Will England Take the Plungekett?

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England head to the Land of Oz for the Ashes later this year and if past expeditions are anything to go by then the selectors are sure to stock the plane with plenty of pace bowling options. James Anderson and Stuart Broad will go, as of course will Chris Woakes and Ben Stokes.

But who else?

Jake Ball, Steven Finn and Toby Roland-Jones are contenders as are the Curran brothers, Tom and Sam. Mark Wood is surely one that the England selectors will be keen on and Mark Footitt is an outside bet. He’s erratic but he does take wickets (As I’ve banged on about (Campaigned) in previous articles!). A name that doesn’t seem to come up often when it comes to Test squad discussions is Liam Plunkett. Remember that the England selectors won’t be looking or needing players that have to stay fit for five Tests. The back up pacers will slot in for a Test or two at a time in order to rest senior members of the attack and to catch the hosts by surprise. But for Afghanistan’s teenage spin sensation Rashid Khan’s seven-fer against West Indies yesterday, Yorkshire’s Plunkett was the leading ODI wicket taker in the last year. He actually did well when he returned to the Test side in 2014 before incurring injury. England have the opportunity and possibly the necessity to view alternative options in this summer’s home Test series’ against both South Africa and West Indies. With injury concerns present regarding both Anderson and Woakes then surely it’s worth England having a look at the likes of Plunkett and Footitt in the red (Or pink) ball arena.

Here’s my squad come England’s first Test of the summer with Plunkett and Footitt providing cover if Woakes and Anderson aren’t fit:

Alastair Cook

Keaton Jennings

Joe Root (Captain)

Gary Ballance

Moeen Ali

Ben Stokes

Jonny Bairstow (Wicketkeeper)

Adil Rashid

Chris Woakes / Liam Plunkett

Stuart Broad

James Anderson / Mark Footitt

Here are the players to add to the squad come the Ashes:

Haseeb Hameed

Jos Buttler (Reserve Wicketkeeper)

Liam Dawson

Mark Wood

Hameed’s domestic form, an equation of three into two for the opening slots, Ballance’s demanding of a recall, Moeen’s desire and merit to bat at five and Rashid’s time to lead the spin bowling attack equates to Hameed missing out at the start of the summer but making the tour. I’m happy with Root captaining the side from three ala Australia’s Steven Smith as Ballance has been so productive at four this year at Headingley. Lancashire’s Liam Livingstone could also come into the equation but that would balloon the party to eighteen. LL was England Lions standout performer last winter and presumably the back-up brigade will be waiting in the wings if England need to call for reinforcements. Of course Dawson and Buttler will already provide genuine batting cover. Dawson bats at five for Hampshire and Buttler will be in the squad as second choice gloveman.

Regarding spin, Mason Crane could return to Oz after playing First Class cricket there last winter but needs to really set the word alight in the County Championship from this point on. Alternatively England could turn to Somerset’s Jack Leach but you get the impression that the selectors aren’t convinced and that Dawson will do seen as it’s Australia not Asia.

Of course if Jennings averages 15.00 against SA, Broad breaks down injured playing for Nottinghamshire and Rashid goes at 6.00 an over against WI then the Ashes squad could have a completely different complexion to the one presented above.

You’ll have to excuse me. The article headline suggested that it would be all about Liam Plunkett but has descended into a general England squad predictor/requestor. I definitely think that Plunkett and Footitt would be great weapons in England’s attack for three to five Tests each in our next three series.

We’ll see what happens…

Don Bradman Cricket 17: Jersey Creamed!

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Gary Ballance (123, foreground) compiled a 146-run stand with debutant Ben Foakes (62, background) to propel England to an encouraging first innings total of 367.

Following our Greek tragedy in Corfu, we headed to yet more exotic isles, this time Jersey shores. Unfortunately the home side milked our bowling ’til the cows came home and we went down by nine wickets. It was the familiar fable of building up our hopes only to have them knocked back down again. We posted a very respectable 367 in our first innings, courtesy in the main to an epic 146-run partnership between Gary Ballance (123) and debutant Ben Foakes (62). The recalled Toby Roland-Jones came next in the scoring charts with 43. Eight of our wickets fell to spin.

