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Tuesday, 25 May 2010

England's Selection "Dilemma"

I have been musing over England's selections for the First Test against Bangladesh starting this Thursday.

Again, the International cricket schedule isn't doing these guys any favours - these tests come swiftly on the back of the tests in Bangladesh, and the balance between the two sides wont have changed greatly in three months. England were made to work as much by the lifeless pitches in Bangladesh as they were by their batsmen, so I would predict that England's incisive seam bowling will be altogether too good for them in England in May. England then wont see Bangladesh for four years I suspect, so it just seems a bit odd to have the home and away series crammed within months of each other. 

Anyway, for what its worth I think it is an OK selection but England could have gone a lot further with finding out a little bit more about the likely runners and riders for the trip down under. So...

Where I think they have got it right..

1. Resting Paul Collingwood. If Colly is carrying an injury then so be it. But I also think it makes sense because we know all about Collingwood's batting, and I doubt if we are going to need a grafting, stubborn knock to get us out of the shit against Bangladesh. But I also think it makes sense for Strauss. He has been out of the side for a few months, watching Cook and then Colly take charge of the nucleus of the England team. It was hard for Hussain to lead England after Vaughan had the reins in the ODI's, maybe this avoids the situation, although I suspect Strauss is a little less of a control freak than Hussain. (!)

2. Picking Eoin. So what if he has a fc average of 36? He has shown that he can be relied upon in pressure situations and has a "big match" temperament. Trescothick would be an obvious parallel, his career average was pretty low when Fletcher first picked him. Statistics don't really tell the true story of a player's worth anyway: Ian Bell averages 42, Mike Atherton 37 - who would you rather have bat for your life?

3. Resting Broad. He's played in every England game....still think he could do with some practice at pitching the ball up though. Finn has also been in great form and I think he'll be a handful on his home ground.

...And the Wrongs.....

1. Swann. OK, he's a spinner, but again he plays in every format of the game and would it not be worth keeping the wear and tear on him down? He has already had an Elbow op since playing for England, so why not keep his workload down?

2. Rashid. I just think he has been utterly messed around by England in the last year or so. Why Treadwell went to Bangladesh, although good player he may be, I'll never know. England had a golden opportunity to blood a new player and find out about them in a test match situation in advance of the big series coming up at the end of the year. And again now, I'd be resting Swann and giving Rashid a go. Again why Panesar, who looks pretty ordinary played in the Lions game is anyone's guess. Unless there is a major discovery in the spinning ranks this summer (Dawson? Wainwright? Yardy(!)), Rashid is the most likely second spinner to tour down under and we should have had a look at him, rather than god forbid, Swann get injured and he's chucked in at the deep end of the MCG or SCG.

That said, I think England will have a pretty easy time against Bangladesh, and I would expect two thumping wins.

Monday, 17 May 2010

The World T20 in Numbers......

Consider these statistics.

Best Bowling....4-18 vs Bang by "Dirty" Dirk Nannes (Aus)

Most Runs....302 by Mahela Jayawardene (SL)

Highest Score 101 by Suresh Raina (IND)

Most Wickets....14 Dirty Dirk again

Best Bowling Average...7.83 D Hussey (AUS)

Best Batting Average...94.00 M Hussey (AUS)

Most Sixes.....12...Cameron "Dont call me Craig" White (AUS)

Best Batting Strike Rate (Min 50 Runs)....188 @ 175 runs per hundred balls.. M Hussey

Best Econ Bowling (min 8 overs) G Dockrell (IRE) 8 overs @ 4.37 rpo.

So You can see, without one name amongst the leading performers, England were completely terrible in yet another world tournament.


Sunday, 16 May 2010

How England won the World T20 The recipe for success.

Well Well Well.

A month or so ago, I looked at the England side due to go and play in the West Indies in the Third ICC T20 world cup. For the record, I questioned the logic behind this tournament taking place with the international schedule so packed, and just ten months after the last tournament in England.

However, I stand corrected, and not just because England won. The cricket played was exciting, high quality and showed up the IPL as a low rent imitation. International T20 cricket has come of age in this tournament. Whilst this probably means there were no upsets, the cricket has largely been excellent. Well, except for some of the fielding.

