LOCAL ICONS DONE – WHAT NEXT IN THE DRAFT?

So that’s the Local Icons picked up in the 100 ball draft. Now it’s on to the arguably the most exciting part which will see teams look to assemble their squad from a pool of local and international talent. What will be interesting to see if franchises follow their own personal needs or if they follow the big names. Here we will go through what the franchises already have, what they may need and who they should go for.

Birmingham Pheonix

Local Icons: Chris Woakes, Moeen Ali and Pat Brown

The Pheonix’s Local Icon selectors seemed pretty obvious from the get-go and does set them up nicely for the draft. In signing Chris Woakes and Pat Brown, they have two very good death bowlers as well as the advantage of Woakes with the new ball as well.

The selection of Moeen was a no brainer, an off-spinning, top order batting allrounder who may well be a shoe in for the captaincy just seemed to tick so many boxes for the Pheonix and they wasted no time in selecting him.

From looking at the Local Icon picks – you would guess that a top-order batter and wicket keeper would be the next two priorities on the hierarchy of the Pheonix. With Moeen having the capability to bat anywhere in the top 5 – it also gives the Pheonix freedom to go after who they see fit as the draft unfolds.

One man that is surely on their radar is Quinton de Kock. The South African wicket keeper would tick both the top-order batter and wicket keeper role and is coming off a pretty good year in T20 which saw him win the IPL whilst scoring 529 runs in the process, making him the 3rd top run scorer in the tournament.

One sticking point with de Kock is that he would cost the highest bracket which is a base price of £125,000. A cheaper alternative may be Nicolas Pooran (£60,000 base) or Alex Carey (£40,000 base) although with both excelling on English shores this summer – those prices may rise.

Pooran’s strike rate across the three matches he played in the Blast was 187.7 and his career strike rate is 143.8. Whilst he has had a quiet CPL thus far, bar a match winning 54* from 35 against the Trinbago Knight Riders – it should be noted that thus far, the top four of his franchise, Guyana Amazon Warriors, have all passed 200 runs which has seen Pooran bat just 7 times in the tournament. Carey had a solid stint in England in which he scored 264 runs whilst striking at 152.6. The Australian brings some versatility to any side he plays for – he opens for the Adelaide Strikers in the BBL, batted 4 for Sussex and has been used as a finisher by Australia.

Should the Pheonix look to stay English in their hunt for a top order batter/wicket keeper, they shouldn’t look much further than Alex Davies of Lancashire. Since 2017, Davies has 841 runs in the Blast where he has often deputised for Jos Buttler. This has seen him top the run scoring charts for his club in the past two seasons and could be a real bargain.

Another candidate for the Pheonix may be Sam Billings who has scored 807 runs at a strike rate of 145.7 since 2017 – though with injury hampering him through much of the 2019 season, the unfortunate timing may deter the Pheonix.

Western Fire

Local Icons: Jonny Bairstow, Tom Banton and Colin Ingram

With their local icon picks, Western Fire seemed to pick their top order in Bairstow, Banton and Ingram and managed to sort out their wicket-keeper in the process. The priority of the draft will surely be to go and get a bowler in the form of express pace or wrist spin.

With the short straight boundaries at Cardiff, which will be the Fire’s home ground – the emphasis will surely be on prioritising a rapid, seam bowler. At the top of the tree would be Mitchell Starc and Kasigo Rabada who would both come in at a minimum base price of £125,000.

The ideal of Starc is a brilliant one in terms of building a successful limited overs bowling attack but the actual reality of Starc could be a real squeaky bum moment for the franchise in the build up to the 100. That is purely because of the fitness concerns that have surrounded Starc for the last 18 months to 2 years which has seen the player’s workload managed extensively by either the player’s management or Cricket Australia (he actually hasn’t played a T20 since November 2018).

With that said, in his latest exploit in England saw him really showcase his talent. His 27 wickets in the World Cup saw him finish as the top wicket taker of the tournament. In 10 innings, he took 4 or more wickets on four occasions. His ability is not in question, Starc can swing a white ball, bowl rockets and take wickets.

Rabada was no where near as impressive at Starc at the World Cup (11 wickets at 36.09), but he did have a wonderful IPL. The South African’s 25 wickets in the IPL saw him as the most effective seamer in the tournament where he struck every 11 balls and surely this would hold him in good stead for the 100.

Keeping on the topic of impressive World Cups should keep Lockie Ferguson in the discussion for the Fire. I actually have no idea if Ferguson has even entered the draft – I have googled and I cannot find a list of any of the other overseas players who have entered under the £100,000 bracket unless Cricinfo have put it in their listings.

Ferguson took 21 wickets in the World Cup and he could be a cheaper alternative to both Starc and Rabada. This will also be helped by a lackluster IPL where he only took 2 wickets across the 17 overs he bowled in the tournament whilst going at over 10 an over.

The Fire should not be deterred from Ferguson who had personal success in the Blast through the 2018 season. The New Zealander took 10 wickets at 13.7 whilst maintaining an economy rate of 6.66.

These overseas options really have express pace and whilst Mark Wood and Olly Stone may be suitable options – however with the left arm factor proving key in T20, the Fire may take a gamble on Tymal Mills of Sussex.

I think the obvious risk with Mills would be his fitness and that has shown with injuries restricting his availability through out career – he has appeared for Sussex 20 times out of a possible 43 matches however there is no doubting the X factor that he can bring to any side with the ball.

With the concerns about his fitness, I think it should be taken into consideration that Mills has bowled more deliveries (405) in the last 3 years than the other obvious 90 mph+ options, Mark Wood (76) and Olly Stone (317). Both Wood and Stone have missed parts of the domestic summer with injury and it feels that some franchises may have to take the rough with the smooth in terms of picking up the very quick bowlers.

In the last three years, what really stands out is that there is a genuine fear of not just Mills’ pace but also his variations which are as effective. He has maintained a run rate of 6.58 between 2017 and 2019 whilst taking 19 wickets at 21.31 which shows if he is on the park, he can be a real asset.

