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Stories about England Cricket.

Ben Stokes

Ben Stokes – Captain #81

Ben Stokes Interview (Credit: ECB)

Ahead of the 1st Test match against the West Indies, starting on 8th July, Ben Stokes faced the media, speaking as the 81st captain of England.

Interviewer: “Is there anything from Jason Holder’s game that you would perhaps like to steal and add to your own?”

Ben Stokes: “No!”

The focus may be on the West Indies match right now, but nice to see the Ashes get a mention too!

Chris Silverwood

Chris Silverwood On The Covid Delayed Start To Summer

Chris Silverwood Interview (Credit: ECB)

Chris Silverwood never played a home Test match for England, but this Summer he oversees his first Test match as head coach. With the complications of Coronavirus affecting preparations, watch as Chris talks about the squad and his expectations.

Roll on 8th July – let’s hope the sun shines!

Cricket at the Kia Oval

Kevin Pietersen – The Return of the Prodigal Son?

Cricket at the Kia Oval

Cricket at the Kia Oval

Kevin Pietersen – The Return of the Prodigal Son?

The Return of the Prodigal Son is one of Dutch artist Rembrandt’s best-known work’s of art. Likewise, Kevin Pietersen is one of the best-known cricketers of recent years. And just like artwork, opinions can be divided. With the announcement this week that Kevin Pietersen is to return to domestic action for Surrey in the Natwest T20 Blast this summer, social media has been awash with comments from players and fans alike.

There is little doubt that Pietersen thrives on being in the spotlight. A return to domestic action will certainly bring him the attention, if not the financial rewards available elsewhere. There is also the fact that he has a young family. Having spent a large part of the last winter playing for various overseas T20 franchises, it is easy to see the appeal of spending time sleeping in his own bed. When you consider he was widely expected to play in the Caribbean Premier League, the attraction of a short commute across London become more obvious. We doubt he will be relying on Southern trains though!

The Fan Reaction

Cricket fans reacted with a mixed set of opinions, many still bitter about the perceived lack of commitment shown by Pietersen over recent years. Certainly, the connection with Surrey is probably based as much on convenience as cash, with the original decision to leave Hampshire some years ago seemingly precipitated by location and the limited benefit to the club at a time when he mostly played only for England.

Much has changed though since Pietersen left Hampshire in 2010. The key change being the loss of his England contract. That translates into availability for a County side, most of whom suffer from their England stars being largely unavailable for the domestic season. That was certainly one of the reasons for Surrey engaging with Pietersen in the first instance. Surrey are a club that have always had and expected major success. A big player fits into that environment and plays well with the big-name sponsors around such a club. It is a fair bet that Kia Motors were happy with the increased media attention brought about by Pietersen’s arrival back in the latter stages of 2010. He will certainly bring the media and the fans to the Kia Oval in 2017. That has to be good for Kia and Surrey too.

What Does It Mean For Surrey Players?

One point that has been overlooked somewhat is the impact of Pietersen on the Surrey squad. Much of the commentary has been on the risk of demoralising a relatively young squad who may feel Pietersen’s arrival blocks their chances to play. That overlooks the question of how Surrey have managed his arrival with the team and what they felt he delivered when he last played for them a few years ago. It is perhaps worth reflecting that Surrey have quite a few players who mould themselves in a similar style, seeking to play aggressive entertaining cricket. And they have become increasingly successful in doing so over the last couple of years. Back in division one of the County Championship; beaten finalists in the Royal London One Day Cup in 2015 and 2016; numerous players representing England at senior and junior levels. This is a Surrey team on the up.

Alec Stewart is a man who knows more about Surrey County Cricket Club than most people. He has said there are 3 things Pietersen will bring to the team this year: ‘experience, quality and entertainment‘. Entertainment is all about bums on seats and financial success – the club needs that. Experience and quality are what he brings to the team. A few years ago, when Pietersen first signed at Surrey, we heard Jason Roy asked about his arrival. His response was along the lines of ‘who wouldn’t want the chance to learn from somebody with his level of talent?’. If Surrey can manage their players and achieve an outcome where Pietersen genuinely does help develop their younger players, it could prove a very shrewd signing.

The Return of the Prodigal Son could be said to be one of Rembrandt’s most successful pieces of work. The signing of Pietersen by Surrey may also prove to be a long term success.

