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!

Cricket Captain 2017: 2018 Test Tour to Sri Lanka Squad Announcement

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England head to Sri Lanka shortly for a tough tour consisting of three Tests, five ODIs and curiously … no T20Is.

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Opening batsman Rory Burns returns to the squad after injury whilst there are also recalls for batsman James Hildreth and spin bowler Ollie Rayner, both of whom debuted last year. Dawid Malan, Toby Roland-Jones and Tom Curran, all capped at either ODI or T20I level, earn their first call ups to the Test squad. Uncapped John Simpson provides wicketkeeping cover for the second successive winter but disappointingly the in-form Liam Livingstone is unavailable through injury.

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The full Test squad is as follows:

Mark Stoneman, Daniel Bell-Drummond, Ben Duckett, Joe Root (c), Moeen Ali, Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow (w), Adil Rashid, Liam Norwell, Ben Coad, Jack Leach, Rory Burns, James Hildreth, Dawid Malan, John Simpson (w), Ollie Rayner, Toby Roland-Jones, Tom Curran

Fifty for Westley!

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Having registered a quarter century in his first Test innings, Essex’s Tom Westley has doubled that in his second dig, reaching fifty for the first time on cricket’s most demanding stage.

Hopefully this is the start of Westley being England’s regular and consistent number three for at least five or six years. At the age of 28, contrary to some people’s opinions on when batsmen prosper, Westley could yet be a number of years away from peaking.

England are surely not too far away from a declaration as they look to return to winning ways and seize a 2-1 lead with one match to play in the Test series against South Africa. Stay up to date with proceedings @ cricinfo.com…

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/10718/game/1031441/England-vs-South-Africa-3rd-Test-Basil-DOliveira-Trophy

Cricket Captain 2017: Summer 2018 Report

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We commenced the summer with a comfortable win against Pakistan in the first Test before following it up with an uncomfortable defeat in the second. In the absence of IPL duo Ben Stokes and Chris Woakes and following the decision to omit Stuart Broad and James Anderson from the Test squad, there were mixed performances from the likes of Sam Curran, Liam Plunkett, Jofra Archer and Ben Coad.

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Yorkshire’s Ben Coad struck with his first delivery in international cricket.

In the second Test both opening batsmen, Surrey duo Mark Stoneman and Rory Burns were fighting to save their international careers following lean Ashes series and appalling first Test performances. Having made 9 in the second innings Burns broke his rib and was understandably forced to retire hurt. Stoneman however dug deep to pass 1000 Test match runs. The former Durham left-hander reached fifty (74) for the first time in seven Tests to preserve his Test career.

After losing the first ODI we hit back to record a 4-1 series win. The leg-spin duo of Adil Rashid (10 wickets @ 17.90) and Liam Livingstone (8 @ 21.25) shared plenty of wickets and a rejuvenated Liam Plunkett (9 @ 15.33) claimed a healthy amount of victims too. Bermuda born Delray Rawlins made an impressive 60 on debut.

Despite Somerset’s Craig Overton striking with his first ball in international cricket, the sole T20I ended in defeat.

At the end of Pakistan’s visit we had maintained our unbeaten series records in Tests and ODIs since the start of my tenure but following the New Zealand series, had lost back to back T20I series.

Next up came India and the first Test has gone down in history as one of the greatest of all time. Unfortunately for Liam Plunkett, he’ll be remembered as the man who dropped the match. The Yorkshire quick failed to grasp a straightforward match-winning caught and bowled chance in the penultimate over of the final day’s play before the visitors held on by just one wicket. By the time the series neared its end we led 1-0 but promptly lost the last match of a Test series for the third series in a row, resulting in a series draw for the third straight series. There were positives however, most notably Mark Stoneman’s return to form (418 runs @ 41.80 including 160 in the fourth Test) and Gloucestershire pacer Liam Norwell’s debut match figures of 7-89.

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Debutant Liam Norwell (7-89) made the most of good domestic form to lead England’s charge to victory in the third Test.

