Cricket Captain 2017: 20??-20something Season Review – Australian Pie/The Day the Cricket Died!

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After a quinquennium in charge of the England cricket team, it’s fair to say that things haven’t gone as well as had been hoped…

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2022 I think it was. The year of back-to-back 5-0 Test whitewashes at home to West Indies (Having batted first every time!) and away to Australia. This included scoring 447 in the fourth innings of the first Ashes Test and still losing by 35 runs! At least there was a four-fingered handful of ODI victories and two unbeaten T20I series.

Other positives?

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There was that time only two of two kinfolk captured any wickets!

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Adam Glichrist prototype Lewis McManus reigned supreme in ODI and T20I cricket. The Hampshire opener recorded a 64-ball hundred against Australia.

Does that scorecard say 186-0? We probably lost that game!

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A rejuvenated Sam Curran (I know I call him that a lot!) reached 100 ODI wickets and rediscovered his Test form. Still aged only 24, he’ll look to double if not triple both his runs and wickets tally in both Tests and ODIs but we’ll continue to keep him out of the T20Is. Only proper cricket for Sam!

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Oh and another Sam, Sam Northeast, rather appropriately joined Durham. Fellow Durham man Paul Coughlin claimed an ODI hat-trick against Australia and Billy Root stepped out of his brother Joe’s rather large and imposing shadow by scoring an ODI century against West Indies.

Next it’s home series against Zimbabwe. It’s a great opportunity for England to achieve almost guaranteed series victories against the minnows of world cricket/move ever closer to the basement of the world rankings in each form of the game. (Delete as appropriate)

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Cricket Captain 2017: 2022 T20I World Cup Review – McManus Magic Not Enough!

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Lewis McManus’ 225 runs @ 56.25 including 104 not out in England’s opening game set the tone for an encouraging tournament for the hosts.

Following McManus’ feat, county teammate Mason Crane claimed the almost absurdly good figures of 4-12 as Pakistan, not surprisingly, struggled to get to grips with the required run-rate.

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Further victories over both Australia and Zimbabwe then followed and despite defeat against South Africa in the final group game, England joined ‘The Proteas‘ in the semi-finals.

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Though England had India in peril at 44-3, having themselves posted 172, the home side contrived to lose a semi-final they had looked almost certain to win.

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The loss came despite Sussex’s Ben Brown backing up his debut fifty with another.

On the back of such a run-filled tournament, Hampshire’s McManus soared to a career high sixth place in the T20I Batting Rankings.

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T20I veteran Benny Howell has now accumulated 35 caps in the shortest format of the game and has been a vital cog in England’s recent development.

It’s now time to readjust to the grind of Test cricket however as England host West Indies for a five-match series.

MA 2 3 + JB 2 5 = EV

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I’ve done it. By Jove I’ve done it. I’ve done it I say. I’ve discovered the formula to solve England’s batting order equation. With the benefit of hindsight it really does seem oh so simple. I can’t believe that I didn’t solve it sooner, or that anybody else did for that matter. The solution is as follows:

MA 2 3 + JB 2 5 = EV

Moeen Ali batting at three added to Jonny Bairstow batting at five equals victory for England.

This formula not only acccomodates the likes of Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad and James Anderson at interjas 6-11 but also for any two of Toby Roland-Jones, Adil Rashid, Sam Curran or Mason Crane amongst other probabilities.

Like any good mathematical equation, we’re working backwards and by doing so we find messrs Cook, Stoneman (He rocks!) and Root positioned at interjas 1,2 and 4.

The simplicity of this formula is in the proposal that MA and JB bat in the very positions that they do at domestic level. The logic applied is located at the greatest extremity of the logic scale.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you: Morris’ Theorem.

Cricket Captain 2017: 2021-22 Season Review – The Year of Cricket, Cricket and Much More Cricket!

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16 Tests, 26 ODIs and 7 T20Is including an Ashes series and Champions Cup provided the England squad with a non-stop cricket packed campaign during the 2021-22 season. Here’s how things played out…

Home vs. Bangladesh

Tests: Drew 1-1 (Jack Leach captained the side in place of the injured Liam Livingstone)

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A comprehensive victory in the first Test, courtesy of Nick Gubbins and Gareth Roderick’s maiden Test hundreds as part of an all eleven double figures contribution was followed by a comprehensive defeat in the second!

