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.

Frustrated Foakes!

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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.

4-3-1-5: Doctor Who?

Doctor Zhivago… maybe he’s not a doctor but Zhivago Groenewald claimed amazing analysis of five wickets for just one run from four overs complete with three maidens… obviously, for Namibia against Swaziland (Or is it eSwatini?) in Botswana’s capital Gaborone earlier today.

Swazi opening bat Alexander Nicholas actually carried his willow to make an undefeated 17 from 52 balls as Swaziland accumulated 72-6 from their full allocation. It took the Namibians only twenty-two deliveries to complete the chase as detailed by clicking on the link below…

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/19010/scorecard/1163048/namibia-vs-swaziland-2nd-match-icc-world-twenty20-africa-region-qualifier-c-2018-19

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For the record, ‘The Doctor’ only had three career Twenty20 wickets prior to his 5-1 epic. It’s just a shame that these matches don’t have full T20I status until next year.

Keep up to date with what’s going on in ICC World Twenty20 Africa Region Qualifier here:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/2018–19_ICC_World_Twenty20_Africa_Qualifier

Cricket is a global game and these matches matter. There aren’t only ten international teams and let’s hope that developing cricket nations such as these continue to progress by playing meaningful and competitive matches like the ones currently being played out in Botswana.

Associate Advances!

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Here’s some great news from the always excellent Peter Della Penna at Cricinfo…

http://www.espncricinfo.com/story/_/id/25033717/associates-pathway-2023-world-cup-undergoes-major-revamp

This brings the structure of world cricket more inline with suggestions that I’ve proposed previously…

https://sillypointcricket.com/2018/01/09/a-complete-restructure-of-international-cricket-again/

https://sillypointcricket.com/2016/12/12/a-complete-restructure-of-international-cricket/

https://sillypointcricket.com/2017/08/31/a-complete-restructure-of-international-cricket-revisited/

It’s a massive step forward to see cricket beyond the Test world having some genuine structure applied to it. Clearer pathways to major or even minor and qualification tournaments should help prevent the sort of early retirements that we’ve seen from some Associate cricketers. Having official status, whether that be international (Test, ODI, T20I) or just domestic (First Class, List A, T20) must really help Associate players feel like real cricketers.

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Hopefully before too long we’ll see match-ups between nations such as South Africa and Malaysia or Argentina and Bangladesh. This then presents the opportunity for more epic encounters such as when Scotland hosted England earlier this year!

If There’s One to Watch…

Hazratullah Zazai will have come to the attention of many by striking six sixes in an over for Kabul Zwanan in the inaugural Afghanistan Premier League earlier today. People should’ve seen it coming though as the youngster has form and recent form at that. Previously in the competition he swashbuckled a score of 124 from just 55 deliveries!

On the international stage Zazai hasn’t quite got going in the two ODI outings he’s had so far but has passed fifty twice in three T20Is. For the record his T20I strike-rate currently stands at a nose-bleed inducing 156.75!

It’s the attention as well as experience and confidence gained from such performances that not only confirm the changing landscape of domestic cricket around the globe but reiterate that T20 leagues merit their place in the cricket calendar. Hopefully more tournaments will sprout in as yet untapped markets but when they do, the game will reach a point, in fact it has already, where some competitions will be in direct… err, competition with each other.

For now let’s celebrate twenty-year-old Zazai’s recent performances and progress as well as the inspiration this will have provided to many young aspiring cricketers in Afghanistan. The only way is surely up still further for the national team and their domestic game.

Stone Certainty?

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Warwickshire’s Olly Stone is a player who featured in Silly Point’s Six to Watch feature this year…

https://sillypointcricket.com/2018/01/14/six-to-watch 2018/

https://sillypointcricket.com/2018/09/22/six-to-watch-2018-season-review/

He follows in the footsteps of another player from this year’s selection, Surrey batsman Ollie Pope, to have now graced the international stage.

Coming off the back of a productive domestic campaign, Stone made his international debut for England in the ODI series in Sri Lanka that started last week. Both matches were affected by the rain but after not getting an opportunity in the first (Due to the weather in Dambulla), Stone collected his maiden England wicket in the second match.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/18602/scorecard/1140379/sri-lanka-vs-england-1st-odi-eng-in-sl-2018-19

Stone possibly owes his chance in part due to the hosts flipping of the tour schedule, leaving Liam Plunkett (Wedding arrangements already made) high and dry. If the pictures are anything to go by, high and dry is not something that many Sri Lankan cricket grounds are at the moment. The rain has been of biblical proportions!

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Stone could be a real asset for England come next year’s World Cup and future Ashes tours. He’ll need to remain fit and it could be that another player with a history of injuries, Somerset’s Jamie Overton, could help provide some healthy competition for Stone. Then there are also the likes of Saqib Mahmood, Zak Chappell, George Garton and in time, Jofra Archer.

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Another player that I’m delighted to see get further opportunities in an England shirt is Hampshire’s Liam Dawson.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/211855.html

I felt that he was badly handled during his stint as a Test spinner. He performed admirably against India and South Africa, dismissing Hashim Amla twice but the England management buckled under media pressure and dropped the slow-left-armer. As a fill-in player, he’s been victim to attack when playing limited overs matches for England before but performed superbly in last year’s edition of the Pakistan Super League. He’s a constantly evolving player and England could do a lot worse than stick by him.