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Cricket 19: EHTL – Round Four Preview and Team Selection

After our clinical winning performance away in the happy country of Denmark, we return to home soils and will take on the South Pacific country of Fiji 🇫🇯 . Our match at the Kia Oval will be the premier pink ball day nighter showdown for the EHTL League and one we will hope becomes more of a regular fixture in our calendars. With this is in mind, myself, Ed Smith and James Taylor have selected a squad, via a video call, that will be tasked with the job of first and foremost winning and secondly closing the gap to leaders Hong Kong.

Our 14 man squad to take on the Fijians:

Rory Burns

Luke Wells

Joe Root (C)

Jonny Bairstow (+)

Ben Stokes

Jos Buttler

Moeen Ali

Liam Dawson

Sam Curran

Mark Wood

Jake Ball

Stuart Broad

Dawid Malan

Haseeb Hameed

Chris Woakes has been rested as a precautionary measure due to his long term knee niggle and we feel we have the strength in depth to be able to afford the Warwickshire seamer with a welcome break. He has taken 9 wickets @ 26.67 and his heavy workload so far on generally flatter wickets means we are giving him the opportunity to be fresh for our German adventure.

His replacement in the squad is Nottinghamshire’s Jake Ball who has the ability to replicate Woakes’ imperious precision and accuracy. Ball has only played 4 tests in his career – the last coming in the dire 2017 Ashes but has been lighting it up in the County Championship and he will compete with Mark Wood for the third or fourth seamer spot. 

Our under pressure and under firing openers, Burns and Wells have been retained and will both test their ability against the pink ball. Both lefties will need scores of substances to preserve their spot in the side. A decision on whether we need two spinners in the day night clash or whether we will play an extra seamer will be taken on the eve of the toss. Liam Dawson performed admirably in the Danish game in a holding role (1-45 from 18) so he has a chance of holding down his position. 

We are very excited for our day night clash with our South Pacific friends and hope that we can put on a spectacle that will light up the night skies. 

Round 3 Review and Table: 

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Hong Kong 🇭🇰 recorded a mammoth 569 run victory versus the luckless Papua New Guinea. All rounder Tanwir Afzal (117), MOM Babar Hayat (169 +71) and Kinchit Shah (126) all scored centuries as they plundered 399 and 374-8 dec with good contributions with the ball all round. PNG 🇵🇬 were bowled out for 111 and 79 in reply with only Lakshman Som making respectable scores of 31 and 40 whilst Carlos Ahuja took 4-28. 
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At the Fiji 🇫🇯 home ground of Suva, a much tighter affair played out with the touring side Germany 🇩🇪 scraping home in a 3 wicket win in an entertaining chase. Amir Mangal scored a century for the away side to give them an initial first innings lead of 72 runs. Fiji responded in the second innings with 255 (highest innings score across the three days) thanks to Sevoke Ravoka ton (114) and Joesph Rika 50 – Asad Mohammed taking incredible figures of 8-67 with his swinging seam deliveries. Chasing 184 to win, Mangal made 60 and keeper Weston made a virtually run a ball 57 but the middle order produced a twist and turn with a mini collapse including a double wicket maiden from Viliame Manakiwai. However, Ollie Rayner steered the Germans over the line with 3 wickets to spare gifting the travelling fans a few bratwursts in the stands.


After an entertaining and record breaking Round 3, this is the current Table standings:

D0D7BD40-0881-495F-845C-894A54C911A1Hong Kong are top after three dominating performances with run scoring paramount to their success. We are second after some indifferent performances with Germany hot on our heels after their narrow win in Fiji. The Fijians and Denmark are both very tight in the standings and have produced some entertaining and exciting cricket as well as some personal milestones. Unfortunately, Papua New Guinea are bottom and the only side to not put together a series of wickets or runs. 

Stats Snippet: 

Batting
Babar Hayat 🇭🇰 532 runs @ 133 HS: 212* vs 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 
Joe Root 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 263 runs @ 52.60 HS: 125 vs 🇩🇰 
Tanveer Ahmed 🇭🇰 251 runs @ 50.20 HS: 117 vs 🇩🇪
Metuisela Beitakai 🇫🇯 242 runs @ 40.33 HS: 136 vs 🇵🇬 
Karan Kumar 🇫🇯 232 runs @ 58 HS: 88 vs 🇵🇬 
Craig Meschede 🇩🇪 228 runs @ 76 HS: 134* vs 🇩🇰 
Amir Mangal 🇩🇪 216 runs @ 43.20 HS: 101 vs 🇫🇯  Tanwir Afzal 🇭🇰 213 runs @ 71 HS: 117 vs 🇵🇬 
Sevoke Ravoka 🇫🇯 175 runs @ 29.17 HS: 114 vs 🇩🇪 
Jos Buttler 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 173 runs @ 34.60 HS: 67 off 22 vs 🇭🇰 

Bowling
Sam Curran 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 20 wickets @ 16.80 BBI: 7-55 vs 🇩🇰 
Viliame Manakiwai 🇫🇯 19 wickets @ 10 BBI: 5-25 vs 🇩🇰 
Stuart Broad 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 17 wickets @ 18.65 BBI: 8-75 vs 🇵🇬 
Mohammad Ghazanfar 🇭🇰 13 wickets @ 13.38 BBI: 5-17 vs 🇩🇪 
Ehsan Khan 🇭🇰 12 wickets @ 18.75 BBI: 5-11 vs 🇩🇪 
Ehsan Nawaz 🇭🇰 12 wickets @ 19.50 BBI: 5-53 vs 🇩🇪 
Nirav Acharya 🇭🇰 11 wickets @ 16.36 BBI: 6-82 vs 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 
Carlos Ahuja 🇵🇬 11 wickets @ 23.27 BBI: 5-71 vs 🇩🇰 
Yash Christian 🇩🇰 11 wickets @ 16.73 BBI: 3-13 vs 🇫🇯 Atticus Norris 🇵🇬 11 wickets @ 28.27 BBI: 3-35 vs 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 

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England Down Under 2021/22

Curran and Root pink ball

Whilst cricket is on the down-low and is not on the minds of many (understandably so), the Ashes 2021/22 will still remain at the forefront of England’s test teams’ planning when cricket eventually resumes when it is safe too.