I thought England's selection to be bold, with Flower taking note of the England Lions who had impressed and adding them to his names he already had pencilled in. I thought the team had huge potential but I couldn't bring myself to say that England could win. Somewhere the talent would not shine through, they would crumble chasing scores, or they would be undone by a mystery spinner. But win they did, and here, whilst no doubt the team are still drinking into the night, are my thoughts on they key elements.

1. The First Six Overs.

Quite simply England took full advantage, and, other than a weak showing against Ireland, they were usually in a dominant position by the time the field went back. Kieswetter and Lumb didnt make big runs (Until Kieswetter made 50 in the final), but they took the pressure off Pietersen and the middle order. Likewise, England's seamers were never built up to the same degree as Australia's much vaunted trio, yet were usually effective at keeping the opposition behind the rate in the first six.

2. Spin Spin Sugar.

Before the tournament, if you had asked who the leading spinners would be, you would have looked at the mystery spinners like Mendis, or indeed Harby, or in fact anywhere but Hove, Sussex. The combination of Michael Yardy's near-medium paced left arm, and Swann's flighted and intelligent off-spin was excellent, keeping it tight, and taking key wickets. An inspired selection from left field, and a quality bowler in all formats of the game.

3. Plan A.

England played their cricket with a clear plan in place, which, was based on their strengths as a team, rather than worrying about the threat posed by their opponents. The basics of this plan were so good, that very rarely did England have to resort to Plan B. Collingwood only needed to bowl himself for one over during the whole competition. Likewise, when Yardy finally took some tap in the final, Collingwood called up Luke Wright for his only over in two weeks. It went for just 5 runs, and included the wicket of the dangerous Cameron White.

4. Strength in Depth

Many of the teams that fell by the wayside were guilty of only being successful if their gun players fired. For Sri Lanka, this meant Jayawardena had to get runs, likewise Chris Gayle for the West Indies. Although England had their stars, they also had players capable of filling the breach. As mentioned above, England hardly bowled Collingwodd or Wright, and found useful late order runs from Wright and Bresnan when required.

This was in essence the difference between the two teams that contested the final. Whilst Australia arguably had a stronger late middle order, England played five specialist bowlers, and had two more good options should they be needed. Australia had basically three bowlers, some part timers, and Shane Watson, who bowled dross throughout. (went at 10 an over during the competition). Australia's powerful batting got them out of jail against the lesser teams, but England, for once did not take their foot off once they had got their noses in front.

5. Form is Temporary.

Lucky for England then, that their star batsman, KP, was consistently on form in virtually every game. KP usually has an off game, or a scratchy start somewhere, but I felt he could be relied on for runs, and, with Eoin Morgan, formed a destructive pair with very contrasting styles that made them difficult to bowl to.

Overall England were the side with the superior tactics and players and deservedly ran out winners. Andy Flower must be given the utmost credit. What will now be interesting is to see what happens when sides are picked for 50 overs cricket. The winning spirit from this side is something I am sure they would like to bottle, but, and here's the thing..who will be dropped to make way for Andrew Strauss, the England Captain?

Monday, 10 May 2010

Things we have learned from the T20 so far.

We have another international T20 tournament to decide the world's finest teams, just ten months after the last one, and hot on the heels of the IPL, which was, even to the die-hard cricket fan like me, too bloody long.

Anyway, I have been following most of the games with interest, via online highlights, radio (when in car), cricinfo and via the guys and gals at

This is what I think we have learned so far from this tournament.

1. That 10 months is a long time in T20 Cricket

A period of dominance in test cricket, like the Windies in the late 70's and 80's, usually lasts for about 10-15 years. (most of England's periods like this, sadly, pre-date me) Well, T20 is, to say the least, a bit more fluid. In the tournament in England last year, Pakistan won, yet this time round, unsurprisingly, given their recent turmoil, they have been poor so far. They were joined in the Semi finals in 2009 by Sri Lanka, West Indies and South Africa. As the Super 8 tables sit at the moment, there will be at least two of these four teams missing out on the semi's.

