A Plan for Australia

A detailed look at possibilities for The Ashes.

With the last test of the series against India cancelled officially due to a Covid outbreak in the Indian ranks and unofficially due to the Indian players and board prioritizing the IPL over test cricket, I offer up detailed suggestions for the upcoming Ashes tour.

A BIG SQUAD NEEDED

In view of the situation, with Covid still very much with us, and Australia unlikely to allow reinforcements to be flown in mid-series England will need a large squad to give themselves a chance of getting through the tour. Thus the bulk of this post will look at 22 players who I have arranged into two teams who might contest a warm-up match. Before I get into that part of the post I need to clear up a few details, and after I have finished I will mention a couple of other players of promise.

PLAYERS NOT COVERED
IN THIS POST

There are some well known names who for various reasons do not feature in the main part of the post:

  • Players who are hors de combat for various reasons: Jofra Archer and Olly Stone are both definitely unavailable due to injuries, and even if Stuart Broad recovers in time to make the tour an away Ashes series is probably not advisable for someone coming back from a serious injury. Ben Stokes must also be regarded as unavailable at present – until and unless he himself states that he is ready to return to the side he should not be a factor in anyone’s calculations.
  • Players who are surplus to test requirements: I have seen enough of Moeen Ali, Dawid Malan and Jonny Bairstow to be certain that none of them belong in the test arena. Ali averages less than 29 with the bat, almost 37 with the ball and appears to be on the decline into the bargain, Bairstow had one good 12 month period starting in December 2015, but either side of that has consistently averaged in the mid 20s in a career that spans nine years, while Malan has produced one major test innings in his life and is now in his mid 30s.
  • Players I do not think need to play a warm up fixture, though they will be in the squad: Joe Root and Jos Buttler. The former would give whichever side he was part of a huge advantage, while we all know what the latter is capable of.

TEAM ABELL

  1. Tom Haines: Sussex, left handed opening batter. This season has been a breakout one for the youngster (23 years old), with him averaging close to 50 with the bat for his county.
  2. Alex Davies: Warwickshire (leaving Lancashire at the end of this season), right handed opening batter, occasional wicket keeper. He has had two strong seasons in a row (is avergaing 48 this season), and the fact that in retaliation for his decision to move to Warwickshire Lancashire have been vindictive enough to drop him (a classic example of cutting the nose off to spite the face) should have no bearing on whether or not he gets picked for this party.
  3. *Tom Abell: Somerset, right handed batter, occasional medium pace bowler, captain. He has been superb for Somerset this season and is an excellent skipper.
  4. Harry Brook: Yorkshire, right handed batter. The 22 year old Yorkshireman has a modest overall record but has been excellent this season and appears to have a fine temperament.
  5. Ollie Pope: Surrey, right handed batter, occasional keeper. Has an awesome record for Surrey but has yet to translate this to a higher level, though he did score 81 in the first innings of the last test at his home ground, and appears one of two genuine candidate for this slot.
  6. Oliver George Robinson: Kent, wicket keeper, right handed batter. The 23 year old is one of a number of talented young keeper batters that England have available to them.
  7. Matt Critchley: Derbyshire, right handed batter, leg spinner. His bowling does not quite allow him to be called an all rounder, but he has been batting well for Derbyshire of late, and his leg spin is not entirely to be disregarded.
  8. Craig Overton: Somerset, right arm fast medium bowler, right handed batter. As Steven Finn and Chris Tremlett showed a decade ago extra height can be a valuable asset in Australia, and the giant Devonian has it in spades. He is also a more than handy batter to have coming at eight.
  9. Mark Wood: Durham, right arm fast bowler, right handed lower order batter. With Archer and Stone both hors de combat he is the only express bowler England can seriously consider (Brydon Carse, his Durham team mate, is just as quick but has an uninspiring red ball record, and I have come to hate seeing players picked for test cricket based on white ball performances).
  10. Jack Leach: Somerset, left arm orthodox spinner, left handed lower order batter. He is the only current England spinner with a respectable test record (62 wickets in 16 matches at 29.98 – so almost four wickets a game and an average the right side of 30). In first class cricket there are a couple of spinners with cheaper averages than his 26 per wicket, but they have many fewer wickets than he does. It is one of the great absurdities of the last couple of years that he has not been England’s first choice spinner on a regular basis.
  11. James Anderson: Lancashire, right arm fast medium bowler, left handed lower order batter. England’s all time leading wicket taker. He was the leading wicket taker in the series last time England won in Australia a decade ago, and there is little sign of his powers waning for all that he turned 39 during this season

This side contains a solid top five, a talented keeper/batter at six, a player in good batting for at seven, and a well balanced front four bowlers, with support available from Critchley’s leg spin and Abell’s medium pace. Now it is time for a look at the opposition…

