Borthwick’s Back!

Surrey batsman (Or all-rounder) Scott Borthwick is rumoured to be heading back to Durham at the end of the season.

http://m.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/310519.html

Borthwick deserted Durham when things were going to pot on and off the pitch. He wasn’t the only one. The one-time Test cap had aspirations of getting back in the England team but it was fellow Durham deserter and Surrey teammate Mark Stoneman who settled in quicker at The Oval to win England honours. Stoneman dried up and since being dropped by England has never really got going again. Since heading south Borthwick has never really got going at all. He’s done okay but not nearly enough to return to England contention and that ship has surely sailed for both. Would it even be a surprise if Stoneman followed Borthwick back up north?

Somerset Dunn For!

During a campaign where a star studded if sometime injury hit Surrey side have serially struggled, there’s a bright shining star among the dark night.

Matt Dunn’s figures of 5-43 against table topping Somerset must’ve provided Alec Stewart with a great deal of satisfaction…

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/8052/report/1166930/day/3/surrey-vs-somerset-specsavers-county-championship-division-one-2019

If it weren’t for international call-ups and injuries then it’s unlikely fans at The Oval would’ve seen much of Dunn in action this year. Having said that, if it weren’t for injuries then they may have seen a lot more of the right-arm pacer in recent years.

http://m.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/414108.html

Dunn has represented England at youth level as well as making his sole List A outing for an England Development XI. It’s believed he’s eligible to represent Ireland but at 27 would probably need to leave London and drop anchor in the Emerald Isle. That’s a big sacrifice, to abandon a county career given the paucity of Ireland’s international schedule.

If twenty-seven-year-old Dunn can keep fit then he could yet help Surrey rescue what has so far been an abysmal campaign.

Cricket 19: North Western Hemisphere Test Championship – Watt on Earth?!

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Eleven players took to the field for England’s first ever North Western Hemisphere Test Championship match against Scotland at The Oval. Such was the state of the pitch that we bravely (Naively?) chose to omit our main spin threat of Moeen Ali. That left the part-time efforts of captain Joe Root as the only spin bowling option available to… captain Joe Root. On his home ground it was felt essential to select the effervescent Sam Curran. The left-arm seamer provides our attack with a crucial point of difference.

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Having won the toss we chose to bat first and local boy Rory Burns (26) alongside Haseeb Hameed (23) laid a solid foundation in reaching 37 without loss before Burns was caught when attempting a pull. Ben Duckett soon followed for just 1 and the rest of our wickets continued to fall with alarming regularity. This was despite 98 minutes of stoicism from Lacnashire’s Hameed. We also benefited from skipper Joe Root (9) having earned a reprieve when dropped in the slips on just 2 but he added only a further seven runs before being dismissed. 37-0 became an embarrassing 121 all out before lunch on the first day at The Oval.

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A reverse-sweep filled counter-attacking innings of 34 from only thirty deliveries courtesy of Jos Buttler was pivotal to us even reaching three figures. Buttler struck 18 (44244.) from left-arm spinner Mark Watt’s first over before Watt struck back to claim figures of 3-26. Fellow twirler Martin Law bettered that with analysis of 4-19. Having ourselves omitted our number one spinner, seven of the wickets to fall on the first morning fell to spin! A word too for Scottish gloveman Mahdi Clay who claimed six dismissals in the innings.

Following that and having reached 39 without loss, the visitors looked well placed to gain a substantial first innings lead. Opener Kyle Coetzer’s 49 from 55 balls led the way but enter Stuart Broad. Broad thought he had Clay trapped LBW on 13 but the decision was correctly overturned.

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It mattered little though as without another run added Broad sent Clay’s stumps shattering in all directions. Promisingly placed at 63-1, Scotland subsided to 166 all out. A few batsmen got starts but none could kick on. Chris Woakes (5-42) led the way, striking in his first over and claiming three key wickets in his premier spell before returning to finish the job later in the innings. Broad would finish with figures of 3-47. Jonny Bairstow went some way to redeeming himself after being dismissed for a golden duck in England’s first innings, the result of appalling shot selection in the circumstances, by claiming four sharp catches. A lead of 45 runs was healthy for Scotland but not necessarily game defining.

