Cricket 19: Collapses, Comebacks and… err, more Collapses!

Win the toss… check. Opt to bat… check. 75-6… that wasn’t in the script!

Following an uncomfortable tour game against Western Australia, we fronted up against the whole of the nation on the very same turf in Perth. Opening duo Jean-Luc Chevalier (10) and Enzo Petit (19) started steadily as ever, reaching 25-0 before the former was bowled through his legs by a sensational swinging delivery from Mitchell Starc (2-56). That prompted an ugly collapse as the terribly out of form pair of Gilles Smith (4) and Youssef Rizvi (11) as well as an out of sorts Petit, all fell to the short ball. Zvonimir Pitko (5) and Marwan Leroy (0), two young players who both came out of the India tour with their reputations enhanced, soon followed as ignominy awaited our side. Cue Zidane Thomas, who mustered only 17 runs @ 4.25 in the India Test series, an aggregate that included a tortuous 15-ball duck in his final innings. Having retained his place he stuck to his guns to score a swashbuckling and crowd-lifting 41 from just 34 balls. He compiled a fifty partnership with his skipper Xavier Le Tallec who led from the front himself.

The recalled Paco Georges, fresh from first innings figures of 5-52 on the very same deck only a few days earlier, then cavaliered his way to a pulsating 52 from only 27 deliveries. Off-spinner Nathon Lyon (1-46) copped some disdainful treatment from the tall left-hander meanwhile Mitchell Marsh (0-27), who claimed 11 wickets in the tour game, went wicketless. Tailenders Louis Martin (0) and Mehdi Qadri (1) didn’t last long but Le Tallec finished 59 not out to haul his side to 236. Having being 75-6 we’d recovered to 144-7 and 223-7 before subsiding rapidly to 236 all out. Josh Hazlewood (7-63) was tormentor in chief meanwhile Joe Burns claimed four catches.

Despite folding quickly at the end, our lower order and importantly our captain had dug deep to keep us competitive. Le Tallec, Thomas and Georges displayed guts and were unfazed by having their backs firmly against the wall. They attacked and cleared the ropes on numerous occasions but this wasn’t just slogging. The trio played their own game and made the right shot selection, something our top/middle order could learn form.

On that note, an anxious wait… awaited the woefully out of form Smith and Rizvi who would need to contribute scores of substance in the second dig to retain their places in the playing XI come Sydney.

In response to our batting efforts, Australia then raced to 194-0 during which time we dropped four catches… none of which the game allowed me to try and catch! This included two edges off part-timer Jean-Luc Chevalier’s first over, the first over after tea. When we eventually clung onto an edge from Burns (58) off Chevalier (1-28), it was actually dropped by wicketkeeper Leroy but the fielding circle did at last appear and Smith reacted at slip. ANNOYING/FRUSTRATING/INSERT AS APPROPRIATE!

Our luck turned however as captain fantastic Le Tallec (1-38) struck with his first ball, the first after drinks, to dismiss David Warner for a magnificent 140, Leroy holding a smart catch. Leroy then clung on once again when Georges (1-121) lured Labuschagne (18) to nick his first delivery having switched to bowling around the wicket. We then ran Steven Smith (20) out as Australia tried to run on overthrows. We should’ve then run out Marsh without scoring but threw to the wrong end. After his outstanding performance in the warm-up match however Marsh’s (4) disappointing Test continued when he edged Qadri (1-86) to Chevalier. Qadri then found the edge again, this time off Oz captain Paine. The ball deflected off Leroy to Smith at slip who got his fingers under the ball yet the decision was not out. Tim Paine and his team can spout about “Elite honesty” but if they don’t back up their talk then their words are hollow!

Paine and Head survived one more over to reach the close on 274-5, a lead of 38 but that was some collapse having being 194-0. As the players left the field there were heated exchanges between our incensed fielders and the Australian batsmen. As things threatened to boil over an enraged Le Tallec shepherded his herd away and with the TV cameras and mics listening in to every word, he demanded that his side wait until tomorrow to respond… with the ball! We’d fought back superbly… twice. Could we do it again?

