Cricket 19: T20 Debut!

Following our efforts in the Global T10 Championship…

https://planetpaul.blog/2021/08/05/cricket-19-switzerland/

We moved onto our first Twenty20 Internationals in a triangular series featuring hosts USA as well as England.

We posted 145-7 against the home side with all-rounder Max Schutt (45) top scoring. Some late blows from Loic Iversen (27*) lifted us to a competitive total. We then restricted USA to 120-6 (Chung 2-14) to seal a famous 25-run victory!

The result sent shockwaves around the cricket world but our players couldn’t get carried away because next up was… England!

We were dismissed for 127 off the final ball of the twentieth over. Captain Louis Vincent (27) and Iversen (25) once again, elevated us to a respectable if not quite competitive total. Leg-spinner Kasper Beck (1-19) dismissed Jos Buttler (0) in the first over but the result was never in doubt. We picked up a couple more wickets though and had by no means disgraced ourselves against the might of England.

We bounced back by posting 142-7, against USA (An almost identical score to the first fixture!). Mark Markovic, having struggled at the top of the order, looked in fine form when making 38. He combined with Kingston Hall (34) for a partnership of 64. Skipper Vincent added 22 before claiming astonishing figures of 2-12 from four overs of his part-time slow-left-arm bowling. Young pacer Harry Singh (2-30) was also in the wickets before leg-spinner Kasper Beck (0-32) kept it tight enough in the final over to seal another victory.

Against England once more, we opted to field first only to see them post a whopping 195-3. Off-spinner Phillipe Fernandes bowled well to claim 2-27. He then top scored with 22* as we scratched our way to just 117-9. We would of course play England again in the final…

We lost the toss and were inserted to bat on a lush green deck in a match reduced to 16 overs per side because of rain. We were soon 22-3 but Nico Keller and Marko Markovic (14) added forty for the fourth wicket to save face. David Willey (1-10) deceived us with an array of slower balls and Adil Rashid (3-18) benefitted from our late innings slogging. Wicketkeeper Nico Keller carried his bat though. He remained undefeated on 43 from 47 deliveries and that sort of knock bodes well for longer format cricket. We finished on 92-7.

Helped by some sloppy fielding, England were soon 40 without loss in reply. However, Kingston Hall ran Jason Roy (23) out with a ridiculous direct hit from the boundary to get us into England’s batting unit. He’d chased the ball hard and far from given up despite England’s early flurry. Mo Castro (1-16) pinned Jos Buttler (28) on the full but the umpire ignored the bowler’s LBW appeal. A smart review however saw England slip to 58-2. Eoin Morgan blitzed 20 from eleven balls before Loic Iversen (1-9) had the opposition captain caught on the boundary. England won with a wide and 5.5 overs to spare but we’d at least put up some sort of showing in our first ever final.

Next, we travel to Ireland to play our first ever One-Day Internationals…

FIFA 20: Signings, Injuries… and some goals!

With Andres Rios and Danny Hoesen struggling in front of goal, we splurged a hefty $8.5m dollars on 25-year-old Syrian striker Omar Kharbin. Sadly, he wouldn’t be able to join us until the transfer window opened. Experienced Austrian winger Christoph Kropfl was also snapped up but for a lot less money! We would later add attacking midfielder Roman Niemeijer too.

On the pitch, we finally got back to winning ways (After six games without a win!) with an impressive 2-0 win in Seattle. After goalkeeper JT Marcinkowski had showed why he’d taken over the number one shirt, Andres Rios struck his third goal of the season to show new signing Kharbin that he wouldn’t necessarily walk straight into the team. Jackson Yuell later finished off an excellent move from a corner to seal a stunning victory. We backed that up with another 2-0 win, this time in Dallas. Wideman Cristian Esponoza tore the home side apart to both score and create a tap in for Rios, early in the piece. In truth, we should’ve won by a lot more.

Sadly, we went back to home turf only to go back to losing! Magnus Eriksson hit the post when he should’ve put us 1-0 before FC Cincinnati took the lead. Espinoza later missed an open goal from a tight angle and Judson fluffed a one on one chance in the dying embers. Normality was restored however with a third consecutive 2-0 away win, this time in New England. Todor Nedelev opened the scoring with a stunning solo strike, his first in America before Espinoza added to his season tally. What looked like a serious injury to Magnus Eriksson, who had looked dangerous having been restored to the line-up in the last few games, was the only blemish on the result. He joined winger Vako on the sidelines.

