Panesar for Yorkshire!

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In my previous post, an audio cast about various things cricket, I touched upon Yorkshire’s necessity to acquire an experienced and quality spin bowler. England’s limited overs spinner Adil Rashid’s First Class future remains unclear, Azeem Rafiq seems to have fallen off the radar again and young Karl Carver continues to struggle. Whilst at work the other day, patrolling my stockroom as I do, a thought came to mind… Monty Panesar! That’s right, a romantic signing it would be but if Yorkshire were to snap up Monty and the fifty-Test veteran promptly spun a few county batsmen out during the second half of the County Championship, Panesar could then gate crash England’s tours to Sri Lanka and West Indies in one of the greatest sporting comebacks of all time!

http://www.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/18655.html

On a serious note, it is often said that England lack depth in their spin bowling stocks however that simply isn’t the case. It’s such a shame that Jack Leach got injured and has now suffered concussion, meaning he’ll miss more Somerset matches. Following the original injury, he subsequently lost his England place to county teammate Dom Bess, who performed admirably in the Test series against Pakistan.

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Hampshire’s Mason Crane

Mason Crane had also been bowling well in limited overs cricket after missing England’s tour of New Zealand through injury. Remember that he displayed great temperament against South Africa in T20Is last year, keeping his head above water to dismiss AB de Villiers. Said injury returned however. When England tour this winter, they’ll ideally take all of Bess, Leach and Crane. That’s an offie, a leggie and a slow-left-armer. Moeen Ali (OS)and Liam Livingstone (LS) would then be sensible back-up batting options provided they bowl effective spin. Don’t forget Liam Dawson (SLA) who continues to perform well, whether it be in English county cricket, for England Lions or in the Pakistan Super League. Samit Patel (SLA) is another option but then just look at the genuine spinners England can consider in years to come… Matthew Parkinson (LS), Amir Virdi (OS), Matthew Carter (OS) (He’s very good!), Hamidullah Qadri (OS) and Ravi Patel (SLA), that’s on top of Bess, Leach and Crane, all of whom have more than ten years at the top remaining.

Moving onto pace bowling, I wonder if England are really looking into the injury situation. Many people wanted Oli Stone selected for England after one good game earlier this season but he’s hardly played since. Jamie Overton is another great hope but is always injured. Saqib Mahmood performed superbly in the North v South matches but hasn’t played all season. Experienced England internationals Chris Woakes and Ben Stokes are obviously missing the current ODI series against Australia off the back of rapidly trying to increase their workloads from four overs per match at the IPL to countless overs in Tests.

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Durham’s Mark Wood

Mark Wood is being rested from the T20I series, Reece Topley is limited to white-ball (List A/T20) cricket only, Toby Roland-Jones is a long-term absentee and particularly alarmingly, both Jake Ball and Tom Curran managed to get injured whilst with the England squad but not having actually played!

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Middlesex’s Toby Roland-Jones

It’s worth noting that TR-Js injury only came about post playing for England?! Other solid domestic players such as Jamie Porter, Liam Norwell and James Weighell have had their injury problems too. I really hope that behind the scenes some studies are being put in place to identify trends, manage player’s workloads and help keep players fit for England.

Anyway, as I was saying… Panesar for Yorkshire!

Malan Scammed… and Other Cricket Snippets

Dawid Malan

Hello and welcome to Silly Point. Please have a listen to my latest audio cast by clicking the play button just below…

England ODI/Lions Squads: https://www.ecb.co.uk/england/men/news/742530/sam-curran-and-craig-overton-added-to-england-odi-squad-and-chris-jordan-added-to-england-lions-squad

England T20I Squad: https://www.ecb.co.uk/england/men/news/738367/england-name-squad-for-it20s-against-australia-and-india

Dawid Malan: http://www.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/236489.html

Jonny Tattersall: http://www.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/517247.html

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…

England’s Spin Dearth Myth

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English cricket often seems to be accused of having a dearth of talent when it comes to spin bowling. The national team’s first choice spinner in all forms of the game, Moeen Ali, is a batsman who bowls and 39-year-old Gareth Batty (Test Match bowling average: 66) has just been recalled to the Test squad. Such things contribute to the assumption that there are no genuine quality spin bowlers on the English county scene. Silly Point assesses whether or not such an assumption is a fair one.

