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He was hailed as a gifted batsman, full of potential and a future England star. Today however, the world received the news of the tragic passing of one of the country’s brightest young talents cut off in his prime. Aged only 23, Tom Maynard had featured for both Glamorgan and Surrey, impressing to the extent that he earned himself a place on the England Lions squad that toured in the winter just gone.

Making his debut, at the age of just 18 for Glamorgan, Maynard has developed into an extremely talented cricketer, the move from Glamorgan to Surrey proving worthwhile after he secured his maiden century (123) against his former county. The 2011 season proved to be one of the best for him, as throughout the year he had an average of over 40 in each of the three formats of the game, along with three centuries in the process. His hard-hitting style, and powerful stroke play earned him, as aforementioned, recognition from the England Lions selectors, as he was fortunate to tour Bangladesh with fellow teammates.

This valuable experience saw Tom progress further in the early stages of 2012, as he now had to impress in Division One of the County Championship. Stating himself in The Cricketers’ Who’s Who that “promotion in the Championship in 2011” was a career highlight; Tom was keen to push his county forward, doing so as he scored his highest First Class score of 143 in May. Albeit a season cut short, in 2012 Maynard still averaged over 40 in the LVCC clearly highlighting his skill and potential in the longer format of the game.

The shock of the news of his death, that occurred in the early hours of this morning shook many, not least his Surrey teammates and close friends, all of whom have paid a fitting tribute over the social networking site Twitter. The sheer amount of condolences and messages about Tom expresses the emotion felt by many, a huge talent that will certainly be missed. Out of respect, Surrey have postponed their next T20 game against Hampshire, with Jade Dernbach also unavailable for England’s NatWest Series against the West Indies on compassionate grounds.

It still seems so surreal that only yesterday he was playing in a T20 game versus Kent. It has been a sad day for many, and thoughts are with Tom Maynard’s family during this difficult time.

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Wow! Well my nerves went through the roof at the end; I think I am just about recovering from what was an incredible end to a fantastic T20 series. It was nervy stuff, but England held on to be crowned victorious. It wasn’t certain though that England were going to walk away with the series, losing the first game and then levelling it 1-1, England had to pull out all the stops today to get over the line. They did just this, going right down to the wire; Pakistan needed 6 off the last ball, but a fabulous last over from Dernbach saw an elated England team overwhelmed by winning the series 2-1!

Getting off to a decent start as always seems to be the case; England had another mini collapse in the middle overs, which made the outcome of the innings seem ominous. With the middle order annihilated by spin, yes no surprise it was Ajmal, Kieswetter went first, despite getting off to a great start with a 4 and a 6 already to his name. Bopara, Morgan, Bairstow and Buttler all failed to reach double figures, with only Bopara falling to the pace of Cheema, who had a surprisingly good spell of bowling, proving to be tricky for the England batsmen. Patel supported KP with a good knock, keeping off the pressure, as he also hit a 4 and a 6 taking him to 16 before becoming Ajmal’s fourth and final victim. It was opener Pietersen though; that I suppose you could say saved England’s innings.

  • Kevin Pietersen – With England falling to 89-6 and already 15 overs in, Pietersen provided a stable, yet powerful innings that helped push England’s innings up to a decent total. With 6 wonderfully timed fours, and 1 crisp six, KP’s innings seemed to ooze skill and class, which is not something we always see. However, it must be said that in spite of what we all think about KP, he is great to watch when in form, especially in the shorter formats. Reaching his second 50 of the series, KP hit his way to 62* soaking up the applause at the end of the innings, and he was the vital batsmen in England’s line up.

The chase now being set at 130 had to be defended by England; it was a tough job, especially on the slow pitch in Abu Dhabi. The first breakthrough was early on, that of Hafeez, with a caught and bowled by Dernbach, his second in two matches. Pakistan on 8-1 were in a tricky situation if they didn’t kick on, but the middle order put up a fight. Partnerships between Shafiq and Zia (40), and Misbah and Akmal (37), really spurred them on even though Broad, Swann and Dernbach were in the wickets. Along with running out Shafiq and Afridi for 34 and 3 respectively, Pakistan were reduced to 120-5, needing 10 runs with just 4 balls remaining. Unable to hit the winning runs, it was all down to one man who left his best over until last…

  • Jade Dernbach – The specialist death bowler has helped England out of a tricky spot or two, but today was just that little bit different. Pakistan needed 13 to win from the last over, and every England fan seemed to be on the edge of their seats. A wide increased the tension and the last ball was nearly unbearable to watch… what actually happened though was fantastic. Dernbach unhappy with just a dot wiped out Misbah’s middle stump with a slower ball. Let the celebrations begin! A superb final delivery, Dernbach wrapped up the game, and the series with it, figures of 2-24 highlighting his feat.