TEAM BURNS

  1. *Rory Burns: Surrey, left handed opening batter, captain. Only one English batter not named Root has scored a test ton in 2021, this man. He also has two fifties in his last three innings and is showing signs of forming a successful opening partnership with…
  2. Haseeb Hameed: Nottinghamshire, right handed opening batter. Having begun a renaissance after moving from Lancashire following a couple of lean seasons he announced his return to form to a wider audience when he scored a ton for the County Select XI v The Indians. His subsequent recall to the test ranks has seen two fifties in three innings back, both coming in century stands with Burns.
  3. James Bracey:Gloucestershire, right handed batter, occasional wicket keeper. A typical moment in recent England selection history saw this man make his test debut in his second favourite role and batting way out of position at number seven. Not altogether surprisingly he fared poorly on that occasion, but he deserves another chance, this time in his proper position and preferred role.
  4. Liam Livingstone: Lancashire, right handed batter, occasional purveyor of both off and leg spin. Has a good FC record, although he is better known for his white ball exploits.
  5. Dan Lawrence: Essex, right handed batter, occasional off spinner. He and Pope are the principal contenders for the no5 slot, and both have shown promise with neither staking an unassailable claim to the place.
  6. +Ben Foakes: Surrey, right handed batter, wicket keeper. The best English keeper currently playing the game and a fine middle order batter. I put him at six to insulate him just a bit from batting with the tail – nos 7 and 8 can both be counted as all rounders and the no9 is better than most lower order batters.
  7. Chris Woakes: Warwickshire, right handed batter, right arm fast medium bowler. With the colossus Stokes having to be regarded as hors de combat this man is the best all rounder available to England, and he would walk into almost any test side. His return to test action against India at The Oval saw him take a good haul of wickets, score a 50 and offer some decent resistance in the second innings when England were slumping.
  8. Liam Patterson-White: Nottinghamshire, left arm orthodox spinner, left handed batter. He recently reached a maiden first class hundred at the expense of Somerset, and his wickets in that match took his bowling average below 30. His temperament appears to be excellent as well. He has less FC experience than anyone else in either side.
  9. Oliver Edward Robinson: Sussex, right arm fast medium bowler, right handed lower middle order batter. He has had a sensational start to his test career, and as a bowler who uses his great height to cause opponents problems he may well enjoy bowling in the homeland of Glenn McGrath. His batting can also be valuable.
  10. Matt Parkinson: Lancashire, leg spinner, right handed lower order batter. After 29 first class games the young leg spinner has 93 wickets at 23.95. That average is excellent, but there is a concern over the relatively low wickets per game ratio. Nevertheless I feel that he deserves a place in this tour party – no current English spinner with over 5oFC wickets has taken them more cheaply than the Lancastrian.
  11. Saqib Mahmood: Lancashire, right arm fast medium bowler, right handed lower order batter. He has 70 wickets in FC cricket at 26 a piece and is quite sharp.

This side contains a good top five, one of the greatest of all wicket keepers, genuine all rounders at seven and eight, a bowler who can bat at nine and two excellent bowlers to round out the XI.

I conclude this section with a graphic:

ODDS AND ENDS

This section looks at a few other players who may be on the radar before long:

  • English off spinners have generally struggled down under (even Graeme Swann paid almost 40 per wicket in 2010-11, and failed to make it through the 2013-14 series), which is why none feature in my selections. There are two whose current records suggest they may make the grade eventually: Jack Carson of Sussex and Amar Virdi of Surrey.
  • Dan Moriarty, a left arm orthodox spinner, has a remarkable record in his fledgling first class career and may well be a candidate for elevation in the near future.
  • Luke Hollman, a leg spinning all rounder, has recently recorded a ten wicket match haul for Middlesex, and he may be a candidate in future.
  • When qualified for England Ricardo Vasconcelos of Northamptonshire will be a candidate for a top order berth.
  • Various fast medium bowlers whose chief weapon is accuracy have been overlooked because bowlers of that type rarely make much impact down under: Ben Coad, Sam Cook, Jamie Porter and Ben Sanderson are four who have very fine county records.

Please feel free to comment with suggestions of your own.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Well done for making it to the end of this post and enjoy my usual sign off…

A Look Back at The Oval and Forward to Old Trafford

A look back at the test match that concluded yesterday at The Oval and a look forward to Old Trafford.

This post looks back at the test match at The Oval that finished yesterday afternoon with India winning by 157 runs and guaranteeing themselves at least a share of the series and forward to the final match at Old Trafford.

A GREAT TURNAROUND

England won the toss and put India into bat. At first all seemed well, with India soon 127-7, but a fifty of record equalling rapidity from Shardul Thakur boosted India to 191. England’s first innings followed an all too familiar pattern: various players got starts but with the exceptions of Pope (81) and Woakes (50) no one went on to a significant score and England’s advantage was 99, much less than it should have been. On days three and four, under cloudless skies and on a pitch with no devil in it England were toothless. Most of the bowlers were at least reasonably economical, with the sore thumb like exception of Moeen Ali who leaked runs at 4.5 an over. England needed a spinner to bowl a long economical spell and enable the quicker bowlers to be properly rested and got 26-0-118-2, with one of the wickets definitely given away and the other a decent dismissal. With Rohit Sharma scoring a ton, Pujara a fifty and Thakur his second fifty of the match India reached 466, leaving England needing to score 368 which had they done it would have been their largest ever successful run chase, and over 100 more than their previous best such effort at The Oval, 263-9 in “Jessop’s Match” of 1902. Burns and Hameed batted through the closing stages of the fourth day with no alarms, closing on 77-0, with the ask down to 291. On the fifth morning this pair completed their second century stand in three innings as an opening pair. Both fell in quick succession after reaching 50s, but England were still only two down at lunch time. The first hour after lunch settled the destiny of the match. Bumrah bowled a magnificent spell and was brilliantly supported by left arm spinner Jadeja. Bumrah’s post lunch spell read 6-3-6-2. One of those wickets was Bairstow, cleaned up for a duck with a yorker that a fast bowler of an earlier era would have described as “wasted on thee” as it was a far better ball than would actually be required to pierce Bairstow’s “defences” early in an innings. Moeen Ali also collected a duck. His dismissal made it 147-6, and it was a question of when the final wicket would fall. England’s lower order resisted gallantly, but they were all out for 210 not long after tea and India had won by 157 runs.

