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May 05, 2009

Boycott raised concerns over England – now there’s a thing!

Geoffrey Boycott has never been the most positive of pundits when it comes to talking about the England cricket team. Ahead of a very important summer, he has voiced his opinion once again and it is fair to say he isn’t convinced by the current regime.

Below is a run down of what the former England opener has had to say. As much as he is being negative, it is hard to find too many faults in what he says. This probably sums up the direction England has gone in since the last time Australia came to town four years ago.

Boycott on The Ashes – He says that England are ‘not in great shape’ ahead of Australia’s Ashes visit. Boycott also firmly states that England cannot win the test series against Ricky Ponting’s men.

Boycott on the troublesome winter – He says that the whole winter was a ‘fiasco’ with the controversy of Peter Moores and Kevin Pietersen’s departures combined with Alan Stanford and his millions. Overall, it is a winter that could set England back a number of years according to Boycott.

Boycott on Andrew Strauss – The former Yorkshire man believes that Strauss ‘isn’t a natural captain’. This is because Strauss has been guilty of ‘waiting for things to happen’ as opposed to ‘thinking ahead’ like the majority of great test captains.

Boycott on the No.3 position – This has been a problem for England for a while now and Boycott is concerned about the increasingly unsettled team that is being put out. He highlights how Michael Vaughan, Ian Bell, Owais Shah and now Ravi Bopara have all had a go at the No.3 spot in recent months.

Boycott on the future – The TMS commentator finished by saying that although he didn’t think international cricket was at its strongest right now, England are ‘not getting the best’ out of what they’ve got.

As ever, these are strong views from Boycott. Hopefully, over the course of this summer, the England team can prove each of his points wrong. This is more in hope than expectation though, so don't waste your next cricket bet trying to prove him wrong.

By Thomas Rooney – A sports writer who blogs about international cricket.


February 02, 2009

England and Australia – who is in better shape for the Ashes?

England and Australia – who is in better shape for the Ashes?

Back in the build-up to the 2005 Ashes series, Australia were comfortably the best side in the world and England were the form team of international cricket having won several test series in a row. Even if the rankings didn’t quite suggest it, it was the battle between the best two sides in the world.

However, looking ahead to the 2009 Ashes series, everything is a little bit different. Australia are having their first shaky spell for a number of years and England made losing a habit prior to the controversial saga which saw their captain and coach leave their positions. Even if the rankings don’t quite suggest it, it is a battle between the third and fifth best sides in the world.

Does this undermine the significance of the Ashes this year? No, I don’t think so. Whenever these two sides meet, it will always be tense, competitive and eagerly anticipated. Besides, Australia will be determined to prove they are still the No.1 test team in the world and England will want to get the Andrew Strauss era off to the best possible start. If anything, there is more at stake than ever before.

Who is in the best shape ahead of this summer though? Obviously a lot could happen between now and the start of the series which could change this, but right now – which team is worse off? Which team is cricket betting favouring? Let’s take a look.

Five reasons why England are the team in trouble:

  1. Their bowling line up – Hopefully things will go well in West Indies, but right now, there aren’t many England bowlers on top of their game.
  2. The number three slot – This is a position that no England batsman can nail down. Ian Bell is in shocking form and the selectors don’t seem to trust Owais Shah enough.
  3. Pietersen’s Ego – How will things go with former captain Pietersen and Andrew Strauss? The party line is that they get on fine, but what if things start going badly?
  4. The uncertainty over the coach – At this time we have no idea who will be England coach come the Ashes. This should be a time where we are preparing for the summer, so this isn’t ideal.
  5. The losing habit – England, quite simply, have lost a lot of test matches over the last few years. The belief that was so apparent in 2005 seems to have gone. Can they recapture it after the West Indies tour?

Five reasons why Australia are the team in trouble:

  1. The loss of key personal – No team in the world could cope with the amount of senior players that Australia have lost in recent years. They are having to start again.
  2. The losing habit – Not quite to the extent of England, but two test series have been lost in a row. Plus an ODI series. This is quite something for Australia.
  3. Ricky Ponting – The Australia captain has been ruled out of the remaining two ODI’s against New Zealand to rest up ahead of the South Africa tour. Is he feeling the pressure?
  4. No Spinner – The loss of Shane Warne is obviously huge for them, but especially when they can’t seem to find a half decent replacement. The quality of Warne has often been the difference between England and Australia.
  5. Mike Hussey – Mr Cricket has had a tough time of late and this is causing problems for Australia’s middle order. Perhaps he is human after all.