After the excitement of the World Cup victory, the Ashes were disappointing especially from the position they were in at Edgbaston in the first test where Australia were reeling at 122-8 before Steve Smith stole the show and the Ashes. Ben Stokes at Headingley galvanised the country with his heroic and frankly world-class batting to keep us in contention of winning the Ashes but signs at Old Trafford of the old England crept back in with a demoralising loss before an encouraging yet insignificant win n the final test. In simple, Australia’s batting was catapulted into winning positions from the genius of Steve Smith, the courage of Marnus Labuschagne and the gritty nature of Matthew Wade skillfully supported by a pace brigade of Cummins, Hazlewood, Pattinson, Siddle to an extent Starc as well as the GOAT in the form of the top quality spinner Nathan Lyon. The bowling throughout the series was exceptional and there was little difference between the quality of each line up which highlighted the class and form of Smith and Labuschagne. England’s batting was certainly improved, showed through resilient and determined knocks up and down the order at Headingley and Old Trafford in particular, but other than Stokes’ incredible knock, England were outclassed in the batting department. 

From that entertaining series, England has lost in a poor series in New Zealand and signs were looking similar in the first test in South Africa. However, thanks to the introduction of pace spearheaded by Anderson and an injury-free Wood and proper, brilliant batting in challenging conditions led to a 3-1 series win. The new look top order of Zak Crawley and Dom Sibley (Biunrs injured after Test 1) showed promise, courage and a willingness to score runs whilst keeping their wicket intact. Ben Stokes and Ollie Pope in the middle order time and time again built healthy partnerships and both players scored valuable centuries with superb flair, technique and style. This was all accommodated from a firing low order and an exciting bowling attack backed up by the youth of Dom Bess in a real breakthrough series for the off spinner. The series was fun to watch at home but for the England side, it portrayed a winning formula through batting long to make a shed load of runs before knocking the opposition out into sheer obliteration. This is hugely encouraging and welcoming for England fans and players alike as the faith in youth has paid dividend so far…

England Team

Welcome to November 2021. Coronavirus is free, life has somewhat returned back to normality and sport is back on the table. Next up for the English side is Australia down under in a mouth-watering contest. The big question is who will make the England squad to hopefully gain revenge on the Aussies after they retained the urn in 2019 and thumped England in 2017/18. Here is who I will predict to see in that England touring squad to contest back for the urn: (22 players bit like Australia’s inter-squad friendly last year)

Rory Burns

Dom Sibley

Zak Crawley

Sam Hain

Joe Root (C)

Tom Abell

Bairstow - Stokes fist bump

Jonny Bairstow

Ben Stokes

Ollie Pope

Ben Foakes (2)

Ben Foakes (+)

James Bracey (+)Sam Curran 101 vs HK

Sam Curran

Dom Bess

Stuart Broad

Mark Wood

mark wood article

Jofra Archer

Olly Stone

Chris Woakes

Ollie Robinson

Saqib Mahmood

Moeen Ali

Jack Leach

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Joe Root remains my captain for the Ashes 2021/22 series because of his improving skills and tactical nous as well as his sheer quality with the ball and improving quality with the ball. Ben Foakes displaces both Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow as my premier keeper due to his superb keeping record and his ability to score runs at the high level as well as at county level (Sri Lanka 2018 maiden century ion debut). The opening trio of Burns, Crawley and Sibley for me is the perfect set of batters to score runs and take on the new cherry at the highest calibre providing platforms for our more explosive middle order batters. At a push, I would have Burns and Sibley opening due to their current record of scoring half-centuries and centuries especially the Surrey man who despite a tough start has really nailed down his place through substantial knocks. James Bracey is a young and promising keeper who has the right technique and temperant to succeed at Test level with bat and gloves.

Warwickshire’s Sam Hain and Somerset’s Tom Abell will play as reverse batsmen as both have amazing potential on the biggest stage of them all. Hain (24) currently averages 37 in county cricket and his ability to score runs consistently is ideal for England whilst Abell (26) averages just north of 31 at some tricky wickets at Taunton. Seamers Ollie Robinson, Olly Stone and Saqib Mahmood also feature in this squad. Robinson has had two incredible years of wicket taking 74 and 63 wickets apiece in first class cricket and most recently starred in the Lions tour of Australia. He is not the quickest of seamers but his ability to maintain an immaculate line and length should suit Australian wickets. Stone has been very unfortunate with injuries but he can reach 90mph and more so he is a prime candidate to add to his only test cap. Mahmood is very similar and will be able to provide competition in the bowling ranks. The rest of the squad is fairly familiar and I have trust in the likes of Broad, Wood, Curran and Archer to lead the pace attack as well as having depth in spin with Bess, Leach and maybe even Moeen.

So there is my squad for the next Ashes down under. I hope you enjoyed reading this and it took your mind off the current situation whilst excitiing you with the depth in England’s batting and bowling. Thank you for reading and see you guys soon.

 

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Cricket 19: EHTL – Round Three Preview and Squad Selection

Following our discouraging drubbing at the hands of Hong Kong we now take a fun journey to Denmark for round three of the inaugural Eastern Hempsihere Test League. We have played two matches so far both at Lords’ and we are 1 from 2 hoping to make it two from three at the newly made test venue of the Hammerby Arena. With this in mind, myself, Ed Smith and James Taylor have devised a 13 man squad to throw down the gauntlet on Danish land.

