World Cup Judgement Day for Khan

img_2659

Afghanistan’s teenage spin sensation Rashid Khan is just one wicket and one match away from becoming the fastest player to chalk up 100 ODI scalps. If he achieves it in his next match then he’ll have shaved a whopping nine games off Australian quick Mitchell Starc’s current record of 52 outings required to reach the ton but…

40 of Khan’s wickets have come against Zimbabwe and 33 against Ireland. That’s 73 out of 99 whilst his best of 7-18 came against West Indies in St. Lucia. Contrary to some old fashioned opinions, the Caribbean is as much a spin bowler’s paradise as is India or Pakistan. That’s 80 wickets right there. In total, he’s claimed eleven victims against West Indies, a side perceived by many to be the weakest Test nation as backed up by the fact that they’ve been playing in the ICC World Cup Qualifier. For the record, the rest of Khan’s wickets have come against Bangladesh (7), United Arab Emirates (5) and Scotland (3). He averages 14.12 and has an ODI economy rate of 3.94. These are absurdly good figures. His First Class average is 15.05 and his highest figure is actually his domestic T20 figure of 15.14! He averages over 40 with the bat in First Class cricket (Admittedly a very small sample size) and is still only nineteen years of age.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/afghanistan/content/player/793463.html

Khan is clearly head and shoulders above his associate and latest Test nation peers. He’s also performed admirably well in the Big Bash and IPL amongst other global T20 competitions but at full international level and despite his stats, he is ultimately unproven. Given the fact that the ICC have limited the 2019 ODI World Cup to ten teams, it is against the supposed world’s best and in English conditions, not generally favourable to spin, that we’ll really find out how good Khan is.

This article is not meant to be a slight on Khan nor the opposition that he’s faced. As the old adage goes “You can only beat what’s in front of you”. It’s great to see Afghanistan cricket thriving, particularly during a competitive ICC World Cup Qualifier filled with promising associate nations. Khan is at the very heart of that.

Extras

img_2143

Bye: I can’t keep my eyes off the Kookaburra Ghost. Marcus Harris used it to good effect in compiling 120 for Victoria in the first innings of the 2016/17 Sheffield Shield final…

http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/1036431.html

If somebody came up to me and provided me with around £90.00 and said “Go and spend it on a cricket bat” then the Kookaburra Ghost is what I’d spend ‘my hard earned‘ cash on!

Leg Bye: Just like the CC/ODC competition, Telegraph’s T20 fantasy cricket will set you back £8.00 per team or £15.00 for three teams. At least the overall winner receives a whopping… £1,000 prize!

https://fantasycricket.telegraph.co.uk/twenty/select-team

Shrewd selectors will notice that Worcestershire opening batsman and part-time spin bowler Brett D’Oliveira (Listed as an all-rounder in the CC/ODC comp) is listed as a bowler. Get him in your team! Meanwhile, Essex’s Tom Westley’s seven career wickets in 54 T20 outings get him listed as an all rounder! There are a few players with generously low ratings based on their efforts in last year’s comp/career T20 records. Obviously the Telegraph can’t rate people on potential but players such as Liam Livingstone (5), Paul Collingwood (3) and Mason Crane (1) are the surely the sort of candidates to sneak into your XI… if you can afford it/if you can afford it (If you know what I mean?)!

No Ball: The Women’s World Cup is on the horizon. Just like the Champions Trophy, there are no matches taking place anywhere near my abode. Come on the White Knights! (England’s flag is white and the team are captained by Heather Knight!?).

Surely the best cricket player that Japan has ever produced, errr, England’s Natalie Sciver…

http://www.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/515905.html

is Silly Point’s player to look out for during the tournament, as well as New Zealand’s Amelia Kerr…

https://sillypointcricketsite.wordpress.com/2017/05/16/white-ferns-call-on-kerr-to-curb-run-flow/

Wide: 14.74, 14.35, 13.25, 14.74 and 15.00. Afghanistan’s 18-year-old leg-spinner Rashid Khan’s bowling averages in each form of the game!!!

http://www.espncricinfo.com/afghanistan/content/player/793463.html

Will England Take the Plungekett?

IMG_2121

England head to the Land of Oz for the Ashes later this year and if past expeditions are anything to go by then the selectors are sure to stock the plane with plenty of pace bowling options. James Anderson and Stuart Broad will go, as of course will Chris Woakes and Ben Stokes.

But who else?

Jake Ball, Steven Finn and Toby Roland-Jones are contenders as are the Curran brothers, Tom and Sam. Mark Wood is surely one that the England selectors will be keen on and Mark Footitt is an outside bet. He’s erratic but he does take wickets (As I’ve banged on about (Campaigned) in previous articles!). A name that doesn’t seem to come up often when it comes to Test squad discussions is Liam Plunkett. Remember that the England selectors won’t be looking or needing players that have to stay fit for five Tests. The back up pacers will slot in for a Test or two at a time in order to rest senior members of the attack and to catch the hosts by surprise. But for Afghanistan’s teenage spin sensation Rashid Khan’s seven-fer against West Indies yesterday, Yorkshire’s Plunkett was the leading ODI wicket taker in the last year. He actually did well when he returned to the Test side in 2014 before incurring injury. England have the opportunity and possibly the necessity to view alternative options in this summer’s home Test series’ against both South Africa and West Indies. With injury concerns present regarding both Anderson and Woakes then surely it’s worth England having a look at the likes of Plunkett and Footitt in the red (Or pink) ball arena.

