NORTH V SOUTH: WHAT WE LEARNT

First of all, an apology from me – my university work load has got the better of me but hopefully I’m back on the horse now for the start of the English summer!

As ODI cricket features heavily in this summer of English cricket, the North v South series was an exciting event showcasing the budding talent (and their is plenty of it) that are hopeful of becoming part of the ever improving England one day side in the near future.

As the South took a 3-0 win for the series, there were points from both sides in regards to international aspirations and highlighted here will be the three most integrating points from both sides.

THE NORTH

  • DUCKETT THE OPENER? 

With England’s current top order currently showing three right handers (Jason Roy, Alex Hales and Joe Root), could the left handed Duckett be back in the England starting XI sooner rather than later?

Recent performances from the three aforementioned batters would suggest not, but an average of 36.33 at a monster of strike rate of 147.29 would have done Duckett no harm, although it would have been nice to see him convert one of these starts into a big score like he managed in the warm up against Worcestershire. 2017 promises to be a big season  for Duckett who shall remain one of the more exciting talents in County Cricket.

  • WOOD’S RETURN 

Mark Wood’s return in this series only yearned two wickets, however with raw pace being such a rarity among England’s current pace line up – Wood’s name is never to far away from the selectors lips when selecting a squad.

Hampered by injury for the last couple years, I would not be surprised to see Wood named in England’s Champions Trophy squad purely due to the x-factor the Durham man can produce which could be vital on the big stage.

  • IS WHITE RIGHT?

Gong at just 4.29 an over across the seventeen overs he bowled in the series – could Graeme White sneak his way into the England One Day squads in the near future?

The South’s Mason Crane will rightly have the headlines for his display in the last match but White displayed an impressive amount of control in his series, similar to the displays which has seen him become a massive part of Northampton’s T20 success.

THE SOUTH

  • MALAN AND DAWSON NEXT IN FOR ENGLAND?

Such have been so many positives for the South in a series they dominated Ihave had to link both Malan and Dawson’s performances together.

Both players have been on England’s radar for a while and whilst Dawson has got the opportunities, both players here cannot be far away from the England squad.

Malan is purely a candidate for the volume of runs he has scored for the Lions and then again in this series meaning that if another injury was to be sustained by any of the England top order, the Welshman would surely be a shoe in to replace them. Subsequently, Dawson is really pushing Moeen Ali for his place in the England ODI and T20 sides and his performance here would have done him no harm.

  • IS SAM NORTHEAST UNDERVALUED?

Probably not is the answer if you take a look at England’s options in the middle order. However, Northeast is a very impressive cricketer scoring 118* in the only innings he played against the North in this series.

2014 was the last season that Northeast averaged over 40 in one day cricket but the Kent captain is only 27 and a strong couple of seasons may well put him in the frame for future tours, especially if he can build on his showing here.

  • WAS TOM CURRAN WORTHY OF HIS WEST INDIES SELECTION?

The senior Curran brother showed no signs of inconsistency on this tour following his selection in to the ODI squad earlier this month for the West Indies tour and produced impressive returns of eight wickets at an average of sixteen at an economy of six runs per over.

The Surrey man rightly sits next in line for the England one day squads and can count himself unfortunate that he did not get a run out in the last game in the Caribbean.  With that said, the way the frustration has been used caused problems for the North and Curran has put himself well and truly in the frame for England selection this summer.

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NORTH V SOUTH: WHAT WE LEARNT

AUSTRALIA WIN IN SUB CONTINENT

India must have been licking their lips when they turned up in Pune on Day 1 knowing that Australia would have to combat a wicket that would produce inconsistent bounce and turn due to it’s dryness but three days later, they are feeling a somewhat different emotion.

 There was no doubt that Steve O’Keefe was the star with the ball for Australia. The thirty-two year old, left arm spinner was allowed to bowl a fuller length by the Indian batsmen who surely could have used their feet more whilst playing him. Instead, they let O’Keefe reap a reward of twelve wickets in the match due to a consistent line and length paired with a decent amount of turn.

It has been a sensational turn around for O’Keefe, who had to leave Australia’s last tour of the sub-continent in Sri Lanka after tearing his right hamstring meaning that this tour is realistically his last chance to stake a claim for a regular spot in this Australian side – especially with leg-spinner, Adam Zampa knocking even harder on the door in recent times.

