The Form Cloud

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Player A is 26 years old and averages 42.67 across 86 career matches. This season he is averaging 60.92.

Player B is 30 years old and averages 34.63 across 145 career matches. This season he is averaging 58.54.

Who are England more likely to select?

The answer is Player B. The one with the career average -8.04 runs per innings compared to Player A despite being 59 innings more experienced.

Player A is Surrey’s Rory Burns. Player B is his opening partner Mark Stoneman.

Another example that I’ve touched upon previously regarding an in-form selection is that of Ed Smith for England. Smith’s First Class average finished at 41.79. He was selected for the national side having made six hundreds in as many matches in the early part of the 2003 county season. He made 64 on Test debut but made only 23 runs in his next four innings before being jettisoned. Ultimately Smith’s sample size is too small to judge but here’s a stat: Smith averaged 2.61 centuries per season during a thirteen year First Class career. For the record, Ed Smith is one of my favourite pundits.

What I’m getting at though is that form often clouds the judgement of selectors as well as pundits and fans when consistency is a better indicator of a player’s ability. If you pick a player when their peaking then the only way is down.

Returning to Burns and Stoneman, The Caveman appears unruffled and phlegmatic at the crease. He may now at the age of thirty be applying all that he has learned over a decade long First Class career (As well as playing on a better wicket) and be primed to succeed at the highest level but if national sides are to select players purely on domestic form then there’ll be selecting a different team every week. It shouldn’t be about form but about whether or not that player is good enough for international cricket. What makes the Burns/Stoneman career comparison even more interesting is that Burns is actually averaging more than the much called for Stoneman this season. Burns’ average is elevated by one big score. His season best 219 not out is his sole century alongside six fifties (Consistency?). Stoneman has three hundreds but only one other fifty. He made 144 not out in the One-Day Cup final but was dropped early in the piece.

In the third Test against South Africa, England debutant Tom Westley has recorded debut scores of 25 and 59 but former national captain Nasser Hussain thinks that his game might get picked apart in Australia in the same way that John Crawley’s was.

Shall we drop Westley then?

Westley hasn’t been selected purely on form. His season stats are an average of 53.11 with two hundreds and as many fifties. Westley however has performed well for the England Lions and consistently delivered when playing for Essex against touring Test teams. Another England batsman, opener Keaton Jennings has made 0 and 48 in the same match. By all accounts it wasn’t pretty and he had some luck but if England opt to drop him then what happens if Stoneman comes in and registers scores of 0 and 48 on debut or 15 and 31 for that matter? Will he immediately be dropped?

It is the responsibility of the England selectors to see beyond form and identify true Test calibre. It is also their responsibility not to have their convictions swayed by just one or two low scores. Form shouldn’t cloud judgement.

Please forgive me for repeating some things that I have said in previous posts but I thought these observations and comparisons merited a write-up of their own… or maybe my judgement was clouded!

Westley, Malan & TR-J Debut at The Oval!

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England have handed out Test caps 677, 678 and 679 today.

Middlesex duo Dawid Malan and Toby Roland-Jones as well as Essex’s Tom Westley have donned the Baggy Blue for the very first time.

Prior to today, Malan had one T20I cap and Roland-Jones a solitary ODI outing but for Westley, this is his premier outing for the full national side.

Keep up to date with how they get on against South Africa on Cricinfo…

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/10718/game/1031441/England-vs-South-Africa-3rd-Test-South-Africa-tour-of-England-2017/

Telegraph Fantasy Cricket: CC/ODC – Roderick Returns!

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I’m clinging onto a place in the top 10,000, currently lying in 9763rd position!

Skipper and stumper Gareth Roderick has returned to the field of play for Gloucestershire so his points (279), doubled for being captain (578), are propelling me towards… respectability?!

My batsmen continue to underwhelm. Steven Croft (548 points) seems to have given up bowling too. Riki Wessels (1054) is leading the way but had a disappointing ODC final. Tom Fell’s horror show continues. He’s registered just 268 points. Inconsistent Aneurin Donald has 556 points to his name.

In the all-rounder slots, Brett D’Oliveira has reached a respectable if not spectacular 892 points whilst the ever reliable Ravi Bopara has 1227.

Onto bowling and the Boparesque reliable Keith Barker has 995 points to his name. Ollie Rayner (520) has seriously disappointed and James ‘Killer’ Weighell’s injury problems have limited him to 619 points despite displaying some good form. Then there’s Jofra Archer. His 1665 points lead the way for my team Roderick Brotherhood.

Please remember that this is for the County Championship and One-Day Cup only. There’s a separate competition for the Natwest T20 Blast. An update on Silly Pointers’ failings will be provided in due course.

