All posts by leedsbradfordmccu

Leeds Bradford MCCU: First-class…for now

As the sun streams through the balcony window of the pavilion at Weetwood, Andrew Lawson, Head Coach of Leeds/Bradford MCCU, is summoning the words to assess the 336-run defeat down at Derby that concluded the day before.

It has been a chastening few days for the student sides against county opposition, highlighted by Somerset’s enormous 568-run win over Cardiff MCCU that predictably cranked up the calls for these fixtures to lose their first-class status. More of that later…

I’ve known Andrew for years and, cards on the table, have sponsored the Leeds/Bradford MCCU squad for 5 years because I believe it to have real merit and is something worth supporting.

I’d like to think those enduring relationships and access awards me more insight than perhaps some others who are quick to put the boot in over poor results  – but I’ll let you be the judge, having read this feature.

Lawson (above) is not one to hide behind excuses and points out how the intensity of first-class cricket is what has caught some off-guard this week.

He is both mentor and taskmaster and the long and the short of it is that the Yorkshire students were way off the pace at Derby:

“The truth is that with first-class cricket, the intensity throughout the game is high and there were lads who, as the game went on, started to get a little bit tired and slower in the field. The bowlers were feeling the pressure of being out there for 103 overs and being back in the field later in the day.”

It’s worth noting that there is barely time to gather thoughts – just two days between Derbyshire and Yorkshire fixtures – before the likes of Duanne Olivier, Ben Coad, Gary Ballance and Adam Lyth rock up.

The scheduling is not in their favour but equally it reflects the professional treadmill: “It’s tight, it’s hard for the lads but I’m not going to use that excuse because I’d rather play the counties and have this window to showcase what they’re capable of doing.”

Lawson, ever a student of the game himself, sees every experience, however rough, as invaluable: “Derby was a good learning curve; to be aware of what’s required to play first-class cricket. The skill and fitness levels have to go up and the mental side is draining. By day three, there were a few tired bodies and the shot selection and decision-making wasn’t up to standard. I think they’re better cricketers than that.”

They are learning the hard way that the standard and graft required for county cricket is way above anything they’ve come up against before.

That being said, you don’t become a pro or even think like one overnight; it’s through learning out in the middle where there’s nowhere to hide.

The class of 2019 is young and inexperienced – all but Jonathan Reed, the former Yorkshire 2nd XI wicketkeeper-batsman who plays for Scarborough, made their first-class debuts this week. Nonetheless, many have played second-eleven county cricket and could have what it takes.

As I’ve said on Twitter this week, why is anyone surprised that the MCCUs get thrashed?

The counties have everything in their favour: finances, facilities, experience and ultimately, strengthen in depth. Why do the MCCUs, greener than most English pitches, face three counties in the first month? It’s because the counties want it that way.

Yorkshire have three players who have played international cricket with the majority of the rest of the 13-man squad for Sunday having been capped for England Lions or England Under 19.

On paper at least, it is a mismatch and yet it is an opportunity for young cricketers to grab headlines and impress the right people.

The Leeds/Bradford MCCU squad for 2019 comprises 24 lads, half of whom are newcomers, but all striving for that ultimate prize of a county contract and a crack at life within professional cricket.

If you haven’t heard of the scheme before, the MCC Universities programme allows students the chance to study for a degree alongside matches against counties and other MCCUs. The ECB will be taking over the MCCU scheme from July 2020 and all manner of changes are still to be formally announced but I can shed some light on those in due course.

There are a number of pathways to representing a county with progress through Yorkshire Academy and 2nd XI a typical route but many MCCU cricketers have earnt a county contract off the back of their efforts at university. There’s Steve Patterson, Harry Gurney and Luis Reece to pick just three names from the Yorkshire hub.

Equally, many already have links to counties and will be wanting to catch the eye in these early-season showpieces to nudge coaches as to their form and potential.

As we look ahead to the very first game of Yorkshire County Cricket Club’s 2019 season, it is unusual for it not to be hosted at Headingley but there is a glut of county and international cricket this summer and so instead Yorkshire are the visitors in Yorkshire for a change.