Perhaps we will have a little bet on Surrey to win all 3 competitions this year…

IPL 2017 - The English Influence

IPL 2017 – The English Influence

IPL 2017 - The English Influence

IPL 2017 – The English Influence

IPL 2017 – The English Influence

This week’s IPL auction has seen a record number of England internationals snapped up by the 8 franchises. Every franchise now features an England International. The greatest percentage of England players ever to appear at the IPL. And it’s interesting to reflect that the relaxing of the ECB’s attitude to England-contracted players featuring in the IPL appears to coincide with an upturn in the fortunes of England at ODI and T20 cricket.

Reflecting on that, we have done a little analysis of England Internationals featuring over the last 4 IPL seasons. The numbers back up our suspicions! In 2014, a recently disgraced (in the minds of the ECB at least) Kevin Pietersen was the sole English representative, playing for Delhi Daredevils. In 2015, Pietersen was acquired by Sunrisers Hydrabad along with Eoin Morgan and Ravi Bopara. In the end, Pietersen was “unavailable” to play. Alex Hales also featured, at Mumbai Indians.

By 2016, England players were starting to become more attractive with 5 players snapped up by teams at the auction. All of them featured in matches. Chris Jordan went on to play in the final, coming out on the losing side ultimately, despite a reasonable performance with the ball personally.

IPL 2017 – English Players Arrive in Force

Fast forward to 2017 and suddenly 11.4% (8) of all overseas players are England Internationals, with every team including a representative. Iconic England all-rounder, Ben Stokes, attracted the highest ever bid for an overseas player at £1.7m. Bowler Tymal Mills, restricted to playing the 20-over format due to his back problems, becomes the most expensive bowler to feature. With all the hype about Ben Stokes, it is interesting to note he follows in the footsteps of Kevin Pietersen at Rising Pune Supergiants. Pietersen featured in only 4 matches, scoring 73 runs at an average of 36.5. For England’s sake, we hope Ben Stokes has more of an impact! England’s chances of success at the forthcoming ICC Champions Trophy will be greatly enhanced by an in-form Stokes and the IPL experience will certainly benefit his game.

What impact the England players overall will have remains to be seen. England duty could yet limit their appearances. But it is certainly a reflection of England’s increasing standing in ODI and T20 international cricket that their players have been in such demand. It bodes well for the ICC championship later this year!

Here is the full list of England players featuring in IPL 2017…

Delhi Daredevils Sam Billings
Gujarat Lions Jason Roy
Kings XI Punjab Eoin Morgan
Kolkata Knight Riders Chris Woakes
Mumbai Indians Jos Buttler
Rising Pune Supergiants Ben Stokes
Royal Challengers Bangalore Tymal Mills
Sunrisers Hydrabad Chris Jordan

Here is the infographic in full…. (Or you can download the pdf version.)

Alastair Cook - aka Chef!

Alastair Cook plays The Clash

Alastair Cook - aka Chef!Alastair Cook: Should I stay or should I go?

In the words of The Clash, “Should I stay or should I go”! That is the decision facing Alastair Cook at present. And it looks like the latest meeting between the current England Captain and his boss, Andrew Strauss, has merely dodged the question for the time being. Indeed, until at least early February from what The Daily Telegraph is reporting.

With a gap in the fixtures then until 3rd March, when England start a short (7 days!) ODI series against West Indies, it is possible we may even have to wait until late March to establish whether the Summer will start with a new Test captain. Opinion is certainly divided on what should happen….

The ‘stay’ camp…

And those who say ‘go’…

Personally, I think he should stay. The presumed successor, Joe Root, is very recently a new father, has little captaincy experience so far and would face a tough opening 6 months with Test matches against South Africa and West Indies at home, followed by Australia away. Why not blood him as ODI / T20 captain after the ICC championship with a view to a planned transition in Spring 2018 when England host Pakistan and India.

For now though, the question “should I stay or should I go” will remain the one Cook must consider!

Ball Tampering – Cricket’s Unfair Play Law In The Spotlight Again

Ball Tampering – Cricket’s Unfair Play Law In The Spotlight Again

Ball tampering is a sensitive subject. Mickey Stewart is once alleged to have said that “You must treat a cricket ball like a new bride.” I suspect what he meant was to treat it with respect, to cherish it and to look after it. I very much doubt Mrs Stewart was ever polished vehemently with a mixture of saliva and boiled sweet, rubbed and abraded with dirt or picked at with a fingernail! These are all breaches of the various versions of the ‘Fair and Unfair Play’ laws of cricket, currently expressed as Law 42.3 The Match Ball – changing its condition.