ODIs: Lost 4-1

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Middlesex’s Harry Podmore claimed figures of 3-52 on his maiden ODI outing and adapted well to international cricket.

Captain Liam Livingstone as well as number three Sam Northeast each totalled well in excess of 200 runs in the series despite both being rested for the final match. England’s bowling lacked penetration however and Bangladesh ran out thoroughly deserving series winners.

T20I: Won 1-0 (Benny Howell captained the side in place of the rested Liam Livingstone)

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Maiden international fifties from Lewis McManus and Brad Taylor as well as a second T20I four-wicket haul for Mason Crane (4-33) helped England to a thrilling five-run victory.

Home vs. Australia

Tests: Lost 2-1 (Jack Leach captained the side in the final three Tests (LWL) in place of the injured Liam Livingstone)

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After two rain-effected draws, England just avoided the ignominy of being dismissed for double figures in the third Test courtesy of Ben Coad’s heroics but couldn’t avoid going 1-0 down in the series.

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Despite a poor career record against Australia, 34-year-old opening batsman Mark Stoneman was recalled for the fourth Test and went about emphatically setting that record straight. His 98 in his comeback innings was somewhat overshadowed though by Will Rhodes’ magnificent 191 as England squared the series.

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After dismissing Australia for just 120 in their second innings of the fifth Test, England lost four wickets late on the fourth day to severely dent their pursuit of 253 for Ashes glory. As a nation stood still, those with no previous interest in cricket, hell some even had a distain, stopped their work, their studies and their conversations but in the end the early clatter of wickets cost the home side and Australia clinched the urn by the minimal margin of just 52 runs!

ODIs: Lost 3-2

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Having come from 2-0 down to level the five-match contest at 2-2, continuing to capture the hearts of the nation along the way following their Ashes efforts, England produced an underwhelming batting performance (228-8) in what was effectively a final. Despite Mason Crane’s outstanding figures of 10-2-14-3, England lost a wonderfully competitive series 3-2. The home side continued their trend of competing but falling at the last. There were positives however, including an almighty opening stand of 237 between Daniel Bell-Drummond and Mark Stoneman in the fourth ODI.

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Despite the defeat, England finished the series with two batsmen, captain Liam Livingstone and Sam Northeast ranked in the top ten ODI world willow wielders.

T20I: Lost 1-0 (Benny Howell captained the side in place of the rested Liam Livingstone)

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An inept outing with bat and ball. Azeem Rafiq’s figures of 3-0-47-0 actually constituted one of his better performances!

Champions Cup

Test: N/A

ODIs: WLL- Knocked out in the group stages.

T20Is: N/A

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The Champions Cup in India started with a ‘Build your hopes up’ five-wicket victory against South Africa. Skipper Liam Livingstone compiled his fifth ODI century whilst Ryan Higgins, rewarded for his impressive T20I performances with an ODI cap, made a composed 70 on debut.

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Unfortunately there then followed an abysmal showing against Bangladesh (146 all out) and a tournament terminating 101-run defeat in the crucial match against Pakistan, having restricted the opposition to just 263. Ryan Higgins underwhelmingly followed up his debut 70 by being run out for two and a third ball duck whilst other key batsmen failed to perform. After just three matches, England headed home.

Away vs. Sri Lanka

Tests: Lost 2-1

Despite witnessing Sri Lanka race to 201-0 in the first Test, England fought back magnificently to take a 1-0 series lead. Frustratingly for England fans however, their side could not alter a pattern of winning matches but not series. England lost the second Test having made what seemed like a sensible declaration. In the deciding match England’s spinners, Jack Leach and Mason Crane were once again inaffective. The loss of wicketkeeper Gareth Roderick through injury to the first delivery he received didn’t help England’s cause. This was highlighted when deputy gloveman Stevie Eskinazi dropped a routine chance off the bowling of Mason Crane. Having won the first Test, been in such a strong position in the second and even fought back well at times in the third, this was yet another ‘What could have been?’ series for England.

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One player who didn’t deserve to be on the losing side was Ben Coad. As well as claiming his third Test fifer and passing 100 Test scalps, he added another half-century to his tally. If only England’s spinners could have backed him up.