Northern Superchargers

Local Icons: Ben Stokes, Adil Rashid and David Willey

I won’t lie, I had no idea how the original Local Icons was going to work and when it seemed that the Superchargers would have to pick between Stokes and Bairstow, you couldn’t help but feel sorry for the hierarchy who had to make that decision.

Stokes is an absolute no brainer, especially given the summer he has had and the talent he possesses but you can’t help but feel that Bairstow will be a loss considering his evolution in the white ball formats in the last 18 month –  2 year period.

In picking Rashid and Willey as their next two icons – the Superchargers have addressed the wrist spin and the left arm options in their franchise. Willey is a double threat as well when you consider his batting. Here, people will rubbish that point and look at his Blast record in 2019 (136 runs at an average of 15.11) but if the overall picture is observed, the Superchargers have picked up someone who has racked up 968 runs whilst striking at 149.8 in the last 3 seasons.

However, with Willey proving himself as more than capable to bat in the top 3 in the tournament – I still feel that the Superchargers will look to prioritise a real quality top order batter.

There is an embarrassment of options when it comes to this position, both David Warner and Steve Smith will come in at a minimum £125,000 base price. Aaron Finch and Kane Williamson will be in the next bracket of £100,000 and both players have a former association with Yorkshire which may see another move for either player.

Finch will surely be a man in demand for this 100 ball draft purely based on his bullying of domestic bowlers within the Blast across the last 3 seasons. He has smashed 1476 runs whilst striking at 173.4 in the last 3 seasons. It isn’t just in England that he dominates, his career average is 35.48 across 261 innings and these numbers will see teams queuing up to secure his services.

Kane Williamson also has an association with Yorkshire which could extend to the Superchargers. The New Zealander may also bring leadership qualities to the side which would be an added bonus as he showed at the World Cup where he ended as his side’s top run scorer (578 @ 82.57) whilst leading his troops.

His IPL was hampered by the sensational form of Jonny Bairstow and David Warner at his franchise, Sunrisers Hydrabad though 2018 saw him end as the tournament’s top run scorer with 735 runs. Williamson also had a good Blast tournament in 2018 which saw him amass 280 runs at an average of 40.00 in 10 innings.

The Local Option that the Superchargers may be looking at could be Dawid Malan. The former Middlesex captain is linked with a potential move to Yorkshire and this could well double up as a pick up for the Superchargers as well.

The London Spirit’s decision not to pick him up also raised questions when they decided to pick up Essex’s Dan Lawrence instead.

Malan’s 490 runs saw him finish as the third top run scorer in the Blast and recalled to the English T20 squad for the tour of New Zealand. The timing off his form could not have come at a better time given the fact that he had only played 12 domestic Blast matches in 2017 and 18 combined. The franchises can also look to his relatively short England career where thus far he averages 50.00 in 5 matches, showing a great amount of potential. His class is obvious and he will be another sought out player in this draft purely because there is no fear of the unknown when it comes to whether he will score runs or not.

London Spirit

Local Icons: Rory Burns, Eoin Morgan and Dan Lawrence

In their Local Icon picks, the Spirit seemed to amass 3 players who can all specialise in batting four or five in T20 cricket.

In T20, Rory Burns has 1 fifty in 38 innings which would suggest that his England Test central contract earned him a place on the London Spirit roster instead of his actual T20 ability. Dan Lawrence’s strike rate of 152.0 across the last 3 seasons puts him in a better position than Burns despite it still being a surprise that he was selected over the likes of Dawid Malan or Ravi Bopara.

Eoin Morgan’s skill set speaks for itself but his status as the English white ball revolutionist brings valuable experience to the Spirit.

What should be the next priority for this team is getting a bowler to suit their home conditions at Lords, especially in using the slope to their advantage with swing/seam bowling.

Trent Boult may well be the man they look too, the New Zealander is a key exponent of swing which may be vital in English conditions. His ability in England was shown in the World Cup in which he took 17 wickets on New Zealand’s route to the final.

The argument against Boult would be his lack of T20 exposure in the last 18 months. Apart from the IPL, it is hard to recall when Boult has played a real meaningful game of T20 cricket. He last played for New Zealand in February 2018 which probably shows that his nation have chosen a different route for now.

How the 100 works for Boult could be vital not just for the franchise he represents, but as he claws his way back into his nations T20 side. He has the big game mentality as shown at the World Cup – he just needs the platform and conditions to expose his skillset.

If Boult doesn’t appeal and an English option does, then the Spirit may look at different options such as David Payne and Chris Wood but one name that stands out is Reece Topley.

Topley took 17 wickets in 10 innings for Sussex last season after a sensational return following a back injury lay off and he could well be what the Spirit need if they are looking for a left arm swing bowler. He averaged 17.94 and struck at 12.8.

Out of his 17 wickets in 2019, Topley took 8 in the PowerPlay and 9 among the last 3 overs (17-20) which proves his ability in different stages of the innings. Should he be able to maintain his fitness, there is no doubt that Topley is a quality prospect for the 100 ball draft.

Oval Invincibles

Local Icons: Sam Curran, Tom Curran and Jason Roy

Kent have been totally bypasses in the Oval Invincibles’ Local Icon picks as all three play their cricket for Surrey.

In picking Jason Roy and Tom Curran, they Invincibles have bought in key players in key positions and in picking up Sam Curran – there is an effective all rounder who has improved a huge amount with the bat in the last 12 months,

What the Invincibles should now look for is a spinner in order to balance out their bowling attack. The best options in terms of overseas spinners would surely be either bringing Imran Tahir back to the Oval like he was in 2019 or to go out and get Afghanistan captain, Rashid Khan.

Tahir has taken 52 wickets for various sides across the last 3 seasons of Blast cricket which proves his prowess in England but he has also shown himself to be so valuable anywhere he goes which was shown as he finished top wicket taker in the IPL with 26 wickets.

The South African has also shown his versatility, especially in the PowerPlay throughout the IPL, World Cup and Blast. This is highlighted by the fact he only bowled 36 balls in the PowerPlay of Blast games between 2017 and 18 but in 2019, he bowled 85 balls.  At 40 years of age, Tahir is still evolving his game and could be a major asset on familiar territory in the Blast.

