The ECB have extended their All Stars kids cricket programme to accommodate for the enthusiasm generated by England’s successful World Cup campaign.
The scheme, aimed to provided children aged between 5 and 8 with their first organised experience of the sport, usually ends as the school holidays begin. But the ECB, eager to capitalise on renewed interest in the sport, have arranged for a further 10,000 All Stars places to be available around the country.
This year, 66,000 children attended All Stars sessions; up from 59,000 last year. The aim is that, when each eight-week course ends, the clubs which ran the courses will offer the children involved further playing opportunities in the summer holidays. The ECB have also rolled out an extension of the scheme which caters for 8 to 12-year-olds utilising smaller pitch lengths and smaller team sizes.
The ECB are also aiming to launch a school’s strategy later this year the broad aim of which will be to double the participation numbers of children playing cricket in primary schools.
“It’s crucial that we use the platform created by the World Cup to introduce more young people to the sport and hopefully spark a lifelong passion for the game,” An ECB spokesperson told ESPNcricinfo. “All Stars Cricket has been very successful in that over the last three years and hopefully the ‘Have a Go’ sessions will get an additional 10,000 kids down to their local club. We now need to make our game as accessible as possible which is why a major part of our strategic plan is to double participation in primary schools by 2024.”
Cricket World Cup organisers claim the tournament is the third “most-watched global sporting event” – in terms of broadcast figures – after the football World Cup and the Olympics, with more than four million ticket applications made and 888,000 tickets sold. 100,000 of those were under 16. Around 43 percent of ticket buyers described themselves as England supporters, while 32 percent said they supported India, 10 percent Pakistan and six percent Bangladesh. Around 80 percent of ticket buyers lived in the UK.
For details of which clubs are offering the sessions and when visit: allstarscricket.co.uk
Gavaskar baffled by Ashwin’s ‘astonishing’ exclusion
R Ashwin‘s exclusion from India’s starting XI in the Antigua Test has left former captain Sunil Gavaskar stunned. This is now the fourth straight Test Ashwin has sat out of after missing the last three in Australia with injury. Ashwin did miss the first innings of the tour game with flu-like symptoms, but was available for the second innings and the Antigua Test.
Ravindra Jadeja, who is the lone spinner in the Test, bowled 12 wicketless overs in the first innings of the tour match and three in the second innings, for one wicket. While Ashwin has three left-hand batsmen in the West Indies top six to line up, it could be argued that the other eight were right-hand batsmen. This is not to say that it is the primary consideration if you know who your undisputed best spinner is.
Losing out in this race between himself, Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav leaves Ashwin’s international career at an interesting juncture. He is yet to play international cricket for India this year. Already out of the limited-overs scheme of things, Ashwin has failed to finish India’s last two tours. In England, after a promising start, Ashwin lost his fitness in the fourth Test. In Australia, he played a crucial role both with the bat and the ball in India’s win in the first Test, but then lost fitness for the rest of the tour. After that Australia tour, coach Ravi Shastri had identified Kuldeep as their No. 1 overseas spinner.
Yet Ashwin remains one of India’s greatest match-winners in Test cricket: he holds the Indian record for Man-of-the-Series awards, and only six Indians have won more match awards than him. One of those series awards, and two of those match awards, came on India’s last tour of the West Indies, which is why Gavaskar was lost for words at the selection choice. “[The selection] astonished me,” Gavaskar said during commentary on Sony. “A man with that kind of record, especially against West Indies. He doesn’t find a place in this playing XI. That is stunning. Astonishing.”
In 11 Tests against West Indies, Ashwin has taken 60 wickets at 21.85, and has scored four hundreds to give him an average of over 50. In his last international match for India, Ashwin took three wickets each in Australia’s two innings and also helped rescue India with the bat from 120 for 6 on the first morning of the series. His Test career now stands at 65 matches for 342 wickets at 25.43 and 2361 runs at 29.14. He is the fastest in the world to both 250 and 300 Test wickets.