All credit to India for a magnificent comeback and in the end a thoroughly convincing win. England have several problems, two of which the naming of the squad for Old Trafford addresses.

LOOKING AHEAD TO OLD TRAFFORD

England have named a squad of 16 from which the XI at Old Trafford will be picked. They have made two good calls – Buttler has made himself available and is included, and Leach has been recalled to the squad as well. Unfortunately Ali and Bairstow are both still in the squad, and Malan seemingly retains his no three slot.

The best available XI from the named squad in my opinion is: Burns, Hameed, Malan, *Root, Pope, +Buttler, Woakes, S Curran, Overton, Wood and Leach (Anderson is not in the squad, and Robinson is running on fumes and with a drawn series the best England can do should be rested.

To my mind two big mistakes have been made with the naming of this squad. Tom Abell should come in at number three (Malan is in his middle thirties and has a very moderate test record), and Matt Parkinson should be given his debut in front of a home crowd. I would also not have bothered including Ali or Bairstow in the squad as neither deserve to play. My chosen XI would thus have been Burns, Hameed, Abell, *Root, Pope, +Buttler, Woakes, Overton, Wood, Leach and Parkinson, reckoning that on a spin friendly ground Woakes, Overton and Wood plus a few overs of Abell’s medium pace would be enough seam options.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

England’s Number Three Slot

A look at the England number three position where for once there are a number of good options, the reverse of the usual situation through my time following the team.

In this post I deal with a topic well known to all who have followed the England men’s cricket team for any length of time: who will bat at number three going forward? However, this is time the question is apposite for the reverse of the usual reason.

ENGLAND’S NUMBER THREE

The number three position has traditionally been a very tough one for England to fill. In the 1960s it was usually either Dexter at three and Barrington at four or vice versa, but since then it has been an almost continual problem. David Steele did well there in 1975-6, Chris Tavare did what was asked of him in the early 1980s – namely give the order something in the way of backbone, David Gower had one superb series there against Australia in 1985, Michael Vaughan made the position his own in the early 2000s, and a decade later Jonathan Trott was as good a number three as England have had in my lifetime. More recently we have seen Joe Denly there playing a holding role to ensure that the opposition bowlers were not instantly into England’s middle order, and this winter in India with Burns recently returned from a layoff we saw Jonathan Bairstow batting there and failing horribly. Suddenly however there appear to be a wealth of options.

NUMBER THREE PRESENT AND FUTURE

The current incumbent is Zak Crawley, who will bat there against New Zealand behind the opening pair of Burns and Sibley. Crawley scored 267 from no three against Pakistan last summer, but has done little since with Lasith Embuldeniya having his number in the Sri Lanka series, and save for one fifty India giving him a thoroughly miserable time. If Crawley does not produce significant runs against NZ then his place is definitely in jeopardy. There are at least three players who are in the running for his slot by dint of batting superbly there for their counties:

  • Tom Abell: The Somerset captain was placed at number three with two other Toms, Banton and Lammonby, opening at the start of this season. Banton has already been dropped from opening though did subsequently feature as keeper in one match. Lammonby has played one decent innings this season, and his strong start in first class cricket (459 runs at 51.00 in his first six matches) has been badly tarnished. He is young enough to bounce back, but currently an England call up looks a long way away. Abell at number three, and often with the innings beginning to disintegrate around him has scored over 500 runs this season at an average of better than 60 and is looking every inch an England number three in waiting.
  • James Bracey: The Gloucestershire batter and occasional wicket keeper was on the fringes of the England squad last season, spending a lot of time in bio-secure bubbles as a reserve. He has continued to impress from number three this season and has been named in the squad for the New Zealand series.
  • Nick Gubbins: The gritty Middlesex batter has had a superb season batting at three, and his masterly 124 on the final day of the last match against Surrey turned a situation in which Middlesex were hoping to avoid defeat and fearing the worst into one in which Middlesex had a definite sniff of victory before the rain made its final intervention, rendering the chase just too steep.

Of the three named, Abell and Bracey (already in the squad) are both in with a strong chance of being selected. Gubbins is an outside shot, but there seems little doubt that given the opportunity he could do a solid job for England.

SOLUTION TO A TEASER

In my last post I included the following teaser, adapted from brilliant.org:

This post looks at such play as there has been in the latest round of championship fixtures, which have been heavily affected by the weather – there have been bands of rain sweeping across Britain, coming in from the west although by some freak my corner of northwest Norfolk has largely escaped, with only Friday being really wet.