Having weighed up all of these factors, I would say that England have the edge. Just. Barring a poor showing against West Indies over the next couple of months, I think the cricket odds will expect England to regain the Ashes. The atmosphere in England has to be taken into account as well because Australia are more fragile than last time and the ‘Barmy Army’ could affect them even more than usual.

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


October 24, 2007

The times they are a changing

Back in the spring, Sri Lanka were taking part in a somewhat shambolic World Cup final while only a week previously England had played their last match of the Super Eights, playing only for pride, after having been knocked out of the tournament previously.

Both were deserving outcomes for the two sides. Sri Lanka were by far the second best team in the tournament and the only team deserving of partnering the Australians in the final.

England on the other hand, had been predictably disappointing and deserved to have been knocked out. The limited overs form of the game is one that England have never truly looked comfortable playing since the World Cup of 1992 where they were overwhelmed by a strong Pakistan side in the final.

Today, just six months later, things could not appear more different. England, for the first time in their history, have won a One Day series in Sri Lanka and their first One-Day series in subcontinental Asia since Stuart Broad’s Dad played in Pakistan under Mike Gatting’s captaincy in 1986/7.

It is a series that has been won with some authority too, despite losing the first match quite convincingly. England’s bowlers have been superb, bowling accurately and to carefully formulated plans and as such have restricted the Sri Lanka top order that was so instrumental in their World Cup successes.

The Sri Lankan opening pair has been one of the most important aspects of their game plan (not to mention the fact that numbers three and four are Kumar Sangakkara and Jayawardene, two of the world’s best batsmen at the moment).

The Jayasuriya/Tharanga pairing has given the innings a fast moving impetus which takes the pressure off the middle order and allows the whole side to play with freedom.

In this series, Jayasuriya and Tharanga have averaged 18 and 16 respectively, meaning that more often than not Kumar Sangakkara is in the action immediately with the pressure of the innings on his shoulders.

The encouraging thing about this series, from an England point of view is that they have succeeded without, for the most part, their main One Day batsmen truly firing.

Alastair Cook has shown he has what it takes in the fourth match with a steady match-winning 80 and Owais Shah deserved his man of the match award for his 82 in the second match.

On the whole though, England’s victories have come more as a result of a strong team effort with each member chipping in when their team has needed it, such as when Broad and Swann chipped in during the 3rd Match to turn the match around and guide England home to victory.

If anything can be said about the impact that Peter Moores’ coaching has had on the England team it is that he has restored a sense of stability that is crucial for the success of any team effort and promotes a strong team ethic.

This is very much as was the case when England won the 2005 Ashes; the England management used the same 11 players for the first four Tests (and only 12 in the entire series). Stability breeds familiarity and confidence in the players as each member of the team is aware of what their duties are and when they need to step up to the plate.

By taking the series 4-1, England had the opportunity to move to 4th place in the international rankings and push Sri Lanka to 7th, a situation that would have seemed very improbable at the culmination of the World Cup but seems to reflect the efforts in the current series.

In another part of the world, Pakistan are playing host to South Africa in a somewhat punctuated tour consisting of 2 Test matches and 5 ODIs. Arguably, it is a tour that has very little significance in the grand scheme of the international arena.

It is however the setting for a somewhat unceremonious departure from the international arena of one of the game’s all time greats: Inzamam-ul-Haq.

Having been out of the side for the first Test of the series, he was recalled for the deciding match to allow him to bow out on his own terms. In the event his last hurrah took place very much in the manner he played his cricket: with a minimum of fuss.

In his two innings, he mustered 14 and 3 as Pakistan clung on for a draw that sealed the series at 1-0 for South Africa. In many ways though, it was a sad exit for one of the greatest batsmen to come out of Pakistan.

Great is an oft overused word in sport but with Inzamam, his contemporaries argue the case for him. In a tribute to his career, some of the most established names in Anil Kumble, Allan Donald, Damien Fleming, Chaminda Vaas and Matthew Hoggard have almost invariably rated him among their Top 5 batsmen that they bowled to.

Another striking endorsement of his talents and versatility is that the variety of shots named by those bowlers as their “Favourite Inzy Shot” from the back foot punch to the straight drive or even the hook and pull shots. All of which, he played with consummate ease always appearing to have all the time in the world.