It was such a relief to see England go all the way, and finishing the tour on a high England can walk away from the UAE with their heads held high. Yes losing the Test series was a bitter disappointment, but they can only come back better, showing glimpses of hope by walking away with successive series wins. The limited over formats were kind to England this tour, but it’s all about the Test in Sri Lanka, let’s hope there are some much-improved Test performances. It does raise a few questions though, namely over Morgan’s form, will we see him selected in the tour to Sri Lanka in late –March, well we’ll find out tomorrow morning as to who has made selection.

With this being England’s last game for just under a month it was great to see smiling faces and a victory for them to walk away with, expect much more blogging to come as we approach the Sri Lankan series. Not forgetting the County season, which I have mentioned will soon be around the corner!  However, for now it is time to reflect on a tour with mixed emotions, but one in which England came out on top at the end, Pakistan certainly played well throughout and did deserve their Test victory. I hope you have enjoyed this UAE tour as much as I have, and there is still plenty more cricket to come! :D

Photo Credit: ECB (ecb.co.uk)

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The series is now wide open with England defeating Pakistan in the second T20 leaving it all to play for.  England bouncing back after a mediocre performance on Thursday had improved their game ten-fold beating their opposition by 38 runs in an England dominated match. Perhaps the difference being England winning the toss elected to bat first, leaving Pakistan to chase a very reasonable 150. England got off to a great start, bringing up 35 runs within 5 overs, with both KP and Kieswetter looking in good form. However, each innings isn’t perfect, but losing 4 wickets in the next 5 overs was just a little bit nerve-wracking. At 79-4 it didn’t look really promising, with both openers gone and 10 overs still left for England to face. But for one man he loves a challenge, and he certainly wasn’t fazed by the mysterious spin of Ajmal, or at least he didn’t show it…

  • Jonny Bairstow – Not coming into the T20 series with great form, or little practice aside from Thursday’s game, Bairstow definitely took charge from the start. Powering his way to his maiden T20 half-century Bairstow controlled England’s innings, and with wonderful memories against the Indians’ last summer, Jonny once again made his mark. Towering sixes, plenty of boundaries and superb skill against spin, this batsmen is one for the future, as England undoubtedly require Bairstow’s talent. Remaining 60*from just 46 balls at the end of the innings, meant he thoroughly deserved the MOTM accolade.

So, as Bairstow boosted England’s chances of a defendable total, it was the turn of the bowlers to turn hope into reality and prevent losing the series just two games in. As always, the bowlers impressed from the beginning, Finn and Dernbach striking in their first overs made a huge impact; especially as Pakistan were five down for a mere 50 runs. Yet with Afridi ever-present things were not quite finished, destructively taking 17 off Patel’s only over, Afridi sent one miles into the stands. However, even he could not defy England’s bowlers as Pakistan fell to 112 all out; a fantastic performance particularly from Finn taking 3-30, but the bowler that stood out for me today was…

  • Stuart Broad – Let alone being captain, Broad took control producing figures of 2-12 off just 3.2 overs in today’s innings. Taking the crucial wickets of opener Zia, who didn’t look in great form to be honest, as well as the damaging Afridi, Broad, seemed to continue his form from the Test series. With Afridi being the last man to depart it was fitting to see Broad have him hit one high to Morgan, running from backward point, to round off a match that saw England excel as a team once more on this tour. Broad’s captaincy has aroused controversy, but it can’t be said that a bad job is being done, just take a look at how England are performing.

With the series now level, it is up to the decider on Monday to figure out who will come out on top next time around. It will be of no surprise that I am hoping for a repeat show of what was on offer tonight. If the fielding is anything to go by England will win hands down, superb catches from Bairstow, Morgan and in particular a stunning take from Buttler, are highlighting the skill this team possesses as their fielding can never be faulted – well maybe the odd exception!

