Telegraph Fantasy Cricket: T20 Blast Review

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The T20 Blast has reached its conclusion but I’m no richer. In my original article regarding my selection for the competition, I spoke about the importance of making transfers come the knock-out stages…

https://sillypointcricketsite.wordpress.com/2017/06/24/telegraph-fantasy-cricket-t20-blast/

Unfortunately, what with a certain hospital visit and whatnot, I didn’t stay on top of things and so my team rather went through the motions. Anyway, it’s only fair to provide the promised round-up.

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Riki Wessels, Gareth Roderick and Brett D’Oliveira were the players who made both my County Championship/One-Day Cup team and my T20 Blast XI. Clearly the selection of Roderick as stumper was a misguided one. Having recently returned from absence for ‘unspecified reasons’ the Gloucestershire gloveman didn’t feature in the quick fire format at all. Wessels maintained his good form in all competitions however and D’Oliveira contributed some useful performances.

Mark Cosgrove, Ryan Higgins, Dominic Sibley (Who transferred from Surrey to Warwickshire during the competition), a belatedly arrived Moises Henriques as well as D’Oliveira all totalled 500odd points.

Durham’s Cameron Steel, Lancashire’s Stephen Parry, Gloucestershire’s Chris Liddle and due to injury, Surrey’s Jade Dernbach, were provided little opportunity to impress.

The sum of all parts meant that at least I registered more points than my wife’s and daughter’s teams but finished way down the overall league. Come the end of the 2017 CC/ODC competition, I’ll let you know how I finished in that too.

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A Complete Restructure of International Cricket: Revisited

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Following my previous proposals for, in the words of David Bowie…

I have decided to make, in the words of you know who, ch, ch, chan…

You get the idea!

Here’s the link to my original article…

https://sillypointcricketsite.wordpress.com/2016/12/12/a-complete-restructure-of-international-cricket/

I have now decided to expand the International Championship to 13 teams. This is to provide anxious current Test nations with the security required in order to vote for ch, ch, chang….

I have trimmed the First Class, List A and T20 divisions from two to one and have limited the second and third tiers to nine teams. This is due to the financial restraints that are present on lesser nations. The notion of these sides jetting around the world as many times as the top tier teams is for the time being at least, in-practitcal. I’m ditching any suggestion of a play-off and am proposing that one team alone is relegated from the International Championship and therefore one team alone is promoted from International Division One. Again, this provides security to current full member nations including the minnows, they simply have to avoid finishing last to avoid being relegated! That may seem a long slog, a four year worldwide cycle for just one spot but the prize is Test match cricket as well as full ODI and T20I status. It should not be given away easily.

Tours remain three matches of each format (Yes that’s right, the Ashes as we know it is dead!) scaled back to one match per format in International Division Two and beyond. Again, this is for financial and practical purposes for less equipped nations.

Here’s an update and a recap of the league breakdown:

International Championship

Test, ODI and T20I status

13 teams

4 year cycle

6 home series / 6 away series

All series consist of three Test matches, three ODI matches and three T20I matches

1 team relegated (But guaranteed four years of consistent and structured FC, LA and T20 cricket)

International Division One

First Class, List A and T20 status

9 teams

4 year cycle

4 home series / 4 away series

All series consist of three First Class matches, three List A matches and three T20 matches

1 team promoted

1 team relegated

International Division Two

Other status

9 teams

4 year cycle

4 home series / 4 away series

All series consist of one four-day match, one one-day match and one T20 match

1 team promoted

1 team relegated

The points system would of course be crucial and in truth I need to do a few more calculations. I think that the points system put forward in my original article seemed fair in terms of getting the balance right for each format however some freak results could possibly lead to, for example: A team winning all their T20I matches but losing all Tests and ODIs and finishing bottom of the overall table. As a result said team would not only concede their Test and ODI status but their T20I status as well. I guess I’ll clarify the points system in the article ‘A Completer Restructure of International Cricket Re-revisited’!

I know what you’re thinking: What about hemispherical control?

It’s a very good question but I don’t think it matters. If maybe twenty years down the line the entire top tier consisted of southern hemisphere sides then there’s enough time to schedule all series. There would be lengthy periods of no top flight cricket but would it really matter? Committed and passionate fans will be following their nation in the division that they are in. It would be ideal though possibly not practical if the final round of T20I matches could be played simultaneously.

Imagine winning International Division One. The players would be…

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!

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?

WardyMcWharf

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No seriously, this actually happened!

Ian Ward, Anthony McGrath and Alex Wharf all played international cricket for England. Some supporters may look back on those times as dark days for English cricket but I actually think that all three players were rather unfortunate when it comes to how their international careers played out.

In the case of Ward, Wardy to his mates or maybe Wardos (No that’s too Ozzie!), probably just Wards, he’d made a name for himself as an obdurate pitch a tent style opening batsman for the A-Team and had notched up quite a few hundreds in the West Indies if my memory serves me correctly. I watched him make 39 on Test debut against Pakistan. I actually did. Cricket was on Channel 4 back then. Unfortunately Ward then spent the rest of the summer failing to reach 39 again as the Ozzies took him and not only him to pieces. Ward seemed to bat everywhere from about three to eight. I think that on at least a couple of occasions he survived late in the day only to have to start again the next morning and the use of nightwatchman saw him shunted down the order as well. When he was eventually dumped, Michael Atherton suggested there were some technical flaws to eradicate. Ward then departed Surrey for Sussex and transformed himself into quite a destructive limited overs player before taking up a presenting role with Sky Sports (Boooo!). By all accounts, Ward has made a good career behind the pay per view wall.

As for Anthony McGrath, his grandmother insisted it was pronounced like paper not Glenn. A-Mac is statistically one of the greatest players ever to play the game. He averages 40.20 with the bat and 14.00 with the ball in Test cricket. He was performing a decent containing job with the ball in ODIs as well but then a newspaper article came out saying how rubbish the likes of he and Ian Blackwell were and McGrath never donned an England shirt again.

As for Wharf, now an umpire, he averaged 23.77 with the ball at an economy of just 4.39. Those impressive stats were spread across 13 ODI appearances. That’s a lower bowling average than his last international victim Shaun Pollock! Wharf owed his chance to the fact that he’d worked with England coach Duncan Fletcher whilst at Glamorgan but proved his worth during his short international stint.

Cricinfo sums up the end of his international career in a callously blunt but seemingly incorrect assertion … “After this Wharf faded from the international scene due to a combination of injuries, loss of form and not being good enough…”.

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!