THE EARLY GAME

Hampshire v Leciestershire was supposed to run from Wednesday to Saturday. In fact only a tiny amount of cricket was possible. Hampshire scored 233 in the first innings, bowled Leicestershire out for 84, and forfeited their second innings, leaving Leicestershire 22 overs to score 150 to win. Leicestershire made no serious effort to take on this chase on the game was drawn.

AROUND THE GROUNDS

A number of games have been so badly hammered by the weather that there is no real chance of a result. Kent v Glamorgan and Northamptonshire v Lancashire have already been confirmed as draws, though the former saw an amazing performance from Darren Stevens. Kent at low water mark were 93-7 in their first innings, but ended up tallying 307. Stevens, at the age of 45 scored 190, with 15 sixes and 15 fours. He shared a ninth wicket stand of 166 with Miguel Cummins, whose share of that partnership was one not out. Stevens then added the wicket of Marnus Labuschagne to his share of the spoils. Nottinghamshire v Worcestershire, Durham v Derbyshire and Essex v Warwickshire are all headed the same way, and it will take miracles for any of those games to yield definite results. Gloucestershire v Somerset is likely to be a draw as well, but the way Gloucestershire are collapsing means that it is not dead yet – Somerset scored 300-8 declared, with Tom Abell scoring his first century of the season (overall he now has over 500 runs at an average of more than 60 for the season), and Gloucestershire are 27-6 in reply. That leaves the London derby, in which the Surrey openers, Burns and Stoneman have been utterly dominant – they put on 135 in each innings, equalling the highest ever identical opening stands in FC history, a record set in 1979 by Kepler Wessels and John Barclay of Sussex. Surrey declared just before lunch today at 259-2, setting Middlesex 290 (full scores, Surrey 190 and 259-2 dec, Middlesex 160 and 28-1). Burns completed his first century of the season.

A POTENTIAL ENGLAND NO3

Somerset started this season with a plan for their top order – three guys all answering to Tom, Lammonby, Banton and Abell at 1,2 and 3. Banton has already fallen by the wayside, his career as a first class opener over almost before it began. Lammonby has managed one good score all season, and his dismissal in the game currently in progress, run out going for one that was never there, was the product of a scrambled mind. The one to prosper has been Tom Abell who is handling batting at no3 like one born to perform that task. Crawley remains the man in possession for England, but if he does not score runs against NZ then England may decide that change is needed, and Abell would surely be the logical person to turn to in that case: he is just entering the prime years of a cricketer’s career, he is batting superbly at no3 and several of his best scores have come in very testing situations, all of which give him the appearance of a test no3 in waiting.

A MATHEMATICAL TEASER

This problem comes from brilliant.org, but I have added a bonus element as well as slightly tweaking the setting:

A brief note on ‘concatenation’: in a mathematical context it is represented by an equals sign flipped through 90 degrees and it means that the two digits between which it appears are joined to form a single number.

Additional ‘bonus’ question: Once you have worked out the answer to the main problem, if one of the two sums cannot be solved under the given conditions what extra operations would need to be permitted to make it solvable? Full explanation in my next blog post.

The first part is quite easy: problem A is resolved simply by using the concatenation symbol to turn the 1 and 2 into 12 and adding the three to get 15. Problem B cannot be resolved (the biggest number you can get without concatenation is 7 (3 x 2 +1 = 6+1 = 7) and the only numbers you can generate by concatenating are 321 (all numbers used, obviously hopeless), 32 which leaves with with one which enables you to finish with either 31, 32 or 33 and 21, which leaves the three, which appears at the beginning. The only integers you can generate with the three and the 21 this way round are 24 or -18.

For the second part you need to allow a minimum of three more operators: square roots and floor or ceiling functions (you only need the latter, but the two operations come as a package). The floor and ceiling functions are respectively the nearest integer below an actual answer and the nearest integer above an actual answer. With these you can concatenate the two and the one to form 21, the square root of 21 is approximately 4.58, the ceiling function of which is 5, and you have the three unused to multiply and make 15.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

County Championship Washouts

This post looks at such play as there has been in the latest round of championship fixtures, which have been heavily affected by the weather – there have been bands of rain sweeping across Britain, coming in from the west although by some freak my corner of northwest Norfolk has largely escaped, with only Friday being really wet.

THE EARLY GAME

Hampshire v Leciestershire was supposed to run from Wednesday to Saturday. In fact only a tiny amount of cricket was possible. Hampshire scored 233 in the first innings, bowled Leicestershire out for 84, and forfeited their second innings, leaving Leicestershire 22 overs to score 150 to win. Leicestershire made no serious effort to take on this chase on the game was drawn.

