Malan’s the Man!

Not content with notching up Test hundreds in computer games, Dawid Malan’s only gone and got one in real life!

Although fellow England newbie Mark Stoneman hasn’t registered a century yet and is developing a penchant for contributing both classy and at the same time gritty fifty-somethings, I sincerely hope that England stick with these guys post Ashes and don’t just move onto their next new toy like they did after Michael Carberry. These thirty-somethings have developed their game on the county circuit and having been presented with the obvious fact that Test cricket is a step up, they’re raising their game and learning to adapt. Come home series against subcontinental sides, you’d like to think that ‘Rocky’ and ‘AC’ will now feel at home in the England shirt and can prosper. As for James Vince…

It’s not just against India or Pakistan at home that you’d like to think Stoneman and Malan could deliver. Having displayed their skills and character in ‘The Land of Oz‘, they’ve shown they might posses the required nous to adapt against all sides, home and away. Of course touring places like Bangladesh is like playing on another planet.

Mike Hussey didn’t arrive on the Test scene until he was aged thirty, Andy Flower blossomed around thirty-two and the likes of Kumar Sangakarra and Misbah-ul-Haq peaked much later. Here’s hoping and believing that Stoneman and Malan follow suit and inspire those players who aren’t bred through the normal modern development channels. As for James Vince…

On a serious note, hopefully Vince can be inspired by the the efforts of Stoneman and Malan. If the Hampshire man can adapt where necessary but trust his own game where appropriate, he could register the sort of scores that win matches and earn long careers.

Ashes Cricket (PS4): Global Test League – Malan of the Match!

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Following the disappointing defeat at the hands of Zimbabwe at Old Trafford in the opening round of Global Test League fixtures, it was essential that we upped our game against India at Lords and register our first championship points.

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Records tumbled on day one as our batsmen recovered from a precarious position of 12-2 to make hay against an insipid India attack. No less than six willow wielders passed fifty but it was Dawid Malan who stood tallest on his home ground. The Middlesex man reached his maiden Test hundred before eventually being dismissed for a grand 133. Having made scores of 8 and 32 at Old Trafford, Malan seized the opportunity of playing on familiar ground to cement his immediate future in England’s middle order.

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The hosts had been 198-6 when Moeen Ali joined Malan at the crease but the pair combined to construct a mammoth partnership of 176 to deflate the Indian players. Moeen was cruelly denied a Test hundred, courtesy of a fantastic slower ball from Jasprit Bumrah that trapped the Worcestershire man in front. It was a rare piece of intelligent and well executed bowling from the away side. Bumrah, for his batting as much as his bowling, was one of the few Indian players to walk away from this match with their reputation enhanced.

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By the end of first day, we’d been dismissed for a mighty 536 and still had time to bowl a few overs at the visiting batsmen. The opening over, bowled by James Anderson as the sun set over London, was a sublime display of swing bowling. Having seen their side total a record breaking opening day score, the home fans had already received their money’s worth but were treated to Anderson’s torrid torture of India’s top order. Swinging the ball like no one before him, Anderson was close to claiming another two LBWs in his first over on top of trapping the dumbstruck Shikhar Dhawan. Dhawan would later fall to Anderson in the second innings, caught on the boundary in one of the most embarrassing displays of an international cricketer running scared ever seen!

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Registering scores of just five and three, Chris Woakes clearly had a disappointing match with the bat and the experimentation of him batting at number six may have to come to an end. The Warwickshire man made a solid contribution with the ball however, collecting match figures of 25-8-64-3 and easing the burden on messrs Broad and Anderson.

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Seamer Toby Roland-Jones, called into the side at the expense of spinner Liam Dawson, joined Middlesex colleague Malan in making a positive impression on his home ground. Having recored a maiden Test half-century (61) in England’s epic first innings, T R-J claimed three catches as India’s batsmen were suckered into the same trap time and time again. With his international career still in its infancy, the county veteran finished with match figures of 25.4-10-62-3. Like Woakes, Roland-Jones confirmed that England’s back-up brigade of pace bowlers are blessed with plenty of skill and wicket taking nous.