Our squad for the EHTL contest in Denmark is:

Rory Burns

Luke Wells

Joe Root (C)

Jonny Bairstow (+)

Ben Stokes

Jos Buttler 

Moeen Ali

Sam Curran

Chris Woakes

Stuart Broad

Mark Wood

Liam Dawson

Dawid Malan

We have reintegrated experienced batsman Dawid Malan back into the England setup. He will provide good batting cover and will be pushing to break into the lineup through our net sessions and warm-up match against a Danish academy side. He also offers the option of an extra bowler with his more than handy leggies.

Depending on the type of conditions that greet us in Northwest Europe, Hampshire spinner Liam Dawson could come into contention to make his fourth test cap and his first in over three years. Dawson’s left arm angle could trump quick bowler Mark Wood who struggled to find any rhtyhm or rhyme in twelve wicketless overs against Hong Kong.

We are though expecting the game to be a competitive challenge against a strong Danish side full of county pros and happy individuals.

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In Round Two fixtures, Fiji recorded their premier win as a test nation with a crushing 449 run demolition away in Papua New Guinea. Opening batsman Metuisela Beitaki hit 136* and 62 along with runs from keeper Karan Kumar (88* and 82*) to rack up two scores above 300 before Villame Yabaki and Villiame Manakiwai both took five wickets in seperate innings to dispatch PNG.

Meanwhile at the Bochum Ground in Germany, the home side thrased opponents Denmark by an innings and 157 runs. All rounder Craig Meschede (134*) and Izatullah Dawlatzai (105) both scored centuries to amount 464. Meschede then took 5-56 in Denmark’s second reply as they could only muster 107 and 200 in their two digs, Gino Schneider the shining light with a dogged 62.

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Cricket 19: EHTL – Hong Kong Humilation!

England vs Hong Kong

Lords’ was the venue again as we returned to the Test arena against a jubilant Hong Kong side who made the long voyage to our Brexit turbulent seas after thumping the Germans. Durham’s Mark Wood travelled from the north to replace Lancastrian James Anderson in a five-man seam attack backed up with the turn of Moeen Ali. Spin would have a massive influence on the contest as the pitch offered intriguingarray of cracks s from the early indication.

Captain Root won the toss and our premier duo Rory Burns and Luke Wells strode out to the crease to safely negotiate the early bowler friendly conditions. Wells (18) had been lucky early on to Tanwir Afzal but his luck ran out as he miscued a pull shot straight into leg gully’s pouches. Root came out of the blocks with a hiss and a roar the fiery red orb flying to the smaller boundaries. Hong Kong’s bowlers strayed to short to the dismissive Root – jet lag maybe setting in for the visitors. Burns blocked and prodded enabling Root to move to his first EHTL fifty at a swift strike rate of 160. England’s confidence continued when Root overturned an lbw decision on the penultimate ball of the session leaving Hong Kong bemused walking off to their red pepper soup.

Root 87 vs Hong Kong.jpg

A change of session provided a change of fortune for the visitors as Burns curtailed his lengthy 101 ball stay for 27 nicking off to the left arm spin of Nirav Acharya falling just shy of a hundred partnership with the skipper. It was an odd innings for Burns as he failed to develop any fluidity leading to the rash shot. Jonny Bairstow (3) edged to the keeper soon after and Hong Kong smelt some fear when Root’s (87) fast-paced knock was ended by Acharya who extracted some extra bounce to remove the skipper.

Acharya (6-82) was the shining light for the visitors in the premier innings first unravelling Ben Stokes (18) and then removing Moeen Ali for 11. Seamer Ghazanfar (1-83) claimed an expensive wicket of Jos Buttler for an attacking yet unsubstantial 18 completing the second session subsidy. It was a disappointing hour for us succumbing to the opposition twirlers despite amassing 140 runs in the session. Sam Curran’s talent after his breakthrough performance with the ball against PNG started to show with the bat with boundary shots racing into the Lords pavilion. His 45 not out at tea provided food for thought about a promotion up the order and with Chris Woakes (23*), we were 280-7 scoring at over 4 and a half an over.

Sam Curran 101 vs HK.jpg

Chris Woakes (32) batted maturely to compile an 85 partnership with Curran propelling us to 298-8, seamer Afzal enticing the Warwickshire all-rounder into a lazy drive catching the outside edge through to the keeper. Curran raced to his fourth Test half-century off just 27 balls and dominated a 60 run partnership with Stuart Broad (21*). Curran had advanced through the eighties for a new high score thanks to bizarre field placements and overthrows and he entered the nervous nineties with consecutive nerveless slog sweeps of spinner Eshan Khan (0-112), who endured a chastening 15 overs with the ball.

Surely, could he reach his ton? The field setting was strange and offputting: 3 slips, a leg slip, a silly point with no mid-on. Curran, on 97, faced up against chief tormentor Acharya and defended the first four balls with aplomb. Then the moment came! A worn red orb kissed the sun stroked surface met by the ferocious blade of Curran agonisingly sueezed over cover which then sprinted off the surface one bounce into the rapturous crowd to claim his maiden Test century. Jubilation swiftly followed to dismay in the space of a ball when Curran skied his attempted sweep to the keeper to depart for a wonderful 101.

Wood was the final one dismissed (4) but it was the Surrey man’s 101 which would earn lavish praise in propelling us up to a more respectable total of 370 on a batting favoured pitch.