There are people in this world who think that Test cricket is boring, people who wouldn’t ever give it the light of day. Well those people missed out on a day of epic drama, collapses and comebacks, ebbs and floes and a little controversy too in Australia’s far west. What were they doing instead?!

Despairingly day two began with any hopes we had of continuing our fightback soon shattered. Australia’s overnight pair set about causing us severe and prolonged head pain! Travis Head reached fifty off the last delivery of the old ball as he and captain Paine lifted the hosts to 354-5, a distant 118 runs ahead.

The new ball did the trick though not in the way we’d expected. Head, set on 52 and with the Paine partnership up to 93, was run out courtesy of a boundary throw from Enzo Petit. By lunch however Australia were up to 381-6, a lead of 145.

Paine ascended into the nineties and seemed destined for a ton before Zidane Thomas intervened. Thomas trapped the Australian captain deep in his crease but Paine opted to review. For a moment it looked like height might save the Tasmanian but he’d used up all his luck in the infancy of his innings. It would’ve been a hollow Test ton and the bitterest of pills for our team to swallow. Paine departed for 90 and Thomas (1-92) provided him with the farewell send off that he merited!

Despite the departure of their captain Australia batted on… and on… and on… messrs Cummins and Starc took them to tea on 504-7 with the lead having ballooned to a whopping 267. Eight deliveries after the interval, Australia declared on 507-7 with Cummins 57 not out and Starc undefeated on 40. The lead was up to 271.

In our quest to make our hosts at least bat again, we lost Chevalier for just 1 with the score on only 11. The left-hander unconvincingly edged Hazlewood to Smith in the slips. That brought the hugely under pressure Gilles Smith to the crease. Yet to make a fifty in nine Test innings, Smith needed nothing less in order to retain his place for the second Test in Sydney. Pressure… what pressure? He promptly smacked Mitchell Starc (0-72) all over the park. His innings included a 97-metre 6 that nearly landed in the Indian Ocean! He passed fifty for the first time at the highest level and when stuck on 60 for almost half an hour, didn’t panic. He defended, left then eventually got going again. He did the same again when pausing on 84. All the while Enzo Petit, like Smith, kept the pull and hook shots in his locker to keep the Australian bowlers at bay. Petit’s innings was more attritional than Smith’s but it displayed classic Test match opening batting application and temperament. At the close the pair had compiled a partnership worth 126, Petit resolute on 28 and Smith sleeping a little uncomfortably on 86. Placed at 137-1 we still required a further 134 to make Australia bat again but once more we’d shown great heart and fight.

Australia commenced day three by providing byes and overthrows to help the partnership grow to 136 but soon made a breakthrough. With only nine minutes on the clock, Petit (33) defended a short delivery from Cummins but edged high to Smith in the slips and his 80-ball vigil had reached its conclusion. The score was 147-2 and the fall of wicket brought Youssef Rizvi, sweating over his place in the team, to the crease. Rizvi got off the mark first ball but to the next delivery Smith, like Petit, defended only to nick behind, this time to gloveman Paine. The Australian captain claimed the catch high above his head. Only ten minutes on the clock and all the previous day’s hard work was rapidly unraveling courtesy of Cummins’ (2-23) short stuff. Smith (87), trudged forlornly back to the pavilion. 148-2 still 123 behind. The century he had spent the night dreaming of remained just that… a dream!