Monday’s game will be England’s last for nearly a month, before they take on Sri Lanka in late March, so enjoy every minute of it. Before we know it will be the 5thApril, and the County season will have begun… yes people the cricket season is nearly upon us and I cannot wait! Bring it on :)

Photo Credit: ECB (ecb.co.uk)

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Right then, first things first, thank you for the lovely reception from everyone in 2012, and I am very happy to know that my blog was received very well!

But today I want to discuss a recent development that primarily affects not only the First Class Counties, but also importantly, you and me – the fans! As most of you may have already heard this week brought around the release of David Morgan’s review on the domestic game ‘The Morgan Review’, with noticeable proposals to the current county system. But what are these proposals, and how does it affect us?

Well I’ll try and summarise the key points for those of you not in the know:

The County Championship –

v  The aim is to keep the structure the same i.e. Two groups of nine, with promotion and relegation each season

v  However the plan is to reduce the number of games from 16 to 14, with each County playing six teams twice and two teams once

v  How this will be organised is that all local derbies are to be played home and away, whilst the overall difficulty of the opposition faced by each County will be justified upon its previous season’s  position in the table

Twenty20 –

v  The structure as you may know has changed this year with no north/south split, however this is being reversed once the proposal comes into action, in order to maintain this divide

v  The number of games played, again is reduced from 16 to 14, it also will adopt the structure of the Championship with each County playing six teams twice and two teams once

v  The games which are not played twice will be decided upon by those which have the furthest distance to travel (these omitted fixtures will have its venue reversed each year to keep a balance)

v  The quarter final structure will stay like that of 2011

The 50-over competition (previously 40-over) –

v  The structure will be two groups of ten, with Scotland and a combined team of MCC Universities, MCCA (Minor Counties Cricket Association) and County Boards in separate groups

v  Each County will play ten matches, the first will be against a team from the other group to maximise local derbies (Scotland will play the mix of MCCU, MCCA and County Boards), the rest will be against each team in their own group

v  The quarter final will be the same as the T20

There looks to be quite a bit of change in the domestic set-up in years to come, especially as all proposals hope to be in force by 2014. It is quite difficult to comprehend the reduction in the domestic game when test cricket is trying to be publicised more. I suppose the fact that the games only played once will be justified by success levels, is some attempt to increase the level of support, as each match will produce high-quality cricket, therefore attracting more supporters. The reduction in T20 games is sensible, too many games in one week can have an effect upon fitness levels of players, as well as reduce the amount of games a supporter can attend, hence less profit being made. Then we come on to the 50-over proposals, and if I’m honest I have always questioned the fact as to why County players are prepared to play 40-over games, but then have to readjust to play 50-over cricket if they move up to International level. This part of the proposal really is common sense, and should really have been implemented years earlier. It in turn may also benefit our One-Day side in the future, as our ODI success is, shall we say, not the best it can be!

There has been however a lot of controversy surrounding the plans, mainly focused around the County Championship proposals. Less matches being played is obviously the major issue here and the question is, is it really the right way to go? Championship cricket is as we know does attract a substantially lower audience, I just can’t seem to grasp whether reducing the number of games would increase the number of supporters or not? The local derbies of course will always draw in more fans, less games being played however, we will have to wait and find out!

So what I propose to do is a mini survey for all my readers to see what it is the fans really think about the aforementioned proposals. I will then collect all the results, and release them in a couple of days’ time; this is just out of interest to see what the wider opinion is on the matter. Please feel free to participate as I need anyone who wants to get involved to air their views, this way we can build up a bigger picture as to what the fans really think! Below is the link, here you will find 5 questions to answer, all with comment space available, it will take minutes of your time and will be greatly appreciated!

The closing date is midnight 18th January 2012, so you don’t have long… get voting, and no personal information is asked for!

http://caughtatslip.polldaddy.com/s/new-survey

Thank you in advance to anyone who takes part, this is something new I am trying out so if you like it let me know, as I am trying to create a place where fans can share their views on the sport. For now though that is all, but don’t forget we are only two days away from the first test of 2012 – see you then!

FB :)

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So sorry about not posting anything sooner, but there has been so much to do over the past few weeks, let alone Christmas approaching. This is just a little something before the end of the year, especially as there hasn’t been much cricket to report on.

