Solving Australia’s Batting Woes!

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Will Pucovski (243) and Josh Phillipe (41 & 104) were amongst the runs in the opening round of 2018-19 Sheffield Shield matches. It was good to see young batsman such as Sam Heazlett and Will Bosisto in their respective state XIs as well, even if they didn’t quite churn out Pucovskiesque innings. Question marks still linger over much of Australia’s batting line-up, what with Shaun Marsh’s inconsistency, Mitchell Marsh batting far too high at times and Usman Khawaja (Now injured) and Aaron Finch both needing to back-up encouraging performances against Pakistan in UAE, Pucovski could well have put himself to the front of the selection queue. With Peter Handscomb having fallen away horribly after a promising start to his Test career and Glenn Maxwell clearly not fancied by the selection panel, the twenty-year-old Victorian’s path to the national XI is being cleared of obstacles.

Another player that peaked interest in the opening round of this year’s Shield was leg-spinner Lloyd Pope. Not all that long ago, Pope terrorised England at the Under-19 World Cup with an eight-wicket haul that went viral. In truth, aside from that match-winning performance he had a quiet tournament. His maiden First Class wicket, trapping Steve O’Keefe LBW, saw him go viral again even though his two wickets cost in excess of a hundred runs. It was extremely alarming however to see the reaction of the Australian media. Labelling Pope as the “New Warne” is surely both unnecessary and unoriginal.

Back to batting and another player who could possibly solve Australia’s batting problems… Meg Lanning. There are some that say there’s no need to suggest women cricketers aim to play in men’s teams and that women’s cricket is a good enough sport on in its own right. I’m not necessarily suggesting that run-express Lanning represent her country’s men’s team but it’s worth pointing out just how good she is. Still only twenty-six, she has in excess of 3000 ODI runs from just 68 matches. She averages north of 53 with twelve tons and eleven fifties. She’s fresh off the back of another hundred against Pakistan in Kuala Lumpur.

It’ll be interesting to see just how much Lanning can achieve in her international career and who lines up for Australia’s men’s team come next year’s Ashes encounter in England.

Cricket Captain 2018: Personal Milestones

The year is 2032 and Alastair Cook need not sweat!

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The run-getting of captain Max Holden has been integral to England’s Test success. An unfortunate recent habit of getting run out, including twice in a sensational Ashes series victory in Australia, have contributed to his average returning to something near mortality. Not that long ago it exceeded sixty!

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Occasional gloveman Ollie Pope has been another reliable run getter. His conversion rate is particularly impressive and had until recently helped him maintain an average just shy of fifty.

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Sam Hain has also piled on the runs, not just in Tests but in ODIs and more recently T20Is as well. Like Pope, Hain’s Test conversion rate is outstanding as is the case for him in ODI cricket. Hain is England’s leading run-scorer ever in the fifty-over format.

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Joe Clarke, who like Pope has been known to don the gloves, has also chalked up plenty of runs if not quite finding the consistency he would’ve liked.

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Sam Curran’s averages might be a little disappointing but he’s been a crucial impact player and continues to improve with bat and ball in all formats of the game. He reached 200 Test wickets in the same innings as Josh Tongue who we’ll come to later.

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Spin-bowling all-rounder Brad Taylor…

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… and wicketkeeper Jonny Tattersall, are two players who have been known to really step up to the plate when the chips have been down!

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After a woeful start to his international career, Matt Critchley silenced the doubters by going onto become one of England’s most reliable middle order Test batsman!

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Josh Tongue had to wait patiently whilst Jamie Porter (180) and Ben Coad (233) assumed the mantle from James Anderson and Stuart Broad. Now though Tongue has in excess of 200 wickets at both Test and ODI level as well as nearing 100 victims in T20Is. He’s some way ahead of second placed Jofra Archer (82) as England’s leading wicket-taker in the shortest format.

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Spinner Matthew Parkinson’s star had appeared to wane but he’s upped his performances once again to attain 665 Test wickets. That puts him ahead of James Anderson at the top of England’s all-time list of Test wicket-takers. He’s also performed effectively in white-ball cricket despite his workload been managed over the years. Parkinson has relegated the unfortunate Dom Bess (287 wickets @ 28.76) to the role of Stuart MacGill to his own Shane Warne.

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Tom Kohler-Cadmore is England’s leading run-scored in T20I cricket and has been known to really turn it on at World Cups both in T20I and ODI cricket. Like the next man we’ll come too, his averages have dipped over time but a renaissance in the twilight of his career has been welcome..

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Alongside TK-C at the top of the order in limited overs cricket, Ed Pollock has had his moments but an ODI batting average that once exceeded forty has declined dramatically. He recently compiled a ninth ODI century to feast following famine!

