England’s Alternative Batting Options

IMG_4028

James Hildreth (Somerset)

http://www.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/15348.html

Tom Kohler-Cadmore (Yorkshire)

http://www.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/470633.html

Ross Whiteley (Worcestershire)

http://www.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/288617.html

Don Bradman Cricket 17: Trumped!

IMG_3077

There have been many dark days in English cricket. Today was one of those days. It was like being in the world’s longest tunnel without a torch or possibly with a torch but no batteries or the batteries had run out!

IMG_3078

Ben Duckett (30) put on 56 for the first wicket with Michael Carberry (26).

Having seemingly had the Trumpeteers under control at 117-5, we ‘allowed’ Team USA to post a competitive target of 170. A recalled Ajmal Shahzad was the pick of our bowlers. He claimed figures of 2-25 from his full allocation as well as having a chance dropped. Tom Curran also claimed two wickets (4-0-31-2). Matt Coles figures were less impressive: 4-0-40-0 and he would go onto compliment these with a golden duck!

IMG_3079

Michael Carberry (26) put on 56 for the first wicket with Ben Duckett (30).

We began our pursuit sedately, the intention to keep wickets intact and accelerate as the overs elapsed. We were aided early on by some wides and opening batsmen Ben Duckett and Michael Carberry posted a half-century stand to commence the chase. Duckett fell first, caught behind off a good delivery from the spinner having constructed a decent 30 from 24 deliveries. Captain Joe Root built a brisk 30 from 21 deliveries but was harshly adjudged LBW before the returning Michael Carberry was also dismissed in debatable fashion. By then, Carberry had grafted to 26 from 30 deliveries. His innings lacked fluency but did include one majestic leg-side flick for four. He was adjudged caught behind off the spinner though no edge was apparent. Why there were no reviews available in this T20 International remains unclear.

IMG_3081

Dawid Malan (7), Liam Livingstone (Run out for 2 to add to a dropped dolly!) and Liam Dawson (0 to compliment figures of 2-0-20-0) offered little to the chase. After Jos Buttler had struck a rapid 27 both Tom Curran and Ajmal Shahzad found the boundary on more than one occasion but ultimately Shahzad was unable to clear the ropes as required from the last ball of the match. Tom Curran (8) was run out and The Stars and Stripes ran out victors in Taunton by the small margin of just three runs.

IMG_3082

Maybe we got our tactics wrong. Possibly we should have attacked in the Powerplay but whilst we may have had more runs on the board early on, we would likely have lost more wickets too. To the loyal supporters of English cricket, the team offer their sincerest apologies for this result and promise to dig deep in the face of opposition to come.

Don Bradman Cricket 17: Jake has a Ball!

img_2726

A squad of twelve jetted into Adelaide to take on Papua New Guinea. We made just one change to the team following the humbling defeat at the hands of West Indies. Jake Ball, 12th man in LA, came into the XI at the expense of Mark Footitt. Spinner Jack Leach, who went wicketless against the Windies, kept his place.

img_2727

Jake Ball (32 not out) and Jack Leach (11) put together a vital last wicket partnership of 48 in our first innings total of 212.

Our first innings was a familiar story of twenties, thirties and forties. Two run outs, including that of skipper Joe Root didn’t help our cause. Wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow top scored with 42 and Jake Ball made a crucial 32 not out from number ten, ably supported by number eleven Jack Leach (11) in a heartening last wicket stand of 48.

img_2729

Jake Ball, having belted 32 not out with the bat in our first innings, then recorded figures of 5-43 with the ball in PNG’s.

Ball was then the chief destroyer with the… ball, claiming excellent figures of 5-43 but PNG, in making 213, edged ahead by one run. They may have made more had Charles Amini not shockingly allowed himself to be run out to the very last ball of the day. In PNG’s second innings he would also be dismissed to the final ball of a session, playing an inexplicably expansive shot on the cusp of tea!

img_2731

In our second innings, captain Joe Root lead from the front with 57 from just 44 deliveries.