It was the Sports Personality of the Year (SPOTY) last night, and this is definitely worth mentioning. Firstly Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss were up for the main award – and so they should be! – not forgetting the whole of the England team hoping for a collective prize. So as the awards, and most probably the alcohol, started flowing we discovered that it was to be our very own Andy Flower who won Coach of the Year which was fully deserved. To be fair Flower has had an incredible past 12 months, the hard work and dedication he has put into the team throughout his run so far has been phenomenal… I mean look where they are now! So with one award in the bag, the final surprise of the evening was that the England team were awarded the Team of the Year… honestly (and no I’m not being biased) but just look at the achievements of the boys this year. Retaining the Ashes in Australia after 24 years of pain, whitewashing the Indians 4-0 and finally reaching that wonderful number one spot in the Test World Ranking s – it couldn’t have gone much better. On the whole these two awards really showcase what an excellent set-up we have in this country, and unfortunately even though neither Strauss nor Cook  claimed top prize (this went to cyclist Mark Cavendish), England cricket was well and truly on top!

With a great 2011 cricket wise coming to an end, the January tests are soon approaching and oh how excited I am, not only will we see England in prime form once again, but also the County season will just be around the corner! I will be back in 2012 to report on all the action as always, and what a year it will be with Pakistan and Sri Lanka firstly, as well as the West Indies, South Africa and not to mention Australia waiting in the wings. Roll on 2012!

Thank you for all the support, and to all those who have visited, read, recommended and took part in discussions in my first complete cricket season on Caught At Slip. I hope you have all enjoyed reading my work and look forward to seeing you and many others (fingers crossed) next year for an exciting cricket-filled summer. Thanks again, and I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, but for me this is 2011 over and out!

Photo Credit: BBC Sport

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Seeing the end of the English cricketing summer got me thinking, no Test cricket was going to be played over the winter, and the next time we would see the men in white would be January. Now surely you must agree that Test cricket is the best format of the game, well if not I’m telling you now I don’t know what I would do without it – it is at the heart of the English game. Especially know as we have become World Number One (as if you didn’t know, but I just had to make myself feel better!) I think that this format will definitely be pushed more into the limelight. Young cricketers and young fans alike will hopefully be begging their parents next year to see the mighty South Africans and West Indians, they will soon be experienced at this art I’ll assure you now! But my message would be take them, anything we can do to encourage their interest is vital, I mean several venues are now lowering their child ticket prices even to a pound at the mighty Edgbaston ;) Oh and don’t worry I have already done the persuading part now I just need to buy the tickets, as yes I am already gearing myself up for some glorious Test cricket next year, and no I don’t think it is too early at all.

But I’ll get to the point now after all my waffling which is – what is the future of Test cricket going to be like? Well to be honest I really am not certain, but what can be seen is that T20 whether International or on the County scene is without sounding too dramatic, taking over the cricketing world. Don’t get me wrong I absolutely love T20 cricket, but with the children of today being brought up in a slogging, ‘hit it as far as you can’ type of world then what are we to expect, they aren’t necessarily learning the fundamentals of the longer formats. So is that what needs to be done, start at education level to teach children both sides to this wonderful game? I think so, that way we can encourage fresh, bright, young talent who will be both able to sustain their place at the crease, whilst also be able to stand their ground and hit it out of the park – sort of like Kieron Pollard style! As long as the basics are there then we can’t go wrong.

Tests used to be and still are the pinnacle of the game, but probably more less so for certain countries with the emphasis being on the shorter formats. This unfortunately has seen a decline in the talent of both countries and players and Test level, this in itself isn’t going to inspire young cricketers when they see lacklustre performances from International stars and icons. Not necessarily in England’s game however, as we do excel at Tests and boast huge amounts of talent of which are either in the team now or waiting in the wings ready to burst onto the scene. This does have to be looked at on a world scale as however much time England spends on improving the County and International skill at Test level; it isn’t going to solve the problem arising elsewhere. So it can’t be a problem that is solved easily and it is probably a case of – excuse me for saying this –but all for and one for all, clichéd I know.