A potential cheaper option who has been doing a similar role to Tahir in the Blast is Max Waller. The role that Waller has been doing for Somerset has been bowling in the PowerPlay and then filling in the middle overs and he has been doing a strong job of it.

The only spinners that have taken more wickets than Waller’s 48 in the last 3 years of the Blast are Matt Parkinson, of Manchester Originals and Tahir, himself.

In the process of this time period, Waller has conceded his runs at 7.07 per over which may be vital in terms of building pressure within the new format. It seems a long shot to bring Waller to the Oval from the West Country but it may be a really shrewd move should the opportunity present itself.

Manchester Originals

Local Icons: Jos Buttler, Matt Parkinson and Saqib Mahmood

The Originals covered alot of bases in their local icons by picking up a world class keeper batter, a wrist spinner and a quick bowler.

Jos Buttler can bat anywhere from at the top of the order right until the back end of the innings as a finisher which will give the Old Trafford based side real versatility when it comes to the draft, although the obvious option for using Buttler would be for him to bat at the top of the order.

What this will leave is a position in the middle order to fill and with Lancashire being the sole contributor to this side, it may mean a return for Glenn Maxwell who was the Roses second top run scorer in the 2019 Blast with 305 runs.

But with Maxwell coming in at a base price of £100,000, the Originals may take it up a notch and look to secure the services of the Australian hero of the summer, Steve Smith.

There is no doubting the ability that Smith can compile runs, he averages 30.11 in his T20 career and had a good IPL in terms of run getting where he scored 319 runs at 39.87 (the highest average in his Rajastan Royals side).

Where the issue potentially lies is with his strike rates, Smith strikes at 124.2 throughout his career and in the IPL he struck at 116.0. In contrast, Maxwell struck in the Blast this year at 151.0 which matches his career average at 154.4. Furthermore, in the last five overs of the 2019 Blast – Maxwell struck at 193.3 – something that may prove to be key in a shortened format of cricket.

If the Originals go for Smith, they have secured a batter who can take the 3 or 4 spot in the order. If Maxwell is their choice, they fill in number 5 and 6 in their order. The finisher is a really important role within the short formats of the game and the English options look really interesting for this spot as well.

Ross Whiteley, Lewis Gregory and Ryan Higgins could all be options for this role, but with the slow deck at Old Trafford – I couldn’t help but think that Ravi Bopara could be the man with his late hitting and tricky bowling.

Throughout the 2019 Blast, Bopara proved himself to be a real match winner on a slow pitch in the final and a move to Old Trafford could prove to be a very good move for both the player and the franchise.

Bopara managed to score 291 runs from mainly batting at number 6 and struck at 164.4, all during the 2019 Blast. 260 of these runs were scored from over 14-20 which showed his ability as a finisher, in this time he scored his runs at a strike rate of 187.1.

All this is before you look at his bowling, which returned 12 wickets in 36.2 overs whilst going at 7.02 runs per over. It would be safe to say Bopara has peaked at the right time, especially given his performance in the final of the Blast which was pivotal to getting his team over the line – an experience which may prove valuable to the Originals in the 100.

Trent Rockets

Local Icons: Joe Root, Alex Hales and Harry Gurney

With their Icon picks the Trent Rockets certainly sorted out 2 of their top 3 for the 100 with Hales and Root providing World Class options at the top of the order.

I could even see this pair being an opening partnership with Root playing an anchor role through the innings and Hales blasting it from ball one – however, it will be interesting to see if Root is reverted to his more common role at number 3.

In picking up Gurney, the Rockets also pick up a bowler who managed to pick up 18 from 27 wickets at the death in the 2019 Blast – further cementing his status as one of the best death bowlers in worldwide franchise competition following impressive stints in the Big Bash and IPL then most recently the CPL (he averaged 15.11 and kept an economy of 5.91 in the tournament).

The Rockets may look for a spinner to enhance their bowling attack and with Gurney being a great option in the last 5 overs, there may be an onus on bringing in a bowler that can bowl earlier in the innings which may open the door for Sunil Narine.

In recent times, Narine seemed to have been found out but still managed to take 10 wickets in the IPL at an average of 34.70 – this was concluded after his economy was 7.82. However, with this said – in the CPL he has taken 7 wickets at 20.42 and an economy of 5.95.

Narine comes in at an £100,000 base price, but a cheaper option could be Mujeeb ur Rahman. Since he made his Blast debute, Mujeeb has taken 19 wickets whilst going at an economy rate of 6.02. He has bowled 44% of his deliveries in this period in the PowerPlay and could be a genuine option with the new ball.

Should the emphasis here be on getting a spinner who can bowl in any period of the game, the Rockets may look at their own Nottinghamshire based spinner and bring in Matt Carter who had a strong Blast campaign, especially at the start of the innings.

Carter averaged 19.50 with the ball and went at an economy of 6.15 in the PowerPlay. He took a total of 14 wickets in the tournament and was key in their route to the final. His knowledge of Trent Bridge and how to bowl there may be the deciding factor in bringing him into the set up.

However, the Coach of the Rockets, Stephen Fleming, does like experience and there would be the option of picking up Danny Briggs who is the top wicket taker of all time in the Blast.

Briggs is able to bowl across the innings and his ability to build pressure way well be a valuable skill in the 100 – he didn’t match his standards in 2019 but was vital in Sussex’s route to Finals Day in 2018 which saw him take 20 wickets and concede his runs at a rate of 6.91.

Southern Brave

Local Icons: Jofra Archer, James Vince and Chris Jordan

I think that the selection of Jofra Archer was an absolute no brainer for the Southern Brave and the additions of James Vince and Chris Jordan mean that the Brave have solid, experienced domestic T20 cricketers in their ranks which can surely act as a strength as they progress in the tournament.

As I said in the last blog post, the Brave had access to two handy middle order all rounders in Liam Dawson and David Wiese but now there is the option to go a bit more expansive and take a really strong middle order batter.

Depending on the needs, the Brave would be wise to look at either Mohammed Nabi or Andre Russell to fill this role. Russell is a world class option in franchise cricket and proved this with his IPL form where he tended to score late runs at a quick rate. Overall in the tournament, he scored 510 runs whilst striking at 204.8 which is incredible and ideal for the hundred format.

