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South Africa wobble but Markram shines again

The more I see of Aiden Markram, the more I am enjoying and appreciating his skills and ability as an opening batsman.

The first time I watched Markram, he was scoring 97 on his Test debut against Bangladesh. Of course he'd been touted to open the innings for South Africa ever since he led his country's under 19 team to the World Cup trophy, and probably even before then.

His introduction into Test cricket you would have to say was well planned; a couple of Tests at home to Bangladesh, then a day-nighter with Zimbabwe. With all due respect to both sides it was a gentle start but runs still had to be scored to get the confidence into his game and earn the respect of his teammates and demonstrate what he can do, perhaps for years to come.

With scores of 97,15 and 143 against Bangladesh and 125 in his only innings against Zimbabwe, he certainly gained the momentum he would have wanted heading into his first serious test against a top nation. 
He stands very tall and still at the …

Continuity the key for England but room for Liam

If you were expecting major changes to the England side for the next leg of their winter tour which sees them hopping across the Tasman Sea from Australia and into New Zealand then you will have been most disappointed.

In some quarters this was a surprising show of continuity to a group of players who don't deserve such loyalty after their performances in Australia; it could also be down to a lack of viable options at this particular point. We seem to have a number of young, promising cricketers, but are they ready to be thrown into a side that are coming in for plenty of criticism from pundits and spectators alike.

Jake Ball, Tom Curran and Gary Ballance each have an abundance of talent and in Ballance's case, despite not getting an opportunity to showcase what he's capable of in the Ashes, all three are jettisoned out of the England squad and back into county cricket. This will give them the opportunity  to work on their shortcomings out of the international cricket spot…

Does another Ashes thumping prompt an overhaul, starting with Vince?

General procedure when a resounding defeat takes place in Australia is for England to perform a serious autopsy digging deep into the bowels of the entire England structure, the men that hold positions within that such as those that pick and coach the team and an in-depth look at county cricket. A subsequent report is then published explaining the results of their investigation.

In the last dead rubber that took place between these sides at Sydney back in 2014 we saw Michael Carberry, Kevin Pietersen, Scott Borthwick and Boyd Rankin play what presumably will be their last ever Test match (for England anyway), cast aside after only playing the one Test in the case of Borthwick and Rankin and the other two were the two top runscorers in the series for England. That Test also saw a Steven Smith century, so at least one constant theme remains. The point being, after such a savage beating England feel an obligation to make drastic changes, almost try and highlight all the things they deem …

Cook wisely sits out season opener

The thought of facing Jimmy Anderson in a County Championship game, or any game in any format for that matter, at the start of April is riddled with utter trepidation. So does it come as a surprise that Alastair Cook has decided to sidestep that particular duel in order to recover from a hip problem that has been troubling him for around a month ?

Of course I'm not suggesting for one minute that Cook has sat this game out for fear of becoming one of many early season batsmen to be completely perplexed by the bananas inevitably being thrown down by England's premier swing bowler. Although it is such a shame that we have to miss out on what would be a titanic battle between two masters of their art doing battle in the environment of a County Championship opener. Talk about a welcome return for county cricket.

It was an unfair contest to expect Cambridge's batsmen, however talented, cope with the examination bestowed upon them from Anderson, who returned match figures of 16-7…

Bopara to focus on Test spot

It's refreshing to hear a player shun the vast sums of money on offer in the IPL to focus on Test cricket, or at least to try and gain position in the Test side.

Ravi Bopara has gone the way that Eoin Morgan may look back and wish he had, by searching for early County Championship form rather than financial lure of the IPL.  Morgan is the player that is probably in pole position to replace Paul Collingwood in the Test side after being the spare batsman in the recent Ashes series, yet his decision to play T20 cricket in the early months of the domestic season may affect the selectors thoughts when the squad for the first Test of the summer against Sri Lanka is made sometime in the middle of May.

I personally am perplexed by Morgan's decision, barring the obvious financial advantages, perhaps that is a good enough reason. It is indeed a lot of money (he was signed for Kolkata Knight Riders for $350,000), but surely it goes against all cricketing logic for his own career. Morgan…

More pink ball and floodlights!

We are still in March yet the traditional County season opener has already concluded, once again the more reliable weather in Abu Dhabi was the selected venue as further trials were carried out with the use of a pink ball and day/night first-class cricket.

Crowds are generally sparse for the County Championship so any options that are being explored to swell the numbers through the gate for what is essentially a very good standard of domestic cricket and fiercely competitive, can only be worthwhile experiments.

Rahul Dravid is certainly keen for more trials in differing conditions and nations with the pink ball. He clearly had no problems in sighting the ball as he stroked his way to 106 runs in the MCC's second innings. Perhaps more importantly than his runs is the fact he is a member of the World Cricket Committee and give offer first-hand advice to the rest of the committee of how they can take these experiments forward and make this type of cricket a very viable option.

The g…

Repercussions of the IPL in England

Following the conclusion of the Indian Premier League auction at the weekend, what impact, in terms of disruption to the counties, will it have on the start of the domestic campaign in England ?

The IPL gets underway on the same day as the County Championship season kicks off (April 8), and while some counties will be hampered by the absence of some of their finest talents for a substantial length of time, the impact could indeed have been more severe. There were several English and English based players that were not selected for any of the franchises.

The prolonged contractual discussions between Essex and Ravi Bopara seemed to focus around the details of IPL payments, a potential compensation percentage for him being allowed to play in the tournament, which all proved unnecessary as Bopara was not picked up by any of the franchises. New team-mate Owais Shah will be absent from the Essex line-up for the duration his franchise, Kochi, are in the competition, as will all-rounder Rya…