Australia soon replaced spinner Nathan Lyon with paceman Josh Hazlewood and Zvonimir Pitko promptly became the third wicket to fall in the space of twelve minutes. Like Petit and Smith before him, he was at least trying to defend a ball that posed a question but Paine dived to his right to pouch another catch. Scores of just 5 and 1 in the match for The Iceman and 147-1 had slipped to 149-4. Next up Zidane Thomas resisted for a few minutes but then couldn’t, err… resist! The right-hander top edged a pull off Hazlewood into the grateful hands of Smith. 155-5 and Marwan Leroy striding to the crease on a pair. It would be Youssef Rizvi (5) who fell next however. His cluttered mind coming to the fore as be needlessly attacked Lyon and was bowled around his legs. In that moment, Rizvi knew that his responsibilities in Sydney would be limited to ferrying beverages. Having started the India tour with a First Class ton and Test fifty the runs have since evaporated for the diminutive dasher. Back to things at hand and we were floundering at 156-5 having lost five wickets for just nine runs!

Make that 9-6 as Le Tallec (0) joined the procession! The skipper played an unnecessary and ugly hoik off Lyon that was snaffled by Hazlewood. It was a poor end to a proud performance on his part. Leroy and Georges fought back with a whopping partnership of … 11 before Georges (4) went skyward off Lyon and into the hands off the waiting Warner. 167-8 still 104 away from avoiding an innings defeat. Three balls later Leroy (5) prodded forward off the roaring Lyon into the gleeful hands of the fielder positioned at silly point. 147-1 had become 167-9! Moments later Qadri (1) top edged to Warner off Hazlewood (4-33) and we’d lost nine wickets for just 21 runs. 147-1 had ignominiously subsided to 168 all out. All the character and guts we’d displayed up to that point had vanished. The margin of defeat an innings and 103 runs. Off-spinner Nathan Lyon finished with astonishing figures of 4-5!

On behalf of the team I’d like to apologise for the inexcusable nature of the batting collapse. Take nothing away from the opposition but our display on day three shaded all the progress, fight and never say die attitude that we’d shown on the first two days. Some players will pay with their places. Multiple changes will be made to the playing XI come Sydney!

Australia: Naive or Cunning?

Australia have neglected to select even a part-time wicketkeeping option in their World Cup squad…

http://www.espncricinfo.com/story/_/id/26526151/smith-warner-make-world-cup-return-handscomb-hazlewood-out

Should Alex Carey fall ill or get injured just before the start of a match then Australia will be looking around for a sub-standard stand-in. I think that I’ve seen Aaron Finch keep wicket briefly.

Now they can call up an injury replacement if required. I hope that they’re not going to have one of Paine, Handscomb or Wade, all of whom are in an A squad that’s touring England during the World Cup, at the ground incase. If they do then they shouldn’t be allowed to make a same day change. All teams have been allowed to select a fifteen man squad… not sixteen!

I may be doing Australia a disservice here as I’m preempting actions but I hope it doesn’t happen then their integrity need not be questioned… again!

Cricket Captain 2018: Four Hundreds!

 

A completely random post of an epic batting effort by my team in my Afghanistan career mode on CC18.

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Imran actually finished 69 not out in the first dig only to be run out second time around.

I’ve scored higher team totals as well as having a few players chalk up sizeable double tons during my Afghanistan efforts but even in my England careers over the years, I don’t think that I’ve achieved four centuries in one innings!

Disclaimer: It wasn’t Tim Paine bowling!

Burns, Renshaw & Handscomb: 12-3 – Welcome Back Boys!

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Steven Smith, David Warner & Cameron Bancroft. Please come back. All is forgiven. (Say Australian fans!)

For those of you that have been living in a cave for the past week, I feel obliged to inform you that batsmen Steven Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft have all returned home from Australia’s tour of South Africa.

The good news for Australia fans is that Joe Burns & Matt Renshaw have joined the squad whilst Play Station Portable Handscomb has been promoted from 12th man duties. Unfortunately for Australia’s fans, the trio’s combined contribution to their team’s response to the home side’s first innings total of 488 is… 12-3. Renshaw made an epic 8, Burns a fluent half as many and Pistol Pete kept it simple… quack quack. Shaun Marsh is at the crease having failed to reach fifty in the series. He’s made starts but hasn’t backed up his Ashes tons.