In our second innings we lost both openers, Keaton Jennings (5) and Haseeb Hameed (10) early but Ben Duckett (29) and captain Joe Root (57) put on a match defining combination that totalled 65 before the former was run out. Not for the first time Duckett wasted a promising start in the Test arena. Bairstow (27) hit two huge sixes and Sam Curran (23) and Stuart Broad (39), in a partnership worth 54, bolstered our total to a competitive 249. That meant that PNG would need to make 248 to claim a famous victory.

img_2733

Lega Siaka determinedly scored Papua New Guinea’s first ever half-century in Test match cricket.

Though we chipped away at the PNG batting line-up with regular wickets, composed opening batsman Lega Siaka stood firm, compiling his country’s first ever half-century in the Test arena.

img_2735

It would be Jake Ball however, who for the second time in the match would cause panic amongst the PNG side. Despite the best efforts of our fielders to prevent him from claiming a ten-for, a catch was eventually held to take us to our first Test victory and Ball (5-48) to Man of the Match figures of 10-91. Ben Stokes also stepped up, finishing with match figures of 5-80. It was a tougher experience for spinner Jack Leach though, the Taunton twirler ended the match with analyses of 25-3-85-0. That’s now two wicketless Tests in a row for Leach and questions will have to be asked regarding his place in the team come the selection meeting ahead of our next Test outing. In truth he looked extremely inaffective with the ball. His support of Jake Ball in a last wicket stand of 48 in our first innings in a match that we won by just 44 runs should not be forgotten though.

On behalf of the team, I’d like to thank those fans that flew to Adelaide and indeed all our followers, after what has been a string of frustrating results. We look forward to finding some consistency now and providing our supporters with more positive results in the future.

Derby England’s New North!

img_2076

I’m looking forward to attending some cricket in 2017.

Maybe I’ll go and watch some matches at the Champions Trophy.

Oh wait, all matches will be played in either Birmingham, Cardiff or London.

Maybe I’ll go and watch some matches at the Women’s World Cup then.

Oh wait, all matches will be played in either Bristol, Derby, Leicester, London or Taunton.

That’s a minimum four-hour round trip for us Yorkshire folk. Pity any Durham fans that would like to see some major tournament action!

England’s Spin Dearth Myth

img_1465

English cricket often seems to be accused of having a dearth of talent when it comes to spin bowling. The national team’s first choice spinner in all forms of the game, Moeen Ali, is a batsman who bowls and 39-year-old Gareth Batty (Test Match bowling average: 66) has just been recalled to the Test squad. Such things contribute to the assumption that there are no genuine quality spin bowlers on the English county scene. Silly Point assesses whether or not such an assumption is a fair one.

Moeen is England’s first choice spinner in all forms of the game but averages in excess of forty in both Tests and ODIs. England’s second choice spinner Adil Rashid also averaged in excess of forty in both forms of the game before dragging his ODI numbers down during an excellent series for him personally in Bangladesh this month. In doing so he might now be considered England’s number one spinner at least in ODIs. The next couple of weeks will determine whether or not that will, for the first time be the case in Test Match cricket as well. Liam Dawson has made only a couple of international appearances and averages thirty-five plus in First Class and List A cricket. His value to Hampshire is primarily with the bat. James Tredwell, no longer required by England, averages below thirty in both Tests and ODIs! All these players are considered all-rounders and their ability with the bat plays a crucial role in getting them into the team. If we explore the other options available to England in the county game we’ll quickly see that England’s perceived dearth of spin talent is a myth. Ollie Rayner, though no mug with the bat and Jack Leach might not be expected to contribute the volume of runs that the likes of Moeen and Rashid might but if they were to take international wickets at fewer apiece than England’s current incumbents are they not more worthy of a place in the team?

This is not to belittle the likes of Moeen and Rashid both of whom have a lot to offer England in all facets and all forms of the game but England’s reluctance to select specialists and or explore alternative options can be frustrating.