Woakes 5 for vs HK

Our swift run rate presented us the freedom to have an hour barrage of hostile bowling in order to gain some early wickets in the late diminishing daylight. Initially, openers Scott McKenchie and Tanveer Ahmed had provided a strong rearguard against the swing and seam of Curran and Broad until Curran’s change of angle to around the wicket paid instant dividend trapping Ahmed in front (13). Captain Root made an instinctive switch to Woakes from Broad and his skiddy seamers ignited into flames for McKechnie (23) whose edge narrowly carried to Bairstow. Woakes soon doubled his tally when he bagged Shahid Wasif at gully for 3 approaching the end of the day. Skipper Babar Hayat (16*) and Kinchit Shah (5*) guided the away side to close on 63-3 from 17 pulsating overs in a highly enthralling first day.

Immediately on the second day, Hayat led the response for his side driving through the covers convincingly on two separate occasions. His partner Shah (9) however couldn’t replicate instead falling over plumb in front off the jubilant centurion Curran (3-45). Hayat had an incredible aura that was felt around the ground and in the Hong Kong faithful who rested all their faith on their skipper as he intended to be the glue to their batting. However, as fifty loomed in the sunny summer skies of London, Hayat was undone six short of a half century by a ripping delivery from Moeen Ali – pundits alike rejoiced at the off spinner’s success.

We then pressed on in our attempt to force Hong Kong to follow on – Curran and Ali picking up one apiece at 144-7. No 8, Tanwir Afzal, decided to switch on the motor and attacked against the sluggish Wood and Broad proving that his average of 30 in first class cricket was not to be ignored. Fresh off his brace the night before, Woakes returned to the stage and saw early joy in removing Khan (13) at the other end. Afzal released the shackles and his attacking mentality purchased a stylish fifty to put his side clear of the follow on target.

Metronomic Woakes (5-47) cleaned up the ultra aggressive Afzal (55) through the deception of a slower ball before a stroke of brilliance at gully by Ben Stokes ended the innings exactly on 200. Stokes, as shown above, proved his remarkable abilities as a fielder flying himself to his right before holding onto a screamer which gifted Woakes his 4th five for.

After recording a 171 run lead, we were guilty of being naive and a tad complacent in our stroke play especially our openers. In a short yet high quality 12 over burst, Hong Kong had us stumbling at 37-3. Wells (11) highlighted his vulnerability against the short ball fending a rising Nawaz delivery to Hayat at slip. Root (3) succumbed to a beauty from Mohammed Ghanzafar before Burns (12) skied a pull on the stroke of tea gifting the seamer a simple return catch.

Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes led a recovery and both had contrasting experiences against the spin duo of Khan and Acharya. Stokes and the spinners enjoyed a battle resulting in an absorbing period in the final session. Sweeps and reverse sweeps were counteracted by some tight lines from the twirlers who valiantly hung in the contest. They were rewarded with the scalp of Stokes (45) who tried one too many sweeps and was trapped adjacent to the stumps ending a pulsating knock and opening up another one.

Jos Buttler looked in excellent touch from his first ball and combined with fellow keeper Bairstow (who passed 50 shortly after Buttler) for a swashbuckling 96 run partnership. Buttler’s half century became the fastest ever test fifty providing the fans a unique and special moment and proved his credentials as a Test batsman. His maximums inside out over cover and a slog sweep took the sting out of the toiling bowlers who were spell blinded by the Lancastrian Freak. Unfortunately, approaching the close of play, Buttler couldn’t resist another chance for a six and holed out at cow corner for 67 off just 25 balls. Mark Wood was promoted to night watchmen and he comfortably saw out the day at 219-5.

The next morning we collapsed in true English style. Wood (4) set the tone nicking off to the premier delivery of the day before Bairstow (60) and Curran (13) succumbed to spinner Eshan Khan (4-49). Khan also picked up Woakes for nine and helped to effect the curtailing run out when Mo failed to ground his bat summing up our innings efforts and his fortunes with the bat. Not all was doom and gloom though with the insurmountable 438 left for Hong Kong to chase on a degrading Lords’ pitch with one and a half days left- right…..

It was 31-0 again when déjà vu struck, Curran’s left arm boomerang catching the snippet of McKechnie’s bat through to a gleeful Bairstow. This brought in crowd favourite Babar who along with opener Tanveer Ahmed seized upon some wayward bowling to mount a hefty partnership. Both played with flair and sophistication highlighting a growing belief that they could force a positive result. Ahmed, in particular, executed a series of stylish boundaries in his progression past half a ton mainly off the lacklustre Wood and Broad. The partnership was, however, terminated through the one and only Ben Stokes, whose sharp bouncer hurried Ahmed who could only watch in despair as the ball clipped his bat face to Bairstow. Ahmed (77) may have departed but he had set a template to how the remaining batters should play.

Stokes, (who had already had two caught behinds wrongly rejected by the third umpire) maintained his hostile bowling in the penultimate over of the session and he was rewarded with the scalp of Wasif (0). Wasif looked troubled at his short stay at the crease by Stokes’ ability to change up his lengths and lines accurately which resulted in a third snaffle for Bairstow. Maybe the bread and butter pudding was too tempting!

The question on many members lips at tea was whether Hong Kong could sustain their run scoring freedom and keep their wickets intact as their lord and saviour Babar remained at the crease. By the end of play, Hong Kong had racked up 105 runs in only 29 sunsetting overs for the loss of a singular wicket.

Despite the early wicket of Shah (16) courtesy of a Stuart Broad out-swinger, Babar spearheaded the battering and the bruising of our bowlers slowly caressing boundaries at aplomb. He gained the support of left hander Narinder Karpe who thwarted our fatigued bowling attack. Captain Root tried to mix and match his bowlers to produce a wicket but we struggled to find any penetration on a lifeless strip. A combination of overturned decisions from the third umpire, mainly off Mo, and some excellent batting from the pair put Hong Kong on 254-4 at the close of play. Babar reached his hundred in the final over to complete a pleasing and positive day for the opposition.

Joe Root came under some fire at the close of play for his decision to not bowl Stokes at all in the last session and only giving leading spinner Ali 15 out of 70 overs so far. He would look to make amends on the next day with Hong Kong still requiring 174 runs to pull of a mindblowing chase.