Whilst Russell brings a seam bowling all rounder option, Nabi brings a spin bowling all rounder option. He was able to strike at 153.1 in the Blast for Kent this year and although his strike rate doesn’t reach the height of Russell – his bowling could be vital on a low scoring deck which it has historically been at the Ageas Bowl. Nabi has taken 19 wickets in the last 2 years of the Blast whilst maintaining an economy of 6.95 and will be a real asset with the ball.

Of course, in terms of local options – I am going to bang the Liam Dawson drum again, his batting numbers are not unbelievable having struck at 116.9 in the last 3 seasons of the Blast. However from over 17-20 in this period, he hasn’t struck under 145.8 in any of these four overs making him a very good candidate as a finisher. His left arm spin is also very useful which has seen him take 36 wickets in the last 3 seasons whilst going at 6.89 per over.

Seam bowling options could be David Wiese and Ryan Higgins but someone who really did get injured at the wrong time is Benny Howell and I genuinely feel he will be a shrewd pick if teams want a bowling allrounder. A career bowling average of 19.20 and economy of 6.89 is sensational given that he’s taken the field in 98 innings. If franchises remember about Howell – he could really be a strong signing for someone and in this case, a golden decision for the Brave.

My Picks

Again, I’ll say the picks I think align with these sides Local Icons – obviously the draft is a long process but I think that it becomes vital that these franchises go out and fill these roles with the best possible option. I will chose an overseas option and a local option but obviously, they could always go for both…

Birmingham Pheonix: de Kock (overseas option) or Davies (local option)

Western Fire: Starc (overseas option) or Mills (local option)

Northern Superchargers: Finch (overseas option) or Malan (local option)

London Spirit: Boult (overseas option) or Topley (local option)

Oval Invincibles: Tahir (overseas option) or Waller (local option)

Manchester Thunder: Maxwell (overseas option) or Bopara (local option)

Trent Rockets: Narine (overseas option) or Carter (local option)

Southern Brave: Russell (overseas option) or Dawson (local option)

Special mention: Benny Howell, Sam Billings, Mark Wood, Lewis Gregory, Ryan Higgins

Advertisements
LOCAL ICONS DONE – WHAT NEXT IN THE DRAFT?

WHICH ‘LOCAL ICONS’ SHOULD TEAMS LOOK FOR IN THE HUNDRED DRAFT?

With the 100 draft fast approaching, teams will not only be looking to make a decision on which players to take as ‘local icons’ but also on which strategy to use in the draft. Here is a look at the decisions that teams may take in making up the core of their team.

Birmingham Pheonix

With Chris Woakes seemingly the obvious option as a first icon pick, Andrew McDonald and his backroom staff will surely be looking over to Worcestershire to make his next two choices for their local icons.

Moeen Ali scored 365 runs whilst striking at 173.8 across the Blast this season which must be taken into account in this reduced (by 20 balls) format. His bowling is obviously an asset as well, his economy of 6.81 in the Blast this year could be vital in building pressure – especially when taken into consideration that his balls could be bowled in a set of 10.

Then there is the obvious talent which is Pat Brown. Now, take the brilliance of Brown’s last two seasons in the Blast aside and see the marketing potential of this local icon. The criticism of the 100 by fans is that they cannot connect with their ‘local’ team – the 21 year old Brown could be a permanent fixture of this Birmingham Pheonix side in years to come thus creating the connection with the franchise across time.

I haven’t even touched on his stats across the last 2 seasons either, Brown has taken 57 wickets in near 110 overs. This has resulted in an call up to the national T20 side on the tour to NZ – that tour could really put Brown on the map, not just for the 100 but also the other franchise tournaments around the world. Which gives the added bonus that Birmingham could be rewarded further with a more experienced bowler come the start of the 100.

Western Fire

With Glamorgan, Gloucestershire and Somerset making up the Cardiff based, Western Fire. The first thing to note is that there are no England Test Central Contracted players associated with these three counties.

It had been romatacised that Jos Buttler could make a sensational return to Somerset at the end of the season, but these were quashed when the England wicket keeper signed a new deal with Lancashire who also confirmed that he would represent the Manchester Originals.

What this does is open up the possibility of signing a player who may be in a club with multiple options as their English player – the most exciting option here could be taking one of Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root or Ben Stokes from the Northern Supercharges who are made out of Yorkshire and Durham.

The choice of who is taken from the central contract pool could well depend on who is chosen as a local icon player. Tom Banton seems the obvious choice and it may be the same reasoning as for Pat Brown initially where there is a potential to really market a strong, young English talent who can create a relationship with the new fan base of the franchise.

Banton’s numbers in the Blast this year have been incredible whilst he struck 549 runs at a strike rate of 162.9. His keeping is also a bonus and fills an ever evolving role in the shorter formats of the game.

The last icon place is a real toss up but whilst the players available may have small reputations – there are strong options there.

Position 5 or 6 (or the finisher) in the order could be vital in the 100 especially with momentum being vital. Western Fire have two players currently in their reach who have proven that they can fill this role. Ryan Higgins would be the best option purely due to his ability to finish an innings, since 2016 he particularly excels in the 17th (SR: 183.3), 19th (SR: 216.2) and 20th (SR: 220.7) overs.

Northern Supercharges

This could well be the easiest/hardest franchise to choose from, purely because there are so many strong local talents available. As mentioned previously, they would have Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root and Ben Stokes to chose as their central contracted players. There is also the options of Mark Wood, David Willey, Adil Rashid to name a few.

The obvious option would be to take Bairstow and Stokes as the first two local icon players. Bairstow averaged 55.62 in the last edition of the IPL which topped of a strong 18 months in white ball cricket for the wicket-keeper batsman. I don’t think Stokes needs any introduction however his T20 numbers are not groundbreaking as he averages 15.46 with the bat and 32.51 with the ball, whilst going at 8.48 per over. The conundrum with Stokes is that if the Superchargers choose not to take him, then it may well come back to bite them.