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Debutant stumper Ben Foakes made scores of 62 and 44, claimed three catches and effected a run out.

We then had the home side in peril at 155-6 but somehow they went on to total 445. Sam Curran (3-99) bowled exceptionally well whilst Liam Plunkett (3-108) and Roland-Jones (2-75) plugged away. Despite Moeen Ali taking a wicket in his first over, the last ball before lunch, our spinners again disappointed. Foakes dropped a regulation chance early on but responded by claiming two catches, one each off pace and spin, as well as performing a clever run out. Captain Joe Root held four catches.

In our second innings we simply fell apart. Once again batsmen got starts but only the impressive debutant Foakes really looked comfortable. He made 44, Root 33 and Haseeb Hameed 22… for the second time in the match. Sadly the next highest score wasn’t 11!

Jersey were left requiring 91 to win and we presented our spinners with the opportunity to save their Test careers as the match headed into a fourth day. Adil Rashid did at least snap up a wicket (Another catch for Foakes) and Liam Dawson was economical but the Test careers of both of them as well as Moeen and batsman Ben Duckett (20 & 15) now hang by a thread.

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It is with great shame that I find myself once again defending the efforts of our players when the performance as a whole simply wasn’t good enough for this level. In truth, we should have selected an extra pace bowling option at the expense of either a spinner or the extra batsman we had at number six. Wholesale changes will be made come our next outing. We can’t go on like this!

Toby Rolls In!

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I’ll admit that TRJ’s latest call-up to the England squad on the eve of the third ODI against South Africa had passed me by, so I was pleasantly surprised to see a thoroughly deserving county stalwart’s name on the scorecard when I got home from work yesterday. It eased the pain of the scorecard as a whole.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/1031429.html

Toby Roland-Jones made England’s Test squad last summer but not the XI. He performed admirably with bat and ball for the Lions in the winter and has been a consistent performer on the domestic circuit for a number of years. He played a huge part in Middlesex’s final day County Championship title clinch last season and possibly the fact that Middlesex haven’t played a match this week and that the third ODI was at his domestic home ground of Lords probably helped he and Steven Finn make the squad. England had niggles to the likes of Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes and Moeen Ali and clearly decided not to take any risks with their other fit but injury prone first choice pacers. Liam Plunkett and Mark Wood were rested. Liam Dawson, perennial 12th man was also added to the squad but not surprisingly provided the greenness of the pitch, he again failed to take the XI. Jake Ball responded to his figures of 0-81 in the second ODI by claiming two wickets at Lords and back to Roland-Jones, he came out swinging (Not slogging!) to hit a run-a-ball 37 not out on debut after England had been 22-6 inside five overs! TRJ also took his and England’s first wicket. Hashim Amla is not a bad maiden international victim. It says bowled in the scorebook and mentions nothing about playing on!

Credit the ECB that have some good pieces on their website. It won’t let me post links to the specific video pages but only the main page. Have a look at the post match interview with TRJ and the match highlights that are a decent nearly six minutes long and available soon after the match conclusion, providing the frustrated fan with some action in an era of no bat ‘n’ ball on free to air television. Hopefully that’s about to change!

https://www.ecb.co.uk

Ahead of the Ashes this winter, England seem likely to experiment with their squad come the ODIs against West Indies later this summer and will probably rotate their seamers before taking plenty of them Down Under. Roland-Jones could yet don the full England kit again soon.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/370535.html

Don Bradman Cricket 17: England v Namibia Test Match

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After our battering at the hands of the Scots north of the border, we were grateful to return to home comforts when we entertained Namibia in Arundel. Tom Curran and Jack Leach were dropped from the XI, with Jake Ball recalled to the side and Toby Roland-Jones handed a Test debut.