Borthwick vs. Stoneman

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Scott Borthwick380 County Championship runs @ 31.67

Mark Stoneman761 County Championship runs @ 58.54

I detailed in a previous post how many so called ‘experts’ have been crawling out of the woodwork claiming that they’ve been campaigning for ‘Stoneman for England’ for years…

https://sillypointcricketsite.wordpress.com/2017/07/02/short-term-memories/

I’ll try to avoid ranting about them again but let’s be honest, it was Borthwick that people thought was relocating down south in order to enhance his England credentials, Stoneman was just tagging along for the ride. Oh how it’s transpired differently. If it wasn’t for the fact that Joe Root used to houseshare with Gary Ballance or even that Alastair Cook resigned the national captaincy then Mark Stoneman would be a Test cricketer by now. For Borthwick, his chances of an England recall seem as far away as ever. He seemed close to a Test spot last year but then had a horror show in a match against Yorkshire (4 & 0 including being run out). Of course it could all soon tick for the man Graeme Swann (One of those experts!) touted as England’s great spin hope to replace Swann himself. The runs may flow in the second half of the campaign or it could be that SB comes good next term. He is barely 27 so time is on his side. Middlesex’s Sam Robson was recently recalled to the England Lions so Borthwick shouldn’t give up hope but as pleased as he’ll be for Stoneman he must be a little bitter.

Two County Championship wickets at over 100 apiece for Borthwick suggest that he isn’t even going to knock the much maligned Liam Dawson off his perch.

Maybe it shouldn’t be Borthwick vs. Stoneman. They’re teammates after all but when it comes to national reckoning it appears that England have room for no more than four specialist batsmen. Ben Duckett, Haseeb Hameed and James Vince are good enough to come again. Joe Clarke, Daniel Bell-Drummond and Tom Westley crave a chance too. Jimmy Adams, Nick Browne and James Hildreth will probably never get close.

Hopefully Borthwick can turn on the run show in the near future but theory of numbers means that England can’t and shouldn’t pick everyone. Durham bred Borthwick has had the honour, privilege and presumably amazing experience of representing England. There’s no shame if carving out a productive domestic career at Surrey is as good as it gets from here on in. Many many players have become more complete upon the termination of their international careers.

In regards to Stoneman, I touched upon aspects of his credentials in the article linked towards the top of this post. Is he just in form or is he primed to become an international cricketer having just turned thirty? He’s been dropped in the field a few times this season but maybe the likes of Ballance and Vince have too. MS looked particularly unruffled in the One-Day Cup Final but it will only take a Test or two without significant run scoring for his technique to be torn to shreds by the ‘experts’ and non experts for that matter.

Experts, rubbish commentators, unoriginal and lacking insight pundits… there’s an article in that isn’t there?

Robbed!

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At the commencement of the 2017 county campaign, Leicestershire ruthlessly decided that they wanted opening batsman Angus Robson out of the First XI. They opted to pair young Harry Dearden with not so young Paul Horton at the top of the order and so Robson departed in rather unceremonious fashion. Leicestershire appear to have since given up on Dearden, temporarily at least. They’ve snapped up Surrey stalwart Arun Harinath on loan. No disrespect to Harinath but that doesn’t really add up does it?

The early season headlines seemed to suggest that Robson had joined Sussex but it soon became clear that it wasn’t quite so straight forward. Robson had joined the Hove outfit but only on a season long Second XI trial. If anything that was probably a bit embarrassing for a determined twentyfive-year-old with just shy of 3000 First Class runs. Anyway, it looks as though Robson might get a chance in the Sussex first team in 2018, possibly at the expense of Chris Nash. Nash has been a good servent to Sussex but hasn’t hit his straps this year when opening alongside young Harry Finch. Bermuda born Delray Rawlins is also part of the equation now.

Back to Robson, his recent outings for Sussex 2s have been pretty productive:

97, 15*, 34, 31*, 0, 66, 70*, 63*, 110*, 35, 59*

That first score of 97 may confirm why he finds himself in his current predicament. In the First Class game he has 27 half-centuries but only two hundreds. That’s possibly the difference between his average of 31.52 and maybe 35 plus. To be fair, reviewing those Second XI scores shows us that he’s finished undefeated on quite a few occasions as well as registering a century.

We’ve recently seen his brother Sam get back into the England Lions fold, hopefully next term we can see little brother Angus can regain a place on the First Class circuit.

Also at Sussex, former England paceman Ajmal Shahzad has left the club. I met Shahzad earlier this year outside of cricket and he was kind enough to ‘talk cricket’ with me. Hopefully he’ll find a new home, stay fit and have three of four years racking up the wickets.

Could he go to Surrey?

I’ll admit it, I’ve given up hope of Mark Footitt playing for England. Going to Division Two won’t help his chances though to be fair, returning to Nottinghamshire he’ll be surrounded by internationals. With Luke Fletcher out for the season and Stuart Broad and Jake Ball in the England reckoning as well as James Pattinson’s future uncertain then Footitt will have a part to play. Hold on! Surrey are well stocked with quicks so could Shahzad even return to Notts?