There’s still hope for Australia. They’ve got their new captain Tim Paine to come, he of one century in 100 First Class matches (172 innings!). No Seriously, I like Paine and hope that he goes well.

It was great to see Temba Bavuma in the runs for South Africa though he rather unfortunately got left stranded on 95. This was in part due to Morne Morkel’s anti-climatic follow-up to receiving a guard of honour… quack quack first ball! It does seem a bit weird that the home side have mucked Bavuma about. They brought Theunis de Bruyn into the side again but don’t seem to understand what de Bruyn’s role is and have promptly mucked him around again by dropping him again.

Keep tabs on the fourth Test in Johannesburg by clicking on the link below…

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/10908/commentary/1075985/south-africa-vs-australia-4th-test-australia-tour-of-south-africa-2018

What Now?

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This is not the time for fancy headlines. Where does English cricket go from here?

Alastair Cook and Stuart Broad will surely score runs and take wickets in England for years to come but having been found wanting in Australia and with thoughts of our next trip to Oz, is it time to move on?

Many questioned the selections of England’s ‘newer’ players but it is the likes of Stoneman, Vince, Malan and Overton who whilst not doing brilliantly, have exceeded the performances of senior players such as Cook, Root, Woakes and Moeen not to mention Broad. Anderson has at least taken some wickets.

Regarding Australia’s selections, for a side that was in selectorial chaos just one year ago, their selectors deserve huge credit. The decisions to call-up Cameron Bancroft, Shaun Marsh and Tim Paine have been rewarded. Each player has made a significant contribution on at least one occasion in this series and though there are no guarantees that they’ll back it up, they’ve played their part in Australia’s Ashes success. At 2-0 to the good, it would’ve been easy to have persisted with a winning team but the hosts dropped Peter Handscomb and recalled Mitchell Marsh. Like the aforementioned players, he has contributed significantly. Looking back, none of the players that Australia called up one year ago, Matt Renshaw, Handscomb or Nic Maddinson played in the third Test but Australia were proven right in their selections. Even if Paine etc don’t last, if Oz keep rotating guys that come in and contribute and the team win then they’re doing something right.

Back to England, Steven Finn has suggested that the county grind is to blame for the absence of serious pace bowling options available to England. That’s why I’d bring to attention again my suggestion to restructure the English First Class game. The structure would be as follows:

Three divisions consisting of six teams

Each team plays the five other teams in their group both home and away

A total of ten games per side

Group winners and best 2nd place qualify for semi-finals

Final at Lords

Maximum twelve matches for any one team

Increased importance and more Test like matches

I’ve written before about the fickleness of the England fan, longing for the new but quickly turning against damaged goods. They want Crane but when he’s 0-100 on debut they’ll want Leach. They want Clarke but when he’s out first ball they’ll want Lawrence. They wanted Malan gone and dismissed his progress and potential to do better, then he scored a Test hundred!

I’ve also written before about Mark Wood. Only ever semi-fit and one wicket in two Tests this year, is he really the answer? Well maybe given that the Ashes are gone and the Ozzies might just switch off. David Warner hasn’t been at his best at the top of the order so could be vulnerable but may now just go hell for leather. In regards to our batting, I’d prefer a right-hander to partner Stoneman at the top of the order but it’s Jennings and Gubbins who are playing for the Lions.

How about this XI for the next Test:

Stoneman

Jennings

Vince

Root (Captain)

Malan

Bairstow (Wicketkeeper)

Woakes

Curran

Wood*

Anderson

Crane

*Assuming Craig Overton is unfit.

Moving Woakes up the order might bring out the best in his batting. Might?

