There have been many dark days in English cricket. Today was one of those days. It was like being in the world’s longest tunnel without a torch or possibly with a torch but no batteries or the batteries had run out!
Having seemingly had the Trumpeteers under control at 117-5, we ‘allowed’ Team USA to post a competitive target of 170. A recalled Ajmal Shahzad was the pick of our bowlers. He claimed figures of 2-25 from his full allocation as well as having a chance dropped. Tom Curran also claimed two wickets (4-0-31-2). Matt Coles figures were less impressive: 4-0-40-0 and he would go onto compliment these with a golden duck!
We began our pursuit sedately, the intention to keep wickets intact and accelerate as the overs elapsed. We were aided early on by some wides and opening batsmen Ben Duckett and Michael Carberry posted a half-century stand to commence the chase. Duckett fell first, caught behind off a good delivery from the spinner having constructed a decent 30 from 24 deliveries. Captain Joe Root built a brisk 30 from 21 deliveries but was harshly adjudged LBW before the returning Michael Carberry was also dismissed in debatable fashion. By then, Carberry had grafted to 26 from 30 deliveries. His innings lacked fluency but did include one majestic leg-side flick for four. He was adjudged caught behind off the spinner though no edge was apparent. Why there were no reviews available in this T20 International remains unclear.
Dawid Malan (7), Liam Livingstone (Run out for 2 to add to a dropped dolly!) and Liam Dawson (0 to compliment figures of 2-0-20-0) offered little to the chase. After Jos Buttler had struck a rapid 27 both Tom Curran and Ajmal Shahzad found the boundary on more than one occasion but ultimately Shahzad was unable to clear the ropes as required from the last ball of the match. Tom Curran (8) was run out and The Stars and Stripes ran out victors in Taunton by the small margin of just three runs.
Maybe we got our tactics wrong. Possibly we should have attacked in the Powerplay but whilst we may have had more runs on the board early on, we would likely have lost more wickets too. To the loyal supporters of English cricket, the team offer their sincerest apologies for this result and promise to dig deep in the face of opposition to come.
When batting, why wouldn’t you wear a helmet?
When a spinner’s bowling, batsman can be tempted to stride to the crease helmet less. However the threat of being struck on the head isn’t merely from the absent pace bowler. Imagine that the helmet less willow wielder sets off for a sneaky single and a desperate dive is required to preserve their wicket. The fielder collects the ball and hurls it towards the stumps but only connects with the intercepting temple of the despairing batsman. Cue an ugly and potentially terminal scene.
Is the cricket world going to wait for this to happen before implementing mandatory head protection rules?
Maybe it already has happened. There have been all kinds of cricket related accidents, injuries and most tragically deaths both in the recent and throughout time. These days, we’ve even got umpires wearing armour!
Next time the ICC, MCC or ABCCC are drafting new legislation, Silly Point proposes that the donning of helmets by batsman be made obligatory for whenever, wherever and however they are at the crease.
We opted to make numerous changes to our side for our first Test match in a while, having primarily played white ball stuff in recent times. The XI wasn’t far from our strongest team though with Jonny Bairstow rested, Gareth Roderick made his debut behind the stumps.
In our first innings, opening batsman Keaton Jennings led the way but having reached 50 exactly he fell to the very next delivery bowled by spin. El capitan Joe Root however ploughed on, ably supported by Scott Borthwick. Borthwick was making his first appearance during my tenure and his first Test match since his debut more than three years ago. The new Surrey recruit acquitted himself well in composing a… composed 37 before nicking behind off the quick bowler. Debutant Roderick came and went for 11 but as wickets fell, Root was relentless. He was chaperoned through the 90s by Chris Woakes who made a vital 27 in a partnership of 115 with his skipper. Root eventually fell for 166 before Stuart Broad clobbered 47 from just 24 deliveries to propel England to 398.
James Anderson then ripped through the Ugandan batting line-up on his way to figures of 10-1-24-4 as the visitors crashed to 36-5 and at 61-6 they looked destined to follow-on. Their lower order dug deep however to do just enough to make us have to bat again. Chris Woakes (2-23) and the recalled Mark Footitt (2-31) bowled well to restrict Uganda to 204.