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Toby Roland-Jones snapped up his first Test victim.

Such was the unrelenting quality performed by the opening bowlers, Roland-Jones had to wait until after lunch for his opportunity but soon claimed his first Test wicket. In truth however, it was his Middlesex colleague Steven Finn (5-34), man of the match against the Scots, who really shone, ably supported by the returning Jake Ball (3-24).

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Aneurin Donald (16), was unlucky to be given out LBW in the first over of the final session.

After restricting the visitors to just 110 in their first innings, for the second match in a row Kent opener Daniel Bell-Drummond held things together before being run out for 46. Stumper Jonny Bairstow (35) and fellow Yorkie, captain Joe Root (30), both innings consisting of just twenty deliveries, complimented DBD to lift us to a slightly underwhelming 173 all out but a vital lead of 53.

Jake Ball (4-31) led the way as we made early breakthroughs in Namibia’s second innings. Hampshire spinner Mason Crane (2-36) struck in the first over of the day and was a constant threat whilst debutant Toby Roland-Jones (2-45) looked like taking a wicket at any point before eventually doing so, claiming two more victims on Test debut. Namibia recovered well from 67-5 but Keith Barker (11-5-31-0) built pressure with his economical and consistent line before Steven Finn (2-42) removed both the African side’s top scorers, Bagel (69) and wicketkeeper Gardiner (32). After they were gone, Namibia collapsed from 176-6 to 189 all out. The number of maidens that we bowled was a vast improvement on past efforts as was our catching, only letting ourselves down on a couple of occasions late in the piece. Credit must also go to skipper Joe Root, his bowling changes or even non changes and tactics as a whole, were outstanding.

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Sam Northeast (55 not out) recorded a maiden Test fifty and in doing so, led his country to victory.

Ben Duckett (0) and Aneurin Donald (5) were amongst those soon back in the hut as we slipped to 59-4 in pursuit of 127 for victory. Despite strong performances in the field, their Test futures now hang by the finest of threads. The fact that it may be fair to stick with a winning side will possibly, possibly save them. The likes of Liam Livingstone (12th man in this match), Alastair Cook, Nick Compton and Scott Borthwick to name a few, wait in the wings should we opt to make changes. Number three Sam Northeast showed how it should be done, as he put on a fifty partnership with Warwickshire’s Keith Barker (28) to alleviate any fears of an England slip-up. Barker was needlessly run out before Jonny Bairstow (8 not out) clobbered the winning runs. It was Kent batsman Northeast’s composure though, in striking a maiden Test fifty (55 not out) in only his second Test match to lead the side to victory, that can provide an example beacon to others in England’s batting line-up.

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A five-wicket win was a welcome response to the Scottish episode. Though some places in the team are still up for grabs, many players have really placed two hands on their position in our strongest XI.

Living the Dream!

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Liam Livingstone hit the headlines in early 2015 when he struck 350 off 128 deliveries in a club match…

http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/sport/cricket/liam-livingstone-world-record-350-9078151

Then he hit the headlines again later that year when he got glassed in a fight…

http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/sport/cricket/lancashires-liam-livingstone-lucky-injuries-9875869

A few weeks later he didn’t hit the headlines when he was dismissed first ball in the T20 Blast final…

http://www.espncricinfo.com/natwest-t20-blast-2015/engine/current/match/804711.htmlhttp://www.espncricinfo.com/natwest-t20-blast-2015/engine/current/match/804711.html

He hadn’t exactly hit the ground running in the shortest format of the game and still averages below 20 but he didn’t half hit the ground running in the County Championship last year. Though his season tailed off slightly, he still finished with in excess of 800 runs at an average of just over 50. Having played a lot of club and second XI cricket and in an era where many players make their professional breakthrough whilst in their teens, I was hesitant to the idea of Livingstone being rushed into the England set-up too soon. The structure of the England Lions however provides great opportunity for he and others to acquire more experience and develop. Oh and how he’s developed! In England Lions current match against a decent Sri Lanka A outfit, LL has made scores of 105 and 140 not out…

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/cricket/scorecard/ECKO41600

His First Class batting average has now soared to 54.52 and recalling England’s batting horror show in India, it’s encouraging to see a batsman prospering in the sub-continent. England head to Oz next winter for the Ashes but even if Livingstone doesn’t make the breakthrough to the full national side soon, it could be that he’s saved for the next time England head to spinning terrain.