How about this one at the start of next summer:

Stoneman

Bell-Drummond/Hameed

Root

Malan

Bairstow

Stokes

Foakes (Wicketkeeper)

Woakes (Captain)

Overton.C

Curran

Leach

This is of course dependent on the performances in the Australia matches. If Keaton Jennings comes in and scores four Ashes hundreds then I’m not suggesting he gets dropped. There’s a good right-hand/left-hand mix in the top six of my above composition. Bairstow above Malan is however an option. James Anderson and Stuart Broad don’t have to necessarily be banished forever and their experience could still be useful in home conditions. England might like to rotate in order to limit injury to the likes of Overton and co. I’d like Liam Livingstone to be there or thereabouts too.

Can English cricket’s phoenix rise from the ashes?

Disclaimer: I rather inconveniently forgot that there’s a post Ashes tour of New Zealand but maybe one opening batsman aside, my team for next summer needn’t be that far off.

Can Tim Take the Paine Away?

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He’s 32-years old, has only one First Class century to his name (More than a decade ago!) and has not been keeping wicket regularly at domestic level in recent times. Meet Australia’s Ashes wicketkeeper ladies and gentlemen!

http://www.espncricinfo.com/australia/content/player/7252.html

I like Tim Paine. He still looks eleven-years-old and didn’t fair that badly during his previous existence as an international career. A horror show of injury misfortune has cost him more caps but he performed effectively behind the stumps when recalled for a T20I series against Sri Lanka earlier this year.

His selection though is truly fascinating. To earn a recall for a series of such magnitude when in possession of a rather underwhelming domestic record, in an era of glovemen must be first and foremost batsmen once again raises questions regarding the depth of Australia’s six-team domestic league. Matthew Wade and Peter Nevill have more handsome domestic batting records but neither have translated that to international level. If the Ozzie selectors think that Paine is the best gloveman then they’re right to pick him, especially if as seems they’re going to select six specialist batsmen. What that means regarding the workload of the home side’s bowling line-up remains to be seen. Like England, Australia’s back-up brigade, the likes of Nathan Coulter-Nile, Pat Cummins and Darren Pattinson’s brother James are pretty fragile!

Paine will turn 33 during the Ashes. We’ve seen many players before him ripen well into their thirties. Though he only has the one First Class hundred (Actually a score of 215) that is in part a consequence of batting down the order, as is having a few not outs combined with a few dismissals when batting with the tail. In List A cricket, where Paine has tended to bat much higher including as an opener, the Tasmanian born stumper has as many as eight hundreds (Including one against England at ODI level) and twice as many fifties. That’s a pretty decent conversion rate.

Come the 2017-18 Ashes series, will Tim wear a pained expression? Will he cause pain for the England bowlers? Will he hit a six through a window pane at the Gabba?

We’ll find out soon…

Cap Closer Than Ever for Klinger!

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Aaron Finch, check.

Moises Henriques, check.

Tim Paine, check.

Jhye Richardson, check.

AJ Tye, check.

Michael Klinger, check.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/australia-v-sri-lanka-2016-17/content/story/1080449.html

That’s just the few names that Silly Point put forward for selection for Australia’s T20I party for the series against Sri Lanka that have indeed made the squad then.

https://sillypointcricketsite.wordpress.com/2017/01/14/follow-the-yellow-brick-road/

I knew I should have listed Ashton Turner as well!

36-year-old run machine Michael Klinger is finally rewarded for his consistent run getting both in Australia and England in recent years. The stars have finally aligned for Klinger, what with the poor scheduling of this series meaning that it clashes with Australia’s Test tour of India, therefore opening a few vacancies in the squad as well as Klinger’s Perth Scorchers winning the Big Bash just a couple of weeks ago, thanks in no small part to Klinger’s quickfire 71 not out in the final. Scorchers coach Justin Langer is also involved with the squad to take on Sri Lanka and there’s no doubt that he will have vociferously campaigned for Klinger’s inclusion.