Yorkshire have named a squad of 13 for the match with the shortest distance to an away fixture this year (1.8 miles via Otley Road/A660):

Gary Ballance, Harry Brook, Tom Kohler-Cadmore, Ben Coad, Jack Leaning, Adam Lyth, Duanne Olivier, Steven Patterson (c), Mathew Pillans, Jonathan Tattersall (wk), Josh Shaw, Matthew Waite, Jared Warner.

Meanwhile, opening batsman Steve Bullen (above) retains the MCCU captaincy this season although he is set to miss the fixture against Yorkshire with a groin strain.

Angus Dahl, who played Surrey 2nd XI last season will lead the team, having already skippered against Derbyshire.

Barring any last-minute mishaps, the Leeds/Bradford MCCU side will remain unchanged at Weetwood:

Josh Haynes, Taylor Cornall, Oliver Batchelor, Angus Dahl (c), Saad Ashraf, Darren Ironside, Johnny Read (wk), Andrew Neal, Josh Fallows, Josh Holling, Stephen Cantwell.

First-class status or not?

There are many opponents to these matches against the counties having first-class status. The standard of the MCCUs isn’t strong enough and it dilutes the pedigree of county cricket, so the argument goes.

I could rustle up another 2,000 words just on this topic but allow me to try to be succinct and lay out the MCCU perspective. First-class status for these MCCU vs county matches is absolutely vital. These games shouldn’t be watered down to meaningless friendlies.

Something has to be riding on the result for both sets of players. It is crucial to recruiting players to the university centres. First-class cricket means everything and elevates not just status but performance.

It is my understanding that all eighteen counties are unanimous for these MCCU fixtures to lose their first-class status in future; presumably after 2020 when the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB), not MCC, oversees proceedings.

Nothing has been formally announced – and it may not be for some time – but at the very least, the stance towards MCCUs and their place in the county schedule is hardening.

The counties don’t see the value of these matches other than as glorified practice; that’s my words, not theirs.

When counties were being shot out for ludicrously low totals last September (Durham all out for 61 then 66 in same day against Leicestershire springs to mind), were there any demands to cull their first-class status?

Lawson’s view is: “The importance of first-class status, and I’m a firm advocate of it, is it shows the boys and sets the standard of what’s required to play. Once you put a tag to it, there’s a responsibility and purpose to the game. If you’re going to play this level of cricket, that is the standard, that’s what’s required. We’ve got to come to the party as MCCUs.”

No-one is more acutely aware than Leeds/Bradford MCCU and the other centres of the scrutiny on them at this time of year.

People expect them to fail. People expect them to be overwhelmed. But they might surprise you.

The odds are stacked against their batsmen repelling Duanne Olivier’s rockets or Ben Coad’s guile at Weetwood. One or more of Yorkshire’s top six might blast a big hundred but the pressure isn’t all one-way.

After all, no-one wants a duck first up or to see their bowling carted with Nottinghamshire round the corner.

For now at least, Leeds/Bradford MCCU versus Yorkshire is first-class and it’s up to the home side to come out fighting and show their mettle.

 

ANDERSSON SIGNS 2 YEAR PROFESSIONAL CONTRACT

All-rounder Martin Andersson awarded two-year professional contract

Middlesex Cricket is today delighted to announce that all-rounder Martin Andersson has been awarded his first professional contract – signing a two-year deal with the club.

Until now Andersson has been playing on a summer contract, working around his studies at Leeds/Bradford University which finished this summer, and the twenty-one-year old’s full-time professional contract will start in January 2019 and run until at least the end of 2020.

Andersson has played a major role in Middlesex’s Second Eleven successes in recent seasons with both bat and ball and made his first eleven debut in Middlesex’s final Vitality Blast fixture of this year’s campaign against Sussex. He has previously played two first-class matches for Leeds/Bradford MCCU against Kent and Yorkshire.

Middlesex’s Managing Director Angus Fraser commented:

“Martin has made a really positive impression on everyone since leaving University.

