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.

NORTH V SOUTH: WHAT WE LEARNT

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

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?

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