What was even more impressive about O’Keefe was the work he has put in prior to this series. Instead of turning out for his Big Bash side, the Sydney Sixers – O’Keefe went to refine his red ball skills as well as preserve himself due to his retched recent injury record. Of course, the performance O’Keefe put in this last test is the perfect example of preparation meeting opportunity.

Though O’Keefe may well get all the plaudits, Steve Smith’s second innings hundred should not go unnoticed. Smith is always an impressive individual and his performance in this first test showed him to be one of the best current leaders in International Cricket. Matt Renshaw also impressed in both innings despite carrying a stomach bug through out the test match and things are currently looking positive for the Aussies.

The only thing they need to wary of is a mandatory Virat Kohli double hundred in a test series, and they could well cause an upset in this series.

AUSTRALIA WIN IN SUB CONTINENT

IPL moves are good for English Cricket

It may be stating the obvious, but these IPL deals for the eight English representatives in the Indian Premier League can only be a good thing going forward for English Cricket.

Though Ben Stokes broke records with his £1.7million pay out from Rising Pune Supergiants, it should be noted that this is still a bit of a gamble from the franchise. This is said due to his international T20 record maybe not being as good as it should be for the talents that Stokes possess.

His average of 22.71 scored at a strike rate of 134 is fair enough given his regular position of 5/6 in the England line up but as a bowler, Stokes goes at just over nine an over, striking at 48.50. There is no doubting Stokes’ talents as a box office player but if you take a moneyball approach to your buying technique, then he is simply not a wise buy. With that said, there is no doubting the potential for Stokes to have a good IPL and for this move to be great for English cricket.

Another Englishmen who also hit the headlines in the IPL auction was Tymal Mills. Once Mitchell Starc had withdrawn from the tournament due to injury, it was obvious that Royal Challengers Bangalore would be looking for a left arm quick like Mills who as stated previously here, bowls very quick with clever variations. The £1.2m payout for Mills could well be justified as RCB look to put together a bowling attack that compliments the top four of Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli, Shane Watson and AB de Villiers.

Whilst Mills replaced Starc in a like for like according to RCB, Kolkota Knight Riders did similar by snapping up Chris Woakes as a replacement for Andre Russell. Whilst there is no replacing the Jamaican Russell (who misses the tournament following a failed drugs test), Woakes has proven to have great bowling skills in one day cricket as well as being more than handy with the bat. Behind Stokes, Woakes was the next best replacement KKR could conjure up and this could be a very shrewd signing even though Woakes is currently not in England’s T20 squad.

Jason Roy’s move to Gujarat Lions could also be questioned by fans of the franchise. Whilst there is no doubting Roy’s ability, was there a need for another opener baring in mind that the franchise already have the likes of Aaron Finch, Brendon McCullum and Dwayne Smith in their ranks. On current form, Roy should open the batting with McCullum as he looks to be the best option but their still seems to be little point in the Lions using one of their overseas slots to pick up another opener, though they may be rewarded if Roy continues the recent form he has been showing.

Other moves for Englishmen saw Sunrisers Hyderabad pick up Chris Jordan which makes the franchise a mouthwatering prospect in the death overs as Jordan looks to pair up with former Sussex team mate and Bangladeshi star, Mustafizur Rahman. The Sunrisers have also picked up Afghanistan’s former captain, Mohammed Nabi and eighteen year old legspinner, Rashid Khan and certainly look to be an exciting franchise as they look to defend their crown.

Eoin Morgan, who was released by the Sunrisers, was picked up by Kings XI Punjab and that also looks to be a wise move as Kings XI have got some well needed calmness among their ranks and another batter to support the charismatic duo of Glenn Maxwell and David Miller.

Jos Butler and Sam Billings return to their franchises, Mumbai Indians and Delhi Daredevils respectively and whilst they both shone briefly in IPL 9 – they will look to kick on in their second seasons at their franchises are both have the real potential to do so. Both are fantastic players of spin and in India, that could well work in their favour as they look to establish themselves in the tournament.