Though there were tears of joy for Klinger, there probably wasn’t such emotion for either this year’s Big Bash leading run-scorer, Ben Dunk (364 runs @ 52.00), or its leading wicket-taker, Sean Abbott (20 wickets @ 16.15). Abbott’s time will surely come but the proverbial ship has almost certainly long since left the harbour for Dunk, leaving him stranded on 3 T20I caps, won back in 2014. There are no doubt countless examples of why international selection isn’t as simple as picking the leading run-scorer or wicket-taker but with this series coming straight off the back of a Big Bash campaign, a little meritocracy might have been welcome.

There also wasn’t room for Cameron White following his recent criticism of the make-up/selection of the national side.

The three match T20I series commences on 17th February in Melbourne.

Follow the Yellow Brick Road!

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In a sign of the times, Australia’s cricketers have a T20I scheduled into their calendar less than 24 hours before the commencement of a Test match. Said matches will take place on different continents with the three-match T20I series being played in Australia and Australia’a Test side on tour in India.

Australia’s Test squad will be as strong as it can be so there will be opportunities for some unfamiliar faces in the T20I squad. The series will take place not long after the conclusion of the 2016-17 Big Bash so Silly Point thought it was worth having a look at some of the contenders for the vacancies in Australia’s T20I squad.

Please be aware that I’m not naming a squad as such and players like James Faulkner, Travis Head and Chris Lynn are amongst those that I consider almost certainties (Assuming that they don’t get a Test call-up of course). It’s more players that would be coming in out of the international cold that I’m listing here.

Those who’ve played before, whether it be T20I, ODI or Test:

Michael Beer: No I haven’t been drinking! Two Test cap Michael Beer has been consistently economical when opening the bowling in the Big Bash and a call-up would be well merited.

Ben Dunk: Slam funk da Ben Dunk. He bats, he bowls, he keeps wicket. Won three T20I caps in late 2014. Could a recall for versatile Dunk be on the cards?

George Bailey / Aaron Finch: Both only recently jettisoned from the ODI squad but this fixture clash could provide an opportunity for these two to make a swift return to the international fold and possibly for one of them, as captain.

Callum Ferguson / Moises Henriques / Nic Maddinson: All players that’ve failed miserably in the Test arena in recent times but who will be hoping to get chances to redeem themselves in the pyjama plays.

Brad Hogg: With senior members of the bowling unit in India, could a recall for Hogg, who’ll turn 46 before the series begins really happen?

http://www.espncricinfo.com/australia/content/player/5681.html

Tim Paine: A man with an ODI century and Test best 92 to his name, Paine previously couldn’t find consistency at international level (Injuries didn’t help) but has been prolific throughout Big Bash history.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/engvaus2009/engine/match/350048.html

Rob Quiney: Had a bit of a horror show during his brief Test career which included a pair in his second Test though he did bowl ridiculously economically. That Test batting average of 3.00 may well have cost him caps in limited overs cricket but his run-scoring in the current Big Bash demands selection.

http://www.melbournestars.com.au/players/rob-quiney

Cameron White: An unfulfilled talent at international level, White’s chances may depend on how keen Australia are to win or how much they see this as an opportunity to blood youngsters.

A few other names that may come into consideration: Sean Abbott, Fawad Ahmed, Scott Boland, Clint McKay, Marcus Stoinis and AJ Tye.

Those who haven’t played before:

Tom Cooper: Last played for Netherlands in March of last year. Surely wouldn’t say no to a call-up from the country of his birth.

http://www.bigbash.com.au/video#videoId=5278578932001

Michael Klinger: Yes he’s 36 but Australia aren’t opposed to selecting ageing debutantes and if they do select a number of uncapped players, Klinger’s experience albeit at domestic level may count for something.

Ben McDermott: Would be a selection basically based on one innings and he looked rather pot luck early on against spin but who knows?

http://www.espncricinfo.com/australia/engine/match/1023627.html

A few other names that may come into consideration: Ben Dwarshuis, Daniel Hughes, Kurtis Patterson, Jhye Richardson and D’Arcy Short.

http://www.bigbash.com.au/#gender=men