Moeen is England’s first choice spinner in all forms of the game but averages in excess of forty in both Tests and ODIs. England’s second choice spinner Adil Rashid also averaged in excess of forty in both forms of the game before dragging his ODI numbers down during an excellent series for him personally in Bangladesh this month. In doing so he might now be considered England’s number one spinner at least in ODIs. The next couple of weeks will determine whether or not that will, for the first time be the case in Test Match cricket as well. Liam Dawson has made only a couple of international appearances and averages thirty-five plus in First Class and List A cricket. His value to Hampshire is primarily with the bat. James Tredwell, no longer required by England, averages below thirty in both Tests and ODIs! All these players are considered all-rounders and their ability with the bat plays a crucial role in getting them into the team. If we explore the other options available to England in the county game we’ll quickly see that England’s perceived dearth of spin talent is a myth. Ollie Rayner, though no mug with the bat and Jack Leach might not be expected to contribute the volume of runs that the likes of Moeen and Rashid might but if they were to take international wickets at fewer apiece than England’s current incumbents are they not more worthy of a place in the team?

This is not to belittle the likes of Moeen and Rashid both of whom have a lot to offer England in all facets and all forms of the game but England’s reluctance to select specialists and or explore alternative options can be frustrating.

Let’s start with off-spinner Rayner who to be fair can bat a bit (First class average 22.00 including two centuries) The German born thirty-year-old has 254 First Class wickets to his name at a more than respectable average of 32.74. That’s about two runs less per wicket than Rashid (34.70) and nine, yes nine runs less than England’s first choice spinner Moeen (41.62)! Moeen’s Test average is even higher at 42.03 but he compliments this with more than handy batting figures of 1,454 runs at 34.61 including three centuries. In 2013 Rayner recorded analysis of 15-118 including 8-46, both career bests, against Surrey at The Oval. In 2016 Rayner’s best effort was 6-79, one of three five-wicket hauls as he finished Middlesex’s victorious County Championship Division One campaign with 51 wickets from thirteen matches at just 23.57. His age, thirty, is no reason to dismiss him. He could be primed to put together all that he has learnt during his domestic career and take it on to a five-year plus international one. If not for England then surely he can get a game for Germany!

Only seven players took more County Championship Division One wickets than Rayner last term. The only English spinner to do so was Somerset’s slow-left-armer Jack Leach. The twenty-five-year old accumulated 65 wickets at 21.88 including five five-wicket hauls as Somerset pushed Rayner’s side for the title ‘til the very last day of the season. For the record only Jeetan Patel took more County Championship Division One wickets than Leach last term. 2016 was Leach’s breakthrough season as he more than doubled his career First Class wicket tally, now 107 at 25.68. Maybe he needs to show that this season wasn’t a one-off before he gets the England call and his Somerset captain Chris Rogers’ less than ringing endorsement can’t have helped his international chances. On the batting front however the likes of Haseeb Hameed and Ben Duckett were picked for England on the back of one good season though both have spent time with England Lions or underage sides. Leach hasn’t and Simon Kerrigan’s introduction to Test cricket means that the England selectors like to get a close up of their potential international players first so that they can judge their character let alone their ability. Leach joins Rayner in the England Lions squad this winter.

