World Cup Equality

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You’ll have to forgive me for committing the ultimate sin on a cricket blog but I’m about to ramble on (For quite some time!) about football. This is of course my blog so I can do what I want!

Qualification for the 2018 football World Cup in Russia has well and truly reached the business end. All that remains are the heartbreaking play-off matches to determine which counters join the likes of Panama, Iceland and Iran in Russia next year. I’ll hazard a guess that Iceland will find acclimatising to the Russian climate just a bit easier than Panama. It’s also safe to say that none of the three nations mentioned above will be qualifying for the cricket World Cup anytime soon.

Back to the footy, here’s a breakdown of the percentage of teams from each continental region that will qualify for the football World Cup:

South America: 4 out of 10 teams = 40%

Europe: 13 out of 54 teams = 24%

The Americas: 4 out of 35 teams = 11%

Africa: 5 out of 54 teams = 9%

Asia: 4 out of 46 teams = 9%

Oceania: 1 (And maybe not even that) out of 11 teams = 1%

Disclaimer: Please be aware that the above calculations are based on a couple of assumptions regarding who qualifies via the intercontinental play-offs. Oceania are not guaranteed a World Cup representative and for the record, Australia qualify through the Asian pathway because they got bored of thrashing Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Samoa time and time again.

Referring to the percentages above, the tournament title of World Cup starts to lose some of its credibility. There’s clearly a disproportionate amount of teams that qualify from the historical footballing hotbeds of Europe and South America. That historical bias is of course something that is extremely prevalent on the international cricket stage too.

Back to the three nations mentioned earlier. Iran qualified for the football World Cup as far back as 1978 but for Panama and Iceland, 2018 will be their first time at the tournament. That variety of nations on the big stage and the novelty of seeing virgin World Cup competitors is part of what makes the tournament so special. USA beating England in 1950, North Korea beating Italy in 1966 and Senegal beating France in 2002. Without these results the football World Cup just wouldn’t be what it is. Admittedly there have been a few thrashings as the likes of Saudi Arabia (8-0 against Germany in 2002) and Zaire (9-0 against Yugoslavia in 1974) will attest too.

The 2019 Cricket World Cup is unlikely to see such a variety of international representatives or virgin teams as Russia will next year. There will only be ten teams, yes just ten teams at the ‘World’ Cup. Eight of these teams will have qualified as the highest ranked ODI nations. It’s great that the ODI rankings comprise more nations than just Test teams but no promotion/relegation profile is in existence at the upper echelons of international cricket. Referring to the historical bias detailed in football earlier, little scope is left for a changing of the guard as the years go by. The head honchos eat at the main table with one or two varying visitors from time to time.

I’ll be honest, every time I try to get my ahead around the meritocracy of lower division international cricket and World Cup qualification, I end up closing the page out of sheer bewilderment. From what I can gather, it’s possible that teams in ICC World Cricket League Division Two can qualify for the 2019 Cricket World Cup but some teams from Division One may not. Don’t quote me on that though! In all likelihood none of them will anyway, such is the convoluted qualification process.

Feel free to put me to shame and figure the whole thing our for yourself…

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2018_Cricket_World_Cup_Qualifier

Teams such as Papua New Guinea and Ireland could be there though the likes of West Indies and possibly Afghanistan will be favoured to qualify for the ten team tournament. Surely a straight forward main tournament of sixteen teams comprised of four groups of four followed by quarter-finals etc would be logical. Yes there have been some horribly one-sided encounters at cricket World Cups, think Namibia at the hands of Australia in 1970 and one or two Canadian performances (36 & 45 all out in 2003 and 1979) but there has also been Zimbabwe beating Australia in 1983, Kenya beating West Indies in 1996 and Ireland beating Pakistan in 2007.

There are so few teams at the Cricket World Cup that a comparison with football for regional disproportionateness is completely irrelevant. In fact to be fair, there isn’t really a geographic disproportion, just a lack of global representatives in general.

Anyway, I guess what I’m getting at is that regardless of sport, a World Cup should be exactly that, a tournament that has a fair and even distribution of teams from across the globe. The football World Cup isn’t perfect but hopefully in the future cricket will allow for the Senegals and North Koreas of the footballing world to have the opportunity at least to produce some shocks that will reverberate around the cricket world.

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Ashes Cricket (PS4): You, Me and Virtuality!

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Been missing my Don Bradman write-ups? Cricket Captain and its graphs and charts just not the same? Well fear not Silly Pointers because with the release of Ashes Cricket soon upon us, my PS4 based cricket adventures are about to begin again!