AROUND THE GROUNDS

A number of games have been so badly hammered by the weather that there is no real chance of a result. Kent v Glamorgan and Northamptonshire v Lancashire have already been confirmed as draws, though the former saw an amazing performance from Darren Stevens. Kent at low water mark were 93-7 in their first innings, but ended up tallying 307. Stevens, at the age of 45 scored 190, with 15 sixes and 15 fours. He shared a ninth wicket stand of 166 with Miguel Cummins, whose share of that partnership was one not out. Stevens then added the wicket of Marnus Labuschagne to his share of the spoils. Nottinghamshire v Worcestershire, Durham v Derbyshire and Essex v Warwickshire are all headed the same way, and it will take miracles for any of those games to yield definite results. Gloucestershire v Somerset is likely to be a draw as well, but the way Gloucestershire are collapsing means that it is not dead yet – Somerset scored 300-8 declared, with Tom Abell scoring his first century of the season (overall he now has over 500 runs at an average of more than 60 for the season), and Gloucestershire are 27-6 in reply. That leaves the London derby, in which the Surrey openers, Burns and Stoneman have been utterly dominant – they put on 135 in each innings, equalling the highest ever identical opening stands in FC history, a record set in 1979 by Kepler Wessels and John Barclay of Sussex. Surrey declared just before lunch today at 259-2, setting Middlesex 290 (full scores, Surrey 190 and 259-2 dec, Middlesex 160 and 28-1). Burns completed his first century of the season.

A POTENTIAL ENGLAND NO3

Somerset started this season with a plan for their top order – three guys all answering to Tom, Lammonby, Banton and Abell at 1,2 and 3. Banton has already fallen by the wayside, his career as a first class opener over almost before it began. Lammonby has managed one good score all season, and his dismissal in the game currently in progress, run out going for one that was never there, was the product of a scrambled mind. The one to prosper has been Tom Abell who is handling batting at no3 like one born to perform that task. Crawley remains the man in possession for England, but if he does not score runs against NZ then England may decide that change is needed, and Abell would surely be the logical person to turn to in that case: he is just entering the prime years of a cricketer’s career, he is batting superbly at no3 and several of his best scores have come in very testing situations, all of which give him the appearance of a test no3 in waiting.

A MATHEMATICAL TEASER

This problem comes from brilliant.org, but I have added a bonus element as well as slightly tweaking the setting:

A brief note on ‘concatenation’: in a mathematical context it is represented by an equals sign flipped through 90 degrees and it means that the two digits between which it appears are joined to form a single number.

Additional ‘bonus’ question: Once you have worked out the answer to the main problem, if one of the two sums cannot be solved under the given conditions what extra operations would need to be permitted to make it solvable? Full explanation in my next blog post.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

Nottinghamshire v Worcestershire has progressed while I have been preparing to put this post up – Worcs, all out for 80 in the first innings are 106-4 in their second, still 214 away from avoiding an innings defeat, and suddenly definitely looking at defeat.

Somerset Steamrollering at Southampton

A look at goings on at the Ageas Bowl, where Hampshire and Somerset are doing battle, a scoot round the other grounds where there is championship action and lots of photographs.

This post looks at goings at the Ageas Bowl, where Somerset and Hampshire having been doing battle, before taking a quick look around the other grounds where there is county championship action.

OVERTON ON SONG

Yesterday Somerset bowled Hampshire out for a beggarly 79, which even on a difficult pitch to bat on was never going to be enough. Byrom had replaced Banton at the top of the order, but that did not alter the start to the Somerset response – both openers fell cheaply. Hildreth was also out before Somerset took the lead. Bartlett and then Goldsworthy supported the adhesive Abell, 20 year old Goldsworthy especially impressive holding out a long time for his 24. Leach then came in as nightwatch, and did the first part of the job superbly, holding the fort until close of play, with Somerset 142-5. You might think that after an opening day like that things could only get better for the home side on day two, but you would be wrong. Leach hit six boundaries in the early part of the day as he took his score to 34. Abell was seventh out at 193, having chiselled out 64, an innings far more valuable than a double century against weak bowling on a flat deck. Davies and Overton shared a fine partnership, and then Gregory joined Overton and the good work continued, Overton overhauling Abell as top scorer for the innings during their ninth wicket stand. At 328 Overton finally fell for a well compiled 74. Josh Davey came in at no11, and saw the Somerset lead past 250, but at 336 he fell to end the Somerset innings, with Gregory unbeaten on 33. Keith Barker took 4-67 for Hampshire. Mysteriously Hampshire used Liam Dawson but not the wicket taking spinner Felix Organ. The Hampshire second innings is just getting under way.

AROUND THE GROUNDS

Leicestershire v Surrey: Leicestershire, batting first, are 495-9. Sam Evans made a century, and Harry Swindells, the wicket keeper, has just joined him in reaching that landmark. Amar Virdi has toiled away, taking 5-170 from 44 overs for Surrey.

Middlesex v Gloucestershire: Middlesex scored 210 batting first, and Gloucestershire are 132-4 in reply. Robbie White scored 76 not out for Middlesex, David Payne took 5-31 for Gloucestershire. Kraigg Brathwaite scored 33 for Gloucestershire, James Bracey is 44 not out and Ian Cockbain 21 not out. Tim Murtagh, James Harris and Martin Andersson each have a wicket for Middlesex.

Warwickshire v Worcestershire: Warwickshire scored 343 in the first innings and Worcestershire are 64-1 in reply. There were centuries for Robert Yates and Michael Burgess in the Warwickshire innings, while Ed Barnard took three wickets for Worcestershire. Libby is on 42 not out for Worcestershire, while Liam Norwell has the one wicket Warwickshire have claimed.