On the subject of Kerrigan, he has 305 First Class victim to his name and his First Class bowling average of 30.05 is lower than Rayner (32.74) another forgotten man in Danny Briggs (33.70) current Bangladesh tourist, Zafar Ansari (34.45) Rashid (34.70) Scott Borthwick (35.75) Liam Dawson (37.47) Samit Patel (39.39) and of course Moeen (41.62). Ravi Patel, Josh Poysden, Stephen Parry, Adam Riley, Rob Keogh, Graeme White and Jack Taylor also all average a lower than Moeen sub forty in First Class cricket. Last year Kerrigan took 35 County Championship Division One wickets at an average of 37.89. Not brilliant but by no means a disgrace. He’s still only twenty-seven-years-old. It was a chastising international debut (8-0-53-0) against Australia at The Oval in 2013 for Kerrigan but where as many England supporters thought that the national team had progressed from a time where players were written off after one poor performance Kerrigan seems to have been well and truly left behind. Last year on Test Match debut and on spinning terrain, Adil Rashid recorded record-breakingly bad figures of 34-0-163-0. Of course unlike Kerrigan the Yorkshire leg-spinner got a second innings chance and on a worn pitch took 5-64.

Back to Leach’s Somerset. It was another Taunton man, nineteen-year-old Dom Bess that topped the County Championship Division One bowling averages last season (See previous post: Six to Watch for more about the England Under-19 International)

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The off-spinner only made two appearances in the County Championship but his performances courted plenty of attention. He recorded figures of 6-28 against Warwickshire on debut before taking 5-43 against Nottinghamshire, both at Taunton. Former England batsmen Jonathan Trott, Ian Bell and Michael Lumb just some of his victims in those two matches. As a result of his 2016 performances Bess has 13 career wickets at 20.30 per victim.

Bess isn’t the only youngster tearing down the spin dearth myth. Kerrigan’s Lancashire’s teammate, nineteen-year-old leg-spinner Matthew Parkinson exploded onto the scene in 2016, recording figures of 5-49 against Warwickshire on debut. Like Bess, Jonathan Trott was among his debut victims. Parkinson’s First Class stats currently read 10 wickets at 36.30.

Another nineteen-year-old leggie is Hampshire’s Mason Crane. 31 wickets at 45.45 with a best of 3-19 in 2016 may seem a little underwhelming but to gain that experience in County Championship Division One at such a young age will only have helped his development. His career figures currently stand at 45 wickets at 40.75 apiece. These are early days in the careers of Bess, Parkinson and Crane so of course there statistics are a small sample size.

Having focused primarily on First Class and Test Match cricket lets switch our attention to the short stuff. In limited overs cricket it is expected that a player’s bowling average will be lower than in First Class cricket. It’s also more understandable that batting credentials might come into the equation. Liam Dawson averages 32.38 with the bat in List A cricket and 35.84 with the ball. He’s next in line in the pajama stuff after Moeen (26.16 and 44.34 in ODIs) and Rashid (27.25 and 35.17)

Northamptonshire’s Graeme White averages 25.79 with the ball in List A cricket, Gloucestershire’s Jack Taylor averages 28.03 and 24.25 with the bat, Surrey’s Zafar Ansari 31.97 and 34.12.

If we consider a broader spectrum, amongst the other Test playing nations, do the likes of Australia’s Jon Holland and Steve O’Keefe, New Zealand’s Mark Craig and Ish Sodhi, South Africa’s Dane Piedt and Simon Harmer, West Indies Sulieman Benn and Devendra Bishoo or Zimbabwe’s Graeme Cremer or John Nyumbu leave English spinners in the shade?

Of course there are less players from smaller populations representing fewer teams in most of the other Test nations mentioned than in England’s eighteen team First Class structure but the quality spin representation at domestic level is proportional.

As for England, the players are out there. Some can bat, some can’t. Some are in their teens, some are in their thirties. Some have played for England before, some haven’t. Some may have already produced their best, some haven’t.

When there’s eleven players in the team and the aim of the game is to score as many runs as possible, somebody’s got to keep wicket, the climate is accommodating to and the pitches are tailored to suit fast bowling then there are only going to be so many spinners around, some of which will be better than others. There may not be as many quality spinners as there are grains of sand on a beach but there are enough diamonds in the rough!