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England unearthed two young batting gems in India.
Keaton Jennings and Haseeb Hameed performed so well, despite the 4-0 Test series defeat, that they look shoo-ins for this summer’s four-match series against South Africa.
They were expected to continue their progress for England Lions in Sri Lanka. Two other players enhanced their reputations instead, however, in the two-‘Test’ series.
Tom Westley of Essex made 97 in the win in Pallekele, and 68 in the defeat in Dambulla, and Lancashire’s Liam Livingstone made back-to-back centuries in the second match, after scoring 59 in the opener. That doubled his tally of first-class centuries, after maiden first-class tons against Somerset and Warwickshire last year.
The year before last he was glassed in a bar, although he was an innocent victim. He recovered to help Lancashire to T20 glory later that summer.
It was a relatively moderate series for skipper Jennings, who made a century in his maiden Test innings in Mumbai. He managed scores of 44, 18, 23 and 37. As any mastermind will tell you, he ‘started so he should have finished’.
Hameed had an even leaner time, making 15, 14, 4 and 0. A disappointing run after his hugely encouraging sequence in India – 31, 82, 13, 25, 9 and 49 not out (that last innings batting courageously with a broken finger). Maybe he is worried about his upcoming nasal operation.
Others also threw their hands up for senior honours.
Tom Curran took 10 wickets in the two matches, and has been rewarded with a call-up to the England 50-over squad in the West Indies as cover for the injured Jake Ball; while Toby Roland-Jones bowled good spells and scored a crucial 82 in the first Test. Wicketkeeeper Ben Foakes made up for a disappointing first Test by scoring 30 and 54 in the sequel.
It was also good to see Jack Leach take two second-innings wickets in the second Test as he tries out his remodelled action.
Sir Ian Botham was unveiled as the new chairman of Durham CCC. No doubt he will bring the same vim and drive to the role – “bringing in new faces in sponsorship, opening doors that perhaps couldn't have been opened” as he sees it – as he did when he raised millions for leukaemia sufferers. His quote, “Anyone who knows me knows I'm not going into this half-cocked”, did raise a snigger, however.
Botham has backed a new city T20 tournament despite his seeming antipathy to the format. But Essex chairman John Faragher insists his county is opposed to a new T20 city tournament planned to start from 2020.
Which therefore makes it strange that his county did not vote against the plan being explored last year.
The counties were asked to green-light a feasibility study of an eight-team, city-based T20 competition – to be played outside the county system.
No other plan was to be considered, which led to Kent, Surrey and Sussex opposing the move. Kent said there was not enough information available. The plan was carried 16-3, though, with MCC the extra vote alongside the 18 first-class counties, who have all been promised an extra £1m a year from the ECB.
Faragher says Essex’s vote was not an acceptance of the competition but merely a vote for more investigation. The momentum is now seemingly unstoppable, however, so it appears they may have blundered. A bit like a man dropping a boulder down the sides of Mount Snowdon, then trying to catch it. The issue will be put to the vote of county chairman on March 27.
The England and Wales Cricket Board are soon to launch All Stars Cricket
It is a nationwide programme aimed at five to eight-year olds, and will give schools and clubs free equipment and training ideas. The Australian, Matt Dwyer, is spearheading the campaign, after enjoying considerable success in his native land with the ACB and the Big Bash.
A visit to my children’s primary school on Saturday alerted me to the fact that rugby union has got in first, however. One wall was taken up with five posters from the RFU, with various pictures of youngsters and both sexes having fun with the eggball, under the slogan, ‘we are all part of the rugby family’.
Cricket has an advantage, however.
I maintain most parents would rather little Oliver or Olivia putting bat on ball than head on knee at this tender age.