Lancashire v Glamorgan: This one has been affected by rain. Glamorgan are 226-6 in their first innings. David Lloyd made 78, while Callum Taylor and Dan Douthwaite are both in the 20s at the moment. James Anderson has 2-31, his 990th and 991st first class wickets, while Luke Wood also has two wickets.

Northamptonshire v Sussex: Sussex were rolled for 106 in the first innings, and only got that far thanks to Oliver Edward Robinson, who scored an unbeaten 49. Northamptonshire are 424-9 in response, Saif Zaib 135, Adam Rossington 87, Rob Keogh 66, and back at his day job, Robinson 5-58.

Nottinghamshire v Essex: Essex batted first and were rolled for 99, Nottinghamshire replied with 323 and Essex are 46-0 in the second innings. Nick Browne made 53 for Essex and Luke Fletcher took 6-24 for Nottinghamshire. Steven Mullaney scored 117 for Nottinghamshire, with Lyndon James making 51 and Haseeb Hameed 49. Shane Snater took 7-98 for Essex, bowling right arm medium pace.

Yorkshire v Kent: Kent made 305 batting first and Yorkshire are 77-2 in response. Crawley made 90 for Kent, backed by 47 from Leaning, 40 from O’Riordan, mainly an off spinner, and 38 from keeper Oliver Graham Robinson. Ben Coad took 3-53 for Yorkshire.Ballance is 27 not for Yorkshire, with openers Lyth and Kohler-Cadmore both gone cheaply, and Joe Root 6 not out.

Remarkably, given their first innings batting, Hampshire have not lost a wicket while I have been typing this, but there have been several appeals, and their scoring rate remains painfully slow.

PHOTOGRAPHS

I have lots of photographs for you:

A “Rest XI”

In this post I envisage myself selecting a ‘Rest’ XI to play England in an old style ‘test trial’ match. One of my XI had played test cricket, but qualifies by virtue of not being official first choice for his position.

This post harks back to the days of ‘test trial’ matches, a common example of which was England v The Rest. In it I select, with explanations, my opposition XI if such a game was to played in the run up to the first test against New Zealand. There is one player in this XI who has test experience, while the rest have none. I also name a couple of reserves.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

Hassan Azad (Leics): Left handed opening batter, now averaging 43.89 in FC cricket, with five centuries at that level. His career best 144 not out came against Surrey this season, with his side needing to bat out the match to avoid an innings defeat, and his innings ensured that they accomplished that mission.

*Ricardo Vasconcelos (Northanmptonshire): Left handed opening batter, occasional keeper, captain. Two 150+ scores so far this season, one of them 185 not out in a monster run chase, have seen his FC average move above 40. Although both openers are left handed Vasconcelos is much more attacking than Azad who is very much a sticker.

Tom Abell (Somerset): Right handed batter, occasional right arm medium pacer. He has contributed significant knocks to all three of Somerset’s wins so far this season. Somerset have opted for three Toms at the top of their order this season, Lammonby and Banton opening and Abell at three. Lammonby has struggled so far in this, his first full FC season, having been touted as an England possible based on 459 runs at 51.00 with three centuries from his first six FC matches and is at present further from England consideration than he was at the start of the season, though that could easily change. Banton is miscast as a first class opener – he has a fine record opening the batting in short form cricket, but has not looked anything approaching convincing opening against the red ball. My own feeling is that if he is going to make the grade in first class cricket it will be batting somewhere in the middle of the order rather than at the top.

Matt Critchley (Derbyshire): Right handed batter, leg spinner. He has been in good form lately, although his county are not faring especially well.

+Ben Foakes (Surrey): Right handed batter, wicket keeper. I include him in this side because officially he is not England’s first choice test keeper, due to the continuing indulgence of Jos Buttler. Buttler is one of England’s finest ever white ball batters and a decent keeper, but in red ball cricket he should not be keeping Foakes out.

Lewis Goldsworthy (Somerset): Right handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. The very definition of a bolter, with one FC appearance to his name. However, his performance in the fourth innings when he and Steven Davies steered Somerset home with them having been in some trouble showed that he has a superb temperament.

Ryan Higgins (Gloucestershire): Right handed batter, right arm medium fast bowler. After 42 first class appearances he has 1,965 runs at 33.87 and 151 wickets at 20.84. In Gloucestershire’s last game (see here) he took a good haul of wickets and played a crucial cameo innings that put his team ahead of the clock, enabling them to bring home a superb run chase. For my money, with Ben Stokes crocked, Cap 698 should be his.

Oliver Edward Robinson (Sussex): Right arm medium fast bowler, right handed lower order batter. Before I get on to his record a point of clarification: there are two Oliver Robinsons playing county cricket at present, and both like to go by Ollie, so when writing about them I use full names to make it clear which one I am talking about – Oliver Edward Robinson is the bowler and useful lower order batter who plays for Sussex and Oliver Graham Robinson is the keeper/batter who plays for Kent. Our Ollie Rpbinson, the Sussex bowler, has 270 FC wickets at 21.22 and has also scored 1,570 FC runs at 21.50, putting his averages just the right way round (credit balance 0.28). This season he achieved a new career best innings figures of 9-78 (match 14-135). He was rested for Sussex’s last outing to manage his workload, which suggests that an England cap is very much on the table (I have him down for number 699 as we are currently at 697 and Robinson comes after Higgins in the alphabet).