In our second venture to the crease, Haseeb Hameed again fell cheaply. Scores of 16 and 3 leave him in need of runs come our next Test match. He will be given that chance. Consistency in selection is an important part of our genesis. Keaton Jennings recorded his second half-century of the match but was run out for 54 with skipper Joe Root at fault. Scott Borthwick again looked assured but this time fell for 43. Roderick (He did at least claim four dismissals in the match) and an out of sorts Ben Stokes again missed out before Adil Rashid (22) and Chris Woakes (29) again batted sensibly. Also again, Stuart Broad (38 from 22 balls) went on the rampage and James Anderson followed suit striking 36 from just 14 deliveries including 21 off one over!
Mark Footitt struck in the first over of Uganda’s pursuit of 460 and there was little resistance after that. Spinner Adil Rashid exploited the deteriorating pitch to claim figures of 3-39 from 13 overs and Mark Footitt finished with 5-35 from 13.1 overs of high quality left-arm pace bowling to record impressive match figures of 7-66.
Despite the bowling exertions of Anderson, Rashid and Footitt, it was captain Joe Root’s 166 that set us on our way and so he claimed the Player of the Match Award. It was a thoroughly good team performance though with contributions from throughout the composition. Bring on our next opponents!
You are selected to tour with England. You get injured so miss the tour. The following year you are again selected to tour with England. You perform well in a tour match but in the Tests things don’t really go your way. You’re dropped and many perceive your international career to have been and gone but hopefully you’ll be better for the experience, will perform solidly on the county circuit and knock the door down for a recall. Your county however spend big bucks on some new players and come the first match of the county season you’ve lost your place to another spin bowling top order batsman. Step forward messrs Zafar Ansari and Scott Borthwick.
Of course Borthwick himself is one of many that has made his way through England’s selectorial revolving door and who ultimately has reinvented himself and re-locationed himself in order to knock the international door down again.
That’s cricket’s wheel of fortune ladies and gentlemen. Another example and another Surrey / Durham one at that: Opening batsman Rory Burns gets injured. Opening batsman Arun Harinath comes in and hits some hundreds but a year or so later Durham opening batsman Mark Stoneman heads south and Harinath joins Ansari in the Second XI.
Will the omitted players respond by making and taking runs and wickets galore in the second XI or will they go all Fabian Cowdrey on us and we’ll next see Zafar Ansari playing piano on The Voice? (Not as ridiculous as it sounds, honest!)
Could Ansari pop up at Sussex next year or Harinath at Leicestershire?
Of course I myself have suggested that Mark Footitt should make England’s XI (Before his 6-14 against Warwickshire I might add) but he left both Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire in order to keep another ex-England man Stuart Meaker out of the Surrey team. Michael Carberry is another example of a player who moved counties and who without doing so might not have donned the Three Lions jersey.
Anyway back to the point. In the space of less than a year Zafar Ansari has gone from being bridled with joy at being selected for England to presumably being a bit peeved at losing his place in the Surrey team. The problem for Ansari is a lack of cricketing identity. He’s tended to bat between numbers one and four but only has three First Class centuries. Those are great achievements, that’s three more than a lot of people but not good enough for a top order batsman with 115 innings under his belt. His bowling average of 35.18 is respectable enough but comes at an average of less than two wickets a match. This actually suggests a lack of responsibility rather than ability. Question marks linger over Ansari’s desire but when any professional sports player suggests that their game isn’t the be all and end all it can sound worse than it should. Some players immerse themselves in their profession to such an extent that it limits them but for others, getting away from the game can help them to relax and prepare for competition so long as they haven’t completely abandoned practice.
It will be interesting to see where in a decades time Zafar Ansari sits in the history of English cricket. Maybe he’ll be the next Gareth Batty!
A word of advice to all you cricket lovers out there, to my loyal and devoted followers:
Alcohol and sport do not mix, certainly not professional sport!
Australia’s best ever Malaysian born spin bowler Steve O’Keefe seems to think otherwise. I know, I know, I’m a little late to the piece. Silly Point’s standard have really slipped!
SOK got into trouble last year for alcohol related offences and by all accounts appears to have gone on the rampage at a New South Wales cricket awards ceremony last week. So much so that not only has he been fined $20,000 but he’s actually been banned from playing in an entire Matador Cup campaign.
It’s easy to wonder what he’s playing at, risking his international career after belatedly getting it going but alcohol addiction is officially a disease so if SOK needs treatment then let’s hope that he receives it.
For those of you that didn’t receive the above through your letter box this morning, I’ll be thinking of you when, like a batsman carefully placing a cover drive, I’m delicately positioning my stickers!
In January, we detailed how former England opening batsman Michael Carberry was building towards a return to professional cricket following successful cancer treatment…
Say what you like about the opposition but this is some way to announce your return to the First Class game after defeating the big C!