On a positive note, with eleven games played and therefore half the season gone, we were up to 7th in the table (A play-off place) with 14 points. Both LA based outfits (Galaxy and FC) were ten points clear at the top undefeated with 32 points!

Houseplants

Houseplants are a wonderful addition to a home… but what is it about the interior flora that makes them so?

They add colour, fragrance and a little bit of nature to a house. They require a little bit of care (Water, light but maybe not too much) but can contribute to a happy home. Look after them well and they can last a long time.

Do you have any houseplants? What would you recommend?

Disclaimer: Apologies for the rather dark and dingy photos!

Cricket Captain 2021: Choked by the Chokers!

We went to Pakistan for a Test series… it was to be one of England’s greatest wins (No hyperbole)!

Pakistan posted 468 first up in the opening Test but we responded with 454 (Root 125, Crawley 105). Pakistan then made 347-6 declared… but we only chased down 362! All of our top seven contributed as we won with one over of the match remaining. In the second Test, Root (155) and Buttler (141*) helped put 593 on the board. We then bowled Pakistan out twice with spin trio Jack Leach, Dom Bess and most impressively, leg-spinner Mason Crane, all in the wickets. Then for one of the greatest Tests of all time, one to rival the first of this series even! We made changes including omitting captain Joe Root, in-form Jos Buttler and spinner Jack Leach. Rory Burns captained the side for the first time. We batted first and were bowled out for 180 before the hosts made 357. We fought back with an innings of 344 that included 103 from stand-in gloveman Ben Foakes. Sam Curran hit 63 in the Surrey duo’s partnership of 128. Spin bowlers Dom Bess (5-52) and Mason Crane (4-64) then rounded off superb series for themselves personally to seal an 11-run win. Remember that we overhauled a first innings deficit of 177! So many players performed but our spin threesome of Leach (2m, 9w @ 33), Bess (3m, 18w at 26.39) and Crane (3m, 13 @ 40.92) were excellent. Recalled after years in the wilderness, Crane grew as the series went on and turned into a match winner. It was an incredible series whitewash in Pakistan that continued our phenomenal trend of incredibly tense and exciting series. Onto the 50-over World Cup…

Zimbabwe were easily brushed aside with Dawid Malan striking 109. It was great to see the out of form but kept faith with opener score a World Cup century. Remember that he’d been ditched on the eve of the T20 World Cup. Unfortunately we followed our opening win with a heavy defeat against India who dismissed us for just 136!

Liam Livingstone struck 110 and Jos Buttler 88 not out to get us to 302-5 against Sri Lanka. Deslite being extremely well placed for victory, Sri Lanka succumbed to the spin of Mason Crane (4-51) and Tom Smith (3-61) to fall short by only one run! In tribune against New Zealand, captain Moeen Ali (88) led the fightback and was well supported by Stevie Eskinazi (60). At unbroken last wicket stand of 49 between Smith (26*) and David Payne (23*) saw us pass the 300 mark. Moeen (4-66) and Payne (3-42) then followed up their batting performances with the ball as we held out by 21 runs. We then stifled West Indies, limiting them to 245 all out before Ben Stokes (88) led a successful run chase. Stokes followed that knock up with an 86-ball 111 against Bangladesh but Liton Das’ scintillating 141-ball 191 not out helped Bangladesh chase down 343! We bounced back to beat Pakistan with who else but Stokes the starting light. The Durham man blasted an undefeated 181 not out off 154 balls to lift us to a healthy 358. Joe Root made 76 and though a little accident rather than design, Root as opener and Stokes at three was working tremendously well.

In our next match, Afghanistan raced to 114-0 but David Payne (5-53) claimed a hat-trick and a five-wicket haul to dismiss Afghanistan for 335. Stokes (85), Root (80) and Malan (70) set is on our way to a four-wicket sun. We then beat South Africa by scraping together 267 (Malan 60, Eskinazi (49), Buttler (43) before left-arm pace (Sam Curran 4-20/Payne (2-38) and left-arm spin (Tom Smith 3-32) bowled South Africa out for just 119. That win meant that we played… South Africa in the semi-final.