Jack Carson (Sussex): Off spinner, right handed lower order batter. The 20 year old has played eight first class matches, in which he 33 wickets at 22.03 a piece. He is a future prospect rather than someone likely to feature immediately – Jack Leach is first choice spinner, and England probably won’t select two for a home test, while Australia is not traditionally the happiest of hunting grounds for England off spinners, so the earliest time he is remotely likely to figure is summer 2022, but I would want a look at him in a game of above county standard anyway..

Saqib Mahmood (Lancashire): Right arm fast medium bowler. Until now, while possessing plenty of bowling variety this side his not offered up any real pace, and the young Lancastrian provides that. He has had some international white ball experience but has yet to receive a test cap.

Matt Parkinson (Lancashire): Leg spinner. 80 wickets at 23.53 in FC cricket for the young leg spinner, including a career best 7-126 this season to inflict an innings defeat on Kent. Unlikely to feature in tests this summer unless Leach gets injured, but absolutely should travel to Australia for The Ashes, and although I believe nos 698 and 699 are spoken for, Cap no 700 could be his.

This side has decent batting depth, with everyone down to no8 capable of significant contributions, a wealth of bowling options: three front line seamers of differing styles in Mahmood, Robinson and Higgins, with Abell available as fourth seamer if needed, a leg spinner, an off spinner and a left arm orthodox spinner, with Critchley’s leg spin also a legitimate bowling option. It also has the best keeper currently in the business, since he is not officially his country’s first choice. Now for the…

RESERVES

I am naming three reserves, an opening batter, a bowler who can bat well and a spinner:

Sam Evans (Leicestershire): Right handed opening batter. Azad’s regular opening partner, and really coming to the party this season as well.

Craig Overton (Somerset): Right arm fast medium bowler, right handed lower middle order batter. He has already played four test matches, but has been out of favour after struggling at that level. This season he has found a yard of pace from somewhere which gives his bowling genuine menace, and he has been scoring important runs as well. His FC averages are just the wrong way round, 21 with the bat and 23 with the ball, but he should be on the radar, hence my naming him among the reserves.

Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire): left arm orthodox spinner. She has 106 wickets in Women’s international cricket across the formats at an average of 19.41 each, and is only 21 years of age. I for one would like to see her given her chance to play alongside the men, and to keep that thought in people’s minds I mention her here.

Feel free to use the comments to indicate who you would pick for a side of this nature.

PHOTOGRAPHY

Just a few pics today (the weather has not been conducive to photography in the last couple of days)…

Somerset’s Comeback Triumph

A look back at the first round of the county championship, especially Middlesex v Somerset, plus some photographs.

This post looks back at an extraordinary turnaround in one of the only three fixtures in the opening round of the County Championship to have a definite result (Gloucs beating Surrey and Hants beating Leics were the other two).

SOMERSET RECOVERY

Somerset won the toss and put Middlesex in (see here for more on the early stages of the match). At low water mark Somerset were 89-9 facing a Middlesex total of 313. Marchant de Lange and Jack Leach, nos 10 and 11 for Somerset added 83 for the final wicket to save the follow on (there would have been no sensible case for Middlesex declining to enforce it). When Middlesex were 87-2 at the end of the second day they still looked firm favourites, but great bowling efforts from Overton, Davey and Leach restricted Middlesex to 143 in their second innings, leaving Somerset 285 to win. Three wickets went fairly early, but then Tom Abell and George Bartlett shared a good partnership before Abell was dislodged for 84. Steven Davies and Craig Overton both fell cheaply, and the target was still over 100 away when Lewis Gregory walked in to join Bartlett. Gregory, who had picked up a five-for in the first Middlesex innings came to the party for the second time in the match, and he and Bartlett were still together when the winning run was scored, Bartlett 76 not out, Gregory 62 not out. Appropriately, it was Gregory who sealed the win. Leach’s total match figures of 4-61, going at less than two an over, were huge news for England, since unless they are prepared to go seriously radical and drop Sophie Ecclestone a line there is no other serious specialist spin option for the test team at present – Matt Parkinson, with 62 wickets at 25 each in FC cricket ranks second to Leach, having a similar bowling average but only about a fifth of the number of wickets. Gregory has Woakes (definitely) and Oliver Edward Robinson (probably) ahead of him in the England pecking order. Abell and Bartlett may also be on the radar, and the runs they made in uphill circumstances will count heavily in their favour. On the debit side the other two Toms, Banton and Lammonby failed to do anything of note this time round. Ethan Bamber of Middlesex may have out himself on the radar with a fine bowling performance.

Elsewhere the most significant news from an England perspective were scores of 74 for Burns, the opener whose place is under scrutiny after a tough winter, and 133 for Foakes, who should be first choice keeper, and who must have improved his stocks with that effort.

PLAYER LINKS

Here are links to the cricinfo profiles of the players mentioned above in an England context:

PHOTOGRAPHY

My usual sign off…

The County Championship Second Round

Some thoughtd on the recently concluded round of County Champ;ionship matches.

INTRODUCTION

The second round of County Championship cricket matches of 2019 has just finished, with Kent completing an eight-wicket win over Warwickshire. In this post I will look at each match in turn for points of interest and singificance.