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Though we were keen to enforce the follow-on, a miscommunication (A bug!) with the officials resulted in us having to bat again. Provided the rapid nature of our first innings batting and as a result, the amount of time left in the match, we weren’t too concerned about having to do so. Of all the England players, only opening bat Mark Stoneman (7 & 8) will walk away from the match disappointed but fellow opener Keaton Jennings (73 & 51) made fifties in both innings. That’s three in four in the inaugural GTL for the new Lancashire recruit. Hampshire’s James Vince made an attacking 92 before Dawid Malan, not content with one Test century on his home ground, promptly made another. There are many great players never to have made the honours board at Lords but Malan etched his name twice in the space of a couple of days. He fell soon after as England presented the undeserving Hardik Pandya (3-55) with three cheap (And I mean very cheap!) wickets in one over, as thoughts turned towards a declaration. Despite there being ample time left in the match, it was felt unnecessary to have our bowlers exert energy whilst batting. There’s another twelve rounds of Test fixtures and the workload of the pace bowlers in particular must be managed accordingly.

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Few would have thought that James Vince would lead the way with the ball in India’s second innings but with captain Joe Root letting senior bowlers, the likes of James Anderson and Stuart Broad take it easy in the field, Vince followed up his batting exploits with figures of 2-40 from ten overs. Freakishly, India were dismissed for 208 in both innings. In truth, it may only have been England’s decision to rest senior bowlers second time around that allowed India to ascend from 98-8 and total that many.

This was a truly emphatic and utterly dominant display from England. The 455-run margin of victory was the sixth highest in the history of Test cricket. Our first innings total of 536 was the highest ever score reached on the opening day of a Test match and the second most runs scored on any day in Test history. There were contributions from throughout the side and standards have now been set extremely high. There’s excitement amongst the players as they seek to be the leading run-scorers or wicket-takers respectively in the Global Test League. Malan currently sits third on the overall batting charts and Anderson leads the way for England with the ball. That friendly competition is good for the team and the tournament as a whole. After a disappointing outing against Zimbabwe, it will be pleasing for captain Joe Root to have made 55 in the first innings but even more pleasing to see all those around him perform so productively.

Our next match sees us voyage overseas for the first time, not far though, just a short traverse of the Irish Sea to take on Ireland in Malahide. We’ll review conditions prior to confirming any amendments to the squad.

JM Vince – Run Out: 83, 145-3 (59.3ov)

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145-2 when batting first in the curtain raiser Ashes Test in Australia. James Vince is run out for a career best 83. It is at this point that England lost the Ashes. The Hampshire man hinted (Vince hints a lot!) at silencing all the doubters and writing his place in history with a maiden Test century on Ashes debut. As it was he ran himself out, that most frustrating of dismissals and has barely scored a run since. He’ll probably never score a Test hundred and look back at that instant as the moment his career could have gone one of two ways but only begun its descent. It didn’t just cost James Vince, it cost England the Ashes. Had Vince compiled say 150, England may have posted a total in excess of 400 and possibly won the first Test. Could, had, may, possibly, clutching and desperate I know. As it is, England are 2-0 down and staring a whitewash in the face.

If… James Vince rattles off a ton in Perth and England go onto win the Ashes 3-2, I’ll eat my hat, be as chuffed as anybody for Vince and co. and will have witnessed the greatest sporting comeback of all time!

A Change is Gonna Come

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Prepare to be shocked!

Forgot my ‘Pick ‘n’ stick’ selection policy, it’s time for change. It’s just so predictable that England will wait to go 3-0 down in the Ashes before making changes rather than doing so at 2-0. Okay okay, they replaced Jake Ball with Craig Overton for the second Test but Alastair Cook, Moeen Ali and maybe even Jonny Bairstow, your time is up! I back these guys to come good in the third Test, that’s just who I am but meritocracy combined with necessity tells me that they should make way.