Babar and Karpe picked off where they left on Day 4 punishing more seam up bowling and nullifying the effect of swing or spin. Karpe had flown under the radar for much of his innings but was rewarded for his patience and stoic batting when he celebrated a well crafted 50. An inspired decision from Root followed briefly afterwards to hand the ball to the economic Woakes who duly responded with the scalp of Karpe (60) pouched well by heavily criticised skipper Root. Another leg cutter fooled the resilient leftie giving Woakes his sixth victim of the match. Ghanzafar (4*) joined Babar (140*) at the crease and guided the side to roasted lamb without any further loss. Pressure had suddenly been mounted onto us rapidly and there was an increasing belief that Hong Kong could pull this off especially if Babar was at the crease.

The resumption after lamb saw Mo take the ball and extract some unbelievable turn and bounce yet none inducing a false shot or providing a crucial wicket. He was not backed up though at the other end as Root alongside his seamers were releasing pressure when shots off Babar’s bat motored towards the rowdy away support.

The target steadily kept reducing like the hands on a clock and with it seemingly went our small hopes and thoughts. Ali continually racked up maiden after maiden unfortunately without any breakthrough until he produces an almighty swipe from Ghanzafar which caught the inside edge bobbling up to leg slip. Yet Stokes had already moved himself to slip during the delivery and the edge landed safely to the despair and frustration of many in the arena. A couple more half chances were presented by the relentless Ali but eventually to no avail.

Numerous records were smashed when Hong Kong reached 400 for 5 but captain Babar remained intent on seeing the job through. He needed partners with him to guide them home and worry surely would have flooded his mind when Broad delivered an in-swinging seed to trap Ghanzafar lbw for a gritty 27 from 90 balls,. Maybe there was a chance for England – maybe the floodgates would open…

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It wasn’t to be though as Babar first reached 200 with a helicopter six off Stokes warmly received by all sections of the ground. First innings top scorer Afzal came together with Babar and whacked a quickfire 18 not out putting the tourists a boundary away from a mesmerising win. Ali (0-64 from 33) delivered two maidens to ramp up some late pressure but it was off the bowling of Curran where Babar seized the moment and caressed a half volley into the Lords’ advertising to send Hong Kong into euphoria.

Hong Kong had done it!  Every field tactic,  bowling combination, change of angle were all dispatched in a ruthless and incredible display of batting from the tourists duly led by their amazing skipper Babar Hayat who finished 212 not out.

After effectively being 171-0 at the start of our second innings our collapse was frustrating but definitely not match-defining. Our lack of potency and attack with the ball coupled with an abysmal fielding effort, poor decision making and genius batting from Babar meant we were resigned to a shocking loss in our backyard. Moeen Ali and Joe Root were very unlucky to not pick up a wicket in the second innings after extracting fruitful turn and bounce on the final day. Our main seamers and strike force were largely ineffectual in our second dig with Wood only completing 12 expensive and wicketless overs in the match.

Full credit though must go to the Asian side who applied themselves in a perfect manner to stun the cricketing world and chase down a world record total at the Home of Cricket. Babar Hayat as captain marshalled his troops well in their bowling comeback but importantly led from the front with the blade in hand in an unbelievable knock that will go down in history no doubt as one of the greatest innings ever.

Match Analysis: 

England 371 (S Curran 101, Root 87, Woakes 32; Acharya 6-82, Afzal 3-36)

Hong Kong 200 (Afzal 55, Babar 44, McKenchie 23; Woakes 5-47, S Curran 3-41)

England 266 (Buttler 67, Bairstow 60, Stokes 45; E Khan 4-49, Ghanzanfar 2-45)

Hong Kong 440-6 (Babar 212*, Ahmed 77, K Shah 60; Stokes 2-48, Broad 2-84)

Hong Kong win by 4 wickets MOM: Babar Hayat

The result is going to haunt us for a while and will hopefully provide a learning curve so we can improve and put in substantially better performances in order to put ourselves back in contention for the EHTL title. Despite the loss, there are positives to take from this game most notably the explosive nature of Jos Buttler, the all-round talents of Sam Curran demonstrated via a wonderful maiden century and the reliability of Chris Woakes with the orb.

Our next battle will see us venture across Europe where we will be entering the heart of cricket in Denmark at the Hammerby Arena. We will be pondering some personnel changes off the back of this defeat and the uncertain conditions that we will encounter in the happiest country in the world. Thank you for the continued support and we will endeavour to return emphatically to winning ways very soon.

Jamie Hamilton (Coach and Selector of England)

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Predicting England’s Squads for the Winter Tour of New Zealand

England Team

The World Cup, the Ashes and the Vitality T20 Blast Finals have all concluded, the biggest summer of cricket has come to a close! Amazing life long memories were made including Ben Stokes and Jack Leach’s heroics at Headingly as well as the World Cup Super Over drama against New Zealand.

New Zealand in fact will be the opponents when England begin their winter tour in November. 5 T20I’s and 2 Test matches have been scheduled with a chance for the uncapped to stake their claim as rotation will be paramount for the selectors of the World Cup winning and Ashes players. A new interim or permanent coach could be in place for the Kiwi tour and it will be interesting to see which way England will go with the focus – white or red ball cricket. My predicted squads are listed down below:

T20I 

Jason Roy

Jonny Bairstow 

Tom Banton

Phil Salt

Dawid Malan

Eoin Morgan (C)

Sam Billings (+)

Moeen Ali

David Willey

Sam Curran

Tom Curran

Tymal Mills

Toby Roland Jones

Pat Brown

Matt Parkinson

In Tom Banton and Phil Salt, we have two of the most exciting and talented modern day openers who deserve a chance at higher honours after exceptional eye catching performances in the T20 Blast with the latter going to play the Big Bash for the Adelaide Strikers in the winter. Also rewarded for brilliant T20 blast form are Lancashire’s leg spinner Matt Parkinson who plays instead of Rashid (injury) with 21 wickets at an average of 14 in this years blast as well as slower ball specialist Pat Brown who impressed yet again on Finals Day.