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Hampshire 131 for 3 (Vince 69) beat Middlesex 128 (Hafeez 34, Morris 3-22, Abbott 3-25) by seven wickets
The men from the Ageas Bowl came through the Grace Gates knowing they needed four wins out of four to have a chance of making the knockout stages and their South African pace duo all but clinched the first of these as they bundled out the hosts for 128.
James Vince‘s 69 made short work of the chase, leaving Middlesex, who have been riding high in the South Group standings still looking for a couple of wins to book their own place in the quarter-finals.
Middlesex were put in after losing the toss and struggled from the outset.
Paul Stirling’s poor form in T20 this year continued when he became Abbott’s first victim, lbw to the first ball of the fourth over.
Dawid Malan and Stevie Eskinazi briefly threatened to post a score, but once the former had edged Morris through to keeper Lewis McManus the Seaxes lost their way.
Eoin Morgan continued the cameos trend, striking two sixes in his 20, before perishing attempting a third from the bowling of the excellent Liam Dawson, who bowled well in tandem with South African debutant Tabraiz Shamsi.
Middlesex debutant and Pakistan Test star Mohammed Hafeez tried to hold things together with 34, sharing a stand of 46 with wicketkeeper John Simpson. But he was bowled by Wood before Abbott dismissed Simpson and Toby Roland-Jones with successive balls.
Morris picked up two late scalps as Middlesex lost their last five wickets for seven runs in 16 balls.
Having top scored with the bat, Hafeez struck an early blow with the ball when Rilee Rossouw drove him straight to Nathan Sowter at cover.
Hampshire skipper Vince, though, looked in ominous form from the get-go, one sumptuous cover-drive underlining his class.
Sam Northeast tried to follow his example only to blast a Roland-Jones delivery straight up in the air and give Stirling a simple catch.
But Dawson, fresh from his unbeaten half-century against Surrey in the County Championship 24 hours earlier, proved a valuable ally to Vince, who went to 50 from 33 balls with his seventh boundary. The 50 partnership came in just 32 deliveries and although Vince holed out on the cover boundary, Hampshire sprinted home with 31 balls to spare.
The moment Jofra Archer revealed his instinct for greatness
There was a revealing moment as Jofra Archer walked off the pitch having just completed the first five-wicket haul of his Test career.
Thrown the ball by team-mates who recognised the significance of the occasion – there will, no doubt be more five-wicket hauls, but there will never be another first – Archer did not, initially, at least, raise it to soak up the applause of the crowd. Instead, he continued to rub it on his trousers; still looking for the shine that might help him gain some swing.
It was a moment reminiscent, perhaps, of the way in which Jonathan Trott, at his best, would sometimes mark his guard even after he had guided his side to a victory in a match. For these are men so locked in their craft, so consumed by their profession, that it becomes instinctive to work on it even when the immediate targets have been hit.
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That craft was evident in Archer here. After showing the fire and brimstone side to his game at Lord’s, where he achieved a pace of 96mph and displayed that wonderfully unpleasant bouncer, here Archer reasoned that conditions called for different skills. So instead of looking to make the batsmen jump and parry, he sought to draw them onto the front foot and exploit conditions which saw the ball move sharply through much of the day.
That is a remarkably mature approach for a young man playing just his second Test. Many of this crowd would have longed to see him unleash the sort of deliveries that had Lord’s on the edge of their seats last week and many of them roared him in at the start of the day. So despite claiming one wicket – Marcus Harris caught behind of an almost perfect delivery that demanded a stroke and moved fractionally to kiss the edge – in his opening spell, there was a slight sense of anti-climax as it finished. This had been a demonstration of subtlety, skill and control. And when you’re dressed as Elvis, a banana, or a monk – and that accounts for a fair few in the Headingley crowd on Thursday – subtlety can get a bit lost.