ODIs: Lost 3-0

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Centuries from Daniel Bell-Drummond (122) in the first match and Liam Livingstone (100) in the second couldn’t prevent England going 2-0 down in the three-match ODI series. In the third match Sri Lanka completed a whitewash but there was at least a welcome return to the visiting side for Sam Curran. Curran’s star has wained somewhat and he’d recently been left out of the side for the most part but 4-60 was a good showing out of the blue.

T20I: Lost 1-0

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England lost the T20I series (Or match) 1-0 but at least opening batsman and wicketkeeper Lewis McManus recorded the highest individual T20I score of the current England management reign.

The result meant England were placed a disappointing seventh in Test, ODI and T20I rankings.

Away vs. Bangladesh

Tests: Drew 1-1

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Having lost the first Test in Bangladesh, England dug deep in the second to secure a heartwarming Test victory and subcontinental series draw. Gareth Roderick (156 not out) shared record breaking stands with Ben Coad (82) and Mason Crane (68) before England bundled out the hosts for the second time in the match. Spin bowlers Jack Leach (9 wickets @ 21.44) and Mason Crane (11 wickets @ 25.36) both repaid the faith shown in them by the selectors by producing excellent series performances. Mark Stoneman’s 90 not out led England to victory and some revenge for last winter’s narrow series defeat.

In the euphoria of England’s victory, the touring side’s media went wild. Some of the best headlines included ‘Tigers Can’t Crack Coad’, ‘Crane Lifts England’ and ‘Stoneman Rocks!’.

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Ben Coad’s batting has been a revelation this winter. His career best 82 in England’s Test victory in Bangladesh was his third of the winter tours and fourth this season.

ODIs: Won 3-0

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England carried forward their momentum from the victory in the second Test into the ODI series and went 2-0 up courtesy of two successful run chases. England rotated the squad in the third match where Aneurin Donald (126) and Tom Westley (111 not out) both hit career bests to highlight England’s bench strength. Ryan Higgins wasn’t dismissed in three innings and numbers seven and below didn’t get a chance to bat in the entire series!

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Jamie Overton also claimed a career best 4-55 to help the tourists seal a resounding 3-0 series whitewash.

T20Is: Lost 2-0

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A disappointing end to the tour, particularly having been well placed to win the second match after Dawid Malan and Benny Howell had both made half-centuries.

Away vs. West Indies

Tests: Drew 1-1

One of the greatest Test series ever or/and twenty days of cricket that ended in a draw.

In the first Test a woeful England display led to them deservedly falling behind in the series before they improved markedly in the second match. At times England seemed well placed to win but in the end held off West Indies by just 21 runs as the Test went the distance and finished a thrilling draw. For the third Test, an emboldened England made a couple of changes to the line-up and went on to secure a series-levelling victory. Captain Liam Livingstone, having suffered the leanest patch of his Test career, clocked up scores of 110 and 76 having been dropped on 8 in the first innings. Gareth Roderick (135) continued his impressive winter meanwhile Liam Norwell (51 not out) contributed a maiden international fifty.

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In the deciding match, England looked on course for a comfortable draw but following a strong start to their second innings they capitulated from 111-0 to 205 all out. The sum of all parts left West Indies requiring just 160 for victory in a little over two sessions. Via great captaincy from Liam Livingstone, combined with disciplined bowling and committed fielding, England somehow prevented the hosts from reaching their target and held onto a match and series draw by just four runs.

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Will Rhodes’ bowling at the death, backed up by a rejuvenated Sam Curran, cemented his place as a star in the Test arena.

ODIs: Lost 4-3

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In the final ODI of the seven-match series, England secured a thrilling victory with just one delivery remaining. The recalled Ryan Higgins struck a career best 85 not out while Paul Coughlin blasted an undefeated 29 from just 15 deliveries. The Durham native had endured a tough series with the bat up to that point but struck three boundaries in the final over. Aneurin Donald, another recalled player, had earlier contributed 84. The only shame about this dramatic climax to the series is that it was actually somewhat of an anti-climax. The series had already been decided. Despite being in some great positions at times, England had stumbled too often and were already 4-2 down going into the final match. The consolation win was a spirit lifter however ahead of the T20I leg of the tour.

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The underrated and sometimes underused Paul Coughlin has been a surprise hit in England’s ODI side. After ten matches his economy rate is a sensational 4.64 per over and his boundary hitting in the seventh ODI showcased his all-round potential.

