England’s Big Bash Brigade

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The Ashes was a real shame, and it wasn’t just the result that rankled. The games were a tad dull and the lifeless pitches produced attritional cricket that generally failed to sparkle. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the best advertisement for test cricket.

The Big Bash 2017, on the other hand, has been full of the usual glitz and drama. Traditionalists won’t want to hear it, but T20 doesn’t always need favourable conditions to prosper. Good pitches help, of course, but the bright lights, music, cheerleaders, often fill any entertainment vacuum – even if the standard of actual cricket isn’t always first class.

The Big Bash is often interesting for England fans because of the number of Poms playing in the competition. There’s no Adil Rashid this year – there should be a reward for anyone who can trace Rashid’s recent whereabouts – but there’s still a healthy English contingent remaining: Jos Buttler, Kevin Pietersen, Luke Wright, Tymal Mills, David Willey, Sam Billings, Jason Roy, and (although he hasn’t been capped for England yet) Sussex’s Jofra Archer.

Thus, far most of England’s Big Bash brigade have performed pretty well. They haven’t always been outstanding, but they’ve made important contributions for their respective teams – with the possible exception of Roy and Wright, who are having a bit of a mare.

I’m surprised that Wright is struggling because he usually does ok in the Big Bash. This is, after all, his seventh season in the competition. He must have done something right to keep getting invited back. Roy, on the other hand, has been having a rough trot for a while now. The last time I saw him, his technique was all at sea.

The player most likely to win silverware this year is David Willey, who made the smart decision to sign for the defending champions Perth Scorchers. The Scorchers have won the Big Bash three times and finished runners up twice. They’re big favourites to win the competition again this year according to T20 betting odds from CrownBet, the leading local betting company down under. You might be interested to know that they make Australia 1.44 favourites to beat England in the upcoming ODI series. We’ll see fellas. We’ll see.

Although Willey isn’t a shoo-in to make England’s final XI, he has taken some useful wickets and scored 55 against the Melbourne Renegades the other night when opening the batting. It’s good to see Willey getting a chance at the top of the order. He often comes in as late as nine or ten for England’s ODI side despite his impressive ability to bludgeon the ball out of the park. Willey is definitely a weapon.

The other man who has impressed Australian audiences is Jos Buttler. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to England fans because Buttler is one of the most talented and experienced white ball players in the world. At the time of writing, Jos is amongst the Big Bash’s leading run scorers, although his involvement with England means he’ll fall down the ladder now.

Two other players I’ve been watching with fascination are Mills and Billings. The latter has an enormous amount of talent but hasn’t always put it all together for England. He’s got a tough job playing for the Sydney Sixers though. They’re yet to win a game!

Having said that, Billings almost got them over the line the other day. He had to hit 18 off the last three deliveries bowled by … Tymal Mills! He hit the first two for six but missed the third ball completely. This let Mills, who has been quite expensive in the tournament thus far, off the hook.

The final two ‘Poms’ (if one can actually call them that) are Pietersen and Archer. The former has become a Melbourne Stars stalwart in recent years. However, KP seems to be slowing down these days. He’s had a few decent innings, including 40 off 30 balls in the Melbourne derby recently, but the match winning innings have yet to materialise – which is one reason why the Stars are struggling this year. KP has just announced that this will be his final season in the competition. Retirement can’t be far away.

Just as Pietersen’s star is beginning to fade, the stock of Jofra Archer, who could be the next great English import, is rising rapidly. I saw a bit of Archer at Sussex last year and must admit that I was initially underwhelmed. The raw talent was there for sure, but his bowling wasn’t nearly as fast as billed. He also failed to trouble the scorers with the bat.

One thing that cannot be denied, however, is Archer’s athleticism and pure natural talent. In fact, Archer is becoming something of a cult figure down under. He has generally bowled very economically, impressed everyone with his effervescence and temperament, and his fielding has been absolutely sensational. What a shame he won’t qualify for England until 2022.

James Morgan

Written in collaboration with CrownBet

18 comments

  • To be honest James I’m just not interested in T20. It’s s major factor in the demise of proper cricket, and has a big share of blame in what’s happening in the Test and 1st class games and cricket generally. Instant gratification cricket for many of today’s society with little attention span.
    I saw 2 games last year and they were both crap. As for the Big Bash I wouldn’t watch it if you paid me.

    • I’m not a natural T20 fan at all. But I feel some duty to write about it (plus the ODIs) because I’m aware other readers might want to talk about it. We can’t ignore it anyway, and as much as I prefer test cricket I still support the white ball teams and hope we win. Would be great to win a World Cup one day. My big worry, of course, is cannibalisation.