So a fascinating auction for all English cricket fans, the IPL looks to be a mouthwatering prospect ahead of a big few months of cricket and with more English players taking part than ever, it can be expected that IPL 10 will be widely followed in the UK.

 

IPL moves are good for English Cricket

du Plessis: One Day gun?

Whilst Virat Kohli racked up another double hundred against Bangladesh, I found it interesting to read a piece on ESPN Cricinfo comparing David Warner and Faf du Plessis.

The piece states that since January 2014, du Plessis has amassed 2621 runs at an average of 58.24 striking the ball at a rate of 90.25. Only his long time friend and team mate, AB de Villiers. Alongside this, he has amassed 2435 of these runs whilst batting at number three in ODI’s ranking second to New Zealand’s Kane Williamson.

It is easy to look past du Plessis’ credentials as a one day batter. Alas, he made his name as a test match blocker, famously batting 466 minutes and 376 balls in order to save a test match against Australia in Adelaide, 2012. What many people fail to see is the all round game du Plessis possess especially in a one day side featuring Quinton de Kock, Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers as well as the lower order prowess of  David Miller.

Yes, it is a fact that in his first 45 innings as an ODI cricketer, du Plessis did not score a 100 and averaged 27.55 but his last 52 innings have certainly proved him has a proper cricketer and he surely deserves to be ranked among the best in the world in the one day arena.

With their batting coming to the fore this close to the Champions Trophy, all the South Africans need to find is the right bowling formula and they could well cause unexpected problems at this summer’s Champions Trophy. It would be no surprise to see du Plessis near the top of the run charts for this tournament.

 

 

du Plessis: One Day gun?

TRIBUTE TO CAPTAIN COOK

Alastair Cook’s England legacy has finished after 57 Test Matches in charge of a nation that has given him some of his hardest moments of his international career.

It started with the reintegration of Kevin Pietersen for an Indian series which he was able to win thanks to outstanding performances from Pietersen and himself along with spinners, Greame Swann and Monty Panesar. Cook was named player of the series after amassing 562 runs across the four match series. It was undoubtedly a  great moment not just in the history of Cook’s captaincy but the history of English cricket.

A side note from the India series was the birth of a star named Joe Root, whilst Root may well be Cook’s successor – it should be noted the players that have come to fruition under Cook’s captaincy. Tasked with rebuilding the side following the disastrous 5-0 loss in Australia, Cook was able to put together a side that was not only competitive in Test Match cricket but was able to transfer over to Eoin Morgan’s ODI and T20 side – his contribution in the fruition of these formats can not go under the radar especially considering his reign gave the likes of Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes and even Root the chance to shine on an international stage.

Of course a highlight for this rejuvenated England side was a 2-1 series win in South Africa which came months after Cook gained redemption by regaining the Ashes on home turf.

It is unlikely that we will see the end of Cook, and he will surely go past every batting record held by any English and maybe Test match batsman now the shackles are off. Cook must take a lot of credit for the rebuilding he has done and has surely left English cricket in a much better place than where he found it.

TRIBUTE TO CAPTAIN COOK

IS INTERNATIONAL CRICKET TOO GUNG HO?

It was interesting to watch the contrast in batting approaches across the international cricket matches on view today.

At one end of the scale we saw England lose eight wickets and score eight runs inside nineteen deliveries too lose the third T20 international by 75 runs. At the other end of the scale we saw Faf du Plessis and David Miller put together a one hundred and seventeen run partnership to propel South Africa from 108-4 too 225-5, which laid the foundation for a total of 307-6.

Although the new brand of one day cricket is to be attacking and exciting at all times and to try and score as many runs as you can whilst taking as little time as possible to get yourself in, the question begs to be asked that has the art of digging in gone away from limited overs cricket?

When an Australia or a New Zealand or even this young, dynamic England side come out all guns blazing and put close to four-hundred on the board in limited overs cricket, it all looks very good for the game. The worrying thing is when it doesn’t come off which has become regular on pitches that should not cause as many problems as they are causing. The application of batting is a lot to be desired across International cricket and to see du Plessis and Miller apply it today was very refreshing.

Of course, there is always a time and a place to play a certain way and no player should ever delve away from their natural game but sometimes it is okay to bide your time in One-Day cricket, and just catch up later. You never know a hundred struck at under a run a ball in a one day innings could still be the innings that wins the game for the team.