“He has shown his adaptability by scoring hundreds in both T20 and red-ball cricket and he has bowled with control and discipline too.

“We believe he has the potential to develop into a fine all-round cricketer.”

Andersson himself commented:

“I am extremely proud to have been given this opportunity and am looking forward to the next two years here at Lord’s”.

MCCU Scheme gets ECB funding boost

LB- 2018

MCC and ECB have revealed a change to the operation and funding of university cricket from 2020.

After the MCC’s decision to conclude its financial support for the current programme in two years’ time, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has stepped in and agreed to resume the funding of university cricket.

MCCU centres, additional Universities, British Universities Colleges Sports (BUCS) and the First Class Counties will be consulted as part of the evolution of the scheme and the ECB website article below references a possible emphasis on white-ball cricket plus enhanced support for elite women cricketers in higher education.

Much to discuss and no doubt there will be news filtering through in months to come – but crucially, funding has been secured through the governing body.

You can read the full ECB article here – https://www.ecb.co.uk/news/691592/ecb-to-resume-university-cricket-funding

Interview: Leeds Bradford MCCU Captain Steve Bullen

steve-bullen (right)

Our shirt sponsor and media partner, Cricket Yorkshire, recently caught up with our captain Steve Bullen to chat about the season so far; life as a university cricketer chasing a county contract and much more.

The interview gives a good insight into the MCCU scheme, the importance of the first-class status of fixtures against the counties and how the class of 2018 is faring.

If you haven’t had a listen, here’s the audio clip below:

https://anchor.fm/cricketyorkshire/embed/episodes/Captain-Steve-Bullen-on-MCCUs–his-league-ban–fresh-start-e1ema7

Rain and Defeats

RAIN AND DEFEATS

The season for Leeds Bradford MCCU has, to put it mildly, not started well.  At the beginning of the month the team travelled to play Worcestershire at Flagge Meadow, the Royal Grammar School ground.

No play was possible on the first scheduled day as both outfield and square were too wet. Heavy overnight rain caused the match to be abandoned early the following morning and the team returned to Yorkshire rain, sleet and snow.

We were due to play Yorkshire the following week but the match was cancelled as the Headingley ground was unfit. A few days later we welcomed Derbyshire to Weetwood but the weather was cold, damp and overcast and the ground was not drying. Early on the second morning the umpires decided that there was no real prospect of any play in the match.

Nine days cricket had now been lost and we travelled to Fenners for a BUCS National one-dayer and a MCC Championship 2 day game without any match practice in England.

Winter was left behind and summer had arrived in Cambridge – with a temperature over 22 degrees C. Skipper Steve Bullen won the toss and elected to field. The Cambridge openers, Palmer and Greenidge, batted steadily taking the score to 62 in the 16th over before the introduction of slow left-armer, Taylor Cornal, saw Palmer well stumped by Jack Potticary for 30. Another wicket for Cornall and one each for Max Maciver and Josh Holling had Cambridge rocking at 99 for 4 before a stand of 55 between Brierley and Handley took the total past 150 before the next wicket fell; Handley bowled by Ollie Graham for 30.

Reduced to 178 for 7 it looked as though Cambridge might struggle to get much past 200 but Cantrell’s 42 not out from 28 balls pushed the final total to 253 for 9 from the full 50 overs. Would the 23 extras conceded prove to be costly?

An asking rate of under 5 an over should have been well within Leeds Bradford’s capabilities but they lost Martin Andersson for 5 chasing a very wide one from Bulpitt and feathering a catch to the keeper. Next to fall was Jack Potticary LBW to Rippington from a very poor shot after scoring 51 from 35 deliveries when a big match-winning hundred was beckoning.

Steve Bullen was the next to fall leaving the score at 95 for 3 in the 17th over – well ahead of the required run rate. The two Ollie’s, Batchelor and Graham, took the score to 157 in the 31st over, before Batchelor was LBW playing a poor shot. The run rate steadily subsided through the remainder of the innings despite the best efforts of Darren Ironside with 29 from 25 deliveries. We finished 10 runs short in a match we should really have won.

