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

How good is the Big Bash (for English Cricket)?

The title may come across as sarcastic, but seriously? How good is the Big Bash? The tournament is in it’s sixth edition but it just seems to get better and better.

The tournament has had it all, from Andre Russell’s black bat to Ashton Agar and Eoin Morgan both sealing victories with last ball sixes for the Scorchers and Thunder respectively and then of course, we had the Twitter sensation #Lynnsanity which has seen various other cricketers show their admiration for the freakish batting of Chris Lynn (it’s just such a shame that the Australian selectors had to ruin the fun and call him up to the Australian ODI squad).

Then alongside all this, how good was it to see the performances of the English imports among arguably the World’s biggest stage before they set off to India, a nation that lives for cricket. For the fair amount of players in this England squad that has played in the Big Bash past and present, the experience of playing in high pressure situations in front of thousands of noisy spectators can only be a good thing, surely England’s runners up status in the last World T20 is proof of this.

Of course, there are  still many Englishmen left in the Big Bash and if it does not enhance their international aspirations and performance, then County Cricket will surely be a beneficiary – especially with the common view that the T20 Blast has a long way to go in terms of improvement (once they sort out the Franchise debate that is).

The great thing about the Big Bash is it just works, the franchises, marketing and skill level of the tournament is second to none and with a truly mouthwatering climax in store, the recognition should only rise in the next few weeks which is scary considering how high it is already, The Big Bash wagon is truly in motion and there are plenty of punters ready to jump on.

On a relevant, more bias note. I personally cannot wait to see Tymal Mills join up with the Brisbane Heat. The franchise name is perfect for Mills because that is what he bowls… HEAT. Every opportunity he has got, he has taken so far and I expect this to be no different. A lot more Big Bash batters will be donning the chest guard when facing him, that’s for sure.

How good is the Big Bash (for English Cricket)?