Roland Jones has starred with the ball this year ( 19 wickets at 19 a piece) and is also a Test candidate after showing glimpses of potential in 2017 versus South Africa. Mills is a fast skilful bowler who guided Sussex to the top of the group table before injury and has demonstrated amazing ability in the shortest form.

I have rested a lot if not most of the England World cup Squad and Ashes team to give them an extended break and recharge them for the Test series and then the Test Championship fixtures.

New Zealand Team

Test

Rory Burns

Dominic Sibley

Joe Denly

Joe Root (C)

Ben Stokes

Jonny Bairstow (+)

Jos Buttler

Chris Woakes

Jack Leach

Jofra Archer

Stuart Broad

Ollie Pope

Ben Foakes (+) 

Sam Curran

Craig Overton

Dom Bess

England ODI

Warwickshire’s Sibley must be a shoo-in after his fantastic season amassing 1575 runs with 6 centuries including last week’s 215 not out against Notts, carrying his bat. Burns and Sibley have great Test futures and their ability to stick around at the crease striving to score big runs is an ideal platform for England. Denly deserves to keep his spot following his determined half century knocks in the Ashes and can bat anywhere in the top 4. 

The middle order conundrum is still out for jury but I have decided to stick faith with Bairstow and Buttler as both have run scoring talent and will have a point to prove to the selectors down in New Zealand. Ben Foakes is in the squad as a reserve keeper batsman who can fill the void if needed.

Foakes’ teammate Ollie Pope is in as a reserve batsman who has played some consistent (221 not out) innings for Surrey and needs a chance to show his talent on the international stage. Dom Bess has played for Yorkshire and Somerset this county season and has replicated the sort of form that saw him make his Test debut in 2017. Overton will pip out any other county seamers due to his knack of taking partnership breaking wickets and overall consistency.

A lot of players can fill these roles more than adequately and I am sure that both of these squads would give the Kiwis a big test. English cricket needs people to be pushing constantly for positions or else the standard drops. It will be intriguing to see who is selected when the squads are released on Monday…


 

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Ashes Cricket PS4 (GTC): To change or to not change? Afghanistan vs England preview

Table after Round 3

With a rather bleak and disappointing looking table following our three consecutive losses in the Global Test Championship, England travel to Afghanistan looking to beat the rising and potentially great test side containing spin aplomb.

Leach.jpg

Whilst we will not name the official XI to encounter 3rd placed Afghanistan, we can confirm that Somerset’s left arm spinner Jack Leach will add to his caps gained in New Zealand and Sri Lanka (real life) and make his GTC debut. His left arm off spin gives us a different dimension to our line up which will be boosted by Leach’s consistency and variety with the pink ball. 

Broad 50 (2)

His definite inclusion means that a change at least will occur in our bowling attack with experienced seamer Stuart Broad at risk ,after taking two wickets @ 180, of losing his place if we decide the pitch favours spinners over seamers. Alternatively, the option to replace a batter remains on the table with both openers under pressure with the certainty that both Moeen Ali ( 11 wickets) and Adil Rashid ( 10 wickets) will feature heavily with the ball. 

Denly

Reflecting on our first innings struggles with the bat (winning the toss and bowling would be preferred), Joe Denly is yet again included and could replace either Jennings (93 runs @ 15.50 ) or Burns (99 runs @ 16.50) as a predominately opening batsman but also the option of some handy leg spin. He joins Sam Curran, who was incidentally picked as a batsman and fast bowler Mark Wood in the 15 man squad touring to Asia. 

With pressure certainly increases on all concerned in the England setup, a win wouldn’t go a miss but will no doubt be very tricky against a capable Afghanistan who have already shocked Australia so far in the GTC. The imminent threat of spin trio Mohammed Nabi, Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur Rahman will definitely not be an exciting prospect for our batsman but we will need to be on top of them to ensure victory. Left arm seamer Ahmed is also a threat with the new and old ball whilst opening duo Inshullah and Ahmadi will be hoping to continue their imperious form. Stay tuned for Game 4 of the Global Test Championship and the round up of the other fixtures right her eon the website in the short future.



 

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Ashes Cricket GTC (PS4): Storms and Gayle’s! – England vs West Indies

Moeen Ali (2)

England have survived plenty of storms in the past but this storm brought from the legendary Christopher Henry Gayle was too powerful and blew away the English in a hammering 7 wicket win for the West Indies in the latest round of Global Test Championship fixtures in the inaugural season – coming into this game, both teams were winless! 

Jonny Bairstow 50

In true GTC fashion, the opposition won the toss and inserted us into a surprisingly bouncy and sprightly Old Trafford pitch. England set their stall out early to be determined and defensive against the new ball which backfired when Burns (8) edged Alzarri Joseph to the keeper at 23-1. West Indies captain Jason Holder exploited the bounce dismissing his opposite captain Root (5) after bouncing out home born Lancashire opener Keaton Jennings for 25. GTC debutant Bairstow stood firm and rode out a tricky lively opening session from the West Indies quicks and spinners with reminiscence of the glory West Indies days with Courtney Walsh and Micheal Holding. Spin proved the downfall of promoted batsman Moeen Ali (5) and Jos Buttler (20) arriving at Lunch five down for the third successive match. 