We commenced our second innings late on day one and lost Hameed for 12 before the close but the standard had been set for a more disciplined batting effort second time around. Hameed’s exit meant that the small matter of 21 wickets had fallen on the first day. Such statistics will no doubt have caught the eye of the NWHTC Pitch Inspection Squad or PIS.

Burns (44) and Duckett (46), who was dropped at slip in the first over of the day, compiled 92 before the latter fell courtesy of a top edge when reverse sweeping. Duckett was just starting to open up and we’ve selected him to play his own game but it was a disappointing end to an innings that could’ve cemented his place in the team long term. As it was both Burns and Duckett performed well enough to secure their place in the side for the next match but not sufficiently to confirm that they’re the answer to our long-standing top order conundrum. Duckett’s departure opened the floodgates as 118-1 became 185-6 at sandwiches.

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Captain Joe Root perished soon after for 63 before Sam Curran (63), in front of his home fans and Chris Woakes (68), not content with a five-wicket haul, seemed to take the game away from the visitors. The pair put on 117 for the eighth wicket however Woakes was out to the first ball after tea. Just when Scotland thought they’d done enough to stay in the match they could only watch in horror as our last wicket pair of Stuart Broad (39 not out) and James Anderson (50) compiled 90 runs for the final wicket. The latter registering only his second Test half-century though he promptly fell to the very next delivery. Scots’ spinner Mark Watt added figures of 4-121 to his first innings triplicate to complete the match with bowling analysis of 7-147. Stumper Mahdi Clay snaffled another five victims taking his match total to eleven. All that equated to Scotland requiring the small matter of 401 runs for victory. Surely that would be out of reach?!

As was the case the night prior, the batting side lost one wicket before the close of play. Sam Curran, promoted to opening the bowling, cleaned up first innings top scorer Coetzer with an unplayable inswinger for just 6. Mahdi Clay and Caden McCarthy looked in good rhythm during the rest of the evening session however and Scotland progressed serenely to 54-1 at the close of the second day’s play.

Despite our best efforts the following morning, the visitors picked up where they had left off and batted throughout the session without losing a wicket. McCarthy (105) and Clay (113) went onto record maiden Test hundreds. Their partnership was worth 191 and set Scotland well on their way to a headline making victory. Roman Bruce (108 not out) also passed three figures and was there at the end as the Celtic side claimed a seismic and historic Test match win. Though we claimed a few wickets we were never really in the hunt as Scotland achieved the fourth highest run chase in Test history, although they did have to come back on day four to knock off the remaining nine runs required, finishing on an astonishing 402-4! If the North Western Hemisphere Test Championship needed something special in its first round of fixtures to get people excited… boy did it get it!

A special mention for the administrators at The Oval who welcomed spectators through the gates free of charge on the fourth morning.

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Extremely late in the piece, Jonny Bairstow couldn’t maintain his first innings standards and what would’ve been a first over maiden international wicket for Haseeb Hameed went begging!

Match Analysis

England 121 (Buttler 34, Burns 26, Hameed 23/Law 4-19, Watt 3-26, Egan 2-22)

Scotland 166 (Coetzer 49, Bruce 24, Burke 19/Woakes 5-42, Broad 3-47, Curran.S 1-14)

England 445 (Woakes 68, Root 63, Curran.S 63/Watt 4-121, Law 2-31, Scott 2-70)

Scotland 402-4 (Clay 113, Bruce 108*, McCarthy 105/Curran.S 2-82, Broad 1-78, Woakes 1-82)

Scotland won by six wickets

Maybe in part because it was hard to choose between three centurions, though wicketkeeper Mahdi Clay scored his as opener as well as claiming eleven dismissals in the match, spin bowler Mark Watt’s match figures of 7-147 saw him awarded the Player of the Match award.

Match bowling figures of 1-104 for James Anderson and 0-77 for Ben Stokes, who also contributed only five runs with the bat, mean that their places in the team for the next match may have to be reviewed. Spinner Moeen Ali among others waits in the wings.