Others found things harder though. Having replaced the injured Rory Burns at the top of the order, Kent’s Daniel Bell-Drummond made scores of 98 and 54 on debut at Lords but failed to pass 21 in the next four Tests. Durham pacer James Weighell claimed 4-99 in the fourth Test but his 12 series victims came at more than 60 apiece with a strike rate in excess of 100!.

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Durham’s James Weighell found the step up to international cricket a big one.

The ODI series would prove frustrating as despite leading twice we failed to defend 331 in the final match thus resulting in a 3-2 series loss and our first ODI series defeat in nearly two years. Captain Chris Woakes found the going particularly tough.

Despite the defeat, there were plenty of positives to come out of an extremely competitive series. These included Sam Curran’s consistency with the ball. At just twenty-years-old, Curran already has 31 ODI wickets to his name at an average of just 25.90. On reflection, the decision to rest him from the fourth ODI was probably a misguided one.

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Surrey’s Sam Curran has taken to international cricket like a duck to water but may have to focus solely on ODIs for the immediate future.

Another positive was Liam Livingstone’s contribution to the cause. After performing tremendously well with the ball against Pakistan, Lancashire’s Livingstone, after a few cameos, upped the ante with the bat. This was more evident than ever in the fourth ODI when Livingstone produced a marvellous innings of 127 not out, his maiden international hundred.

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Lancashire’s Liam Livingstone (127 not out) showed he’s right at home in the international arena.

Kent’s Sam Northeast struck 72 on debut in the fifth ODI after replacing the struggling Delray Rawlins. Sussex’s Rawlins was twice run out in single figures during his four innings in the series and failed to pass 22. It was a disappointing follow up to the debut 60 he hit against Pakistan and he may be well served to return to domestic cricket to further his education before donning England colours again. His time will come.

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Adil Rashid: Best bowler in the world but can’t get a game!

It was also a frustrating summer for Adil Rashid. Having topped the Ashes bowling averages the Yorkshire leggie had to make do with 12th man duties for many of the Tests (Jack Leach the preferred spinner) and despite being ranked the number one ODI bowler in the world, he was unable to force his way into the limited overs XI against India. In truth, the pitches were not really crying out for spin. His frustration was probably exasperated when Hampshire’s Mason Crane claimed four wickets in four balls on T20I debut. Having gone around the park (0-33) in his first two overs, captain Eoin Morgan made the brave call to stick with Crane and the decision paid dividends. Crane finished with figures of 4-48 to display the sort of character and temperament required to prosper at international level. Cynics will say that the tail were slogging but Crane prevented India from getting away before the team classily chased down 186 to win the sole T20I and finish the summer on a high. At just twenty years of age, Crane should have an important part to play for England in all formats for the next decade or more.

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Hampshire’s Mason Crane (4-48) took four wickets in four balls on T20I debut!

Another youngster who impressed on debut was Worcestershire’s Joe Clarke. Coming into international cricket off the back of outstanding domestic form, Clarke hit 26 from just 9 deliveries to seal victory following Crane’s heroics.

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Joe Clarke: 9 balls, 26 runs. International Cricket: Easy!

The contributions from the likes of Crane and Clarke will have been of huge relief to T20I captain Eoin Morgan. Speculation about his position had been mounting following back to back series defeats and no win in four matches but Morgan led the charge both in the field and with the bat on one of English cricket’s greatest nights.

Next for the team is a tough tour to Sri Lanka. The Test squad will be announced exclusively here at Silly Point later today!

Maiden Test Wicket for Roland-Jones!

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Middlesex legend Toby Roland-Jones, aka Toblerone has snapped up his first Test victim in the third Test against South Africa. Dean Elgar had the honour of being TR-J’s maiden Test scalp and at the time of writing Roland-Jones has added Heino Kuhn and Hashim Amla to his list of Test dismissals. His figures currently read 3-8 to add to the 25 runs he posted in England’s innings.

Start as you mean to go on Toby!

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/