Players such as Ed Barnard, Ryan Higgins, Saqib Mahmood, Feroze Khushi and Jack Plom are amongst those to have remained part of the squad over time and had their moments in the sun.

Score Assumptions and Naivety in Sport

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Don’t worry, my review of Roy Morgan’s Real International Cricket will soon be with you. I’m about half way through it. As previously advised, the font size is about 8 so please be patient, it’ll be with you as soon as I’ve read through all 280 pages.

On Page 114 when detailing a match between Malaya and Commonwealth XI, Morgan writes as follows:

“Marshall mis-hit Gurucharan to the long-off boundary, only for Navaratnam to drop the catch with the team score at 126. Four runs later, Baig mis-read the spin of Delilkan and steered the ball to short fine leg where, again. Navaratnam failed to take the catch. What could have been 130-3 went on to become 175-1”.

I have some issues with this statement but please let me be clear. This is in no way a dig at Roy Morgan. His book is, for a cricket tragic like me, an absurdly detailed piece of work that I’ll dedicate a whole article too, as soon as I’ve completed what is currently a throughly enjoyable read.

Let’s assume that Marshall had been caught by Navaratnam. Then Kanhai would have joined Baig at the crease with the score 126-2. At this point, we can’t assume that four runs later Baig will mis-read the spin of Delilkan. Even if in reality, the drop was to the last delivery of the over then Baig struck a four before being dropped, just the fact that Kanhai would have walked to the crease would have changed the whole flow of the game. Even if Baig did then hit four, it wouldn’t have been the same four as if when Marshall was at the crease and the likelihood of Delilkan bowling exactly the same ball as he actually did is extremely unlikely. Just a few millimetres difference in either line or length would change the trajectory of the ball and the decision making of the batsman. If indeed Marshall had been caught then everybody that followed might have been out first ball and Commonwealth XI would have been all out for 126 but had Kanhai come in at that point then maybe he and Baig would have both made double hundreds in a partnership of four hundred plus!

Forgive me in committing the ultimate sin on a cricket blog but I’m going to refer to football.

The score of a match is 0-0. A team misses three great chances then the other team scores and wins 1-0. The commentator says “It would have been 3-1 if the other team had put away their chances”. That is the sort of thing you’ll here a commentator or reporter say.

But could it have been 3-1?

Possibly, it’s not an overly obscure scoreline but it’s unlikely. Say the team that lost 1-0 had actually scored their first chance. Well then the next passage of play would have been kick-off not a goal kick or just the continuation of open play as actually happened. From that variation the rest of the game would play out completely, yes completely differently. The same passes, the same shots, the same everything would not have happened. It may be that from the kick off the other team equalised then the match goes on to finish 2-2.

Every little thing changes the course of everything. Just like when you got in your car, ummed and ahed about whether to change the CD, did so, missed the green light by half a second then that driver rear-ended you.

Shane Warne dropped Kevin Pietersen in 2005. If he’d held that chance then maybe Australia would have won the Ashes but maybe England just wouldn’t have lost another wicket and won anyway. I could go on forever but what I’m getting at is that a lot of people, including professional observers of sport just don’t understand that after every goal, dropped catch or misfield etc, the whole passage of play from that point onwards is different. Different batsman of different ability under different pressure of different hand, some who glance at the scorecard more than others or run quicker than others come to the crease.

Sport is not simple. Never assume.

Six to Watch: 2017

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It may only seem like yesterday that the 2016 English domestic campaign reached its dramatic conclusion but it’s never too early to start looking ahead. With only six months until the 2017 season begins, Silly Point has identified six players to watch out for. It’s not just youngsters trying to make their way in the game that Silly Point has taken a look at either. Seasoned veterans receive a going over too with Silly Point predicting some renaissances in 2017.

Jofra Archer, 21, Sussex, All-Rounder

When you Google Barbadian born Archer and this is know joke, he was born on April Fools Day, he appears to be draped in West Indies colours. He wouldn’t be the first Sussex man to have departed Caribbean shores and gone on to play for England however, Chris Jordan anybody! Archer arrived on the English county scene with a bang last season, recording figures of 4-49 on First Class debut against the touring Pakistanis at Hove. Mohammad Hafeez, Shan Masood, Azhar Ali and Misbah-ul-Haq all fell victim to the twenty-one-year-old. Sussex’s six other first innings bowlers managed just a sole wicket between them and it was only Archer who managed to bag second time around when he sent Hafeez back to the pavilion once again. Archer displayed his batting credentials with a knock of 73 against Essex in the County Championship at Colchester, recorded two more four wicket hauls before the season’s completion and took 5-42 against Somerset in a one-day match at Taunton. Sussex will rely heavily on Archer’s contributions in 2017 if they’re to haul themselves up to Division One in both the County Championship and One-Day Cup.