  • I’ve lived in Australia a few years now and watch the BB from time to time. The Australians do a good job of organising and promoting it, but it does get a bit dull and samey after you follow it for a while. But that’s what happened to ODI’s, and was why they invented 20/20 in the first place. But I think it will be ok here for a few years yet simply because its targeted at young people and there is always a new generation of those coming along , when the followers of the competition grown up and get bored with it. 20/20 therefore has a place but cricket would be pretty boring if that is all we had.
    I’m old enough to remember the late 1970s when a lot of marketing gurus predicted that test cricket wouldn’t exist by 2000, replaced by ODIs, I’m less convinced this time around that test match cricket is doomed. As far as I can tell the crowds in Australia in the Ashes were the best ever, and back home in NZ where test matches were never really popular the tests seem to gain more attention now than previous . India these days seems to be also taking test match cricket more seriously than they used to. Interest in Test match cricket is a bit wobbly at the moment, but in NZ ODIs were always more popular. Getting the mix right of the versions of the games is important , and understanding that 20/20 is for a very special type of cricket follower and not for all is also crucial
    Meanwhile I watched Pieterson smash up a 70 for the Melbourne Stars the other night and sort of enjoyed it but couldn’t quite summon up enough interest to watch the Renegades chase down the Star;’s total.

  • T20 increases the incentives to both match-fixing (because fewer key “plays” effect the result) and to taking performance-enhancing drugs (because physical strength matters more). Does anyone feel confident that the people currently running the game are on top of either of these?

    By the way, NZ bowled Pakistan out for 74 in their ODI last night. The pitch wasn’t quite that bad but it did help the bowlers and I hope they serve up England some pitches like this. England’s white ball line-up needs testing on something other than the absolite roads that keep being prepared at home. They got shown up in Cardiff in the CT and from what we know about the schedule of the 2019 WC, used pitches are likely to become a factor there too. NZ are a very good ODI side at home – but they aren’t unbeatable (SA won 3-2 there last year).

    • for A game of Cricket nz should produce a sporting wicket and the englsnd white ball players would be screwed. However, that’s not what white ball is about.. it’s about slogging runs on roads and then people professing you to be potential test class..

      I mean, just look at the video the ecb themselves released of Livingstone on his test call up.. literlaly a load of slogs, reverse sweeps and ramps.. says it all really

  • Really popular is this T20 piece. All of 8 comments. 2 are mine and I don’t even like it. Have to find something else to do…..

  • Five balls from Wood at nigh on 90 and he’s got Warner….

    …..

    Remind me why we thought 82mph trundlers would work in Oz?

    • Here we go, a few balls at pace and Wood and th white ball way is the answer. There is a huge difference in the way payers play white ball to red ball.. Warner’s mentality will be different, Wood only had to bowl a few overs.. let’s see if he can even stay fit and with any pace for All th games shall we.

      Hell, the fact players like Roy were happily smashing Cummings and starc shows how different the games/formats are and you can in no way judge any player from their white ball game.

      It’s literally taken one knock from Roy and one win and all the county players and ecb supporters are out in force to say how great it all is again

  • So our club has a ‘ashes’ whatsapp Group and without fail we had 8 people at least watching every ball live in the tests. It peaked in the first 3tests at 12-15 generally but dropped away for test 4/5 naturally.

    I was the only one in today for the white ball game.. that just about sums up how many overall care. There appeared less at the MCG for this than on the last day of the last test when there was nothing to play for!!

    • 36000 at the MCG for the ODI. Test averaged 50,000 per day. And 88,000 in day 1. The BBL had an average crowd of 30,000 over 35 games.

      I think ODIs are likely to (should) die as we go to just T20 and Tests.

  • Well things are looking bright for the future if the convict U19 team is anything to go by..

    Can only think that some nepotism is at work as the chairman’s son and Waugh’s could barely get the ball above 120kph. Some right little lord Fauntleroys but the looks of it.

    Seem to remember Jamie Overton bowling proper fast a few years ago and Mahmood after him. Does anyone know much about our young guns? Are they all private school chinless wonders or decent?

  • While it was good to see England win the first ODI some of the media have gone into predictable overreaction mode as if England could never compete in ODIs in Australia before.

    The last three post-Ashes ODI series:
    1) 2013/14 – England lost 4-1 but that only tells half the story. Two games were lost by extremely close margins (especially a 1 wicket defeat that had to be seen to be believed) and the series could and should have been 3-2.
    2) 2006/07 – England won the tri-series.
    3) 2010/11 – lost 6-1 but frankly, does anyone remember (or care)?

    In short, although it was a welcome win (Roy – who KP wanted taken to the 2015 WC until told to “pipe down” – back in form, very smart innings by Root, nice mixture of wicket-taking – Plunkett and Rashid – and containment – Ali and Wood – in the bowling), it’s not some reinvention of the wheel. Australia are not a particularly outstanding ODI side at the moment which is why they’re ranked fifth – they have some selection issues (rotating their seamers, the treatment of Maxwell), looked complacent (they hadn’t done their homework on Roy) and perhaps had a bit of post-Ashes’ mental fatigue. Let’s wait until the series is won before going overboard. ‘New era’ England have still not beaten Australia, India or SA in an ODI series.

    Apparently, 35k tickets were sold although the crowd looked smaller when I was watching. A two-thirds’ empty ground didn’t look great and produces talk of a “crisis” in other formats.

    Meanwhile, Root has been cleared to play in the IPL although he (and other Test players who want to go) will have to miss the last ten days to be back for the Pakistan Test. I’m not blaming Root who I think genuinely fears for his T20 place and knows he needs the experience (plus nobody should begrudge him the money – he’s carrying a medical condition that may well truncate his career) but the workload for all-format players is concerning.

By James Morgan

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