The law has again been brought into the spotlight this week, with reports of inappropriate actions taken by South Africa (acting) Captain, Faf Du Plessis. Now, in the recent first Test Match at Rajkot involving England and India, Indian Captain Virat Kohli is alleged to be seen using a sweet to shine the ball. Du Plessis pleaded not guilty to the charges laid by the International Cricket Council (ICC), but was found guilty and fined 100% of his match fee. The charges were brought under the ICC Code of Conduct for Players and Player Support Personnel. At the time of writing, no charges have yet been laid against Virat Kohli.

This is how The Daily Mail reported the allegations:

Ball Tampering – What The ICC Code of Conduct Says

Ball tampering is an ICC level 2 offence. Only the match umpires, team manager / CEO of the teams involved or the ICC Chief Executive Officer are allowed to report such offences. The match umpires and team managers must report such offences within 18 hours of the close of play. The ICC CEO has up to 5 days. Either way, it looks like the time limit for reporting the alleged offence has passed. As such, under the ICC Code of Conduct and it seems very unlikely Virat Kohli will face any charges. What he is likely to suffer is a barrage of press and fan criticism for his actions.

Ball tampering is an offence that in the eyes of many cricket fans is one of the ultimate sins. Perhaps it is time for the ICC to reconsider their stance on the time limits? The pictures certainly raise a number of questions. In times when the ICC are working hard to preserve the integrity of the great game, it is likely many people will feel Kohli has at the very least escaped having to justify what will be seen as dubious behaviour for an international captain.

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The Curious Incident With Mike Gatting and a Hatrick

The Curious Incident With Mike Gatting and a Hatrick

test

Mike Gatting is an early hero of mine and someone who has had a long and varied involvement with the game. In 2004, I was lucky enough to be in the West Indies for the 3rd (Barbados) and 4th (Antigua) Test matches of what had by that stage become a hugely exciting series. England were 2-0 up after Steve Harmison almost single-handedly terrorised the West Indies batting in the games at Sabina Park in Jamaica and Queen’s Park Oval in Trinidad. Cue the 3rd Test at the Kensington Oval in Barbados and the curious incident with Mike Gatting….

England won the toss and fielded, a decision that could have backfired for Michael Vaughan until Andrew Flintoff rescued the day with then test-best figures of 5-58. Day 2 was all about Graham Thorpe, who produced one of the best battling 100’s I have ever witnessed as he marshalled the tail to end the innings 119 not out, having arrived at the crease with the score on 33-3.

As a cricket fan, day 2 for me was defined by the excitement of discovering Mike Gatting sat directly in front of us. The temptation to mention Shakoor Rana was resisted and the chat generally revolved around the cricket at the superb West Indian hospitality and catering!

Day 3 started with a huge degree of simmering excitement amongst the English fans. Could we possibly secure a first series win in the West Indies since 1968?

Cue Mike Gatting and the hat-trick – words not often used in the same sentence! It had actually been a fairly slow morning. Hoggard had been bowling without much suggestion of any impending success and perhaps playing the audience a little, Mike Gatting started muttering words such as ‘Yorkshire conspiracy’ and ‘get him off’ as the lack of success continued.

Indeed, even when the first wicket of Ramnaresh Sarwan fell, Mike was still muttering that Hoggard should be taken off at the end of the over. That was the 4th ball of his 8th over of the day. Of course the 5th ball brought another wicket – that of Shivnarine Chanderpaul. Mike’s response? Words to the effect that he still thought Michael Vaughan should take Hoggard off at the end of the over!

As you can imagine, my friend and I had hit pretty high levels of excitement by this stage and when the hat-trick was completed with the wicket of Ryan Hinds, it took us a little while to remember Mike’s previous comments. We did of course feel obliged to enquire whether Mike’s views had changed.

His response was pure genius – “I guess I am going to have to confess to that in my newspaper column tomorrow!”

I never did find out if Mike Gatting followed through with his confession, but if you know better, I’d love to find out! I do have a lovely memento from some years later though. A signed copy of the scorecard, with the annotation “I was wrong” signed by Mike Gatting!