Here’s my squad come England’s first Test of the summer with Plunkett and Footitt providing cover if Woakes and Anderson aren’t fit:

Alastair Cook

Keaton Jennings

Joe Root (Captain)

Gary Ballance

Moeen Ali

Ben Stokes

Jonny Bairstow (Wicketkeeper)

Adil Rashid

Chris Woakes / Liam Plunkett

Stuart Broad

James Anderson / Mark Footitt

Here are the players to add to the squad come the Ashes:

Haseeb Hameed

Jos Buttler (Reserve Wicketkeeper)

Liam Dawson

Mark Wood

Hameed’s domestic form, an equation of three into two for the opening slots, Ballance’s demanding of a recall, Moeen’s desire and merit to bat at five and Rashid’s time to lead the spin bowling attack equates to Hameed missing out at the start of the summer but making the tour. I’m happy with Root captaining the side from three ala Australia’s Steven Smith as Ballance has been so productive at four this year at Headingley. Lancashire’s Liam Livingstone could also come into the equation but that would balloon the party to eighteen. LL was England Lions standout performer last winter and presumably the back-up brigade will be waiting in the wings if England need to call for reinforcements. Of course Dawson and Buttler will already provide genuine batting cover. Dawson bats at five for Hampshire and Buttler will be in the squad as second choice gloveman.

Regarding spin, Mason Crane could return to Oz after playing First Class cricket there last winter but needs to really set the word alight in the County Championship from this point on. Alternatively England could turn to Somerset’s Jack Leach but you get the impression that the selectors aren’t convinced and that Dawson will do seen as it’s Australia not Asia.

Of course if Jennings averages 15.00 against SA, Broad breaks down injured playing for Nottinghamshire and Rashid goes at 6.00 an over against WI then the Ashes squad could have a completely different complexion to the one presented above.

You’ll have to excuse me. The article headline suggested that it would be all about Liam Plunkett but has descended into a general England squad predictor/requestor. I definitely think that Plunkett and Footitt would be great weapons in England’s attack for three to five Tests each in our next three series.

We’ll see what happens…

Chasing Hope

IMG_3140

The West Indies made it to within one over of a series draw against Pakistan before the Angel Gabriel had his wings clipped by Yasir Shah.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/west-indies-v-pakistan-2017/engine/match/1077955.html

The hosts’ failings were all too familiar. Batsmen failing to make significant scores (I know how you feel boys!) and despite having an array of spin bowlers possessive of outlandish First Class bowling averages, Devendra Bishoo only really came to the party late in the day… and just to ruin the farewells of Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan!

I’m not convinced that opening batsman Kraigg Brathwaite should be playing ODIs. It compromises his strength, that is to occupy the crease in the longest form of the game. He failed to pass 50 and averaged sub 17 in the series.

Kieron Powell’s flame flickered. He made starts but like Brathwaite failed to find 50. An average of 26.83 tells its own story. He made starts but failed to go on. That’s no fifty in sight for Windies openers across 12 innings. Of course maybe if things had been handled differently then KB and KP could have been opening for WI for years already. A few years ago they contrasted well and could have developed into a lethal pair. KP got disillusioned then and it will be interesting to see if the selectors persist with him. They’ll probably have to and should do because they might feel it necessary to make changes elsewhere in the order.

20-year-old Shimron Hetmyer clearly has talent but he also has only one First Class century. He’s a very attack minded player. Was first drop the right place to baptise him on the international stage? His top score: a quarter century at an average of 16.00. Even if he’s not retained for the time being his time can come again.

Domestic dominant and Zimbabwe slaying Shai Hope did at least at last record a maiden Test half century, a 90 in fact. In his five other innings he totalled 59 runs combined.

Vishaul Singh was supposed to be the middle order rock. The middle order sandcastle with the tide coming in fast more like. He made 32 runs in one innings but only 31 across the other five. He’s 28 years old and his First Class batting average is an underwhelming 33.45. His conversion rate is good though: 6 centuries to 9 fifties but can he get to fifty in the international arena in the first place? His First Class strike rate is literally 34 runs slower than Hetmyer’s. Call me old fashioned but maybe they would have each prospered had they been positioned the other way around.

Wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich made 56 in one innings but didn’t total 56 across the other five. There’s a theme developing here isn’t there? These guys have got the ability but not the consistency, not yet anyway.

Then there’s Roston Chase. Wow, just wow! How good is this guy? Ten Tests into his career and he’s got three hundreds to two in the First Class game. Some people just thrive the tougher the challenge. He’s averaging 48.53 as well as claiming a more than useful 17 wickets at 52.23 apiece. At the risk of raining on the parade, I’m going to hazard a guess that in a year’s time that figure of 48.53 will have dipped. I hope that it doesn’t but he’s really going to have to excel to maintain such a strong start.

Where WI go from here, who knows? Actually, it would appear not very far, they’re hosting Afghanistan for some T20Is and ODIs. Then post Champions Trophy they take on England. Jermaine Blackwood could come back in but the others out there in the domestic game all seem much of a muchness, averaging in the mid twenties. That’s even the case for Jason Mohammed despite his success in recent ODI fair. Vishaul Singh had stepped up to the plate in A and Board or Chairman XIs but didn’t deliver against Pakistan. Remember though that both Hetmyer and Singh have had far better starts to their Test careers than five time Test double centurion Marvan Atapattu. I think that the West Indies selectors will do well to persist with these players and provide them further opportunity. Even the likes of Jacques Kallis, Steve Waugh and Matthew Hayden didn’t hit the ground running in the Test arena.

The West Indies might not be Singhing but they can always Chase Hope!