Come the release of Big Ant’s third (DBC14/DBC17/Ashes Cricket) venture to the crease, you can look forward to the following:

  • Yours truly setting out on a career and this time getting a county gig before the age of 26, a batting average at least in the twenties and international recognition… hopefully!
  • England participating in newly formed Test, ODI and T20I leagues. As per my previously detailed plans to restructure world cricket, I would ideally amalgamate all formats and create the Global Cricket League (GCL) but that is beyond even Big Ant’s customisation boundaries.
  • The Stateside Smash (Something that I’m confident is within Big Ant’s customisation boundaries). Los Angeles Ashes, New York Nightwatchmen and Houston Apollo are just some of the franchises rumoured to be signing up.
  • Original jazzy kits and funky bats designed by yours truly.

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Silly Point himself registering a First Class century, England becoming Test champions of the World, a razzmatazz USA based T20 league, Mark Footitt winning an England cap and Ross Whiteley turning out for Phoenix Free Hitters. These are all things that could happen… if not in reality then in virtuality, in Big Ant’s Ashes Cricket!

 

Cricket Captain 2017: 2023-24 – Namibian Desert and Canada Dry!

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The 2023-24 campaign culminated with back-to-back ODI World Cup defeats against associate nations Namibia and Canada. Against Namibia, England’s skill set simply deserted them, whilst against Canada, their quality ran dry.

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James Weighell’s figures of 10-0-102-0 against Canada, summed up a selection policy that has been found out and confirmed that competitiveness is a trait long since departed from England’s cricket team.

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Following the World Cup exit in India, Middlesex legend Toby Roland-Jones retired at the end of an injury hit campaign. TR-J had his moments in an England shirt, most notably his 49-ball 75 against South Africa in a Test match and strong Test and ODI series against Zimbabwe at home at the start of last year.

England finished the season placed 9th out of ten in Test, ODI and T20I rankings, superior only to Zimbabwe, another team that defeated them in the World Cup.

Among few positives, young batsman Sam Evans scored centuries in the first innings of his first three Test matches. Those matches were in South Africa and it is the same opposition that England will entertain in the summer of 2024. Such is England’s fall from grace that in the 2024 T20I World Cup they will face the might of Nepal, USA and once again, Canada. The days of such encounters being ‘walk in the parks’ for England’s cricketers are long, long gone!

Six to Watch: 2017 Season Review

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Jofra Archer, 22, Sussex, All-Rounder

The standout star of the six identified players, Archer could well have been on the plane to Australia this winter if it were not for the fact that, technically at least, his allegiance remains with West Indies. Archer scored 638 County Championship runs at 45.57 with a phenomenal strike rate of 88. His 61 wickets were claimed at 25.30. Still some years away from qualifying for England, could Archer go to Oz with England Lions this winter or does he need to spend as much time as possible in England to become eligible for his mother’s nation?

Daniel Bell-Drummond, 24, Kent, Right-Handed Opening Batsman

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DBD failed to register a First Class century and averaged a disappointing 25.50 in the longer form of the game. In the One-Day Cup however he clocked up two tons and finished the competition with an average of 63.29. Regarding his case for England honours, he isn’t scoring the runs to demand Test selection and despite a strong domestic campaign this year, probably isn’t perceived to be as destructive as others in limited overs cricket. Dependent on how England’s batsmen perform in Australia this winter, a strong start to the 2018 campaign could put him on England’s Test radar but the selectors’ penchant for another right-handed opener, Lancashire’s Haseeb Hameed, might not help DBD’s case. Like the first man on this list, he could in theory opt to represent West Indies.

Dom Bess, 20, Somerset, Off-Spin Bowler

Despite a strong finish last season, Bess was omitted from the Somerset side early in this year’s campaign. Once he got his feet under the table however, he made the most of it. Bess claimed 36 County Championship first division wickets at just 23.42. English cricket is often portrayed as having a dearth of spin talent but Bess, alongside the likes of Mason Crane, Matthew Parkinson, Sukhjit Singh and Hamidullah Qadri amongst others could provide great competition for England for the next two decades.

Jack Burnham, 20, Durham, Right-Handed Middle Order Batsman

Burnham missed a fair chunk of the season in the early stages and went on to register 223 runs at 24.78 with a top score of 93 not out in the County Championship. He has totalled less than 100 runs in all cricket since 28th July. Much was expected of him following the departures of Mark Stoneman and Scott Borthwick to Surrey and with Keaton Jennings heading to Lancashire, Durham desperately need Burnham to blossom come 2018.

Nick Compton, 34, Middlesex, Right-Handed Middle Order Batsman

Former England batsman Compton was one of many willowmen on the county circuit this season to endure a frustrating  campaign. The Middlesex player totalled a moderate return of 446 runs at 26.24. His season best of 120 was his only half-century let alone his only ton.