English county cricket becomes more like the Premier League everyday when it comes to transfers. Maybe Footitt and Shahzad could be opening the bowling at Trent Bridge before the summer is out!

Cricket Captain 2017: Monty @ Morgan!

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Having started a county career as Glamorgan on ICC2017, I snapped up former England legend Monty Panesar to bolster our spin stocks and help us push for promotion to Division One of the County Championship.

It took the ‘Sikh of Tweak’ no more than ONE delivery to make an impression, dismissing Northamptonshire’s Alex Wakely with his premier delivery in Glamorgan colours (Or whites!). I can only hope that he doesn’t earn an England recall off the back of his formidable start to the campaign.

Short Term Memories

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Warning! The following article strays into rant territory.

So Joe Root’s first England Test squad has been announced and all hell has broken loose on the bottom of BBC Sport, Cricinfo and the likes’ web pages.

Even on commentary of the ODC Final yesterday, former England batsman James Taylor was querying why Keaton Jennings has been moved from three to opener and you’d think that Mark Stoneman had a fan club who’ve been campaigning for his selection for years. Funny that, I haven’t heard many people push for Stoneman to be in the England squad before but half a season of runs and everybody claims they’ve wanted him in since time began.

“What’s Liam Dawson doing in the squad?” many people are asking.

“Gary Ballance has had enough (Two) chances. It’s a step backwards” is the sort of thing that people are saying.

“Why isn’t Mason Crane in the squad?” they ask.

I’m relieved that we’ve got selectors who sit down and discuss things thoroughly before selecting a squad, otherwise we’d have a different XI for every match.

Let’s clear things up. Keaton Jennings opened for England in their last two Tests. He scored a century on debut and a fifty in the next match. We’ve selected and dumped enough opening batsmen (Even ones that have scored centuries). Let’s stick with one for a change!

Hameed hasn’t scored a First Class fifty all season. He doesn’t merit selection.

Mark Stoneman averaged 32 in First Class cricket before this season. To put that in perspective, his fellow Surrey opener Rory Burns averages in excess of 40. Have you ever heard anyone call for Burns to be selected for national honours?

Stoneman is a good player and having just turned thirty years of age, it may be that he’s put everything he’s learned together and is ready to be the new Mike Hussey. Hopefully age wasn’t a factor in his omission as some people have suggested. He could have at least five or six years scoring thousands of runs in the international arena but at this moment in time there simply isn’t a requirement to select him because we’ve already got two openers. Cook doesn’t deserve to be dropped and neither does Jennings. Jennings has done okay not brilliant in domestic cricket this year but as I said before, we’ll be changing the XI every match if we’re making decisions based solely on domestic form. Some of the same people that want Stoneman selected on form and Jennings dropped on form want out of form Hameed selected on potential!

In the case of the middle order vacancy then domestic form does come into the equation because there’s a vacancy! Gary Ballance is by far and away the player that merits selection and the fact he has played Test cricket before is a positive not a negative. He’s got four Test hundreds for goodness sake! He was actually quite harshly dropped the first time. We’re looking for a middle order batsman not an opener so correctly the selectors have selected Ballance not Stoneman. The likes of Steve Waugh and Jacques Kallis didn’t just rock up to Test cricket and average 55.00 from the get go. English fans always seem to want the new but when they don’t average 60.00 with the bat or 20.00 with the ball then they move onto their new favourite toy.

In the case of Dawson, he scored 66 not out on Test debut in England’s last Test. Maybe, just maybe the England selectors think that two players (Jennings and Dawson) scoring fifties in the team’s last match are the sort of performances that keep you in the team not get you dropped. Shall we just drop every player that doesn’t score a century or take a five-for?

As for Mason Crane, his last two First Class matches (For Hampshire and England Lions) have been against South Africa A and South Africa and how many wickets did he take?… 0 (Zero), none, zilch!

When and if Hameed, Stoneman and Crane get their chance, I’ll back them to the hilt. They’re all good enough and deserve a shot but the selectors have pretty much picked the right squad. We’d all pick a different team. I like the variety of having a left-armer in the attack but nobody can deny that Toby Roland-Jones deserves a chance. He hasn’t been in sparkling form recently but it’s not about form. Form often clouds the mind of people. It’s about ‘Is this person good enough for international cricket?’. If the fact that this week’s match is on his home ground has come into the equation then good. England need to rotate their pacers anyway so let’s maximise the chances of players performing well and England winning.

Maybe I’m a hypocrite, just another person putting forward his team but I’ve seen it all before, the fickle nature of the fan. All those campaigning for Stoneman and Crane, as soon as those players don’t do well then they’ll move onto shouting out for somebody else and later say “Oh we can’t pick them again, it’s a retrograde step”.

The selectors have done their job, now let’s back the chosen ones.

Disclaimer: Well there we go. I’ve probably just alienated myself from about two thirds of England’s cricket fan base. Though to be fair, if two thirds of England’s fan base are following this blog then I have come a long way!