IS INTERNATIONAL CRICKET TOO GUNG HO?

Is the County structure too big?

The tradition of County Cricket is arguably one of the most quint and endearing sporting cultures that British sport has too offer but with the influx of many Kolpak players along with an Overseas player – could the route of taking less counties mean that the system produces a better pool of International players for England to chose from?

This post is written on the back of Lancashire signing West Indies legend, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and South African wicketkeeper, Dane Vilas on Kolpak deals. The signing of Chanderpaul is certainly saying something about the quality of cricketer being produced in this country. Chanderpaul is 42 years of age and surely taking the place of a young cricketer coming through, this surely is saying that there is no one deemed good enough in an Lancashire academy that has produced many England internationals to step up and play in the first team this summer.

Alongside this, Vilas must surely be taking the gloves away from young English wicketkeeper, Alex Davies who missed most of 2016 with a knee injury. Maybe, Vilas is a signing of precaution should injury hamper Davies again in 2017.

Saying this, Lancashire are not the only team to be filled with Kolpak signings. Hampshire and Sussex both have made two Kolpak signings apiece this season and there are many expected to join. Though the signings will undoubtedly improve the quality of cricket played by these sides, will English players in the long run suffer by lack of game exposure, we shall wait and see.

With the restructure of the T20 competition in England looking imminent and potentially in place by 2018, we could well see a more cutthroat selection process in T20 cricket within England with just eight franchises expected to be taking part across the country. Could a similar process across all formats of English cricket be in order also?

Is the County structure too big?

THE IMPORTANCE OF WARNER

What a year David Warner has had, the Australian vice captain led the Sunrisers Hyderabad to IPL glory before unleashing a Summer which saw him amass 592 runs in Tests at 53.82 and complete three centuries in seven ODI’s (five in his last ten overall). 

 Warner and his Australian team mates now embark on a tour to India, who are in pretty good form under the leadership of King Kohli after beating England 4-0 in their four match series. There were times where India looked like they were playing a different pitch to England and that is due to the sub-continent conditions being so alien to the English.

Australia themselves don’t have such a hot record in Asia, they have only won one test since they toured Bangladesh in 2006 – which came in Galle in 2011 and most recently they lost 3-0 to a Rangana Herath inspired Sri Lankan side.

Working out a methodology in playing spin will be the make or break for the Australians this series and Warner will be key in developing his own technique against spin, he has not scored an overseas in over two years and if Australia are to win in India – Warner will have to fire.

The importance of Warner is intensified when it is considered the inexperience of this Australian side, only Steve Smith can also claim he has had success in Asia and with Smith and Warner being the only two players in the Australian to have scored centuries in the sub-continent, their contributions will be vital. This is even more so the case when you consider the inexperience of players such as Matt Renshaw and Peter Handscombe in the sub-continent.

Warner will go into the India series in wonderful form and Steve Smith has encouraged him to go big, if Warner does so – Australia may well break the eleven year wait to win a test series in Asia. He undoubtedly has the talent to succeed in Asia, now it’s just a case of doing it.

THE IMPORTANCE OF WARNER

Morgan, Moeen justify their places

It’s crazy really how the constant criticism of Eoin Morgan among cricket fans keeps reoccurring. Morgan picked up a team on their haunches nearly two years ago and got it to a point where it has the belief to go and score 350 twice in India with the bat.

I agree that bowling has been tough this series, but take nothing away from Morgan – he has been sensational for the past two years in leading this side. His 102 from 81 balls in Cuttack for the second ODI against India will quieten the doubters for another series at least but it really shouldn’t. His twelve over stand of 93 with Moeen Ali really rejuvenated England’s chase of 381 in which they fell 15 runs short in the end. It is blatantly obvious to see that England are a better side with Morgan at the helm for the time being.

Moeen himself reiterated his importance to this English One Day side with an aggressive 55 from 43 balls as well as bowling six overs for just 33 runs in an innings where 381 was scored from 50 overs, it was mind boggling how Moeen especially did not bowl more overs as the solitary spinner in the English attack. It is easy to forget that Moeen is a batting all-rounder by trade but the job he has done of taking the burden of spin bowling has been superb in One-Day cricket and only exposed in Asia in Test Match cricket. It would be great if England had another Greame Swann coming through, but they don’t and Moeen does what’s required of him.