Congratulations to Scotland on an epic victory. Like us they applied themselves much better with the bat second time around but we now know that we must do even better both with willow in hand and with the ball in order to be successful in this new competition.

In the other matches in Round One, Canada brushed aside neighbours USA by 86 runs. This was despite being bowled out for only 48 in their second innings however they then bundled the States themselves out for a paltry 44. Subhan Breen’s second innings figures of 6-10 may take some beating in the competition.

Ireland thrashed the Netherlands by an innings and 191 runs with the Dutch crumbling for 69 in their second dig. There were contributions from throughout Ireland’s XI though Stuart Poynter’s undefeated 95 led the way.

Next up for us it’s a long and arduous trip to Canada. Though the Mapleleafs defeated the Stars and Stripes, surely we can get our first victory near the Arctic. Playing conditions will be alien to us though and as such we’ll need to get the composition of our playing XI spot on. We’ve sent a pitch scout across the Atlantic already and the feedback is that though the surface is hard it’s also dry with some cracks. Our travelling squad for the trip will be announced shortly.

Thank you for your support and apologies for our opening result. It was not for the want of trying!

Paul Morris, Selection Architect, England Men’s Cricket Team

Disclaimer: Firstly, please be aware that I’m playing on Pro difficulty level with specific settings at medium. Please also be aware that due the the current state of play with the Academy and downloading players, opposition teams are a mixture of real and fake names and I’ll be referring to them however they appear on the scorecard.

NottinghamSure are a Buying Side!

Clearly they don’t produce batsman in Nottinghamshire. The Trent Bridge outfit’s reliance on signing players from across county borders is akin to a Premier League football side. On the batting front the two Bens, Slater and Duckett, have arrived from Derbyshire and Northamptonshire, followed by Joe Clarke from Worcestershire. All-rounder Zac Chappell has also joined from Leicestershire. Of course Notts have history here. They acquired both Stuart Broad and the retired James Taylor from The Foxes. It’s a shame that a player such as Worcestershire’s Clarke deems it necessary to relocate to a more ‘fashionable’ county from one that not only plays in the same County Championship division but just won one of the country’s three domestic competitions. If international ambitions are more easily recognised by being at Notts then that’s a sorry advert for the county game. Worcestershire seem far more qualified at developing young players anyway and count England regular Moeen Ali amongst their ranks.

I wish Clarke and the other new recruits at Trent Bridge all the best but Surrey, slagged off for being successful, have built their success around young homegrown talent as well as shrewd recruitment. They’ve got the balance right. Yorkshire, a county reliant on signings but who missed out on Duckett and and his ex-Northants teammate Richard Gleeson, could learn something from The Oval side. The White Rose county have failed to develop the likes of the appallingly handled Karl Carver and have been shown up by the strong performances of Jonny Tattersall, a player they originally let go after just one List A innings!

http://www.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/517247.html

Glamorgan are another county who have mucked around a young talent and now lost him. Hopefully Aneurin Donald’s move to South Africa, sorry Hampshire, will reignite his stagnated but still embryonic career.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/562281.html

English cricket’s transfer system continues to come closer to resembling football’s Premier League. Players representing more than one county in the same season is becoming all too common a sight. With new horizons constantly appearing on both the domestic and global cricket front, it’ll be fascinating to see how the future of cricket’s transfer market evolves. With both old-fashioned contract meetings and now draft systems a part of things, the future, like cricket in general, is anything but certain!

The Kohli Conundrum

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India skipper Virat Kohli has joined Surrey at The Oval for the month of June. Kohli will play both County Championship and One-Day Cup matches ahead of leading India on their Test tour of England.

Some people may moan about a player who will be opposing England being able to acclimatise to the conditions and I’ve previously shared that opinion. However, as Test cricket continues to become home team dominated, the opportunity to enhance the chances of an even contest is perhaps not a bad thing. England have had positive but one-sided results against Asian opposition when playing in almost winter conditions that are alien to the tourists, though admittedly this series is scheduled for summer rather than spring. England themselves have often been undercooked when touring and simply not been prepped to perform. Kohli, as well as others such as Yorkshire’s Cheteshwar Pujara, will hopefully be primed to provide even England fans with the sort of quality and contest that they pay for, whether that’s on telly or at the ground.