Mark Footitt, 31, Surrey/Nottinghamshire, Left-Arm Fast Medium Bowler

Footitt’s early season form for Surrey was so destructive that his performances went viral and there were calls from many quarters that England recognition was merited. By the end of the campaign however, he had returned to Nottinghamshire but made only a single first team appearance before the season was out. Footitt hasn’t played white ball cricket in over a year but this term totalled 23 division one wickets for Surrey and four division two wickets for Nottinghamshire in the County Championship. His averages (29.83/23.75) were sub 30 for both counties.

In 2018 we’ll start again with six fresh faces and see how they fare as the season pans out.

Telegraph Fantasy Cricket: CC/ODC – 2017 Season Review

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9,748th place, a comfortable finish in the top 10,000! The team I picked for my daughter finished in 11,213th place, so at worst I was in the bottom 1,500. Who knows? Maybe there were over a million players!

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Starting with my captain, Gloucestershire gloveman Gareth Roderick.

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I simply got his selection completely wrong. Had he been fit or whatever he needed to be to play then he would have made serious contributions but he missed the early part of the season for ‘unknown reasons’ and later broke a finger. To be fair, he dug deep to score 78 not out with the damaged digit. Before you consider the double points element, if you’re captain isn’t your top scorer then you’ve messed up. South African born Roderick registered 400 runs at a respectable average of 36.36 as well as claiming 24 dismissals but just didn’t play enough.

Steven Croft basically doesn’t bowl anymore. Lancashire seem to have an array of spin bowlers, whether they be part- or full-time (Parkinson, Parry, Livingstone, Kerrigan – who himself went out on loan) and like Roderick, Croft missed significant chunks of the season. Aside from a blast of a knock early in the campaign and a score in the final round of matches, Croft just didn’t contribute anywhere near significantly enough. The White Rose’s skipper’s figures: 409 runs at an underwhelming 29.21.

Huge kudos to Worcestershire’s Tom Fell for battling back from cancer and hopefully, with a new contract under his belt, he can score big next year.

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This year was a horror show however. He failed to reach fifty nor did he ever don the gloves. Fell totalled 323 runs at a paltry 14.68 in the County Championship. Contrary to the above image, his form (Or lack of!) didn’t earn him and England call up!

Welsh willow wielding wizard Aneurin Donald didn’t hit the heights hoped for this campaign but did manage four First Class fifties either side of being mucked around by Glamorgan, batting as low as seven in One-Day Cup matches.

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For the record ‘Ducky’ totalled 487 County Championship runs at 25.63. In One-Day cricket he scored 20 runs at an average of just 4.00!

It’s a funny old game. My most successful batsman was the one I expected the least from. I had anticipated Riki Wessels might deliver for me in limited overs matches but didn’t really expect him to play regularly in the First Class game. In a pre-season university fixture, he followed a duck with a hundred and went on to score three centuries with a top score of 202 not out in the County Championship. He had a mare though in the One-Day Cup final where he dropped a catch off the first ball of the match and made only six runs but away from the cameras he delivered. He also claimed a couple of catches when standing in as wicketkeeper. Across the County Championship (832) and One-Day Cup (302) the Nottinghamshire batsman totalled 1,134 runs.

Worcestershire’s Brett D’Oliveira doesn’t have a great average for an opening batsman but I think that there’s an element of the old Trescothick/Vaughan vibe about him. He could be better suited to the higher level. This year he made three First Class hundreds but lacked consistency. He didn’t claim a single wicket in the County Championship but snared seven in the One-Day Cup. His best years could yet be ahead of him. In 2017 BDO notched up 891 County Championship runs alongside 222 in the 50-over game.

Ravi Bopara will have been in many people’s teams but will probably suffer from that very thing I’ve moaned about previously when it comes to Bopara. He’s done okay but you can’t help but want more from him. 576 County Championship runs at 32.00 puts him way down title-winning Essex’s run charts. He claimed a disappointing twelve wickets in fourteen matches in the same competition. He did however rack up 329 One-Day Cup runs at 54.83 and claimed nine wickets but didn’t win a recall to England’s ODI side!

Keith Barker is another one who did well without sparkling. Six fifties at 29.78 is a really useful contribution with the willow but just 26 County Championship wickets this term is a bit disappointing for a left-armer many thought should’ve been on England’s radar. Of course Warwickshire’s season as a whole was a torrid one.

Off-spinner Ollie Rayner did well for England Lions last winter but never really got going this year.