Featured in an earlier post, the question was asked about Sam Billings in the England XI. His  chance may have opened with Alex Hales requiring an x-ray on the little finger of his right hand, Billings opened in Bangladesh when Jason Roy went down ill and could well gain an opportunity at the top of the order in the last ODI against India. Billings goes into the game after a 93 against India ‘A’ and widely regarded by some as an excellent player of spin – he should slot right in to this England team.

Meanwhile, Hales suddenly finds himself under pressure to perform. His 171 against Pakistan at Trent Bridge seems a while a go now and with him missing the Bangladesh series and not setting this series alight, could Billings take his place with a strong performance here? As doubtful as that may be, it will be interesting to see whether or not this point is a discussion come the West Indies series in March.

Morgan, Moeen justify their places

King Kane

At a time where the Cricketing world is understandably mesmerised by the talents on Virat Kohli after his stellar year, have the talents of Kane Williamson gone under the radar?

  In 2016, Williamson averaged 47.06 in Test Match Cricket, 41.11 in One Day Internationals and remarkably, 47.87 in T20 Internationals. In contrast to Kohli, Williamson is way below the Indian captain’s 2016 numbers but the question still remains, how is  Williamson so underrated?

I use the word underrated because when the best batsman in the  world are spoken off, people talk about Kohli (with good reason), Steven Smith and Joe Root (also with good reason) but for some reason, Williamson does not gain the recognition deserved – especially outside of New Zealand.

On Monday, Williamson scored 104 from 90 balls to lead New Zealand to a win. He led them to win a game where his side had conceded 595 runs in the first innings and saw a deficit of 56 runs after his own side had batted. A day earlier, Kohli had scored 122 to help his Indian side chase down 350 in an ODI against England. Though both these were admirable feats, Kohli’s sheer superstar status earned him the recognition his effort deserved whilst Williamson’s effort seemed undervalued by everyone anywhere apart from New Zealand.

I guess the point of this post is to just pat Kane Williamson on the back and to say I am a massive fan, I hope he continues Brendan McCullum’s legacy with New Zealand and that he treats the world to more batting masterclasses. World Cricket is blessed with many great batsman at the minute and Williamson is up there with them all.

King Kane

Shakib Al Hasan: Bangladesh’s Greatest

There has never been any doubting the potential goldmine of talent within Bangladeshi cricket, a test playing nation since the year 2000 – this talent has taken it’s time to come to fruition, yet Shakib has always been a consistent factor, replicating the professionalism and talent needed to succeed at the very top of international cricket.

This post is being written in light of Shakib’s recent achievement against New Zealand at the Basin Reserve, Wellington where he has scored the highest score made by a Bangladeshi batsman away from home with his 217 which has come in 276 balls. It was an innings of aggression in attack and defence and showcased a wide variety of stroke-play (many double hundreds do) but in it’s own way it was unique, it had shown the world that the Bangladeshi’s were no longer a push over overseas – they had finally learnt in seventeen years at the highest level of international cricket how to put their preparation into practise.

There is a lot to admire about Shakib, from leading Bangladesh to their first overseas series victory in the West Indies in 2009 right through to his masterful display in Wellington – he has always shown a modesty, a degree of professionalism and has always been an example to his peers and juniors alike. A genuine all-rounder who has won games for his country with both bat and ball – some may say it is easier to be a shining light among weaker individuals but the fact is that the job still has to be done.

It is hard to predict that Shakib’s talent will be matched in the near future, and though at 29 – Bangladesh will be hoping to get a good amount of time out of him, it will be a nightmare to replace a man who has so much influence over the nations cricket team. Though Shakib has not had to carry the burden of someone like Sachin Tendulkar with India, he has still had to carry this Bangladeshi team at times.

So, a tribute to the greatest Bangladeshi to ever play the game thus far – here’s to hoping we are treated to more cricket masterclasses over the next few years.

Shakib Al Hasan: Bangladesh’s Greatest

India v England: Which batters should England go with?

