All entries for March 2009

March 30, 2009

Strauss deserves more credit

Since taking over the captaincy from Kevin Pietersen, Andrew Strauss has been in excellent form with the bat. In the test series against the West Indies he scored three centuries as he averaged 67.62 and so far in the One Day Internationals, he has hit one century and averages 67.

This, by anyone’s standards, is fantastic. However, the fact that Strauss has performed as well as this during what has been a difficult time for England, is something that deserves a lot of praise.

Not many previous England captains have raised their game with the bat and this makes Strauss’ performances all the more impressive. He loves responsibility and he enjoys leading from the front. Two essential attributes if you want to be a successful cricket captain.

Having looked at the statistics, it seems clear to me that Strauss hasn’t received enough credit for his form with the bat. This is probably because the team hasn’t been winning much and, as captain, he
shares some of the blame for this.

However, imagine for a second that Pietersen was still captain. Then imagine that he had scored exactly the same amount of runs that Strauss has this winter. It is fair to say that the press would be
raving about him as one of the best players around.

Strauss hasn’t enjoyed as much attention for his runs and even though this is probably the way he likes it, it seems important to show some appreciation for the job he has been doing. The results haven’t always been great, but this hasn’t been anything to do with Strauss’ role as an opening batsman.

The latest knock from Strauss led England to victory in the 4th ODI yesterday and it was an innings that showed how he can perform in this form of the game. The Middlesex man hit an unbeaten 79 to help his team chase down a revised target of 135 in 20 overs.

It also proved something that I believed to be the case since the humiliating Twenty20 defeat a couple of weeks ago. If Strauss is going to play in the Twenty20 team, he should open the batting. He is capable of scoring quickly and shouldn’t mess around with coming in down the order.

As for the team as a whole, well they have the chance to finish the tour on a high this Friday. With the series tied at 2-2, the game in St Lucia acts as a decider for the two teams.

Victory would not only be an excellent way to end a rather forgettable winter, but it would be an appropriate reward for Strauss and the way he has batted since becoming England captain.


By Thomas Rooney, a sports writer who blogs about English cricket.


March 23, 2009

Amongst England’s failings, Pietersen doesn’t seem himself

After the fiasco of resigning from the captaincy and being installed once again as ‘batsman only’ ahead of the tour of the West Indies, many people (including myself) predicted big things from Kevin
Pietersen this winter.

However, although there has been the odd sparkle from KP, he has been largely disappointing when England have needed him most. Scores of 97, 1, 51, 32, 41, 72*, 10 and 102 in the test matches don’t look too bad on paper, but we have learned to expect more from our best batsman.

These scores in the test matches have since been followed by 12 in the Twenty20 match, 17 in the first ODI and 12 again in the second ODI. Overall, things aren’t going Pietersen’s way at the minute and it is hard to figure out why.

For whatever reason, I feel more nervous when he is facing. Originally I thought it was because he was our best batsman and his wicket would be more detrimental to the team.

However, I’m not so sure that this is the case anymore. I think I am nervous because his technique looks so unconvincing. The unique and original stance he used to be praised for now looks like a technical flaw.

His mentality seems to have changed as well. Where is the KP swagger? Where are the un-English characteristics that made him so valuable to the team and popular with the fans? At the moment he looks more nervous than anything else.

You have to understand that this isn’t straightforward criticism of KP. Everything is in perspective. If he continued in the same form as he did now, averaging around 50 per series, he would still perform an
extremely important role for the England team.

However, he is such a talented player that he shouldn’t settle for this. Pietersen is one of the most exciting players that this England team have ever had and at the moment, we are not getting quite enough from him.

I’m aware that we shouldn’t place all of our hopes on one batsman, but if England are to push on this summer and win back the Ashes, they need more from Pietersen. More centuries, more confidence, more influence and more passion.

Before closing things for today, it is just about worth mentioning that England lost a One Day International yesterday. They failed to make the most of the fielding restrictions and lost regular wickets as they failed to chase down 265. Who’d have thought it?

By Thomas Rooney – A sports writer who blogs about England cricket betting


March 16, 2009

England Rue Another Collapse

It doesn’t come as much of a surprise when England’s batsmen collapse
in front of our very eyes any more does it? It just seems normal. The
England cricket team often capitulate with the bat and get a
hammering. That’s how it works isn’t it?

The latest horrific batting performance came over the weekend when,
batting first in a Twenty20 International against West Indies, England
were bowled out for 121 in the final over.

The collapse followed a relatively decent start with Steven Davis
impressing as English reached 55-1. There were then two moments which
set the tone for the rest of the innings.

First, Davis walked across his stumps in ridiculously unnecessary
fashion and was clean bowled by Dwayne Bravo. Then, Kevin Pietersen
got an absolutely horrific LBW decision from umpire Norman Malcolm.
Despite the fact that the ball was blatantly missing leg stump, KP was
sent on his way and England never recovered.

Only Paul Collingwood and Andrew Strauss made double figures after
this as the West Indies ran riot. It was a desperate batting
performance from England and one which suggests that the One Day
Internationals are going to be far from an enjoyable time.

The most annoying thing was that 150 would have been a decent enough
score. Ravi Bopara didn’t need to try and smash the ball out of the
ground, Davis didn’t need to walk across his stumps and Collingwood
didn’t need to go for the big shot.

Even when Strauss and Collingwood were together at 82-4 there was an
opportunity to bat sensibly and get the score to around 150. It is
always easier to score quickly in the final three or four overs with
wickets in hand, after all.