THE MATCHES

I will deal with the drawn matches first.

  • Glamorgan v NorthamptonshireGlamorgan 570-8 declared and 70-1, Northants 750
    A travesty of a game. 1390 runs for 17 wickets, an average of 81.76 runs per wicket tells its own story of a pitch that quite clearly never offered anything to any bowler of any description. Glamorgan should be slapped with a hefty points deduction to punish them for producing such a pitch. With a maximum of 24 points available from a single game I suggest a 50 point penalty, to make this offence worth slightly more than two maximum point victories. This sort of match is far worse than a low scoring affair that finishes early.
  • Gloucestershire v Derbyshire– Derbyshire 291 and 388-3 declared, Gloucestershire 350
    Slow batting here combined with a surface that offered little to bowlers saw a match that looked like a draw from a long way out. Wayne Madsen scored a double century for Derbyshire today and Alex Hughes reached a century.
  • Surrey v Essex Surrey 395 and 324-6 declared, Essex 448 and 0-0
    Surrey made the game safe, with 98 from Rory Burns, 69 from Ollie Pope and 54 from Will Jacks, before declaring to get in a quick over at Essex in order avoid being docked a point for slow over rates. There was some interference from the weather during the four days.

Now we have the games at which defnite results were achieved.

  • Nottinghamshire v SomersetNottinghamshire 263 and 126, Somerset 403, Somerset won by an innings and 14 runs
    Somerset’s victory was created principally by the efforts of four players. Lewis Gregory with 6-68 in the first Nottinghamshire innings and a quickfire 50 with the bat, George Bartlett and Tom Abell came who came together after Somerset had lost three quick wickets in their innings and put on 223 together, Bartlett making 133 and Abell 101, and Jack Leach with 6-36 in the Nottinghamshire second innings did the business for Somerset. Joe Clarke failed twice for Nottinghamshire, and although there were some decent scores in the first Nottinghamshire innings no one looked capable of making the sort of runs that Clarke can when he gets going. Somerset go into the one-day tournament with two wins from two, the only team to have managed that. 
  • Hampshire v Yorkshire Yorkshire 554-7 declared, Hampshire 302 and 208, Yorkshire won by an innings and 44 runs
    This was nearly even worse for Hampshire than the actual result – at one stage they were 59-8 in their second innings before Liam Dawson (92) and Keith Barker (64) staged a resistance act that put the pitiful efforts of the Hampshire top order into perspective. 
  • Warwickshire v KentKent 504-9 declared and 124-2, Warwickshire 346 and 280, Kent won by eight wickets.
    Warwickshire were probably nine first innings runs short of escaping with a draw – that being the margin by which they avoided the follow-on. At one stage an innings victory for Kent looke likely, when Warwickshire were 121-7 in their second innings, but Tim Ambrose (107) and 19 year old Henry Brookes (84, a new career best), put on 144 together, which meant that Kent had a run chase to finish the game, something they never looked like failing to do. Opener Zak Crawley had a fine match with scores of 108 and 45 for Kent, and Warwickshire opener Dominic Sibley scored 132 in their first innings, his fifth hundred in as many games. Brookes is selected for his bowling (now 24 wickets at 26.08 from seven first class games), but this 84 was his third fifty in ten first innings, and he now averages 29.33 with the bat as well – a more than handy second string to his bow.
  • Durham v Sussex Durham 224 and 189, Sussex 202 and 212-4, Sussex won by six wickets
    Stian van Zyl scored an unbeaten century to guide Sussex to victory in this match. Liam Trevaskis made 54 in the first Durham innings, and South Africa Gareth Harte 74 not out in their second, while Luke Wells hit 98 not out in the first Sussex innings. 
  • Leicestershire v WorcestershireWorcestershire 553-6 declared, Leicestershire 302 and 233, Worcestershire won by an innings and 18 runs.
    After Worcestershire piled up a huge total Josh Tongue with 4-46 and Ed Barnard with 3-40 did most of the damage in the Leicestershire first innings, and then Charlie Morris took a career best 7-45 in their second. 
  • Middlesex v LancashireMiddlesex 265 and 200, Lancashire 427 and 39-3, Lancashire won by seven wickets
    Middlesex were flattered by this result – two of the three wickets they took before Lancashire completed victory fell to the rarely used bowling of Sam Robson. A target of 39 presented no opportunities for big scores, but Haseeb Hameed followed up on his first innings hundred by remaining unbeaten. Glen Maxwelwas the destroyer in the Middlesex second innings, the Aussie’s off-spin snaring five victims. Haseeb’s return to form has generated considerable excitement because he did well for England before an injury interrupted his progress, but he has had two successive very poor seasons before starting this one well, and it needs more than one big performance to earn an England recall – I certainly put Zak Crawley ahead of him in the pecking order, and regular readers know that I have my own unorthodox solution to England’s top order woes as well, so Hameed is definitely not above third in my personal pecking order for opening options.

I will look tomorrow at some players who could be considered for England (and bear in mind that the next test match is not until July, and is against Ireland, surely an opportunity to blood some new players) and will pick out a suggested squad.

PHOTOGRAPHS

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