Joe Root’s T20 reputation has seemed to have dipped in the last 12 months which seemed to come to ahead with an underwhelming performance in the Big Bash where he amassed 93 runs in 7 innings at an average of 15.50. You cannot fault his class, and he has done performed well on the big occasion – his 83 from 44 balls against South Africa in the 2016 T20 World Cup comes to mind but with Bairstow and Stokes available =  it may be the franchises’ best interest to look at a bowling option.

That bowling option could go down one of two routes. On one hand, there is the raw pace of Mark Wood. Where Wood may have a problem is that he has not made any notable T20 appearances in the last 12 months. He has bowled just 76 balls in the Blast since 2018 but in that time, he has gone at 5.67 runs per over.

The second route is the mystery of Adil Rashid. The leg=spinner seems to be gold-dust in the 100 and there is no doubting Rashid’s quality but like Wood, he hasn’t really been exposed to the biggest stages of T20 cricket in the last year which may go against him. He has taken 20 wickets in the Blast since 2018, at a strike rate of 17.5 and going at 7.19 runs an over. It could really prove to be a toss up for the Superchargers to who they feel they can get in the draft.

London Spirit

Another team who do not seem to have any players in the central contract pool. London Spirit could well make some interesting coups when they go to pick their local icons.

Eoin Morgan is surely a done deal, the England white ball captain has a solid summer since lifting the World Cup by scoring 341 runs in the Blast whilst striking at 169.7. His leadership will also be something that could be seen as valuable and of course, the draw of his marketing power could be vital in Londoners choosing the Spirit over the other London Franchise, the Oval Invincibles.

As mentioned in the last two teams, the Northern Superchargers have an embarrassment of riches which could see Ben Stokes omitted and picked up by one of his IPL mentors, Shane Warne – the Head Coach of the spirit.

The challenger to Stokes’ moving over to the Spirit could be Ravi Bopara. On the back of a sensational performance in the Blast final, the former England international could have timed his run perfectly to get himself into the frame for the 100. Bopara doesn’t strike below 174.1 in the last 5 overs of domestic T20 since 2016 which could be a major asset. His bowling as well is vital, having played a key role in the middle and at the death for Essex in recent seasons.

The last icon place may go to Dawid Malan – the third top run scorer of the Blast would seemingly be a no-brainer but it could be seen that top order batters are so popular in the limited format, that it may be worth cementing other positions in the team. Malan’s 490 runs should not go unnoticed in this draft and in gaining him, Middlesex will get a player who knows their home venue inside out and comes with a wealth of experience.

Oval Invincibles

Whilst Surrey and Kent have a pool of solid T20 players – their recent Blast campaigns could really have the Oval Invincibles second guessing themselves when it comes to the draft.

Sam Curran will surely be the pick from the central contract pool. Curran showed some promise in this years IPL without setting the tournament alight. The main points taken from the IPL was a tournament batting strike rate of 172.7 and a bowling strike rate of 19.8.

The second drawing factor of Curran is something I have banged on about in this blog and it is the fact that he will draw a connection to the franchise for the next 10 years of this tournament. He has endeared himself to fans at every level he has played at and the 100 should be no different in front of his home Oval audience.

The next two icon players should be obvious, the first being Jason Roy. Roy strikes at 167.1 since 2016 and adds a wealth of white ball experience – since January 2018, his game seems to have taken on a different level and it was justified by the turnaround by England at the World Cup when Roy recovered from injury.

The Invincibles are also blessed with two wonderful wicket-keepers and the importance of good glovework comes to mind when thinking about Wayne Parnell v Ben Duckett in the first semi final of the Blast this year – that is what makes a case for Ben Foakes. A batting average of 9.00 in this years Blast would not have helped his case and in the modern day, the Invincibles may well be looking for more from their keeper.

This may open the door for Sam Billings. despite missing the most of this years Blast with injury. Billings brings a wealth of experience of various T20 leagues and it may be felt that this is the platform needed to get the best out of the Kent captain.

Manchester Originals

For marketing reasons, it may be said that James Anderson will become an icon player for the Manchester Originals but not actually take up a roster spot for the 100. It is hard to imagine that Anderson will represent another team but it is also hard to imagine that he will be deemed a leading option in the 100.

This will leave Jos Buttler to become the main pick from the pool of central contracted players. Buttler’s reputation proceeds him every year – and the Manchester Originals will surely learn from the 2018 T20 Finals Day when they batted him at 4 and send him in at the top of the order for the tournament.

Whilst Buttler is a no brainer, the other two icons are not so much. For me, it is a toss up between a top order batter (Liam Livingstone), a quick seam bowler (Saqib Mahmood) and a tricky leg-spinner (Matt Parkinson).

At Old Trafford, Parkinson has to be a no brainer – the pitch is a bunsen burner and the Lancashire spinner has been sensational with 47 wickets in the last two seasons. Although he has an England call up this winter, the 100 could really put Parkinson on the international scene and genuinely may open so many franchise doors for the man who was desperately unlucky to miss last years Big Bash with injury.

A year ago, even at the start of the season, Livingstone was a shoe in for the Originals in the 100. A brilliant strike rate of 190.4 in 2018 saw him get a call up to the IPL and seemed perfect to earn him a gig in the 100. However his strike rate has dipped to 136.5 in 2019 which may be put down to an injury picked up. As I’ve previously mentioned, the Originals may see that they can easily pick up a top order batter as opposed to other dimensions of their squad.

The other dimension of their squad could be to pick up raw pace. I’ve mentioned Saqib Mahmood but Richard Gleeson may also be an option. Mahmood would be purely picked on potential – he has 8 wickets in the last two seasons of the Blast and hasn’t always made it into the Lancashire team. Gleeson has 19 wickets and an economy 6.93 which should put him ahead of Mahmood who goes at 8.57 per over. It is a situation where Mahmood’s reputation and potential could get him over the line against the seemingly stronger numbers of Gleeson. Both should be considered due to their pace.

Trent Rockets

I will literally be repeating myself and say, Stuart Broad may be used like Jimmy Anderson for the Manchester Originals – however, I feel Broad is more likely to play than Anderson and it wouldn’t be shocking to see Broad turn out for the Rockets in the 100.

Derbyshire and Leicestershire make up the rest of the franchise and although the later may find it struggle to present any playing options. Derbyshire making the Blast Finals Day did throw the cat among the pigeons in terms of selection.