In the semi-final, Moeen Ali turned to the part-time off-spin of Joe Root who duly delivered with 3-41. Rassie van der Dussen batted superbly for 83 but Brent Ferrira bludgeoning a brutal and crucial 12-ball 38 not out. We never looked like overhauling 328, even Jos Buttler dragging out the innings with a 98-ball 119 not out. He actually added 47 with last man Payne… who was out for a 13-ball duck! We fell short by 39 runs to make it T20I and ODI semi-final heartache. Jason Roy endured a wretched tournament and finished it in the bench. For a few other players, it could possibly have been their last game in an England shirt. Only three of the semi-final XI were aged under thirty, two of which were 29!

We returned to winning ways with a 2-0 home Test series victory over Zimbabwe. Multi-format players were rested but we still fielded an extremely strong side. Zak Crawley sealed the deal with 103 not out in the second innings of the second Test and make it a hat-trick of Test wins for stand-in captain Rory Burns.

The big guns returned to take on West Indies in the Test Championship final (Had I realised then I would likely have brought them back for the second Test against Zimbabwe!). The match was a thriller that ended anti-climatically. We posted 536-5 declared (Root 173, Sibley 135). We had West Indies in dire straits but Shimron Hetmyer (164) kept West Indies in the match. Spinners Jack Leach (5-96) and Dom Bess (4-116) did the bulk of the damage. In our second innings, we batted positively to score 231-9 declared in 51 overs. Despite taking eight wickets on the final day, Kemar Roach (7*) held on with that man Hetmyer (59*) to secure a draw. Windies themselves were only about 40 runs from victory.

Jos Buttler struck a 23-ball 58 to help us win the opening T20I then followed that up with a 19-ball 40 in the second match. Joe Root struck an awesome 55-ball 103! Sam Curran claimed three wickets as he had done in the opening match. We did however list the dead rubber despite three wickets apiece for Dom Bess (3-4), David Payne (3-17) and Benny Howell (3-32). Let’s just say that we were a little complacent in a small run chase!

The ODI series (Captained by Liam Livingstone) followed the same pattern as we secured an unassailable lead… only to lose the dead rubber! In the series curtain raiser, Stokes hit 133 and Sam Curran claimed 5-32 as we won by 94 runs. In the second match, Ben Slater followed 83 on debut with 107, whilst skipper Liam Livingstone was run out for 95. Ed Barnard (3-40) and Lewis Goldsworthy (3-57) claimed three wickets each. After being criticised for scoring too slowly, Ben Slater made it back to back hundreds with a 92-ball 105 in the final match of Zimbabwe’s visit to these shores. The tourists chased down 306 though, with young left-arm pace bowler Oliver Taylor continuing to look not quite ready for international cricket.

It was then Pakistan again and we soon found ourselves one down in the ODI series. Debutante duo Tom Helm (10-0-80-0) and teenager Tony Skillbeck (4-0-47-0) experienced chastening first international outings. Ben Slater followed up his back-to-back centuries against Zimbabwe with 97 but once again, was a little slow about it. Ben Foakes blasted 60 off 35 balls but we fell nine runs short. Absurdly, Slater struck 97 again in the second ODI but again, it wasn’t quick. 261 turned out to be enough by 30 runs after the ever impressive Payne claimed 4-42. Captain Liam Livingstone stepped up to claim 3-50 in the deciding match before striking 96 in a partnership of 181 with Ben Stokes (97) to help take us to a five-wicket and series victory.

We went one up in the T20I series with a comfortable 40-run win. Ben Duckett (46 off 22) and Liam Livingstone (79* off 56) put on 82 when opening together for the first time. Lewis Gregory’s 3-6 meant that the visitors didn’t get close to our total of 196. We only 164 in the second fixture though and despite skipper Moeen Ali’s 4-40, Pakistan levelled the series with three wickets to spare. We upped our first innings total to 186 come the final game (Pope 55*) but Pakistan blitzed the powerplay. Though we dragged the match into the final over, Pakistan won with three wickets in hand once again to claim the series.

We started this post with Tests against Pakistan and we’ll do the same in the next one…

Apple Trouble!