Ben Foakes (2)

Boundaries were hard to come by for England but wicket keepers Foakes and Bairstow built a 66 run partnership to ease the pressure on the batsman in the shed and the increasingly frustrated supporters. Bairstow reached 50 despite scoring no boundaries which was the theme for the majority of batsmen in the game (bar a few) and Foakes was seemingly following his understudy to a half ton before oddly attempting a sweep to a pretty straight delivery. Surrey keeper Foakes scored 85 against the Proteas but since then has struggled for a consistency with the bat which has contributed to the occasional drop with the gloves. His spot is safe for the moment…

Jonny Bairstow 100

As regular wickets fell in the innings, England were indebted to a gritty Adil Rashid 20 as he hung around long enough prompting Bairstow to increase his scoring rate. After Rashid’s dismissal, leg spinner Bishoo wrapped up Broad and just had Jimmy Anderson to go. But, Anderson confidently blocked and left which allowed Bairstow to reach his three figures containing only four fours – Anderson was soon out but it was Bairstow’s innings which propelled England up to a respectable total after an accomplished display from the West Indies bowlers. – (England 253 Bairstow 103NO Foakes 43 ; Bishoo 3-41 Joseph 3-60)

Chris Gayle 103 (2)

West Indies started brightly taking advantage of the wayward lines provided by Broad and Anderson. Chris Gayle on his Test return began an onslaught of hitting, attacking each length and line. Our seamers couldn’t extract the same pace and bounce the Windies bowlers found and soon the tourists raced to a 100 partnership. Top English GTC wicket taker Moeen Ali removed Braithwaite (41) at the end of play with a smart catch by Foakes. Day 2 came and the momentum hadn’t changed as Gayle motored to his 150! 226 was the next wicket with Ali and Foakes combining to dismiss Mohammad (43).

Foakes catch 1st inns (2)

Spin was proving to be more beneficial on a degrading pitch with leg spinner Adil Rashid pitching in with the wicket of dangerous Shai Hope (25) – Foakes with a blinder! Gayle remained at the crease despite all possible tactics from captain Root and the bowling attack which proved to be at no avail. Rashid picked up his second at 315-4, Hetmyer departing (20) before the moment all Caribbean fans had been wishing for…

Chris Gayle 203 (2)

A remarkable innings rightly deserved after showing an unusual side to his game with patience blended in with amazing ball striking to perplex the England side. Blackwood (5) was Ali’s third victim and soon followed Gayle falling for 217 from 277 balls to a googly from Rashid – a match winning knock. England had restored some pride in their game and had successfully brought the game at least back to some small credibility. Keeper Shane Dowrich played an attacking innings of 70 to lift the West Indies into a 238 run lead which saw Ali and Rashid take 4 wickets each. (West Indies 491 Gayle 217 Dowrich 70 ; Ali 4-99 Rashid 4-110)

Jennings out (2)

Staring down the barrel of a crushing home defeat, Jennings fell to Joesph for just 2 poorly attempting the pull, summing up our lack of runs. Other incumbent opener Burns showed his first sign of form in the GTC after being well set on 41 but his solid defence was ripped apart from part time off break bowler Braithwaite. Braithwaite was soon jumping for joy and had West Indies in hot pursuit of a wicket win catching Root LBW on his first ball. 

Bairstow 78 (2).jpg

Jonny Bairstow backed up his maiden GTC hundred with 78 at a high scoring rate and was the only real positive from this English display. Still about 100 runs behind, England then slipped to 169-7 with Foakes (4) and Ali (1) falling to the successful short ball theory from Holder before Woakes’ (7) resistance was ended by Bishoo. Jos Buttler and Adil Rashid added valuable lower order runs to the England side with Buttler closing in on a maiden GTC century in a return to form. But…

Buttler 87 (2)

Buttler’s fantastic innings was ended by seamer Joseph whose extra height and pace troubled Buttler and sent him back for an impressive 87. When Rashid departed for a solid 42 to double centurion Chris Gayle, England were looking at setting a 50 run lead at best.

Broad and Anderson rolled back the years with two swashbuckling knocks to add some pressure to the top order batsman of the tourists successfully upping the total to chase a much better, respected total of 158 and ending the English resistance at all out for 395. (England 395 Buttler 87 Bairstow 78 ; Joseph 3-67 Braithwaite 2-22)

 

For the third game in a row, our opponents were chasing a total under 200 to win but we had early hope when Woakes zipped one through to the “Universe Boss” which found the edge to Foakes. England continued to add pressure and checked the tourists progress with Burns superbly running out Braithwaite (35). A 95 run partnership effectively ruined England’s chances of pulling off a massive victory with catches going down in the slips and the outfield. Shai Hope was removed for 49 on the cusp of victory by Anderson but Roston Chase (52 not out) and Shimron Hetmyer (7 not out) guided the West Indies to a famous away victory and more importantly their first win of the championship. 

Rory Burns (2).jpg

Relatively new opening batsman Rory Burns has struggled to adapt to the pink ball in this championship so far scoring 99 runs @ 16.50 with a high score of 41. His form has improved since his opening matches and look composed in his 41 and was unfortunate to be dismissed. That innings may have boosted his chances of making the trip to Afghanistan where changes will need to be made to overturn this horrendous start. His batting partner Keaton Jennings place is also under question with 93 runs @ 15.50 with one fifty whilst batting order changes to our middle order will (hopefully) be the trick into scoring more runs especially in the first innings.