Alex Hales is surely going to be the first local icon picked up by the franchise and he wasn’t far from the top of the tree in this years Blast with 418 runs whilst striking at 142.2. Hales is a global gun and he will be seem as one of the best top order batters avaliable, meaning that he should be a sure pick for the Trent Rockets.

I think the seam bowling spot could be a real toss up but only depending on the Kolpak rules. Harry Gurney is the standout option for the Rockets with his left arm seam and the change ups he offers. Gurney has 48 wickets in the last 2 seasons and has been a major part of Nottinghamshire’s recent white ball success.

However, Ravi Rampaul could really make a case, especially given that he has the top wicket taker in the Blast this year. His got 26 wickets this season and has 41 across 2018 and 2019 – the Trinidadian has really been the man for Derby which does create the unlikely argument that he could be selected.

The last option is anyone’s guess but I would like to make a case for an unlikely option in Wayne Madsen. The Derbyshire batter has scored 464 runs this season and has been a consistent performer for years – you could make cases for Joe Clarke, Ben Duckett, Matt Critchley etc but if you want to consistent performer, you would be looking at Madsen to add balance to a batting line up.

Southern Brave

I don’t think that it will be any wonder who the Southern Brave pick up. They have the hottest cricketing property in the world at their disposal and I will bet my imaginary mortgage that they will pick him up. His name? Jofra Archer.

Archer has 41 domestic wickets since 2017, seeing that he only played 2 games in 2019 – that is pretty good going. The experience he has in the pressure moments will make him an unbelievable addition alongside his electric pace and the theater that brings.

Alongside Archer, it will be interesting to see who the Brave pick up because they certainly aren’t short of T20 experience. As I’ve noted with both Ryan Higgins and Ravi Bopara in this blog, I think the finisher is such a hard position in T20 cricket and the Brave have two very good finishers at their disposal.

On one hand, there is Liam Dawson. Dawson’s numbers are not unbelievable having struck at 116.9 in the last 3 seasons of the Blast. However from over 17-20 in this period, he hasn’t struck under 145.8 in any of these four overs making him a very good candidate as a finisher. His left arm spin is also very useful which has seen him take 36 wickets in the last 3 seasons whilst going at 6.89 per over.

The direct competition would seem to be David Wiese, although I am not sure what happens with Kolpak registered players. Wiese has 530 runs whilst striking at 137.7 in the last 3 seasons, this is impressive seeing that he has managed to move himself from 7 up to 5 in the batting order in this time frame. His bowling is not as handy as Dawson but he has still picked up 21 wickets in the last 3 seasons from the role as a ‘spare bowler’ however his economy in this time period is 8.63.

The last icon pick for the Brave is anyone’s guess. Whilst Chris Jordan is an obvious choice with his experience, would the pick up of Archer mean that Jordan is overlooked. Jordan’s 41 wickets in the last 3 seasons also puts him up there with the highest wicket taker in this time frame and his obvious death skills could make him a very strong candidate alongside his fielding credentials. His main competition would seem to be Tymal Mills or Reece Topley, however their fitness concerns which have been experienced by both Sussex and Hampshire may work against them.

The other option could be to go for a batter but I have said through out this blog that teams will feel they can pick up gun top order batters which may mean bad news for the likes of James Vince, Luke Wright and Phil Salt despite their strong performances across the last 3 seasons.

My Picks

I’m gonna stick my neck on the line and try and predict who will go where in terms of icon picks:

Birmingham Pheonix: Woakes, Moeen, Brown

Western Fire: Root, Banton, Higgins

Northern Supercharges: Bairstow, Stokes, Rashid

London Spirit: Morgan, Malan, Bopara

Oval Invincibles: S. Curran, Roy, Billings

Manchester Originals: Buttler, Parkinson, Mahmood

Trent Rockets: Hales, Gurney, Madsen

Southern Brave: Archer, Dawson, Jordan

WHICH ‘LOCAL ICONS’ SHOULD TEAMS LOOK FOR IN THE HUNDRED DRAFT?

WHAT MORE CAN ENGLAND DO IN ONE DAY CRICKET?

So I’ve not posted since the 23rd May, since then England got blown away by Pakistan at Lords. Then they managed to paper over the cracks with a swift come back victory at Headingly. Worst of all for me – they then managed to lose to Scotland in an ODI in Edinburgh

For those that don’t know me, my girlfriend is Scottish and hates cricket but all of a sudden she now loves cricket following the weekend’s antics. Just last week I suggested doing some cricket activities when we next go to visit her family which were brushed of at the time. Now it’s apparently a really good idea to go and see what Scottish cricket is all about…

Enough about that though, what I want to talk about is this fantastic England one day side. I think the reason they entertain so many cricket lovers around the world is you really do not know who is going to turn up for England when the coloured clothing is on. Take last year’s Champions Trophy as an example, they coasted past Bangladesh, New Zealand and Australia – only to be rolled over for 211 by a Pakistan team who no one gave a prayer too.

I think the more experienced and hardened cricket fans can understand that it can happen. Christ, it happened at the weekend against Scotland – one result doesn’t determine the quality of this England team but of course, there are points to improve.

For me, I believe the strength in depth is not as great as we are told. With no Ben Stokes or Jos Buttler at the weekend, IPL champion and Kent captain – Sam Billings was handed his 14th cap. Billings is seen as the next option in the middle order yet in 11 innings he averages 23.63 striking at 92.85. Compare it to his career numbers where he strikes at 106.98 and averages 40.42 and this is where the question marks occur about why certain players cannot bring their domestic form into the international arena.

Billings is the only tried example because such is the lack of middle order talent within the county game at the moment, it does not seem that their is much in the bank for England should Buttler or Stokes go down again. Liam Dawson is potentially next in line due to his presence around the England squad in the last few years especially when taking his bowling into consideration but it is doubtful that he would be trusted to fill in at 5/6 with the likeliness being that Moeen Ali is moved up and Dawson slots in behind.

