Cricket Captain 2021: South… West…

We were resoundly beaten by Pakistan in the first home Test but a partnership of 259 between Jos Buttler (148) and Ollie Pope (144) set us on our way to ro parity in the second Test. Sam Curran (84*) also batted well in the first innings meanwhile David Payne claimed match figures of 9-90. In the third Test, we stumbled to 276 before Pakistan replied with 425. We hit back thoug by posting 498-6 declared (Crawley 122, Pope 110*, Buttler 85) then rolled over the visitors for 240 to win by 109 runs! Captain Joe Root (165) and Dom Sibley (136) set the tone in the fourth Test to help us post a healthy 515. Late bloomer Payne claimed a career best 6-71 to help dismiss the beleaguered tourists for 226. We made Pakistan follow on and went onto win by eight wickets and seal a series victory. In the fifth (Dead rubber) match, stand-in skipper Rory Burns (Who had a poor series with the bat: 202r @ 20.20) maintained his unbeaten record as captain… but not winning record. Zak Crawley hit 143 and Ollie Robinson picked up 4-52 in the first dig. Robinson’s fellow right-arm medium-fast bowler Ben Coad, claimed 3-55 on a long awaited Test debut. Liam Livingstone scored 101 not out in our second innings but allowing him time to score a second Test ton cost us! Michael Dyson struck 70 on debut to go with a couple of wickets. Ultimately though, Pakistan held out for a draw. However, we’d done superbly to bounce back from 1-0 down to win the series 3-1.

It was then onto South Africa for five more Tests. It didn’t go well!

In the opening encounter, David Payne claimed 6-49 before Jos Buttler (108), Ollie Pope (83) and a career best 61 not out from Mason Crane provided us with a 60-run first innings lead. Somehow we contrived to lose by 61 runs though! We then lost the second match by 134 runs. Jannemann Malan hit 182, despite Crane claiming 7-111. The leg-spinner added four more wickets in the second innings before Ben Stokes (92) and Pope (51) were our only batsmen to pass 13. We kept the series alive with a stunning win in the third match after posting 554 first up. Debutante Stevie Eskinazi hit 156 up top on debut. Stokes made 124 having been promoted to number three and Joe Root contributed 113. We declared our second innings before in-form Crane (4-9!) took us to a 287-run victory. However, we lost the fourth match to concede the series. This was despite opener Dom Sibley being last man out for 120 when we batted first. Robinson claimed 4-48 but despite 83 from Pope in the second dig, South Africa would ease to an eight-wicket win. We made wholesale changes for the final match and Sam Curran led us to victory on his captaincy debut. Ollie Sale (4-56), unfortunate to miss out until this point, demonstrated his ability. He added 3-61 second time around before the recalled Zak Crawley (83*) carried his bat and his team to victory. South Africa thoroughly deserved their 3-2 series win. We weren’t consistent with the bat and made the wrong selections when it came to our bowling attack. That said, with 28 wickets at 22.64, Mason Crane didn’t deserve to be on the losing side.

Things didn’t get much better in white-ball cricket as we soon found ourselves 2-0 down in the ODIs. Despite a partnership of 223 between Ben Duckett (155) and skipper Liam Livingstone (115), we also lost the third match. Rather absurdly, Sam Curran claimed 5-93!

Fortunately, we got back to winning ways in the shortest format. Jamie Overton (4-27) starred in a 17-run win in match one then Ben Stokes blitzed a 34-ball 67 not out to win the second. South Africa clawed one back in the third but is was good to win at least one series on a tough tour. Onto the Caribbean…

Last time we visited the West Indies, it was thrilling stuff, even if we didn’t come out on top. This Test series continued the thrilling trend!

We hit 312 (Sibley 89) in the first innings of the first Test but the hosts replied with 431. Ollie Robinson (3-58) and debutante Martin Andersson (3-61) claimed the chunk of the wickets. Ollie Pope (117) and Joe Root (97) helped us post 327-9 declared before Ollie Sale (5-71) ripped through West Indies. When he dismissed Carlos Walker to bowl the home side out for 191, West Indies were only seventeen runs from victory but more pertinently, there were only two balls of the Test left!

In the following Test, Zak Crawley (79) and debutante Henry Peters (55) helped put 348 on the board. Robinson (3-28) fired again before Sibley (154*) and Root (144*) produced monstrous knocks. Robinson (4-23) tore through the hosts’ top order to help earn a 195-run win and get us back to winning ways in Tests after defeat in South Africa. We made a couple but not wholesale changes for the third Test. Ollie Pope struck 181 and put on 96 for the last wicket with Sale (51*). We would go onto win the match by ten wickets and therefore the series 3-0. Ollie Robinson picked up 13 wickets at just 17.15 over the three matches. Ollie Sale took 15 at 23.33. It was great to see a number of our batsmen back in the habit of building big innings.

The ODI series that followed would also be thrilling!

West Indies posted 280-9 (Sale 4-36) in match one and despite captain Liam Livingstone’s 119 not out, we fell three agonising runs short. Joe Root chewed up 91 deliveries for 56 and those balls proved costly. We responded with a two wicket win, successfully chasing down 252. Jofra Archer claimed 3-46 then Root redeemed himself, hitting 90 not out from 99 deliveries to steer us home. In the deciding encounter, the home side again only made a middling score, 263-9 (S.Curran 4-52). We seemed set for victory with contributions from Ben Foakes (74) and Root 56 but Lewis Goldsworthy was left 46 not out and the match was tied. Our super over struggles reared their head again as we made only six! Despite Archer striking first ball, we lost a series that we really felt we should’ve won given the positions that we put ourselves in. Our white ball woes continued in the T20s as we threw away matches yet again. Slow-left-armer Prem Sisodiya picked up 3-40 but West Indies posted 220-6 in the opening match. Sisodiya’s performances would fall away horribly as the series played out. Ben Stokes hit 86 not out to get us to a respectable 203-5 in reply. Jofra Archer claimed 4-9 to dismiss West Indies for 154 in game two. Disappointingly, after Sam Curran had blitzed 41 off 26 batting at four, we collapsed to fall short by two runs. Sale (3-20), Overton (3-26) and Livingstone (64) helped us to a consolation win but our form in limited overs cricket needed to pick up fast!

Disclaimer: I’ve noticed that images in my Cricket Captain posts aren’t showing up on all devices. Apologies if all you see are large gaps between paragraphs!

Published by Planet Paul

I'm just an ordinary guy sharing my thoughts on various sports, entertainment and one or two other things!

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