 

Daniel Bell-Drummond, 23, Kent, Right-Handed Opening Batsman

747 County Championship runs at 53.36, 332 One-Day Cup runs at 41.50 (S/R 86.23) and 171 off 139 deliveries for England Lions against Sri Lanka A in a one-day match… yet somehow DBD’s progress in 2016 seemed to go somewhat under the radar, a mid-season injury didn’t help. Last year DBD smacked 127 from just 112 balls against a touring Australian side whose bowling attack included Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle and Ryan Harris. You can go as far back as 2013 to find former Kent skipper Rob Key proclaiming that DBD could be a “… 100-test cricketer…”. Despite a more than reasonable 2016, Northamptonshire’s prolific Ben Duckett, Lancashire’s record breaking Roses match teenager Haseeb Hameed and maybe even Durham’s Keaton Jennings have all usurped twenty-three-year-old Bell-Drummond. DBD will hope to press his case for full honours when representing England Lions this winter against the UAE in three one-day games in Dubai and against Afghanistan in a three-day match in Sharjah.

Dom Bess, 19, Somerset, Off-Spin Bowler

Topping the County Championship Division One bowling averages last term with thirteen wickets at 10.46 apiece including two five wicket hauls, 6-28 against Warwickshire and 5-43 against Nottinghamshire, both at Taunton, suggest that Somerset have a real find on their hands in England U-19 international Bess. Of course not all of those that arrive on the scene with a bang live up to the hype, Mathew Sinclair anybody! Some of the mystery of Bess will have evaporated as batsmen have had both the opportunity to face him and to study the videos during the winter. Not that Shane Warne or Muttiah Muralitharan got any easier to play and Bess will remain a mystery to many that have yet to encounter him. The real test for Bess will come when (if?) he finishes with figures of 0-150 and how he responds to doing so.

Look out for my upcoming article ‘England’s Spin Dearth Myth’ for more on Bess.

Jack Burnham, 19, Durham, Right-Handed Middle Order Batsman

Stoneman, gone. Borthwick, gone. Muchall, gone. Mustard gone. No pressure on 19-year-old Jack Burnham then! The 2016 Under-19 World Cup’s leading run scorer registered 630 County Championship Division One runs at 27.39 in 2016 but his limited overs campaigns were rather fruitless. Despite the departures of senior batsmen Burnham will still have the likes of Keaton Jennings and Paul Collingwood alongside him and following Durham’s relegation after an ECB bailout he’ll be playing County Championship cricket in Division Two this term. Durham will be seriously hoping that the teenager can kick on in 2017 and break the 1000 run barrier in the County Championship’s bottom division to help get Durham back into the upper echelons of English cricket.

Nick Compton, 33, Middlesex, Right-Handed Middle Order Batsman

@Compdog’s axing from England first time around was a bitter affair. Second time it was just horrible to watch, to witness English cricket’s Marmite fall apart. There was no bemoaning the selectors this time around. Compton knew he’d had his chance. After commencing the South Africa series with a Comptonesque 85 at Durban, mixed messages from coach Trevor Bayliss resulted in Compton trying to go out all guns blazing to seal victory in the Johannesburg test and ultimately forget how to play the very sort of innings that had earned him international recognition in the first place. It’s questionable whether an experienced cricketer such as Compton should have ever allowed his coaches public comments to affect his game and after returning to the county game he rather alarmingly took a break from cricket altogether. He did however return to the Middlesex ranks and of course finished the season as a title winner. After the fall there were glimpses of his run making ability like his innings of 131 against Durham at Lords in August. With even the man himself surely beyond thinking about international selection, if he can just enjoy himself at the county he felt it necessary to return to then Middlesex will surely reap the benefits.

Mark Footitt, 30, Surrey, Left-Arm Fast Medium Bowler

It would be easy to assume that the proverbial ship has long since sailed for Mark Footitt, at least on the international front. If he wasn’t going to make the England XI in South Africa then maybe it just wasn’t meant to be. He was seen as the County Championship’s marquee signing pre last term but injuries disrupted the left arm seamer’s opportunity to make an immediate impact at Surrey. However as the season progressed and he eventually rid himself of injury he didn’t half come good. The wickets tumbled in the latter stages of the season and Footitt finished the campaign with 34 Division One wickets at 26.85 including career best figures of 7-62 against Lancashire at The Oval followed up by 6-161 against Hampshire at the same ground and 5-90 against Durham at Chester-Le-Street. If he can stay fit he will surely prove a major asset for Surrey and with the international attraction to left arm seamers maybe an England cap could still be within the thirty-year-old’s reach.