One man who probably deserves a chance in one format is Ben Foakes of Surrey. In the last three years within the domestic One Day cup, Foakes has averaged 55.80 (2018), 96.40 (2017) and 47.14 (2016). He has been vital to a Surrey side that reached 3 finals in a row before this year and with Billings being used as Buttler’s understudy with the gloves as well – it is perfect for Foakes to come in and take up the role that Billings’ has failed to make his own.

This is not the only issue within the England side. The similarity within their attack is now a worry. Against Scotland, England fielded three seamers in David Willey, Mark Wood and Liam Plunkett. Again, there is not much variation left in the county game with every ‘expert’ crying out for more pace. The Scotland game showed how vital Ben Stokes is because with four seamers and two spinners, England look a totally different beast compared to when the option of the fourth seamer is taken away.

Why can’t we just replace Stokes with Sam Curran like we did in the Test side some may say. Probably because S. Curran only averages 21.48 in List A cricket compared to Stokes who averages 35.16. More is needed from the younger Curran with the bat before he can be considered a like for like replacement for Stokes. I don’t really like to discuss the problem with Stokes missing because I don’t believe there is a solution, without Stokes you are forced to play an extra batsman which means if one of your five bowlers gets smashed around – you cannot take him off and he has to bowl his allotted amount of overs.

The talk of Sussex’s Jofra Archer being in England’s World Cup squad for next summer has been quashed by Eoin Morgan and rightly so.  Archer would only replace one of the seamers in the line up and as I’ve said through out this blog, what England need is options out there. Of course, they beat Australia in Australia without Stokes and all is not lost without him. I just believe he is the most vital cog in this England team going into the final year before the World Cup.

In conclusion, what England need to do is to gain more depth for position within their middle order and ensure they can fit six bowling options into their one-day side (or wrap Ben Stokes in cotton wool until the World Cup).

WHAT MORE CAN ENGLAND DO IN ONE DAY CRICKET?

WILL BESS BE A SUCCESS?

A poet and I didn’t know it. Dom Bess will make his England test debut against Pakistan amid positive comments from his Somerset team mates and the media about his Test Selection. 

Ironically, Bess makes his international debut against the same side he made his original First Class debut against in Pakistan. Within the game, the Somerset spinner bowled 30 overs for 128 runs, going wicketless in the process. Since then, he has teamed up with Jack Leach at Somerset and has caused havoc to batting line ups visiting Taunton. His career statistics highlight this with Bess picking up his 63 first class wickets at a cost of 22.49.

Whilst Bess is technically replacing his Somerset team mate, Jack Leach in the England line-up, he actually has the chance to become the long term heir to Moeen Ali within the England test side. Following a difficult winter, Moeen was dropped for the last test match and replaced by Leach, who in turn is injured resulting in the chance for Bess.

There is every chance that if Bess can impress this week, that he will get a long run. Moeen is a veteran of 50 tests despite averaging 40.66 with the ball and despite a new selector being appointed in Ed Smith, this match will surely not be the only Test match played by Bess.

So I guess the answer to the blog question is that Bess will be given every chance to be success and previous England spinners have been given a long run of games to establish their places. As always, it depends on the player’s mentality whether he succeeds or not but England will be hoping Bess is effective during this home Summer, just in time for the tour of Sri Lanka in November.

WILL BESS BE A SUCCESS?

ONE DAY CUP: WHO TO LOOK OUT FOR

I guess the Kolpak 2 parter will be put on the back-burner for a few weeks (mainly as I’ve forgotten what the second part is) but also because the start of domestic 50 over competition is upon us and I would like to preview some players who are expected to perform strongly this campaign… 

Obviously, I could sit here and say; ‘A strong performance here could really propel these individual’s England World Cup prospects’, but with the World Cup a year away – I am fairly sure the team at the moment picks itself bar any big injuries.

What I will say is that a strong performance from these players could really enhance their team’s chances in the competition and these players are potential game changes in the county game. So here we go…

JAMES VINCE

Fresh from his England Test Squad snub and a double hundred, Vince will have the bit between his teeth to do well in this competition.

The Hampshire captain scored 463 runs at an average of 77.00 last season but what was most impressive was his 178 from 138 balls in a losing cause against Glamorgan. If he can link with Hashim Amla and Rilee Rossouw, then Hampshire surely have a wonderful chance of going far in the competition.

Vince is also fresh of a double hundred in the County Championship and if that isn’t form to be feared, then I’m not sure what is.

SAM HAIN

Hain is Warwickshire’s best white ball batter and by averaging 57.26 in 29 List A games, he also possess the statistics to back it up.

Hain’s life has saw him born in Hong Kong but bought up in Australia where he represented the U19 side as a sixteen year old. Now aged 22, the Warwickshire man has now pledged himself to England and it won’t be long before he breaks into the national team.

Bears’ Director of Cricket, Ashley Giles has already branded Hain’s stats to be in the ‘world class bracket’ so it’s obvious to see why that if Warwickshire are going to be successful in the One-Day cup this year, they need their Aussie turned Englishman to fire.

BEN SLATER

Whilst Slater is not as much of a glamorous name on the County Cricket circuit as most other players, his importance to Derbyshire in One-Day cricket is neglected a lot of the time.

Slater scored 312 runs at an average of 52.00 last season, constructing three 50’s along the way, and the challenge now for the 26 year old is to start converting his 50s into 100s which seem to be so vital within the 50 over game.

Last season’s statistics were no fluke as Slater averages 51.35 from 20 List A innings, however his strike rate of 81.13 is something that also needs to improve if he is to push on in his career.

With that said, if Slater can convert his starts at a quick rate – Derbyshire could well be the dark horses within this years competition.

SAM CURRAN

Whilst big brother Tom has been representing Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL, Sam Curran has suddenly hit his straps for this season after securing his first career 10 wicket haul in his last County Championship game against a Yorkshire side containing Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow.

Curran was the top wicket taker (20) in last season’s competition and whilst the Oval is well known for it’s batting advantages, wicket takers like Curran are vital to a Surrey side who have lost the last three finals in the One-Day cup.

Curran’s white ball exploits have already been recognised by England after he earned a call up to the T20 tri-series against Australia and New Zealand at the start of the year. Many feel that it won’t be the last time he has  the opportunity to pull on an England shirt.