 

Congratulations to West Indies on a rightly deserved thumping 7 wicket win! England now head away to the undefeated Afghanistan side which posses centurions Ihsanullah and Ahmadi and spinning sensations Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur Rahman Ashes Cricket (PS4): Global Test Championship Round 3 Review

England need to get going in the Global Test Championship quickly in order to have any chance of finishing in a competitive spot aiming of course for the final. With the host’s pitch looking very conducive and beneficial to spin, the playing XI and squad of England will be no doubt intriguing and fascinating to see. An opportunity arises for our two main spinners Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid to continue their excellent wicket taking during the GTC. They could be accompanied by Somerset’s left arm spinner Jack Leach who comes into contention for a start alongside team mate Dom Bess and Hampshire spinner Mason Crane. Opening batsman Burns and Jennings will be sweating over their places with Joe Denly and Haseeb Hameed waiting in the wings but a recall for Sam Curran amongst others looks unlikely at this stage. Ben Stokes remains injured and will miss the following Trent Bridge encounter with the Australians but the focus shifts to England with the bid to score their first points of the Championship against the youthful and talent boasting Afghanistan squad. 

 

 

 

Cricket Captain 2018(PC): Revenge on the Pommies


Cricket Captain has arrived and I will be taking on the role as Australian head coach and Selector in a time of turbulence leading the Aussies in all 3 formats (Test, ODI and T2OI). Starting in the summer of 2018, Australia embark on a 5 match ODI series against England away followed by a one off T20I. Join me on a rollercoaster ride to restore some faith and pride back into the national side as well as winning some games (hopefully)?

Australia ODI Squad

Following the Sandpaper incident in Cape Town, Darren Lehmann stepped down from his role as Coach and Selector and opened the door for rookie Jamie Hamilton to take over in a challenging situation with the aim to bring back Australian love for cricket. With the bans to Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft leaving them unavailable as well as frontline senior players in fast bowlers Pat Cummins, Josh Hazelwood and Mitchell Starc due to long term injury, the Aussies were depleted and fresh faces were required to replace them. Tim Paine will captain and keep for the side with Hobart Hurricanes duo D’Arcy Short and Clive Rose called up for their impressive form for their domestic sides. Added to that, inexperienced players like Jhye Richardson, Alex Carey and Billy Stanlake have the chance to don the cap for their second time whilst power hitter Chris Lynn finds himself in the squad. WA duo in Mitchell Marsh and Ashton Agar were left out by Hamilton in a bold move to add experience with inexperience with Peter Handscomb and Shaun Marsh completing the stocks. A youthful Australian squad (in terms of caps) needed to prove themselves on the big stage for future competitions and the upcoming World Cup in 2019. England chose both Currans and left out Jason Roy and Mo Ali in their starting XI.

England batting first scoring 290 in the 1st ODI. AJ Tye taking four wickets and Jonny Bairstow leading the way with the bat with 95 for England.

After losing the toss, Australia were sent out into the baking hot Oval and didn’t start brightly with Bairstow and Hales targeting young speedster Jhye Richardson in the powerplay. England were going at a rate of 9 and 10 an over come the end of the powerplay and continued in that fashion for a little while yet. It took a deceptive slower ball from Tye to dismiss Hales for a brisk 51 to slightly lift the spirits to break the opening partnership. Malan, on debut, showed patience at 3 and slowed down the scoring rate in fact contributing to his dismissal with ambitious running seeing D’Arcy Short, on debut, running him out. With a variety of bowlers being chopped and changed, Zampa impressed and maintained his end economically picking up Root for 27. A promising partnership begun between Bairstow and Morgan but as both neared milestone, up step Marcus Stoinis to create havoc. He first picked up the dangerous Bairstow for a superb 95 and then swiftly followed working his magic to dismiss Stokes for a golden duck, with an even better catch by Paine. The aggressive natured pairing of Morgan and Buttler were at the crease to revive England out of trouble but Stoinis continued his rampage and the mini collapse was complete with Morgan departing for 44 also caught by Paine.

England just didn’t recover from their middle order collapse with the dangerous Buttler dismissed by the variation bowler Tye for 5. Rashid and Sam Curran on debut, fell to Tye for 1 and 0 respectively bowled looking to attack in the final overs. Stanlake got in on the action dismissing Tom Curran for a duck with a smart catch from Lynn to leave Woakes stranded on 19 and England all out for 290. After being 3-263, England lost 7-27 in a spell led by Stoinis and backed up ably by Tye and Stanlake. A very good latter half to the bowling innings from Australia brought them back into the game!

Australia’s new look opening partnership in Short and Finch began electrically with new ball bowlers Tom Curran and Ben Stokes hammered to all parts of the ground. 91 was brought up after the 10th over with Short in particular going aerial with Finch playing some classical shots for 4. England made their breakthrough at 1-98 as Finch was bowled by an in swinging delivery from debutant Sam Curran for a fantastic 57 from 46 including 10 boundaries. Short took the mantle from Finch and with Lynn looked to target Curran and leggie Rashid in an aggressive manner. Short brought up his maiden ODI 50 on debut with a glance onto the onside but fell soon after a 91m six off Curran, aiming to sweep Rashid but got a top edge to Sam Curran.

Left hander Travis Head began a more patient knock with boundaries and rotation of the strike blending in with Lynn’s counter attacking style. Nearing 50, Lynn went for one shot too many and fell to Sam Curran in front for a well made 41. Head was soon dismissed to Rashid caught on the boundary by Malan for a productive 28. Maxwell and Paine led the charge to the victory in a 101 run partnership with attacking shots a plenty. Maxwell brought up a swashbuckling 50 but it was Paine who finished the job with a four to win the match by 6 wickets with 15 overs left. Australia finished with a very high run rate taking all bowlers out of the ground in an imperious victory to begin the Aussie winter.


With the current predicament of the cricket in Australia, we played fantastically well to provide a comeback in England’s innings with a super 7-27 eliminating the attacking middle order. We then continued the momentum with an aggressive nature at 9-10 per over with the loss of only 4 wickets and plenty of pleasing scores. We head off to Cardiff from the 2nd ODI, looking to repeat our heroics with the aim for a 2-0 series lead going into the crucial 3rd ODI. The team are humbled by the renewed support and look to continue their winning start. Be sure to revisit the site to see how the rest of the series plays out!

Short Leg