Let’s start with off-spinner Rayner who to be fair can bat a bit (First class average 22.00 including two centuries) The German born thirty-year-old has 254 First Class wickets to his name at a more than respectable average of 32.74. That’s about two runs less per wicket than Rashid (34.70) and nine, yes nine runs less than England’s first choice spinner Moeen (41.62)! Moeen’s Test average is even higher at 42.03 but he compliments this with more than handy batting figures of 1,454 runs at 34.61 including three centuries. In 2013 Rayner recorded analysis of 15-118 including 8-46, both career bests, against Surrey at The Oval. In 2016 Rayner’s best effort was 6-79, one of three five-wicket hauls as he finished Middlesex’s victorious County Championship Division One campaign with 51 wickets from thirteen matches at just 23.57. His age, thirty, is no reason to dismiss him. He could be primed to put together all that he has learnt during his domestic career and take it on to a five-year plus international one. If not for England then surely he can get a game for Germany!

Only seven players took more County Championship Division One wickets than Rayner last term. The only English spinner to do so was Somerset’s slow-left-armer Jack Leach. The twenty-five-year old accumulated 65 wickets at 21.88 including five five-wicket hauls as Somerset pushed Rayner’s side for the title ‘til the very last day of the season. For the record only Jeetan Patel took more County Championship Division One wickets than Leach last term. 2016 was Leach’s breakthrough season as he more than doubled his career First Class wicket tally, now 107 at 25.68. Maybe he needs to show that this season wasn’t a one-off before he gets the England call and his Somerset captain Chris Rogers’ less than ringing endorsement can’t have helped his international chances. On the batting front however the likes of Haseeb Hameed and Ben Duckett were picked for England on the back of one good season though both have spent time with England Lions or underage sides. Leach hasn’t and Simon Kerrigan’s introduction to Test cricket means that the England selectors like to get a close up of their potential international players first so that they can judge their character let alone their ability. Leach joins Rayner in the England Lions squad this winter.

On the subject of Kerrigan, he has 305 First Class victim to his name and his First Class bowling average of 30.05 is lower than Rayner (32.74) another forgotten man in Danny Briggs (33.70) current Bangladesh tourist, Zafar Ansari (34.45) Rashid (34.70) Scott Borthwick (35.75) Liam Dawson (37.47) Samit Patel (39.39) and of course Moeen (41.62). Ravi Patel, Josh Poysden, Stephen Parry, Adam Riley, Rob Keogh, Graeme White and Jack Taylor also all average a lower than Moeen sub forty in First Class cricket. Last year Kerrigan took 35 County Championship Division One wickets at an average of 37.89. Not brilliant but by no means a disgrace. He’s still only twenty-seven-years-old. It was a chastising international debut (8-0-53-0) against Australia at The Oval in 2013 for Kerrigan but where as many England supporters thought that the national team had progressed from a time where players were written off after one poor performance Kerrigan seems to have been well and truly left behind. Last year on Test Match debut and on spinning terrain, Adil Rashid recorded record-breakingly bad figures of 34-0-163-0. Of course unlike Kerrigan the Yorkshire leg-spinner got a second innings chance and on a worn pitch took 5-64.

Back to Leach’s Somerset. It was another Taunton man, nineteen-year-old Dom Bess that topped the County Championship Division One bowling averages last season (See previous post: Six to Watch for more about the England Under-19 International)

https://sillypointcricketsite.wordpress.com/2016/10/10/six-to-watch/

The off-spinner only made two appearances in the County Championship but his performances courted plenty of attention. He recorded figures of 6-28 against Warwickshire on debut before taking 5-43 against Nottinghamshire, both at Taunton. Former England batsmen Jonathan Trott, Ian Bell and Michael Lumb just some of his victims in those two matches. As a result of his 2016 performances Bess has 13 career wickets at 20.30 per victim.

Bess isn’t the only youngster tearing down the spin dearth myth. Kerrigan’s Lancashire’s teammate, nineteen-year-old leg-spinner Matthew Parkinson exploded onto the scene in 2016, recording figures of 5-49 against Warwickshire on debut. Like Bess, Jonathan Trott was among his debut victims. Parkinson’s First Class stats currently read 10 wickets at 36.30.