Last term, even if he wasn’t making runs, his name was all over the scorecards as he claimed catch after catch (31 in 17 FC outings to date) and his leg-spin bowling has some potential.

Elsewhere for England Lions, Toby Roland-Jones has led the line and contributed with the bat whilst the Curran brothers (Tom and Sam) have continued to enhance their reputation. It’s been a bleak winter for Jack Leach however. The Somerset man has struggled with the required adjustments to his action and was left out of the Lions side because of those struggles. Upon his return, his first innings figures of 18-1-97-1 don’t make for pleasant reading. The winter has not been so bleak for the consistently penetrative Ollie Rayner however. The German turner has surely usurped Leach in the England spin queue.

It’s been good to see that the Lions set-up hasn’t just been for the kids and that seasoned county players such as Roland-Jones and Middlesex colleague Rayner have been presented with the opportunity to press their case for international selection. If they did so, they wouldn’t be the first players to have successful international careers having only entered the stage around the age of thirty mark… Mike Hussey, Chris Rogers, Adam Voges and Misbah-ul-Haq amongst them.

Update: Jack Leach immediately responded to my bleak assessment of his winter by claiming figures of 2-3 as England Lions nearly pulled off a marvellous heist in Dambulla. Stumper Ben Foakes also claimed ten dismissals (8c / 2s) and contributed scores of 30 and 54 in this match.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/1080255.html

Irish Lifeline for Duckett, Finn and Vince!

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Here at Silly Point we previously informed followers how England are due to host Ireland for two ODIs later this year.

https://sillypointcricketsite.wordpress.com/2016/11/28/eire-exposure/

Now admittedly there are some ODIs against both India and West Indies beforehand as well as the North v South series that provides those selected with a great opportunity to put forward their case for selection but with the suggestion being that England are willing to allow some players to play in the IPL rather than the Irish ODIs we thought that we’d identify some of the candidates that could make up the numbers for England.

Eoin Morgan is expected to be told that he must captan the side having already skipped the Bangladesh tour and having gained plenty of IPL experience previously. Sam Billings, Jos Buttler, Alex Hales, Jason Roy and Ben Stokes are all expected to be snapped up by franchises, if not already, come the IPL.

With Hales and Roy putting themselves up for auction, a recall for Ben Duckett is surely in the pipeline. Despite his struggles in Tests, Duckett was unlucky to be dropped from England’s ODI squad after two half-centuries in three outings in Bangladesh. The Ireland matches are a fantastic opportunity to reintegrate Duckett. England haven’t completely given up on James Vince who has played in the Big Bash this winter either, whilst the likes of Dawid Malan and Liam Livingstone, both part-time spin bowlers, could also be considered.

On the pace bowling front, both Curran brothers, right-arm Tom and left-arm Sam will surely come into consideration whilst the absence of senior players may also provide Steven Finn with an opportunity to reignite his international career after a difficult winter. Like Duckett he was dropped for the limited overs matches in India. Another bowling option could be Toby Roland-Jones who made the Test squad in the summer.

If any of Moeen Ali, Adil Rashid or Liam Dawson head to the IPL then Zafar Ansari, like Finn, could be provided with an opportunity to put a tough winter behind him. In this format of the game Ollie Rayner may be preferred to Jack Leach though Mason Crane could also come into consideration.