Pakistan cricket is entering a new era, with a fresh young face as captain in Shoaib Malik and with some exciting new players such as Misbah-ul-Haq making his way after showing he has potential in the Twenty20 World Cup.

That aside, it is never going to be easy to replace a player of such class as Inzamam. Not only was his record as a batsman outstanding but his experience in the dressing room is invaluable and his calm and unflappable captaincy has been a very much under-rated commodity in the past few years.


July 07, 2007

Do the numbers lie?

Muttiah Muralitharan today took 4/14 against Bangladesh at Colombo, his 100th haul off 4 wickets or more in a test match innings. By doing so, he took his career tally of wickets to 687 and is closely honing in on Shane Warne’s world record figure of 708 test wickets. If (or should I say ‘when’?) he does so, his supporters will have even more of an argument to claim that Murali is the best spin bowler of all time. Aside from his controversial action, of which it seems no two people will ever have the same opinion, just how good is Murali when compared to the great Australian legspinner?

Murali’s figures look good: 687 wickets at 21.49 compared to Warne’s 708 at 25.41. His strike rate is marginally better too: 54.12 plays 57.49. But as always statistics can be deceiving. I believe it is Geoff Boycott who says that statistics don’t tell the whole story, but they can generally be a good guide. To take the stats as a guide we know that both are very good spinners who are difficult even for the best test batsman in the world to face but there is a striking difference when viewed more closely.

The table below shows the two bowlers’ career records against the two ‘lesser’ test teams, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh followed by their career figures without those two teams:

Muttiah Muralitharan

M

B

R

W

Ave

Econ

SR

5w

Bangladesh

7

1695

728

59

12.3

2.6

28.7

8

Bangladesh Today

1

32

14

4

3.5

2.6

8.0

0

Zimbabwe

14

4721

1467

87

16.9

1.9

54.3

0

Total

22

6448

2209

150

14.7

2.1

43.0

8

Shane Warne

M

B

R

W

Ave

Econ

SR

5w

Bangladesh

2

524

300

11

27.3

3.4

47.6

1

Zimbabwe

1

319

137

6

22.8

2.6

53.2

0

Total

3

843

437

17

25.7

3.1

49.6

1

As we can see from the tables above, Murali has played a lot more games and collected a great number more wickets against the weaker teams than Shane Warne has; 150 wickets to the Sri Lankan compared to a mere 17 from 3 games from the blonde legspinner.

What this shows is that as far as sheer number of wickets is concerned, Murali has very much filled his boots against weaker opposition and without the cheaper wickets would in fact be very far from Mr. Warne’s world record tally. But what about the bigger picture, how do the two slow bowlers’ records compare against the stronger opposition?

Full Career 

M

B

R

W

Ave

Econ

SR

5w

Shane Warne

145

40704

17995

708

25.4

2.7

57.5

37

Muttiah Muralitharan

112

36967

14751

687

21.5

2.4

53.8

58

Top 8 Teams

M

B

R

W

Ave

Econ

SR

5w

Shane Warne

142

39861

17558

691

25.4

2.6

57.7

36

Muttiah Muralitharan

90

30519

12542

537

23.4

2.5

56.8

50

Evidently, Murali’s stats have taken a battering without the disproportionate number of fixtures played against weaker opposition but they do still hold true when compared against Warne’s, showing that Murali is in fact still a match for the great legspinner.

What is more interesting to note is that Warne’s figures have hardly been affected. This is of course due in part to the fact that he has only played an somewhat insignificant number of matches against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh compared to the rest of his career but even his overall average against these teams are not much departed from his overall career average. What this shows is that Murali’s statistics are, quite probably, to be taken even more with a pinch of salt.

It is without a doubt that both of these players are two of the best and most challenging spinners to face in the history of test cricket and it is clear that the fact that Warne’s wickets tally against the Top 8 opposition is considerably larger due in part because of a greater number of matches. This aside, when Murali does take his 709th Test wicket and march ahead of the retired Shane Warne it should be noted that on wickets tally alone, it will not quite be the achievement of the great Mr Warne.