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His twenty First Class wickets in eleven matches cost nearly 40 apiece. For reference, Middlesex teammate Ravi Patel totalled fourteen victims in two outings.

Durham’s James ‘Killer’ Weighell surprised many this season but injuries dogged him. He wasn’t in the County Championship side at the start of term but took wickets aplenty (18 @ 23.11) in the One-Day Cup. Unfortunately he got injured and so didn’t play as many First Class games as he would have liked but when he did he made some decent contributions with the bat (162 @ 40.50) to go with his eleven wickets. If he can stay fit, he could be essential to Durham’s hopes of a renaissance in the upcoming years.

Finally, onto Sussex’s Jofra Archer. My team should’ve been Archer’s Army not Roderick Brotherhood. Archer was by far and away my top points scorer with nearly double the next man’s total. His 638 County Championship runs came at 45.57 including five fifties at a whopping strike rate of 88.00! His 61 wickets came at 25.30 and if it weren’t for lack of eligibility (Damn ineligibility!) he could well have being headed to Australia for the Ashes. No seriously, he’s that good but a few years away from qualifying having migrated from the West Indies. Whether or not he could join up with England Lions as early as this winter is an interesting consideration. Actually, I should save this for my ‘Six to Watch – Season Review’ article as Archer is one of the six!

I’ll repeat what I’ve said previously about how I think The Telegraph should alter their game. Currently there’s one competition for the County Championship and One-Day Cup combined and a separate one for the T20 Blast. I propose amending it to three individual competitions so that you can select three different teams. Some players specialise in only First Class or List A cricket so grouping the two together does require skill in one way but is limiting in another. There could be three first place finish prizes and an overall winner prize.

For me, any prize remains allusive. There’s always next year…

Cricket Captain 2017: Complacent Against the ‘Chevrons’ (No really, the ‘Chevrons’!)

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After the 2-0 Test series success, England comfortably claimed the ODI series against Zimbabwe as well. After three matches England had assumed an unassailable 3-0 lead and went onto win the fourth courtesy of a record breaking partnership (More about that later). Up to that point England were only truly tested in the third match however Zimbabwe deservedly won a tight final encounter of the series.

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England’s 4-1 win made their ODI ranking a bit more respectable.

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Durham’s Paul Coughlin averaged just 7.71 with the ball in the series and is currently the tenth best ODI bowler in the world according to the rankings. Jamie Overton, Toby Roland-Jones and Sam Curran are also currently placed amongst the top twenty. Newcomer Matthew Taylor endured a tough time however, claiming just two wickets at 79.00 apiece.

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In the fourth ODI, Lewis McManus (167) and Sam Northeast (142 not out) recorded England’s highest ever ODI partnership. McManus fell just four runs short of equalling England’s highest ever individual ODI score but does now hold the record for the highest ODI and T20I innings during the current management reign.

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Will Beer, an average Don Bradman would’ve been proud of!

In the sole T20I, an at best England second team suffered a final over defeat as Zimbabwe finished the tour with back-to-back victories.

Cricket Captain 2017: Victory at Last!

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9th June 2023. Remember the date people!

Following ten consecutive Test match defeats, England’s cricketers have won a series for the first time in nearly five years. A thumping win in the first Test against Zimbabwe was followed by a nail-biting three-wicket series clincher for Nick Gubbins and his men in the second.

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Ex-skipper Liam Livingstone and wicketkeeper Ben Foakes’ record-breaking partnership of 315 laid the foundation for England’s hoodoo-terminating victory in the first Test at Lords.

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Despite huge pressure from the media as well as the public to drop Toby Roland-Jones from the side, England persisted with the Middlesex veteran and were rewarded as the 35-year-old seamer returned career-best figures of 4-25 to decimate Zimbabwe in the visitor’s first innings of the second Test.

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After Liam Livingstone (104) had recorded his 12th Test century, gloveman Ben Foakes slowly carried England to back-to-back Test wins and a morale boosting series victory. Under such pressure, a successful run-chase on a deteriorating fourth and fifth day pitch is no mean feat.

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After an encouraging if unrewarding Ashes campaign, Jamie Overton well and truly arrived as a Test match bowler. The express paceman snared 9 victims at just 15.56 apiece and also had the honour of scoring the series clinching run.

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During the series, opening batsman Mark Stoneman passed 4000 Test runs and Liam Livingstone ascended to the peak of the Test match batting rankings.

England’s schedule now sees them entertain their Test scalps in five ODIs and one T20I. With both limited overs captains Ryan Higgins and Benny Howell without a county this year, England have some huge decisions to make when selecting their squads. After the pyjama affairs, England host the might of Pakistan for five Tests, as many ODIs and a T20I.