Another nineteen-year-old leggie is Hampshire’s Mason Crane. 31 wickets at 45.45 with a best of 3-19 in 2016 may seem a little underwhelming but to gain that experience in County Championship Division One at such a young age will only have helped his development. His career figures currently stand at 45 wickets at 40.75 apiece. These are early days in the careers of Bess, Parkinson and Crane so of course there statistics are a small sample size.

Having focused primarily on First Class and Test Match cricket lets switch our attention to the short stuff. In limited overs cricket it is expected that a player’s bowling average will be lower than in First Class cricket. It’s also more understandable that batting credentials might come into the equation. Liam Dawson averages 32.38 with the bat in List A cricket and 35.84 with the ball. He’s next in line in the pajama stuff after Moeen (26.16 and 44.34 in ODIs) and Rashid (27.25 and 35.17)

Northamptonshire’s Graeme White averages 25.79 with the ball in List A cricket, Gloucestershire’s Jack Taylor averages 28.03 and 24.25 with the bat, Surrey’s Zafar Ansari 31.97 and 34.12.

If we consider a broader spectrum, amongst the other Test playing nations, do the likes of Australia’s Jon Holland and Steve O’Keefe, New Zealand’s Mark Craig and Ish Sodhi, South Africa’s Dane Piedt and Simon Harmer, West Indies Sulieman Benn and Devendra Bishoo or Zimbabwe’s Graeme Cremer or John Nyumbu leave English spinners in the shade?

Of course there are less players from smaller populations representing fewer teams in most of the other Test nations mentioned than in England’s eighteen team First Class structure but the quality spin representation at domestic level is proportional.

As for England, the players are out there. Some can bat, some can’t. Some are in their teens, some are in their thirties. Some have played for England before, some haven’t. Some may have already produced their best, some haven’t.

When there’s eleven players in the team and the aim of the game is to score as many runs as possible, somebody’s got to keep wicket, the climate is accommodating to and the pitches are tailored to suit fast bowling then there are only going to be so many spinners around, some of which will be better than others. There may not be as many quality spinners as there are grains of sand on a beach but there are enough diamonds in the rough!

Six to Watch: 2017

img_1408

It may only seem like yesterday that the 2016 English domestic campaign reached its dramatic conclusion but it’s never too early to start looking ahead. With only six months until the 2017 season begins, Silly Point has identified six players to watch out for. It’s not just youngsters trying to make their way in the game that Silly Point has taken a look at either. Seasoned veterans receive a going over too with Silly Point predicting some renaissances in 2017.

Jofra Archer, 21, Sussex, All-Rounder

When you Google Barbadian born Archer and this is know joke, he was born on April Fools Day, he appears to be draped in West Indies colours. He wouldn’t be the first Sussex man to have departed Caribbean shores and gone on to play for England however, Chris Jordan anybody! Archer arrived on the English county scene with a bang last season, recording figures of 4-49 on First Class debut against the touring Pakistanis at Hove. Mohammad Hafeez, Shan Masood, Azhar Ali and Misbah-ul-Haq all fell victim to the twenty-one-year-old. Sussex’s six other first innings bowlers managed just a sole wicket between them and it was only Archer who managed to bag second time around when he sent Hafeez back to the pavilion once again. Archer displayed his batting credentials with a knock of 73 against Essex in the County Championship at Colchester, recorded two more four wicket hauls before the season’s completion and took 5-42 against Somerset in a one-day match at Taunton. Sussex will rely heavily on Archer’s contributions in 2017 if they’re to haul themselves up to Division One in both the County Championship and One-Day Cup.

 

Daniel Bell-Drummond, 23, Kent, Right-Handed Opening Batsman

747 County Championship runs at 53.36, 332 One-Day Cup runs at 41.50 (S/R 86.23) and 171 off 139 deliveries for England Lions against Sri Lanka A in a one-day match… yet somehow DBD’s progress in 2016 seemed to go somewhat under the radar, a mid-season injury didn’t help. Last year DBD smacked 127 from just 112 balls against a touring Australian side whose bowling attack included Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle and Ryan Harris. You can go as far back as 2013 to find former Kent skipper Rob Key proclaiming that DBD could be a “… 100-test cricketer…”. Despite a more than reasonable 2016, Northamptonshire’s prolific Ben Duckett, Lancashire’s record breaking Roses match teenager Haseeb Hameed and maybe even Durham’s Keaton Jennings have all usurped twenty-three-year-old Bell-Drummond. DBD will hope to press his case for full honours when representing England Lions this winter against the UAE in three one-day games in Dubai and against Afghanistan in a three-day match in Sharjah.