At the top of the order, I’d bring back the left-handed Ben Duckett. I think he should have been persevered with throughout the summer following his mid-winter axing. I like his positive approach and alongside the contrastingly stoic right-handed Haseeb Hameed long term, could be ‘Warneresque’ for England. Forget who’s officially in the squad, it doesn’t matter because the England Lions are shadowing the full side anyway.

On the spin front, Moeen Ali isn’t even fit. He’s cut his finger yet England won’t dare entertain the idea of picking someone else. I’d prefer the left-arm variety of Jack Leach to Mason Crane and really don’t understand this attitude of selecting Crane if he’s only to be trusted as a second spinner on maybe one ground. Chris Woakes is capable of more with the bat and this isn’t the time for worrying about the length of the tail.

As for the glovemen, Jonny Bairstow doesn’t seem to be in the right place, so let’s throw caution to the wind and welcome Surrey’s Ben Foakes to the XI.

Cook, Moeen and Bairstow, I love these guys but now is the time for ruthlessness. It doesn’t have to mean the end of their careers and some may call it panic but the current side has left us 2-0 down. A change is gonna come… or not, probably not, definitely not!

Ashes Extras

It’s been a while since the last Extras post but here’s an Ashes treat. It’s a kind of quiz question special!

Bye: Should Peter Handscomb make way for Glenn Maxwell?

Handscomb looks jittery at the crease while Maxwell is performing well in the Sheffield Shield. There’s an old adage that ‘You shouldn’t change a winning team’ and with Oz 2-0 to the good, this could be a good opportunity to let Handscomb ride out the tempest. Some however may argue that you should make changes when you’re winning if those alterations strengthen the side.

Leg Bye: Should England drop Moeen Ali?

He’s probably not fully fit, looks ineffectual with the ball and limp with the bat. His potential to score runs though makes a straight swap with Mason Crane seem unlikely.

No Ball: Can Dawid Malan convert starts?

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Malan seems to be winning over some doubters with his effort and application but teens and twenties won’t keep him in the Test side forever. The Middlesex man will be seeking at least a half-century in Perth.

Wide: Would Jake Ball be better off with England Lions?

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If JB3 is now only around to serve beverages then he may as well get some game time with the back-up brigade. If any of the senior bowlers trip up on the morning of a Test, is Ball next in-line anyway?

It’s Miller Time!

Jamaica twirler Nikita Miller has deservedly won a recall to the West Indies side on the back of consistently strong domestic performances. For now Miller remains a wicketless one-cap no wonder at Test level but he’ll add to his tally of 46 ODI appearances against New Zealand later this month. In doing so, the thirty-five-year-old can push for another opportunity at Test cricket as well. On the regional circuit, Miller’s stats are truly staggering. He averages a mind boggling 16.17 with the orb at First Class level and is rapidly approaching 500 victims. In the List A format, Miller averages a possibly disappointing 28.28 but at an economy rate of just 3.95! It does kind of beg the question: “Why hasn’t he won more international caps to date?”. Admittedly there are a few West Indies based bowlers, spinners in particular, possessive of some ridiculously low bowling averages. Miller hasn’t donned a Windies Jersey since 2015 and played his solitary Test against Bangladesh as far back as 2009 but his time has come once again.

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It’s also good to see thirty-six-year-old Trinidad native Rayad Emrit earn a maiden T20I call-up. It’s more than a decade since Emrit won his two ODI caps in India and he’ll hope for far more productive performances against New Zealand having failed to take a wicket in his ODI outings. Like Miller, Emrit has been rewarded for consistent domestic showings and though some may criticise the need to call-up players well into their thirties, there are a number of young players currently around the West Indies side and Miller and Emrit’s experience could compliment those players well.