Kohli has committed for an entire month which I think is fair too. In light of an international cricketer’s schedule, it can’t be expected that the top players can participate for an entire campaign. I don’t like to see players signing for just a couple of weeks or representing multiple counties but First Class cricket in England desperately requires some aces to draw the crowds.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/india/content/player/253802.html

I might even sneak him into my Telegraph fantasy team!

Westley, Malan & TR-J Debut at The Oval!

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England have handed out Test caps 677, 678 and 679 today.

Middlesex duo Dawid Malan and Toby Roland-Jones as well as Essex’s Tom Westley have donned the Baggy Blue for the very first time.

Prior to today, Malan had one T20I cap and Roland-Jones a solitary ODI outing but for Westley, this is his premier outing for the full national side.

Keep up to date with how they get on against South Africa on Cricinfo…

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/10718/game/1031441/England-vs-South-Africa-3rd-Test-South-Africa-tour-of-England-2017/

Reminiscing About Usman Afzaal

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We all had a favourite player when we were growing up but not for many of us was that player… Usman Afzaal!

Scores of just four and two on Test Match debut in the first Ashes Test of 2001 at Edgbaston, when batting at seven and playing as a specialist batsman is just the sort of performance that will endear someone to me. Not for me are the Test bow double centurions. After his mammoth contribution of six runs on his first outing Afzaal was sent back to the county circuit seemingly forever destined to retire with a Test batting average of a not quite Bradmanesque 3.00. Cue none other than Pakistan’s Shoaib Akhtar appearing on English TV calling for his mate to be provided another chance.

The England selectors obviously heard the Rawalpindi Express’ cries because come the fourth Test at Headingley, though with the series already lost Afzaal earned a recall. After delivering a career best 14 in the first innings Afzaal guided England to victory with an average propelling four not out in the second innings aided in no small part by Mark Butcher’s masterful 173 not out.

In the fifth Test at The Oval Australia compiled a modest 641-4 declared with Afzaal claiming a quarter of the wickets to fall, that of Adam Gilchrist caught by Mark Ramprakash for a quarter century. In doing so Afzaal ensured that Gilchrist was the only Australian to bat that failed to reach 62!

With his confidence boosted by having a Test bowling average Afzaal went out to bat with the sort of swagger that enamored him to the fans, well me at least. In a partnership of 89 with good against Australia but not so against everybody else Mark Ramprakash, Afzaal struck a counter attacking 79-ball 54 with 36 of those runs coming in boundaries. Upon reaching his maiden (Only) Test half-century Afzaal promptly celebrated like a man that had brought up a quintuple hundred. His exuberance and passion brought smiles to people’s faces, well mine at least. Dermot Reeve though wasn’t happy, suggesting that Afzaal was a little too pleased with himself. Maybe Afzaal did get a little overexcited as after hitting Glenn McGrath for his ninth four he promptly had his innings terminated just 46 runs short of a maiden Test century the very next ball. He only made five in the second innings bringing his average down to mortal 16.60… and that was it for Afzaal’s international career bar a superb catch as a sub-fielder in New Zealand.

He seemed like a natural limited overs player but when an experimental squad to tour Zimbabwe that autumn was named Afzaal’s name didn’t feature. On the winter tours England coach Duncan Fletcher brought Afzaal’s weight into question and he never made the final XI. Afzaal flirted around the county scene for a few more years before drifting out of the game. It’s seems absurd that he’s still only 39. In 2013, more than three years after his last professional appearance he popped up playing a couple of List A games in Bangladesh alongside Bilal Shafayat.

He might not have scored thousands of Test runs and even features in some people’s Worst England XI but I’ll always remember his Test half-century and the joy he brought as he celebrated it like a kid at Christmas.

Due to image rights I have provided my own poor quality drawing of Afzaal for this blog post.

England’s Spin Dearth Myth

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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

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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.