Many view Murali’s efforts as not so much of a great achievement as Warne’s due to controversies over his action, and statistics like these do him little justice either. Nonetheless, I have no doubt that history will be as kind to Murali as it is to Warne (although I’m sure Australian reports will generally favour Warne much as Sri Lankan reports will profess Muralitharan as the greater). It is true that English and Australian fast bowlers from years gone by such as Fred Trueman had their records brought into question by the fact they played a lot against weak Indian batting line ups susceptible to fast seam bowling, something that is seldom mentioned today.

Another key point to note is that Warne has played in one of the best teams to ever set foot on a Test match field where as Muralitharan has been one of few reliable go-to strike bowlers in the Sri Lankan side for a large part of his career. This means that Murali has had more of an opportunity to take more wickets because there was less likely to be a player at the other end taking them with the same degree of regularity as a Glenn McGrath or any other of Australia’s top class seam bowlers.

Murali v Warne: who is the greater? I doubt we’ll ever agree and we’ll not have a fair view on the matter until after they’ve both retired but as it is at the moment, on the basis of sheer value of their wickets, I will have to pass my vote for Shane Warne.


February 18, 2007

The Numbers Game

2523, 2324, 2526, 337, 16.8, 58, 128, 126. Statistics, cricket is littered with them. As a sport it is almost unique in the degree to which statistics play a part in the general watching and playing of the game. Everything is recorded: runs, balls faced, time taken, catches taken, sixes hit, wickets taken, maidens bowled. These figures could be recalled not just for a match but for someone’s entire career.

What do these statistics mean? 2523, 2524, 2526: These are possibly three of the most significant matches in South African cricket history. The first is the final match of the recent South Africa v Pakistan ODI series, the next two are the first two matches of the Australia v New Zealand Chappell Hadlee trophy.

337: The number of runs New Zealand scored to win the 2nd Chappell Hadlee match and take the series with one match to spare. It is the second highest ODI chase of all time.

16.8: Shaun Pollock’s bowling average over his past 6 matches.

58: Glenn McGrath’s bowling average of his past 6 matches.

128: South Africa’s rating points standing in the LG ODI world rankings.

126: Number of rating points Australia have in the LG ODI world rankings.

For the first time in the history of the rankings system, a statistical wonder of its own, Australia has been knocked off the number one spot. South Africa had done all they could by securing a win over Pakistan in their final match but they relied on an unlikely Australia series loss to New Zealand.

But are South Africa really number one? It is true to say they have managed to give Australia a run for their money just recently. When Australia posted the then world record 434 in an ODI at Johannesburg last March, most people would have said the game was as good as won. Most people except the South Africans that is, who clinched a second to last ball, one wicket thriller against all the odds. South Africa even won the series 3-2.

But look further back by just a few months when South Africa played the VB tri series down under against Australia and Sri Lanka and the Proteas failed to register a single victory against their hosts and finished with a below par net run rate of -0.81.

The bowling averages given for McGrath and Pollock perhaps show how much the teams rely on a few key players to perform. McGrath has been such a key player for Australia for many years that it is hard to imagine life without him. His metronomic action and pinpoint accuracy that he has held throughout his career have enabled him to dry up the scoring at one end. In a limited overs format where run rate is essential this has meant that the batsmen have had to take risks to up the ante, either against McGrath or the bowler at the other end.

McGrath however, has no outright pace to boast like Brett Lee, meaning that when his accuracy fails he becomes just another medium pacer. It sounds almost blasphemous to say so but removing reputations alone, would you feel comfortable bowling someone who bowls in the high 70s with accuracy you cannot rely on.

Those ever present statistics tell the story on their own, in the past six matches; McGrath has taken 5 wickets at 58 with an economy rate of 5.2. Compared to his career figures of 355 wickets at 22.62 with an economy of 3.85 runs per over, the difference is striking.

South Africa on the other hand have found fortune in the fact that Shaun Pollock, their metronomic accurate seamer has found a rich vein of form of late. Over the same last 6 match period, his bowling average is almost seven runs-per-wicket lower than his career average and his economy rate is 3.08 compared to a career figure of 3.71. They say it’s a batsman’s game, and they may be right but bowlers today still have a very significant role to play.

Excluding the Champions Trophy, Australia has lost 3 out of their past 4 ODI series with their only win coming against Bangladesh. South Africa on the other hand has won all of their last four. On these figures Australia don’t deserve the top spot they are not worthy of the world championship if that carries on. But in my mind, they are still the best team in the world.