Oh, and 10 months ago, Dirk Nannes was still a Dutchman.

2. That the IPL counts for very little.

India came into this tournament as one of the favourites, on the basis of the experience that their team has had in playing T20 cricket (for forever it seems) in the IPL. But it is encouraging to see that the gap between international and club cricket still exists even in the shortest form of the game. In the IPL, the "gun" fast bowler could be seen off or was ineffective due to the placid nature of the pitch, whereas India have had little answer to either the pace attacks of Australia or the relatively more modest bowlers of the West Indies.

That India were therefore favoured for this tournament is like saying with 40,000+ first class runs Graeme Hick's experience would be ideal for Test Matches.

Likewise, too many of the IPL games showed up a lack of depth in the teams. Games were over for the chasing team once the fifth wicket (usually when the overseas batsmen) were dismissed, and then the last 5 overs were painful to watch. Australia yesterday dug themselves deep into the shit at 67/5 after 11 overs, and with 3 still to be bowled by Malinga. Cameron White's knock was brutal, and doubly effective as Sri Lanka didn't see it coming. Hardly the ideal mindset to go out and bat against Nannes, Tait and Johnson. It is this depth of talent in the lower order (England have it, SA have it, and the West Indies think they have it with Pollard) that widens the gap.

3. That Catches win matches

Its no coincidence that the sides in the ascendancy at this competition are those who have shown the greatest skill with their ground fielding and catching. SA, Aus and England have taken some blinding catches, but some teams have been bloody awful, to be frank. None more so than Saeed Ajmal, who dropped three easy catches against England within the first five overs. The West Indies have also been shambolic at times.

4. Duckworth Lewis doesn't work in T20 cricket

It doesnt matter that Duckworth has slated Colly about whinging and defended his system, anyone who has a feel for cricket and a feel for numbers will tell you that the 50 over rain rules can not be applied to T20. The progress of Windies in chasing their total was assessed after just a few balls of their reply. This is clearly not a good guide, otherwise if the first ball of a T20 game goes for six then we are saying that the side will finish on 720/0. So far the highest scores have been 200 and something. So this is clearly nonsense.

With ten or even nine wickets in hand the chasing team can bat risk free towards whatever target is set based upon the run rate and the position after only one or two overs of their reply.
We risk games being won on the toss of a coin should it look a bit grim over Bill's Mothers'.

5. That England have found a winning formula

The rain debacle with WI and slight wobble against Ireland aside, England have so far suprised many people, including myself. After switching around so much between their usual nucleus of players, and the bits and pieces dobbers, England seem to have recognised T20 as a valid form of the game and have gone about constructing a stable side to met the requirements.

One could argue that the IPL did do us a favour in highlighting the talent of Michael Lumb. I'm not sure he was on the radar before then. Although Lumb and Kieswetter have not made big scores their impact in the first six overs has been tangible. The differences between the side 10 months ago and now are subtle but significant. Luke Wright has been given a role of late order hitter which is much better suited to him, Morgan and Pietersen have been excellent, and the star bowler for me has been.....Sussex's opening batsman Michael Yardy. (No Really).

The difference to me is also in the planning - I looked at the scorecards from the last T20 WC and couldnt believe England had Rob Key coming in at 7. Why? At long last England have found some consistency in the shorter form of the game, lets hope they stick with it.

6. Finally if aliens landed...

When the little green men are having their tour of earth, shortly before making us their slaves, and they want to know what is meant by "shadow of your former self", I'll sit them down to watch the start of Sri Lanka's innings against Australia last night or more specifically, that of Sanath Jayasuriya.

The 1996 World Cup and ODI cricket thereafter was transformed by this wiry, balding guy with shot-putter's forearms and an unerring ability to put the ball out of the park over point or deep midwicket seemingly at will. How sad it was to see him scratch around against Australia's pacemen, gamely trying to have the same impact, but probably even knowing himself that this was a tournament too far.

Sanath needs to take note from his contemporaries, like Matty Hayden. Old destructive opening bats don't retire. They go to Chennai, and whack it around with a cross between a cricket bat and a billy club.