Dom Bess, 19, Somerset, Off-Spin Bowler

Topping the County Championship Division One bowling averages last term with thirteen wickets at 10.46 apiece including two five wicket hauls, 6-28 against Warwickshire and 5-43 against Nottinghamshire, both at Taunton, suggest that Somerset have a real find on their hands in England U-19 international Bess. Of course not all of those that arrive on the scene with a bang live up to the hype, Mathew Sinclair anybody! Some of the mystery of Bess will have evaporated as batsmen have had both the opportunity to face him and to study the videos during the winter. Not that Shane Warne or Muttiah Muralitharan got any easier to play and Bess will remain a mystery to many that have yet to encounter him. The real test for Bess will come when (if?) he finishes with figures of 0-150 and how he responds to doing so.

Look out for my upcoming article ‘England’s Spin Dearth Myth’ for more on Bess.

Jack Burnham, 19, Durham, Right-Handed Middle Order Batsman

Stoneman, gone. Borthwick, gone. Muchall, gone. Mustard gone. No pressure on 19-year-old Jack Burnham then! The 2016 Under-19 World Cup’s leading run scorer registered 630 County Championship Division One runs at 27.39 in 2016 but his limited overs campaigns were rather fruitless. Despite the departures of senior batsmen Burnham will still have the likes of Keaton Jennings and Paul Collingwood alongside him and following Durham’s relegation after an ECB bailout he’ll be playing County Championship cricket in Division Two this term. Durham will be seriously hoping that the teenager can kick on in 2017 and break the 1000 run barrier in the County Championship’s bottom division to help get Durham back into the upper echelons of English cricket.

Nick Compton, 33, Middlesex, Right-Handed Middle Order Batsman

@Compdog’s axing from England first time around was a bitter affair. Second time it was just horrible to watch, to witness English cricket’s Marmite fall apart. There was no bemoaning the selectors this time around. Compton knew he’d had his chance. After commencing the South Africa series with a Comptonesque 85 at Durban, mixed messages from coach Trevor Bayliss resulted in Compton trying to go out all guns blazing to seal victory in the Johannesburg test and ultimately forget how to play the very sort of innings that had earned him international recognition in the first place. It’s questionable whether an experienced cricketer such as Compton should have ever allowed his coaches public comments to affect his game and after returning to the county game he rather alarmingly took a break from cricket altogether. He did however return to the Middlesex ranks and of course finished the season as a title winner. After the fall there were glimpses of his run making ability like his innings of 131 against Durham at Lords in August. With even the man himself surely beyond thinking about international selection, if he can just enjoy himself at the county he felt it necessary to return to then Middlesex will surely reap the benefits.

Mark Footitt, 30, Surrey, Left-Arm Fast Medium Bowler

It would be easy to assume that the proverbial ship has long since sailed for Mark Footitt, at least on the international front. If he wasn’t going to make the England XI in South Africa then maybe it just wasn’t meant to be. He was seen as the County Championship’s marquee signing pre last term but injuries disrupted the left arm seamer’s opportunity to make an immediate impact at Surrey. However as the season progressed and he eventually rid himself of injury he didn’t half come good. The wickets tumbled in the latter stages of the season and Footitt finished the campaign with 34 Division One wickets at 26.85 including career best figures of 7-62 against Lancashire at The Oval followed up by 6-161 against Hampshire at the same ground and 5-90 against Durham at Chester-Le-Street. If he can stay fit he will surely prove a major asset for Surrey and with the international attraction to left arm seamers maybe an England cap could still be within the thirty-year-old’s reach.