Recently, as painful as it was, I cast my mind back to the shambles that England produced in Australia and New Zealand for the 2015 World Cup. After 2 wins in 6 games, there were multiple heads on the chopping block from the playing and coaching staff to the selectors and the executives of English Cricket.

Now, almost two years into a revolution of the England One-Day set up, led by Eoin Morgan, Trevor Bayliss and Paul Farbrace – they now find themselves with an embarrassment of riches of quality batting options ready to take on the world playing a brand of no fear cricket.

The questions asked now are not as daunting as two years ago when the direction of the side was being decided, yet they are as important in determining how to win games of cricket and as England prepare to face India on their home patch – a positive result could well see them leapfrog one of the better One-Day outfits in the ICC ODI rankings.

The question currently pondered by the England selectors should be that off who should take the field for the ODI’s in India. It was a question that has been on the English selectors mind for a while as some struggled to see how Ben Duckett averaging 41.00 in his first three ODI’s against a tough Bangladesh outfit on home soil didn’t manage to cut the mustard for this tour, especially considering Jonny Bairstow averaged 16.66 for the series although his overall ODI average reads at a decent (with room for improvement) 30.53 across 21 international appearances. Though, now the squad is picked – there is little point in going over what could/should have been.

Within the squad, the burning question now is how do the management get Sam Billings into the line up. There is no doubt that Billings has matured upon the big stage within the last year, a 50 on his IPL debut to go along with a solid 63 on his only outing in Bangladesh in the unfamiliar position of an opener was only backed up by a solid showing for the Sydney Sixers in the Big Bash where he scored 127 runs across 4 innings at an average of 31.75. The beauty of Billings is that he really can bat anywhere you ask him too and along with his versatility, his ability to play spin makes him a sure fire shoe in for this series when you consider the venue and the opposition’s strengths.

It is fun to speculate on line ups and I am glad I don’t have to make the decision on who to drop because the first choice top 6 in this one-day side (Hales, Roy, Root, Morgan, Stokes, Buttler) have all performed in one way or another within recent times and to drop one seems ridiculously harsh. Though, you’d rather have too many options than not enough – that is for sure.

 

India v England: Which batters should England go with?

A case for Rilee

A lot has been made of the current exodus of Kolpak players from South African cricket – the choice of financially stable option of County Cricket is being heavily criticised by many who believe that International Cricket should come first, no matter the cost. The question is, if you were offered more money to move job? Would you move?

The curious case of Rilee Rossouw is one that came in to harsh criticism, especially from the South African head coach, Russell Domingo, who said South Africa had ‘invested a lot of time in him (Rossouw)’ as well as backing him ‘after five noughts’. Domingo also said that Rossouw was on ‘the fringes of the Test team’ though it is easy to see why this was not enough for Rossouw – a man who averages 44.21 in First Class Cricket.

Even more frustrating for Rossouw is the South African quota system as this surely is the main reason he has not made his Test Match debut yet. Temba Bavuma currently averages less than Rossouw in First Class Cricket (37.88) as well as showing inconsistency within the sixteen tests he has played. Perhaps less of a case is JP Duminy, though throughout every failure, always seems to get a redemption. There is no doubt that without the quota system, Rossouw would be playing Test Match cricket.

Then the case of insecurity that Rossouw must feel among the South African one-day set up, not considered for the Ireland match in late September. Rossouw was called up after an injury to AB de Villiers, he then watched as Bavuma (a man averaging considerably less than Rossouw in one day cricket) tallied up a 113 from 123 at the top of the order.

With that all said, Rossouw was kept on for when the Aussies toured and took his opportunity scoring 311 runs across five matches at an average of 77.75. A performance that would surely cement his place you’d think but Rossouw knew that when de Villiers was fit again, de Villiers would understandably play.

Alongside that, the selection of Rossouw for Hashim Amla caused his own captain, Faf du Plessis, to publicly question the decision which surely is not great to hear from Rossouw’s point of view.

So, as Rossouw will get judged and ridiculed for his decision. Maybe, it is just worth standing in his shoes as a professional cricketer unsure of his place within his national side due to mainly political matters and ask yourself if a County Cricket Club came in and offered you, your wife and child financial stability and a quality of life – would you take it?

A case for Rilee