T20Is: Lost 2-0

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Spirit lifter, what spirit lifter?

A long and arduous campaign culminated with yet another T20I series defeat. One positive though was Brett D’Oliveira’s unbeaten 35 on debut.

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England captain Liam Livingstone finished the season ranked the fourth best batsman in Tests and 2nd in ODIs. He instilled in the team a competitiveness that has brought some excellent results and a little more consistency from those around him and England might start to ascend the rankings. As it is they finished the year placed 7th in Tests, 5th in ODIs and 8th in T20Is.

Best Batting:

Tests: Will Rhodes 191

ODIs: Daniel Bell-Drummond 137

T20Is: Lewis McManus 80

Best Bowling

Tests: Jofra Archer 5-114

ODIs: Jamie Overton 4-55

T20Is: Mason Crane 4-33

Reign Over!

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Off-spinner Ollie Rayner, capped twice at Test level and 24 times in ODIs has announced his retirement. German born Rayner has been a valued part of England’s squad in recent seasons, notably in One-Day internationals. The Middlesex man claimed 30 ODI wickets at 41.77 per victim but it was his impressive economy rate of 5.61 that the England management so valued.

Moving forward, the 2022-23 season brings with it a T20I World Cup as well as an Ashes tour. A Rayner-less England will look to build on the progress made during the 2021-22 campaign.

Is Ben Stokes the Best Cricketer in the World?

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Australian captain Steven Smith averages 59.76 with the bat in Test cricket.

South African paceman Dale Steyn averages 22.31 with the ball in Test cricket.

England all-rounder Ben Stokes averages 35.72 with the bat and 33.93 with the ball in Test cricket. Those numbers wouldn’t be considered good enough for either a specialist batsman or bowler.

So how could anyone possibly entertain the idea that Stokes could be the best cricketer?

The clue is rather obviously in the word ‘cricketer’. Smith may be the best batsman but he only bowls a bit. Steyn may be the best bowler but he only bats a bit. Surely to be considered the best cricketer you must contribute significantly with both bat and ball. Regarding Stokes, let’s not forget his fielding prowess either.

If Stokes were a specialist batsman who rarely bowled would he average 45 with the bat or if he were a bowler who batted at eleven would he average 25 with the ball?

If Stokes was the recipient of the award ‘World’s Best Cricketer’, surely Smith would look at Stokes’ batting stats and take umbrage. Surely Steyn would look at the England all-rounder’s bowling stats and go “Eh?”.

Taking a step backwards for a moment: Who is the greatest cricketer of all-time?

Many many people would answer by saying the name Sir Donald Bradman. The New South Wales native averaged an unparallelled 99.94 with the bat but claimed a mere two Test wickets. Bradman is so far ahead (There aren’t many between him and Smith) that he can possibly claim to go from being not just the the best batsman but the best cricketer. However George Lohmann averaged 10.76 with the ball but only totalled 213 Test runs. He might be the best bowler but surely not the best cricketer.

So does the world’s best cricketer have to be an all-rounder and are any of the following the best cricketer of all-time? Are the names listed below better than Bradman because they offer something in both disciplines or is Bradman so far ahead that his lack of bowling contribution is insignificant?

Kapil Dev (India) 31.05/29.64

Richard Hadlee (New Zealand) 27.16/22.29

Ian Botham (England) 33.54/28.40

Imran Khan (Pakistan) 37.69/22.81

Wow, okay. I selected those names off the top of my head but just look at those statistics! Clearly Ben Stokes has some way to go and I think that I’d take Khan over Bradman. Sorry Don!

Ultimately I think that to compare all-rounders with specialists is futile. (Well that was a waste of my time then!) Each player is only one man in the team. Maybe there is no such thing as ‘the best cricketer’ but only ‘the best cricketers’. Rather apt in a team sport.

Does England’s Ashes Squad Really Matter?

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Hameed or Stoneman?

Jennings or Westley?

Hameed and Stoneman?

Malan or/and Ballance?

Does it really matter?