Inevitably, West Indies chased the target down with relative ease.
They only lost four wickets and achieved the required total with two
overs to spare. In Twenty20 cricket – that’s a hammering.

Next up for England is the ODI series which starts on Friday. It is an
opportunity to salvage some pride after a rather horrific winter.
However, unless the return of Andrew Flintoff can inspire them enough
to win a few games, this just doesn’t seem at all likely.

By Thomas Rooney – A sports writer who blogs about England cricket


March 12, 2009

Plenty of criticism over England’s delayed declaration

First of all, it has to be said that England’s bowlers put in an almost heroic performance in the final two sessions of the final test yesterday. However, it proved to be too late for them to force a victory that would have seen them draw the series.

West Indies managed to bat out the final session to secure a 1-0 series win, their first in a major test series for five years. This isn’t the main talking point in the aftermath of the match though.

Instead, many have questioned England’s delayed declaration. Andrew Strauss waited until lunch to call time on the England innings, with many believing they should have declared when Matt Prior was out for an aggressive 61.

Had England chosen to end their innings here, they would have set the West Indies are more achievable target of 209. Surely it was worth taking a risk with the series at stake though?

Several former England players agree with this notion, in particular Ian Botham who described the declaration as ‘pathetic’. The Sky Sports commentator then went on to say that the England players have obviously ‘not got long memories of Antigua’.

Botham then went on to claim that England ‘lost the plot’ by failing to declare when prior was dismissed. The former all-rounder then questioned whether Strauss actually wanted to win the game at all.

Other players turned pundits to criticise the declaration were Alec Stewart who believes that England ‘missed a trick’ by not putting the West Indies before lunch and Bob Willis who said that the only way England were going to win was if the ‘West Indies were going for runs’.

Overall, Strauss and co can expect a lot of negative press for their decisions made in this series. Sticking with Ian Bell for the first test was a mistake, selecting a ridiculously unfit Ryan Sidebottom for the fourth test was a mistake and delaying the declaration in this final test was a mistake.

There were others as well though and in reality, England have caused this series defeat themselves. The cricket odds expected them to defeat the West Indies before the tour began, so it has to be disappointing that they have lost.

The most worrying thing though is that they appear to have forgotten how to win a test match. They got within one or two wickets of victory of two occasions, but failed to close it out. How can a team that declared five times in a series not win a test match?!

Next up for England is a home series against the West Indies in May. There is no doubt that cricket betting will have the home side down as favourites for this one and they should win.

Whether this will be enough to build confidence ahead of a much anticipated Ashes series though, remains to be seen.

By Thomas Rooney – A sports writer who blogs about England Cricket


March 03, 2009

Strauss refuses to blame bowlers as England are forced to bat our fourth test

The fact that Andrew Strauss has publically backed his under-fire bowling attack after England drew the fourth test with West Indies is no surprise. The England captain is hardly going to admit his attack never looked like taking 20 wickets is he?

Instead, Strauss pointed to the fact that he would struggle to blame his bowlers who ‘tried hard’ on a pitch that offered them very little assistance. He believes that they ‘stuck at their task’ and that their effort cannot be faulted in any way.

This may well be the case. However, the selection of a ridiculously un-fit Ryan Sidebottom has to be questioned. There is just no way on earth he should have played. If England were 1-0 up in the series, perhaps his ‘economical qualities’ would have been valuable.

The fact that England picked him for a must-win game as part of a four-man bowling attack though was ridiculous. What had he done to justify a place? Yes, he was excellent during parts of 2008, but he hasn’t hit those heights in quite a few months.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not blaming Sidebottom. He, as Strauss suggested, will always give his all. The problem being that ‘his all’ on a flat pitch that offers little swing isn’t anywhere near enough.

The selectors knew about his fitness / form problems and they knew that West Indies would probably prepare a very flat pitch. Despite this, they still picked Sidebottom as part of a four man attack. The phrase ‘masters of their own downfall’ comes to mind.

In all honesty though, the selection of Steve Harmison or Amjad Khan probably wouldn’t have affected the outcome. However, Strauss would have been given more variety and Khan in particular would have given the bowling attack a much needed fresh face.

With the West Indies on 281-4 in their innings, England were one decent spell away from getting into the West Indies tail sooner than they did. Perhaps the unknown factor could have resulted in Khan being the man to provide this?

Hopefully he will get the nod for the final test in Trinidad. Harmison seems out of favour and I can’t imagine England going for broke with the same line-up. You never know though and the cricket odds are by no means ruling it out.

Onto a slightly more positive note – Alistair Cook’s hundred. The England opener hit three figures for the first time since December 2007 and has since revealed that the ‘monkey’s now off my back.’

Cook also said that he was now determined to ‘go to Trinidad and get another one’. This is the key as far as I’m concerned. It’s no good getting a hundred in a relatively meaningless innings and then waiting 15 months for the next one.

It is time that Cook kicked on as a test cricketer and started converting his 50’s more often. If your opening batsman is consistently hitting centuries, the team will benefit a great deal.

Overall though, it has been a disappointing tour for the team so far. Cricket betting suggested that they would win the series, but this is now impossible. Instead, they have to win in Trinidad to ensure that they come away with a drawn series.

With another flat track likely, this surely means that some sort of change needs to be made to a seam attack that was totally outshone by an off-spinner on a lifeless pitch.

By Thomas Rooney – A sports writer who blogs about England cricket


March 2009

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