CHRIS LIDDLE

Whilst all the attention within Gloucestershire’s One-Day team focuses on the all-rounders such as Benny Howell and Kieran Noema-Barnett, it would be naive to not mention the left-arm seam of Chris Liddle as to being vital to any One-Day success that Gloucestershire may have this season.

The Middleborough born Liddle took 18 wickets in just six matches last season, averaging 15.11 and at age 34, the former Sussex man is a wily bowler with plenty of variations.

Out of contract at the end of the season,  another strong campaign will surely see Liddle’s stock rise at the end of the season. Especially within the era of white ball only contracts…

AZEEM RAFIQ

Shelved by many due to the reputation of Adil Rashid, it is easy to miss the importance of Azeem Rafiq to any success that Yorkshire may have within this competition.

The Bradford born off-spinner took 18 wickets in the One-Day cup last summer at an average of 22.26 but what was most impressive is that he took a wicket almost every four overs that he bowled.

Wickets are vital in one day cricket and Rafiq has the ability to really capitalise upon a partnership with Adil Rashid that has been developing at Headingly for years in this format of the game.

ONE DAY CUP: WHO TO LOOK OUT FOR

The Kolpak Effect: Part 1 (Effect on South African Cricket post 2019 World Cup).

We are fully underway in the English County Championship and with Morne Morkel confirmed as the latest Kolpak signing on the county circuit, South African fans have a right to be twitchy about what the future holds for their national team. 

This post may be hypocritical to some as I posted last year saying how good a Kolpak move is for a South African cricketer but that doesn’t take away from some of the issues that it creates for other parties, especially the South African national team.

Though Morkel was the marque Kolpak signing of the winter, Heino Kuhn also joined Kent in the off-season. He joined Kyle Abbott, Dane Vilas, Stiaan van Zyl, David Wiese and Rilee Roussouw (there is more) in becoming Kolpak which meant turning their back on the South African side. Whilst Morkel’s decision comes surely as a financial decision (he averaged 19.60 with the ball in his last series v Australia), the numerous names on there come from a backlash of a ‘quota’ being installed to have a minimum of four coloured players

This is where now we are entering into dangerous territory so I’ll tread lightly, but for one minute, let’s follow Kyle Abbott’s career. Abbott averages 22.71 in Test Matches, 30.91 in ODIs and 22.96 in T20 internationals. It came to a head in the 2015 World Cup when Abbott was averaging 14.44, had 9 wickets from 4 innings and was a dead cert to play in the semi-final, right? Wrong! Vernon Philander recovered from injury and was selected in Abbott’s place, a coloured player replaced a white player to fill the ‘quota’, South Africa went on to lose their semi final to New Zealand by 4 wickets and from that day, Abbott turned his back on South African cricket in very quick time.

Of course, the rules for Kolpak Cricketers are now much stricter. It is part of  a deal called the Cotonou Agreement with the EU where by South Africa are involved. The crux will be when Britain leaves the EU, however this is not a politics blog and I don’t have great knowledge on the matter.

Moving on, it should also be known that this post is not for slating coloured players and Vernon Philander, it is a post to slate the logic behind not picking your best team and losing them to a system which benefits them more. A system that makes them look much weaker than they should be.

I say that whilst fast forwarding to after the 2019 World Cup where the ageing nucleus of Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis will all look to move on, Dale Steyn also is not getting any younger and with injuries plighting his career – there is a cloud over his overall fitness. Of course, there are positives in Aiden Markram and Quinton de Kock carrying the batting with Kasigo Rabada and Lungi Ngidi holding up the bowling but four players don’t win you matches and it is a worry for South African fan every where to see where this team goes after that 2019 World Cup.

So South Africa, by all means worship your Temba Bavuma’s, Aiden Markram’s and Kasigo Rabada’s but please don’t forget about your Henrich Klaasen’s or your Duane Olivier’s because if you do, they will go somewhere that they will be remembered for a long time…

 

The Kolpak Effect: Part 1 (Effect on South African Cricket post 2019 World Cup).

MS Dhoni: Chennai Super King

My man, Shaun Slater, has just got going with his blog and it reminded me of this gem I used to have – so guess what? I’m back. I didn’t really miss much in the year I was gone I guess, Notts did the one day double and England got thumped again in Australia. I also heard there was some controversy in South Africa. However, I am not here to talk about that.

What I will talk about is a seemingly rejuvenated MS Dhoni and how he has seemed to be inspired by Chennai Super King’s return to the this year’s IPL. At the time of writing this, Dhoni averages 69.66 from six innings and is striking at 165.9. 

However, is he rejuvenated? Or has Dhoni’s own omission from the Indian captaincy along with his retirement from Test Match Cricket just given fuel to criticize one of India’s modern day greats.

Yes, it is a fact that on average in international T20s throughout 2017 – Dhoni takes on average 23 balls to settle into his innings, striking at under a run a ball for that period. In the IPL, he also just averaged 26.36 and struck the ball at a rate of 116.00 but surely every player is allowed one bad year?

However, the joke is, he didn’t actually have a bad year in 2017. Dhoni averaged 60.61 across 23 innings in One-Day Internationals – yet there were many punters calling for the wicket-keepers’ head. I am personally at a loss in wondering what the substance is for these opinions.

I guess Dinesh Kartik’s latest heroics haven’t helped Dhoni’s cause but a career one day international average of 29.92 paired with an average of 33.62 in hardly setting the world alight (Dhoni averages 51.37 and 37.02 respectively). Part time keeper and Dhoni’s CSK team mate, Ambati Rayudu averages just over 50 in thirty ODis and would surely be a better choice. Though if Dhoni is replaced, India may as well look to the future of Sanju Samson or Rishabh Pant, however though they show glipses in IPL cricket – their List A averages (28.54 and 27.40) would suggest they are not yet ready to step up to the international arena.

What I am trying to say is that even though Dhoni is nearly 37, do not write him off yet. If this IPL is anything to go by, he still has a lot left in the tank and his passion to help CSK and India is still as evident as ever. Let’s just appreciate Captain Cool before he rides of into the sunset on one of his many Motorbikes.

MS Dhoni: Chennai Super King