England Lions (Or A Team if you’d rather be old-fashioned about it) will, like England’s senior side, be in Australia this winter. The last thing England want is another Boyd Rankin episode, i.e. get to the fifth Test and pick a player who isn’t prepped to play. I appreciate that Australia’s a big country and England need cover for any last minute dramas (Glenn McGrath step on the ball style) and fielding substitutes but once a Test is under way then it would seem logical to rotate the non-playing squad members with Lions players. This way the first team reserves can keep their eye in and/or clock up some overs incase they’re required for a Test outing. If by any chance the Lions players supersede first Team squad members then so be it. England need to make the most of what resources they have and be ruthless when it comes to selection. This philosophy may seem rather un-me like provided my penchant for a ‘pick and stick’ approach but this is a tough long tour and England need to select the players that are primed and ready to perform. Australia are renowned for providing pretty limp opposition for a touring England side but Test playing nations are obliged to present touring A (Or Lions) teams with reasonable opposition, otherwise there’d be little point. Come the later Tests in the series, England can’t expect players that have been ferrying the drinks and netting for a month to just rock up and produce the goods in the hostile auditoriums of Australia.

So whether Hameed or Westley make the full team or Malan or Jennings make the Lions, any of them could turn out for England come the Ashes. A broken finger in the nets or calf strain when scampering a single in a warm-up game could force England into a change of plans. Don’t forget what happened the last time England went to Australia when opening batsman Michael Carberry was selected as back-up. He scored 150 in a tour game and went onto play five Ashes Tests.

Broaden Your Horizons

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A week or so ago, a newspaper correspondent when writing about England bowler Stuart Broad in the Test series against West Indies, scripted the following: “His 18 scalps would have been nine greater had catches been held”.

Where do I start to explain what’s wrong with this comment?

The naivety and lack of logic applied when pundits, commentators and journalists spout nonsense likes this seriously irks me. Can you tell?

I previously wrote the following post…

https://sillypointcricketsite.wordpress.com/2017/02/04/score-assumptions-and-naivety-in-sport/

I’ll touch upon some of the same themes here. The football pundit at half-time saying that a football match where the score is 0-0 would be 3-0 to one of the teams had they not missed three clear cut chances. Yes it could be but remember that had said team scored their first opportunity then the next passage of play would have been a kick-off not a goal kick or continuation in play etc. The team that went 1-0 down might then have immediately (Or not immediately) gone up the other end, scored and gone on to lead 2-1 at half-time.

In the Broad case, had the first drop been held then the whole sequence of events afterwards would be different. Remember that by combining the dropped catches with actual events mythical wickets have been created. If five catches were dropped in the innings but the team were bowled out that’s fifteen wickets and that doesn’t add up. Maybe you’ve even shorn Broad of some of his later wickets. Possibly a right-hander was dropped and had he not been so, a left-hander would have arrived at the crease. From right-handers to left-handers and to a different batsman feeling just one iota more or less of pressure when looking at the scoreboard or facing a delivery, among many other altering intricacies… everything changes. Yes the pattern of the game may have played out similar to how it did, a procession of wickets for example but to imply that Broad would have had 27 wickets is incorrect. To say that he “could have had” is plausible but you’d be stripping other bowlers of wickets.

Maybe I’m struggling to get the point across but what I’m stressing is that one tiny, tiny difference in how things occurred can change the entire complexion of future proceedings. Had Broad claimed the first drop there would have been a different break in play to what actually occurred. The likelihood of Broad bowling exactly the same delivery the next ball is extremely and I mean extremely slim. The difference may be just a milmitere left or right, short or full but those measurements could, that’s could have effected the shot played by the batsman. The difference between the batsman who survived who then might, I say might have thrown caution to the wind and tried to hit a boundary next ball but the new batsman may, I repeat may have just defended would immediately change the course of play, even history.

You’re leaving work, the phone rings, you um and ah but eventually answer. When you’ve left work and get to the traffic lights you miss them by seconds and have to wait another round. Had you not answered the phone you would have made them or even made the previous turn. Later on your walk home a speeding car mounts the kerb and runs over your foot. You’re okay but off work for weeks and can’t play for your five-a-aside football team or attend pilates class. You wouldn’t have been run over if you hadn’t answered the phone or if you hadn’t waited a few seconds before doing so, or maybe you would but by another car or further up the road, or maybe something even worse (Or better) would have happened!

Before people express their naive thoughts in public they should remember that things aren’t always as simple as they seem and that sometimes you have to look at the broader (See what I did there?) picture.

Coffee, calm down, relax.