Picture the situation, your life depends on it. Your team wins you’re safe. Your team loses you’re gone. Who would you want playing for you? It would be Australia for me without hesitation. There is something about the Australian team. They step up to the mark when it really matters. When the Champions trophy came around in October, Australia hadn’t played a match since their tour of Bangladesh early in the year. But faced with a tournament they’d never won, the only empty space in their trophy cabinet, they fought, and they fought hard to win. Australia are still world beaters, they’ve just shown that they, like all others are mortal.


February 16, 2007

It's here, but what does it mean?

It was bound to come. Sooner or later it had to. For too long they have got by without it. There were glimpses of it in 2005 and yes, it had an effect but it soon righted itself. I am of course talking of an injury ravaged Australian side. Glenn McGrath suffered two separate injuries in the 2005 Ashes which caused him to miss two tests, the two that England won. But that was just one player. This is something more.

Ricky Ponting is currently out of the Chappell Hadlee Trophy in New Zealand with a sore hip and back. This is not expected to keep him out of action for very long and he should return to the side in the Caribbean with full fitness but it will no doubt hinder his preparations for the tournament.

Andrew Symonds, the big hard-hitting all rounder from Queensland, is recovering from an injury he picked up late in the Commonwealth Bank tri series. His surgery was a success but he is still likely to miss the best part of the early stages of the series.

Symonds was instrumental in Australia’s success in the 2003 World Cup. He was not a sure starter for the tournament, and many were calling for him to be dropped but he stepped up to the mark and produced an outstanding century to win his team’s first match of the tournament against Pakistan.

Australia were 4/86 at the fall of Jimmy Maher’s wicket and looked in trouble. But out walked the Andrew Symonds who, rather than bedding in and consolidating, counter attacked taking a particular liking to Shahid Afridi’s spin. From 40 balls faced against Afridi he smashed 51 runs on his way to a blistering 143* from 125 balls. This innings set the tone for his tournament as he finished with a tournament highest batting average of 163.

The fast bowling has also taken a blow, with Brett Lee injuring his ankle in training in New Zealand and admits himself that he is only 50-50 for appearing in the tournament. Lee, one of the fastest bowlers in the world, is an instrumental part of the Aussie bowling attack. With a career record of one wicket every 28.9 balls he is number three on the list of all time strike rates, the only current player above him is the Kiwi paceman Shane Bond whose career has also been dogged by injury.

Australia’s vice captain for the series in New Zealand, Michael Clarke has also missed the first match of the series with a hip problem. Again, although there are no signs that he will miss the World Cup, he is losing valuable match practice ahead of the World Cup that could have helped him to regain some form and confidence following the defeat to England just last week.

Finally, Adam Gilchrist. Gilly is a hard hitting opening batsman in limited overs cricket. He holds the Australian record for the fastest ODI century. He holds the world record for the most number of sixes in limited overs internationals. Not only that he is a world class wicket keeper, a top class motivator and a handy vice captain. The birth of this third child has meant that he will miss the first 3 weeks of the World Cup, a time when Australia will be hoping to make their mark on the tournament.

His leave of absence will bring Brad Haddin, his long term understudy into the side and the lack of Gilly’s hard hitting approach to the top of the order will be a major blow to the side.

The effects of this are already starting to show. Just today Australia were crushed by New Zealand by ten wickets in the first match of the 3 match series at Wellington after being skittled for 148. The top order burst, the safety net offered by Ricky Ponting and Clarke and the attacking talents of Symonds are not easily replaced, neither is the fire with the new ball that was obviously lacking as the Kiwi openers knocked off the runs with ease.

This does not remove from the fact that Australia have vast banks of quality players in their ranks, but much of it is inexperienced at the highest level. There is still over 3 weeks until the start of the tournament and a few of these injured players will have recovered. The sensible money will still be on Australia for the world cup: they have been world beaters for many years and have shown themselves worthy of overcoming many tough obstacles but it’s not the ideal lead up to a World Cup campaign. That much is certain.


World Cup Squads Round Up

The deadline for the world cup squads has come and gone and all the teams have now announced the 15 players they are going to be taking to the Caribbean next month. There are few major surprises all round. The minnows on the whole picked the same squads they took to the ICC World Cricket league, a one day tournament set up by the ICC this year to give the non test playing nations some match practice before the World Cup, while Bangladesh selected a team most would have expected.

