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!

Christopher Lee: Howzat Book Review

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It happens to be a rather appropriate time to be reviewing Christopher Lee’s take on World Series Cricket (Supertests and all), what with the addition to the cricket calendar of pink ball day/night County Championship matches that were rolled out for the first time this week.

Lee actually wrote the screenplay for the TV drama of this book with the writing of the book coming post TV production. It’s an insightful read with a clear Ozzie vibe. The focus is on WSC’s chief instigator Kerry Packer, his challenging of the establishment and the changes that WSC cricket brought. It’s not all about Packer though. John Cornell, described by Gideon Haigh as ‘a floating creative catalyst’ is among the others that ultimately changed the way we see cricket today, literally given what they did regards camerawork. The establishment boys didn’t like the changes. Some still don’t. Reading about the pink ball county matches this week I came across one journalist trying to convince the reader that it’s not the weather that’s been at fault but that there’s simply no hunger for late night pink ball affairs. Actually there is. Even if the crowds were no better than usual, if the attendees were different people to the norm then that’s great. Cricket is for all. If some fans can attend day games and some night games then let’s have both. Just because something is new and different doesn’t mean that people need be scared by… CHANGE! Let’s not forget that a lot of people won’t have known about the different schedule for this week’s matches but them actually happening will have caught some people’s attention. Obviously it’s still four-day (First Class) cricket so unlike one-day (List A) games or T20 matches, fans won’t necessarily get a result but let’s not throw the idea in the bin yet. Let’s welcome pink ball day/night games to the County Championship next year with open arms.

Forgive me, I digress but the parallels with cricket today (day/night matches, T20 leagues, international restructure, ‘The Big Three’, TV rights etc) with what was occurring in the 1970s are clear for everybody to see.

Crocodile Dundee even gets a few mentions in Lee’s literature and having seen the Howzat TV drama sometime ago, before I was as obsessed with the sport of bat ‘n’ ball as I am now, I’m keen to view it again. From what I can recall the book very precisely follows the same path as the TV production.

Christopher Lee’s Howzat is essential reading for any cricket geek and now is an acutely appropriate time to read it.

Lee’s Howzat finishes undefeated on…

91 not out

The End of the Rhodes

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Yorkshire’s Will Rhodes will leave the county for pastures new at the end of the 2017 campaign. The twenty-two-year-old has totalled almost 60 appearances across the three formats but has had to head out on loan (to Essex) in order to get game time. Recent first team opportunities at Yorkshire have been few and far between and he’ll be a Warwickshire employee come next season.

The Headingley outfit recently signed Tom Kohler-Cadmore from Worcestershire to cement their status as a buying club… Ballance, Brooks, Hodd, Plunkett, Willey…?

The White Rose’s second XI is full of players who only seem to be on the county’s books incase of a flu epidemic or all the first team players going on holiday at the same time!

The likes of Ryan Gibson, Johnny Read, James Wainman and Jared Warner must acquiesce themselves with the role of professional second XI cricketer. At 24, Wainman has three professional outings to his name. Another player, Josh Shaw, has rejoined Gloucestershire on loan in order to gain further exposure. Meanwhile Surrey’s Sam Curran has 84 first team appearances to look back on and Hampshire’s Mason Crane now in excess of fifty.

Yorkshire have clearly developed outstanding young talent and theory of numbers means that not all will become first team regulars. The limited first XI opportunities provided to some however, as other players are purchased from left, right and center is quite frustrating. Many players that move counties never really get going and drift out of the game or find themselves failing to settle/succeed and even having to move on again (Briggs, Peng, Harris). Let’s hope for Rhodes that his move turns out more like Rayner, Read or Stevens at the least.

Hopefully from now on everything will go smoothly for Will and there’ll be no bumps in the road!

Malan’s Plan?

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Dawid Malan. It’s now or never, boom or bust!

England captain Eoin Morgan said that all squad players would get a game during the three-match T20I series against South Africa. Following the second match and with just one encounter remaining, Morgan said that there’ll definitely be one more debutant in the third match. This may be a bit concerning for Morgan’s Middlesex colleague Dawid Malan, given that another uncapped player, Somerset’s Craig Overton joined up with the party after the first match.

Surely the England management aren’t  going to turn around to Malan now and say “Sorry mate but we’ve changed our mind. You’re not playing”. Remember that Malan made the squad for the one-off T20I against Sri Lanka last year only to miss out on the final XI.

Malan has performed admirably well in limited overs cricket for England Lions, appeared in the recent PSL final and most notably pummelled runs in the North v South Series thus demanding selection. Malan’s 196 runs at an average of 98.00 at a strike rate of 104.81 with a top score of 109 not out saw him top the run scoring charts. To have omitted him following those performances would have brought into serious question the whole point of North v South.

Maybe Malan hasn’t had that big domestic season but sometimes those 1000+ runs campaigns that a batsman has can be misleading. I’ll always revert to Ed Smith and that one season he had making hundred after hundred but was he good enough to be a Test cricketer? To be fair his Test career is too small a sample size to judge. For the record, Smith did a great job at short leg against South Africa and I really like his insightful and balanced commentary.

Malan bowls useful leg-spin too but if he does play in the final T20I you can’t help but think he either needs a half-century or if he makes late twenties/early thirties then it needs to be struck at around 200% if he’s to ever wear the jersey a second time. A single figure score may well be the beginning and the end of Malan’s international career all in one. At the age of 29 a considerable international career could lay ahead but it’s easy to sense that England felt slightly forced to select him than actually wanting to. Andy Flower has vehemently campaigned for his call-up. That may be unfair on the England management but such is the competition amongst the batting ranks that as much as England want to mix things up selection could almost become convoluted. It’s arguable whether providing players with odd matches is any use at all as Sam Billings’ fill-in the gaps international career displays.

Growing up in the nineties and early 2000s I saw the likes of Mike Hussey and Darren Lehmann have to wait domestic run-glutinous years for a run in the Australian Test side and for Jamie Cox to not get a chance at all.

There’s nothing worse than seeing a batsman get one chance and fall for nought so fingers crossed that Malan at least gets some runs on the board if selected as promised.