Well if you’re sat there and I have managed to get you thinking ‘well what can I do?’ which I hope I have, then there is something you can do right now that may be of help. There has recently been a new campaign created for the preservation and protection of Test and First Class cricket around the world, known under the name of Testing Times. They are aiming primarily in the future to persuade the ICC to abolish the two-match Test series, as well as re-establish the Test Championship that has been withdrawn from the 2013 schedule. Firstly however Testing Times are trying to focus on issues closer to home, by implementing an extra clash between the top two teams in Test cricket, England and South Africa next year whilst reducing the ODI series to three games. This intention cannot be achieved just on their own and they need all the help they can get, so this is where I am calling all you Test cricket enthusiasts. You can find Testing Times on Twitter at TestingTimesXI, and Facebook so get following for all the up-to-date news. Also you can sign a petition, as they are trying to find 28,000 people to support their cause before they take it further, so you can get signing here http://www.petitionbuzz.com/petitions/testingtimes . You really would be mad not to, as this petition could save the game we treasure most.

We can’t be sure what Test cricket will be like in the future, but anything we can do now to try and save the game is surely worth it, and hopefully in many years to come I will still be getting just a little too excited about the release of England’s International fixtures. So get supporting in any way that you can, even if it means actually going to see some cricket, I know it may just come to that :) I hope you enjoyed this recent blog post and don’t forget to tell me what you think as always, thank you!

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Part 2 is finally here, it took a bit longer than expected but then it should theoretically be better shouldn’t it? I hope I’ve done the cricket season justice, and today’s look back at the summer assesses some of the best performances across the county scene in particular, as well as some of the key facts that have really made this year what it was.

So first up we had the LV County Championship, but who were the outstanding players…

  • Leading run scorer (Division 1) – Trescothick 1673
  • Leading run scorer (Division 2) – De Bruyn 1383
  • Leading wicket taker (Division 1) – Richardson 73
  • Leading wicket taker (Division 2) – Masters 93

Ahh Trescothick, the Somerset batsmen who can only be loved by every cricket supporter across the country, we all just want him to do great, well I do anyway; he topped Division 1 this year after countless superb performances year-round. Then we have Richardson, who outdid the rest to lie top of the wicket tables, after nearly ending his career this year’s performance truly showed off his abilities.

One moment that stood out to me – Carberry and McKenzie’s 2nd highest partnership for the 3rd wicket. A mammoth 523 runs were amassed by these two against Yorkshire in August, Carberry with an amazing 300* and McKenzie with 273. A great feat by Hampshire, who were unfortunately relegated into Division two as they failed to progress further in the competition.

The Clydesdale Bank 40 was next up, and there were a variety of great performances…

  • Leading run scorer – Nash 649
  • Leading wicket taker – Dernbach 23

Chris Nash took the batting accolade this year in the 40 over competition; in fact it was two Sussex boys, Nash and Joyce, taking first and second place. But it was Nash who was miles ahead with a stack of runs to keep him happy over the winter. Newfound England star Dernbach appears this year in the tables, as he has been bowling superb deliveries not just in the CB40 but in International ODI’s as well. One for England to keep hold of I feel.

One moment that stood out to me – Jonny Bairstow’s maiden one-day hundred against Middlesex, young Bairstow took Yorkshire to a wonderful 275 with a magnificent 114 off just 87 balls. This innings was Bairstow’s 2nd century in the space of a week; hitting 109 not out for the England Lions against Sri Lanka A in a four-day game. This surely was the pivotal moment that helped him seize his International debut this August, and has done nothing but progress since his call-up.

Then lastly the Friends Life Twenty20, which was brimming with brilliance…

  • Leading run scorer – McDonald 584
  • Leading wicket taker – Philips 26

So McDonald tops the table where runs are concerned, and what a great season he had in the T20 competition. With wickets in hand also, the Foxes overseas player had a fantastic year with the bat and it was truly great to see. Philips was the bowler to have in your team in T20 this year, with 26 wickets in hand. A great season overall this year, so this man surely has the skill. 

One moment that stood out to me – Abdul Razzaq’s amazing innings against Lancashire in a group game this July, he hit five sixes on his way to 62 not out of just 30 balls. After Cobb was dismissed for 0 off the first ball, Leicestershire could not really recover and looked to be beaten comprehensively. With a seemingly unbeatable total the Foxes needed 62 from four overs, but with Razzaq’s power-hitting he managed to take them over the line, also helping them towards their quarter-final place.

So there you have it, one concise overlook of the summer with all the key bits included!

 

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