But this was exactly the approach taken by the likes of Malcolm Marshall or Richard Hadlee in such conditions. And Archer’s ability to nip the ball both ways, using both seam and swing, while maintaining that full length that allowed the ball the chance to swing and demanded a stroke from the batsmen. After producing a hostile performance at Lord’s that would have made Mitchell Johnson proud, he produced a skilful performance here that would have done the same for James Anderson. To be capable of both approaches is immensely encouraging for England.
“I don’t need to run in and bowl 90mph every spell to get wickets,” Archer said afterwards. “I’ve shown that today. There will be times in Test matches you have to focus on hitting your length. There will be times to ramp it up as well but you don’t have to go into it every innings.
“This wasn’t a wicket where you had to run in and bowl 90mph. It was a bit softer on top; there was a bit of swing and nip. If you put it in the right areas you should get wickets.”
That’s not to say Archer did not display sharp pace here. By the time he was recalled to the attack for his second spell, Australia were 124-2 and England were in real danger. In these conditions, that was a fine score. The support bowlers had failed to maintain the control of the openers and, at one stage, 88 runs had been leaked from 14 overs. The thought remains that, had they all bowled tighter, Australia may have struggled to score many more than 100 in such conditions. England may yet struggle in reply.
As a result, Archer appeared to go up a gear. Having beaten David Warner with an 88mph delivery that nipped past his outside edge, the next ball – timed at a fraction under 90 mph – demanded a stroke and again took the edge on its way to the keeper. The word ‘unplayable’ is overused, but the best most batsmen could hope to do with such a delivery was miss it. The wicket precipitated a sharp decline which saw Australia lose eight wickets for 43. Coincidentally, 8 for 43 were the figures Bob Willis took here in that famous game in 1981. Archer’s haul of 6-45 was the best by an England bowler in the Ashes at Headingley since.
Later, Warner compared him to Dale Steyn – in terms of his skills and his ability to up his pace as required – and Jasprit Bumrah – in terms of the difficulty in picking up his lengths from his action. Look at the names mentioned in this article so far: Marshall; Hadlee; Steyn; Bumrah. These are some of the best there have ever been. England have something very special here.
“It was incredible Test bowling,” Warner said of Archer and Broad’s opening spells. “It was world-class bowling at its best. They bowled unbelievably well and a play and miss became a good shot.”
Is this praise premature? Well, we’ll see. But Archer really does appear to have the armoury – the control, the pace, the skills and the robust body – to suggest he can sustain the bright start to his career. Indeed, when his captain eventually realises that he is the man who should be running in down the hill, and he is the man who should bowl in shorter spells, it’s possible his figures could even improve. He bowled at the wrong end for much of this innings and conceded runs as a result of the unusually attacking fields.
The one cloud on his horizon is his workload. Already, he has delivered 61.1 overs in this series and this was just the third innings in which he has bowled. By contrast, Broad has delivered fewer than 50 overs in the same timeframe. Overall, England have delivered 194.1 overs since Archer came into the Test side, meaning he has bowled almost a third of them. That is not sustainable.
So while it is understandable that Joe Root turns to him in every situation – the Ashes are on the line here, after all – it has to change. While he’s shown he is far more than a tearaway with a magnificent bouncer, that top register of pace remains a significant weapon. Even in this innings, he produced the odd sharp bouncer which would have had batsmen just a little reluctant to prop onto the front foot. England need to help him retain that pace. Johnson, at his best, rarely bowled spells of longer than three or four overs.
It was that weariness that was most apparent straight after the game. Asked by the BBC how he felt about that first five-for, his instinctive response was to reply: “It means I get to rest now. I’m over the moon to have got six wickets today, but I’m equally happy just to get off.”
That sustains a familiar theme. Following the Lord’s Test, Archer tweeted a picture of an old man struggling to raise himself from a chair with a stick for help and wrote: “Me getting out of bed tomorrow morning.”
It was a joke, of course, but it was also a warning. Bowlers like Archer come along, for England at least, very rarely. He’s already helped England to a World Cup and he might just have got them back in an Ashes series. He needs looking after. He needs protecting. We’re only at the start of Archer’s international journey, but already he has shown an array of skills that whisper the potential of greatness.
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