CricketXI – County Championship 2018: Season Review

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At the start of the year I stumbled upon CricketXI, an alternative fantasy cricket competition. This game focused purely on the County Championship (First Class) campaign.

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I selected a team of young guns and as you can see things went really well! It was great to see the likes of Jonny Tattersall, Zak Crawley and Will Jacks develop. Harry Brook, Ben Twohig (Love his name!) and Matthew Carter also made great strides.

Unfortunately Surrey pacer Matt Dunn got injured early in the campaign and disappeared from the professional radar once again. Wicketkeeper Lewis McManus lost his place in the Hampshire First XI. Teammate Asher Hart and Essex spinner Aron Nijjar (Who fooled me by playing in a pre-season university match!) couldn’t get near their respective first XIs. Neither could spinner Sukhjit Singh who was sadly released by Warwickshire at the end of the campaign. Warwickshire clearly have little interest in developing their own young players and much prefer to sign absolutely anybody. While that’s great for players like Will Rhodes and Olly Stone, it’s not for players like Singh and Andy Umeed.

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As well as my outfit of kids, I also selected a more ‘serious’ side but following early season injury, Sam Northeast failed to really get going having relocated from Kent to Hampshire and has fallen way down the England pecking order. Disappointingly, Sussex batsman Luke Wells and Nottinghamshire’s Riki Wessels failed to back-up productive 2017 campaigns.

On the plus side, James Hildreth was amongst the runs as ever, meanwhile Tom Bailey, Ben Sanderson and everybody’s favourite ex-England cricketer Jade Dernbach, contributed with the ball.

Well, there’s always next year!

Century for Steel: Stars, Stripes and Steel!

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I previously wrote an article about Americans that have played First Class cricket…

https://sillypointcricketsite.wordpress.com/2017/04/27/first-class-americans/

Well today one of them, Durham’s Cameron Steel, recorded his maiden First Class century. The likes of Middlesex and Somerset, each of whom had the Stateside born bat in their 2nd XI ranks at one time, might be regretting letting him slip through their nets.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/county-championship-division-2-2017/content/player/633301.html

Steel’s 128 today was pivotal in putting Durham in with a chance of victory in their County Championship Division Two encounter against Northamptonshire at Chester-le-Street.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/county-championship-division-2-2017/engine/match/1068607.html

You may of course wonder about my obsession with the America/Cricket combo. I believe the phrase the ICC use is ‘Untapped market’. Of course USA has been tapped but the water just doesn’t pour. It’s a nation crying out to be a force in international cricket and to have a major domestic scene…

https://sillypointcricketsite.wordpress.com/2016/11/06/stateside-smash/

Back to Steel, he’s played junior cricket Down Under and University Cricket here in England but was born in Cali. He’s helping Durham ease the pain of their points deduction and the loss of senior top order batsmen Mark Stoneman and Scott Borthwick.

A Complete Restructure of Domestic Cricket in England

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Remember that time I completely restructured world cricket?

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

Well I’ve realised that I was just showing off, so I’m stripping it back and today I’m just going to completely restructure domestic cricket in England!

First Class (County Championship, 4-day matches)

Three regional divisions, sorry, conferences, that seems to be the buzzword nowadays. Six teams in each, as follows:

North – Derbyshire, Durham, Lancashire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire

Central – Glamorgan, Gloucestershire, Northamptonshire, Somerset, Worcestershire, Warwickshire

South – Essex, Hampshire, Kent, Middlesex, Surrey, Sussex

Each team plays each other team in their regional conference twice per season, once at home and once away, totalling ten matches. Regardless of whether or not we adopt any alterations to the points system, the top team from each conference after the ten matches qualifies for the semi-finals as does the best second placed team. The semi-finals could either be held at a neutral but geographically equidistant venue or the two highest points scorers of the three top placed teams in each conference could have home advantage. In the semi-finals, the team that qualified as the best second placed team would not be allowed to play the team that topped their conference. The final could then be played at Lords.

Ten guaranteed First Class matches per season with the potential for an eleventh and twelfth, the twelfth being a grandiose final, would provide great value upon each match and the semi-finals and final in particular could really help prepare players for the intensity of Test match cricket. There are enough matches to genuinely separate the strong from the weak and gauge the ability of players when it comes to international selection but not so many matches so as to increase both the risk of wear and tear injuries and mid to late season matches that lack value. In a small country such as England (Compared with Australia or India) though regional conferences are logistically and environmentally advantageous, it may be that simply mixing up the three conferences year to year may be worthwhile if purely for variety’s sake. Breeding rivalries is good but as we’ve seen with the Ashes, the same teams playing each other too regularly can devalue things somewhat.

Okay, I lied. It’s not a complete restructure of domestic cricket in England but merely a restructure of First Class cricket. To be fair, the One-Day Cup is structured… you’ll be stunned, quite logically and probably wouldn’t need to stray too far from its current format, particularly if a newly employed First Class structure did adopt a regionally organised base.

The T20 disorganised chaos however…

… that’s probably another post. City franchises, Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy, Forestry Commission areas, who knows how we could divide English cricket in the shortest format of the game?!

Oh! Don’t forget my plans for university cricket as well…

https://sillypointcricketsite.wordpress.com/2016/12/10/university-challenge/

University Challenge

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Okay, they probably wouldn’t be allowed to call it that but at least you can get an idea where I’m going.

The fact that there are selected universities that have First Class status doesn’t sit well with some people. In a bygone era maybe but now it just doesn’t seem appropriate. When universities take on the counties in pre-season friendlies the match-ups are seen as nothing more than average boosters for the professionals and possibly an opportunity to score a longed for double-century or take a seven or eight-wicket haul.

Cricket is trying to recruit players through inner-city initiatives as well as many other schemes and whilst the game should always strive to distance itself from elitism, that should mean nobody is discriminated against, this includes universities.

Silly Point proposes that rather than selected universities having First Class status, they compete for it. The honour and the prestige should be earned not a given. It’s a simple idea, a knockout tournament for which only the final has First Class status.

Currently six universities have First Class status:

Cambridge

Cardiff

Durham

Leeds/Bradford

Loughborough

Oxford

Based on size let’s throw in Birmingham and Manchester to make eight teams in total though I can’t claim to have researched their cricket facilities or infrastructure. This would provide a straight forward quarter-final, semi-final and final tournament format. Of course ideally the competition should be open to all universities nationwide so could consist of 16, 32, 64, 128 or 256 etc university teams at the first round stage. This would of course put demands on umpires and scorers and crucially ensuring that umpires of integrity are employed at every match. First Class matches do last three or four days so alternatively or run side by side their could be a One-Day or T20 tournament for which the final is provided List A or official T20 status.

Another crucial factor about the latter stages of the tournament and definately the final is that it should be shown on national free-to-air television. Click on a TV set and you might stumble across college basketball or football in USA. In England we get a boat race. Let’s celebrate this tournament and make it a grand day in the annual cricket calendar. A stellar performance in the final could earn someone a county contract or at least a trial or maybe even a short term deal in a global T20 tournament and from there who knows what could be achieved?