The following day saw even higher temperatures peaking at around 28 degrees C. Cambridge won the toss and batted. At lunch they had progressed at one day pace to 140 for 2 from 31 overs against an all seam attack.

It wasn’t until the 40th over that the left arm spin of Taylor Cornall was introduced, unfortunately without success as he leaked 20 runs from his 2 overs. He was replaced by off-spinner Harry Killoran who started to slow the run rate before making the next breakthrough in his 6th over trapping Seabrook LBW for 42 with the score at 236.

Harry and fellow off-spinner, Max Maciver, bowled the 32 overs in the innings for just 88 runs with Harry returning the excellent figures of 6 – 47 in 19 overs. With the spinners having so much success on wonders why they weren’t introduced earlier. Cambridge finished on 323 all out.

Harry Killoran –  6-47 & 48*

The Leeds Bradford innings got off to a bad start with Taylor Cornall LBW to a beauty from left-armer Bulpitt for just 2 runs. Steve Bullen and Martin Andersson batted nicely taking the score to 75 before Martin was caught for 25. With only a few overs left in the day Josh Holling was promoted in the batting order;  no further wickets fell before the close.

The following morning Josh and Steve added a further 26 runs until Josh was caught by Brierley from the bowling of Bulpitt – 109 for 3 in the 35th over.  Wickets began to fall at regular intervals, including that of a decidedly unhappy Steve Bullen – LBW for a well-made 65 (including 11 fours), until, at 182 for 8 in the 64th over, Dan Houghton joined Harry Killoran.

These two began to give the team some hope as the runs started to flow.  By the time that Dan was caught at slip by Palmer for 59 (with 9 fours and a six), they had added 97, a record 9th wicket stand against Cambridge in the MCC Championship, and the total had reached 279 for 9.

The innings closed on 285 when Ollie Bocking was bowled by Cantrell for 1.  This left Harry not out on 48 (with 9 fours) and we had lost on the first innings by 38 runs.

Dan Houghton – 59

Against Solent University in the BUCS National on 24 April, Steve Bullen won the toss and decided to field first. Play was halted for rain just before lunch with Solent on 134 for 4 after 31 overs.

Interesting to note that Dan Houghton, Darren Ironside and Max Maciver each took a wicket in their first over. Continuous further rain ensured that there would be no further play and the match was abandoned just after 15:30 hrs.

DEBUT TON FOR ANDERSSON

Middlesex youngster Martin Andersson scored a superb century in his first competitive game for the Yellows in the teams’ first BUCS fixture of the year against Bristol University.

Andersson played against the MCC last Friday and impressed then, even though he only scored 17. In his first ‘proper’ knock thought – at the wonderfully named Coombe Dingle – he looked at home from the start. After winning the toss and deciding to bat Andersson and Steve Bullen were positive from the start and when Bullen was unfortunately run out for 26 at the beginning of the 12th over, there were already 88 runs on the board.

Billy Root then added a further 119 in 18 overs with Andersson before he fell for 62. Andersson became the 3rd victim of the innings – but not before he’d reached 111 from 106 balls with 14 x 4s – a wonderful knock.

Ton on Debut
Ton on Debut

Christian Davis and Logan Weston both continued their good starts to the campaign by adding 94 in 89 balls before both falling in quick succession – Logan being caught out on 48 and the skipper being run out for 49.

Ryan McKendry chipped in with a breezy contribution of 20 from 11 balls taking the team to 343 for 6 – our highest total in the BUCS competition beating the 305 for 2 we made at Solent last year.

The target was always going to be a tough one for Bristol but they showed they have a number of talented batsmen, particularly Charlie Warren who scored an undefeated 102 in helping his team to a more than respectable 263 for 7.

Nathan Hill picked up a couple of wickets on his Leeds Bradford BUCS debut, but it was Moin Ashraf who took the main bowling honours, picking up 4 for 27 from 8 overs.

On the Oxford for a BUCS game on Tues 19th followed by our first 2-day game of the year on Wednesday and Thursday.DEBUT