England’s squad could look something like this:

Eoin Morgan (C), Moeen Ali, Jake Ball, Jonny Bairstow (W), Liam Dawson, Ben Duckett, Steven Finn, Dawid Malan, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Toby Roland-Jones, Joe Root, James Vince, David Willey, Chris Woakes

P’Tang Yang Kipperbang!

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I struck the ball in the dark, off the bowling of Mitchell Starc.

I hit the ball over the rope, evading the dive of Shai Hope.

I deflected the ball with an edge so fine, off the bowling of Dale Steyn.

I glanced the ball for four, evading the gloves of PJ Moor.

I played a shot that was just stellar, out of the reach of Niroshan Dickwella.

I stole a run like a thief, off the bowling of Steve O’Keefe.

I belted the ball out of the ground, off the bowling of Toby Roland-Jones, such a sweet shot oh what a sound, all the way to The Road of Bones.

I searched the internet for batting tips, so looked at the faq, flicked the ball off my hips, past the outstretched Misbah-ul-Haq.

I defended the ball then ran a single, straight past my partner no time to mingle.

I ran three at Adelaide, off the bowling of Tony Dodemaide.

I avoided a bouncer from Brett Lee, on a sunday morning at the SCG.

I pulverised the bowling at the WACA, off the ball came the lacquer.

I scored a double century at Perth, took me a week or two to come back to Earth.

My stumps were shattered, oh what a pain, clean bowled all that mattered, bloody Mark Alleyne!

Used to watch Serie A on Channel 4, lots of goals by Beppe Signori, went to New Zealand on tour, got clean bowled by Daniel Vettori.

I punched the ball with lots of power, off the bowling of Grant Flower.

I swatted the ball with a bang, off the bowling of Bryan Strang.

I bowled the ball, it was a ripper, did for the off-stump of Trevor Gripper.

Running in week after week, ever so dependable was Heath Streak.

A crocodile under the bed, it wasn’t so little, eight foot long they said, guest of Guy Whittall.

The batsman was far too ponderous, nicked one behind at The Wanderers.

Batting at Scarborough, put the ball in the sea, Ian Salisbury’s leg-spin, no mystery to me.

Woke from my slumber, when I received a beamer from Carl Mumba.

You need a wicket, if you want to play cricket!

Finnished?

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In the post Duckett Dropped!…

https://sillypointcricketsite.wordpress.com/2016/12/05/duckett-dropped/

… Silly Point touched upon the notion that Steven Finn’s time as an international cricketer may be up. Having played one wicketless (And runless) Test in Bangladesh the Middlesex man hasn’t graced the turf in India and was omitted from both the ODI and T20I squads for when England return to India after opening their presents and feasting on some turkey.

It almost seems hard to believe that Finn has thirty-six Test matches under his belt complete with 125 wickets at an average of 30.40. He’s currently stranded on 98 ODI wickets at an average of 28.96 and hasn’t disgraced himself in T20Is either. However it’s all seemed a bit of a struggle in recent times and it’s as though the England selectors keep providing him with one more chance to rediscover the Steven Finn that first arrived on the international scene way back in 2010.

His omission from the limited overs squads did seem to spell the end for the Watford Wall but maybe there’s hope yet. Andrew Strauss’ radical North v South idea (Okay, it’s not that radical, he nicked it from New Zealand and actually they did it in England years ago!) allowed a computer to pick some players but the England selectors have found a place for Finn in the, to quote Moby, Southside…

http://www.espncricinfo.com/england/content/story/1073030.html

… With Jake Ball seemingly the heir apparent to James Anderson, life in the old dog Broad (Despite recent injuries), the ECB’s evident desperation to get Mark Wood fit and the likes of the Curran Brothers (No they didn’t sing Let Your Love Flow, that was the Bellamy Brothers!) and Finn’s county colleague Toby Roland-Jones also in the selectors thoughts, twenty-seven-year-old Finn will need a confident showing and ultimately a wicket taking one in the three one-day games to be played in Dubai in March. A poor showing however and Steven Finn may become, despite his lack of Scandinavian heritage, Steven Finnished!