumped for Ian Bell.

If anything Wright was rather perversely both ahead of his time but also picked too soon. At a time when England, despite inventing it, had no idea how to play T20 cricket but belatedly attempted to select a squad somewhere near resembling a T20 outfit, Wright was sent out to swashbuckle from ball one and promptly scored a paddle of ducks at the World Cup.

Strip away ODI and T20I career bests against then Associates Afghanistan and Netherlands and his stats make for even grimmer reading than they already do. A lack of a consistent defined role may not have always helped him. Was he an all-rounder or just a batsman who bowled? He bowled that last over against New Zealand alright!

Despite his international struggles, Wright was making a name for himself on the franchise circuit long before many of his compatriots. His performances in the Big Bash were record-breaking and over a sustained period of time, confirmed his ability. It’s a shame that it had been lost on England by then.

All-time Big Bash leading run-scorers:

http://stats.espncricinfo.com/big-bash-league-2015-16/engine/records/batting/most_runs_innings.html?id=158;type=trophy

Highest individual Big Bash innings:

http://stats.espncricinfo.com/big-bash-league-2015-16/engine/records/batting/most_runs_career.html?id=158;type=trophy

Wright could still have a few years in him yet and let’s hope to see some boundary laden innings from the now 34-year-old, wherever in the world he shows up!

MS Dhoni and Everything Wrong with Cricket!

Imagine that you were playing village cricket and the batting side’s captain walked into the middle to contest an umpiring decision. You’d think that the player in question was pathetic and their actions unacceptable. You’d think that they were setting a disgraceful example to kids wouldn’t you!

MS Dhoni did such a thing in a recent IPL match and bar a small and utterly meaningless fine, got away it. Whether or not the umpiring decision was correct is irrelevant. It’d be fascinating to know what the reaction would’ve been had the player in question not been Indian.

Cricket has been played for over 150 years and players have been getting ‘rough’ decisions all over the globe everyday. Few players anywhere at anytime have likely acted with the lack of grace that MS Dhoni did.

Nothing about our game should make anyone angry or disappointed, with the performance maybe but certainly not with conduct.

Has MS Dhoni apologised? Is he embarrassed or is he revelling in the attention? I have no idea but what I do know is that his lowest of the low actions were totally out of place at all levels of our beautiful game.

Malan Madness!

Don’t worry Dawid. If I get my hands on Cricket Captain 2019 for the Mac or dig out my PS4 and buy Cricket 19, I’ll provide you with another England cap!

It’s safe to say that England’s T20I series in the West Indies hasn’t quite been what DM was hoping for…

http://www.espncricinfo.com/story/_/id/26136404/dawid-malan-itching-restate-credentials-season-wilderness

https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/sport/2019/mar/04/dawid-malan-t20-chance-england-west-indies

On another positive Dawid, with first team England appearances err, appearing unlikely, I might find a place for you in my Telegraph Fantasy Cricket Team. Clouds and silver linings and all that!

The Canberra Conundrum

The Big Bash could be set to expand come the 2020-21 campaign but which cities could adopt new franchises and assume a place in the league?

How about Canberra and Darwin?

Canberra is the capital city of Australia but the state of New South Wales already has two Sydney based franchises. Canberra technically lies within the Australian Capital Territory which is entirely encompassed within New South Wales. To complicate matters, current BBL participants Sydney Thunder, actually play at Manuka Oval which is located in Canberra. For a team moniker, how about Canberra Centurions, Canberra Cricket Cosmos or just Canberra Cosmos, Canberra Conventional Swingers, Canberra Cover-Drivers or Canberra Cyclones.

The Northern Territory isn’t currently represented in the Big Bash so state capital Darwin could fill the void. Marrara Oval has hosted international cricket matches before. There’s a whole host of team names the city could choose from: Darwin Ducks, Darwin Dot-Ballers, Darwin Drifters, Darwin Diamonds, Darwin Drivers or Darwin Drinks-Breakers. Darwin needs a Big Bash of its own!

Cairns, Launceston and Alice Springs are other possible locations for new franchises. Oh and how about the Norfolk Island Knights?

Disclaimer: Whilst writing my article, I became heavily distracted by this one…

https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/may/21/were-not-australian-norfolk-islanders-adjust-to-shock-of-takeover-by-mainland

278-3 (20.0) – Enough Said!

Okay, so there’s a little more to be said…

Afghanistan have just totalled a record-breaking 278-3 in a Twenty20 International against Ireland. Opening batsman Hazratullah Zazai scored a whopping 162 (11×4, 16×6) from just 62 deliveries. He has form as I’ve mentioned more than once here at http://www.sillypointcricket.com. Strike stealing Mohammad Nabi denied Zazai the opportunity to topple Chris Gayle’s record individual T20 innings of 175* as well as Aaron Finch’s international record of 172… cheeky beggar! Zazai is one of the hottest young players anywhere in world cricket right now.

Looking forward to Ireland’s reply…

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!

Edit:

James Vince next PSL innings: 84 off 41

Dawid Malan next PSL innings: 1 off 6

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.

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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!