Earlier this summer, I posted about our apple tree…

https://planetpaul.blog/2021/07/11/apple-tree/

Not for the first time, it appears as though it might be diseased! Online research leads me to believe that it’s possibly apple scab and that eradicating such disease is virtually impossible. It seems that many trees aren’t resistant and that removing this tree and planting a new one, might not be the answer.

It’s a shame! There was an apple tree in that spot of the garden when I was a child. On top of the other fruit and vegetables that we grow, it’d be welcome to have a crop of apples too. Maybe it’s just not meant to be?

I guess that our apple ambitions have crumbled!

Tomatoland

Slowly but surely (?!) my tomatoes are progressing. We also have some plants that we bought but my youngest daughter ripped off the tomatoes as soon as they appeared… so I don’t know how much hope I hold out for the above seed grown ones!

I’m quite a brutal pruner, in order to let light in and have less but stronger branches rather than more weaker ones. The tomato plants are situated against the back of the house and I like to convince myself that the heat of the wall will help them grow. In truth, they’re probably not as exposed to sunlight as they need be. Move them somewhere else though and they’d be more vulnerable to wind… and children!

In previous years, the tomatoes haven’t come through until October and we seem to be heading that way again. Rain can cause them to split though as well as birds/insects feasting upon them.

Will I get a soup out of the above? I’m not holding my breath!

FIFA 20: Do You Know the Way to San Jose?

Having been appointed as Manager of San Jose Earthquakes, I quickly delved into the transfer market. Three players (Bulgarian winger Todor Nedelev, South African defensive midfielder Thato Mokeke and further midfield steel in New Zealander Matthew Ridenton) were snapped up on free transfers. They’d compliment a youthful squad. A couple of players were allowed to go the other way including club stalwart Tommy Thompson. Whilst this didn’t go down well with the fans, I thought that it was only fair to allow him to have a crack at English football. With Luton Town offering $900k, we just couldn’t say no!

In pre-season, we reached the final of the North America All Stars Cup, losing 1-0 in the final having been reduced to ten men. Then, it was onto the MLS proper…

We defeated Montreal Impact (Who failed to make an impact!) 1-0 in our opening match of the season. Impressive Brazilian midfielder Judson scored the decisive goal. We then lost 1-0 to Minnesota but were unlucky to have a goal narrowly chalked off for offside. Then a thriller in New York. Argentine frontman Andres Rios, brought into the side at the expense of Dutchman Danny Hoesen, was unfortunate to have a goal disallowed for offside (Again!) but Swede Magnus Eriksoon soon put us 1-0 up. The home side levelled before half-time and despite being reduced to ten men early in the second half, went 2-1 up. Rios missed a sitter that could’ve brought us level but showed great character to create the equaliser for Georgian winger Vako only minutes later. With the match destined to finish all square, New York scored courtesy of a deflected header from a corner with just two minutes to go. As with the second goal, goalkeeper and captain Vega didn’t cover himself in glory! We ultimately went down 3-2 despite playing most of the second half with a man advantage. Whilst a second straight defeat was hugely frustrating, the match showcased what the MLS has to offer.

We went a goal to the good against LAFC but a shocking concession of possession from Judson resulted in an equaliser for experienced Mexican striker Carlos Vela. For the second match in a row, we would concede a late winner, Vela again, to leave myself and the players exasperated.

We were then the dumped out of the US Open Cup by Sporting KC. 2-0 down at the interval, we missed a couple of great chances, eventually pulled a goal back through Luis Felipe and thought that we’d equalised at the death, only for our trend of disallowed offside goals to continue!

We managed to stop the rot with a 0-0 draw against Portland Timbers. This time we were the beneficiaries of an early goal being disallowed for offside. We then spent the entire 90 minutes peppering Houston Dynamo’s goal only to draw 0-0 once again. The image at the top of this post rather sums up our efforts in front of goal!

The goals did come back against Sporting KC but once again we’d blow it! We fell behind but Argentine wideman Cristian Espinoza brought us level. Again we conceded but Andres Rios levelled with thirteen minutes on the clock. Teenage attacking midfielder Siad Haji, who’d deposed Eriksson in the team, then gave the ball away when a successful pass could’ve meant a winning goal. As it was, Kansas went down the other end and subjected us to another late losing goal.

Our poor run of results left us eighth in the Western Conference with only 5 points from seven matches. Things needed to change and fast!