One of the first to release their squad details was New Zealand who picked a fairly uncontroversial side. The squad is almost the same as that which played the CB series but with one addition, Daryl Tuffey has been selected for the first time in two years. The 28 year old seam bowler tore a shoulder tendon two years ago and has not managed to break into the national side since. He has a chance in the forthcoming Chappell-Hadlee Trophy, having been selected for the 13 man squad there.

Friday Kasteni has been included in the Zimbabwean squad after making his debut last weekend. The left hand batsman is only 18 years old but he has played well for Zimbabwe A and the selectors have put their trust in him despite only making 9 on debut.

The Indian selectors have taken a conservative approach and picked no surprise candidates either. One contentious issue is that of the place of Virender Sehwag, who was dropped a month ago and is currently struggling for form. The selectors have, however, shown faith in his abilities to score big runs quickly when in form and are taking him to the World Cup. This must surely be the best decision; a Sehwag on full form can take any line up apart. As a potential match winner, he is a must for such an important tournament.

Few surprises too in the Pakistani squad, but there are question marks a plenty. There are rumours going around that Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif have recently failed a seconds drugs test done privately by the PCB. If this is true then their selection for the World cup is certainly dangerous. If they fail an ICC drugs test before the World Cup, they will almost certainly face bans; Shane Warne copped a 12 month suspension for taking a banned diuretic before the start of the 2003 World Cup and didn’t play a game in the tournament.

The two are also carrying injuries, along with Umar Gul who is also in the squad, which have not yet been cleared for the tournament. Gul missed the entire ODI series in South Africa recently due to an Ankle injury and Shoaib is currently in London to see specialists about his knee injury.

Perhaps one surprise addition to the Pakistani squad is the Leg spinner Danish Kaneria. Kaneria has been a key player in the Pakistani Test side for six years now but has rarely been considered an ODI bowler. He has only played 16 ODIs to date and only seven in the past 3 years.

Sri Lanka announced a strong squad, with Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah Muralitharan returning from being rested for the series against India recently. Vaas, the reliable left arm seamer, memorably took a hat trick with the first three balls of the innings in a match in the last World Cup. Coupled with such a devastating spinner as Murali and the difficult slingy seam of Lasith Malinga, Sri Lanka have a formidable bowling line up. The batting too is strong, with Jayasuriya the veteran opener who starred in Sri Lanka’s unexpected 1996 world cup win and top players such as Sangakkara and Jayawardene also playing.

Sri Lanka are not a team to be underestimated, as England showed in the CB series, it only takes a few players to perform well to win ODIs and with just some of Murali, Vaas, Malinga, Sangakkara, Jayasuriya and Jayawardene on top form, Sri Lanka could be devastating.

The Australian selection was always going to cause a few upsets. The current Australian domestic set up has so many high quality cricketers the ACB have the kind of selection problem that most countries dream of. Most of the Australian side pick themselves; it would be foolish to leave out names such as Gilchrist, Ponting, Hussey, Symonds, Clarke, McGrath and Lee while other names such as Brad Hogg, Nathan Bracken and Shane Watson had booked their places months back.

Matthew Hayden staked a claim for his place back in the DLF Cup tri series in Malaysia and secured it in the recent CB series, as did Brad Hodge with a stunning 99 not out against New Zealand to secure a victory that at times looked unlikely.

The birth of Adam Gilchrist’s third child has meant that he is expected to miss the first three weeks of the tournament which made Brad Haddin, Gilly’s long term understudy, an automatic selection. So with 13 out of the 15 places virtual shoe-ins, only two spots were left up for grabs and with the possible injury of all rounder Andrew Symonds, it seemed the obvious choice to fill the gaps with fast bowlers. Mitch Johnson, the nearly man of the Ashes series who carried the drinks for all five matches has made the squad as has Shaun Tait, who made his ODI debut in the CB series. Stuart Clark, the fast bowling star of the Ashes was unlucky to miss out, having not put a foot wrong since breaking through to the international side after his debut against the ICC World XI.

I’m sure many of cricket’s great minds would struggle to understand the England One Day selection of late, let alone the general public that are supposed to support the team. It seems however, that with a sudden turn around in form, and a series victory in Australia, some sense has been brought to those charged with finding 15 men suitable to attempt to become World Champions. That does not mean that the selection has been devoid of contentious decisions.

Michael Vaughan, the under practiced top order batsman has been given a place and, as expected, the captaincy to go with it. Vaughan has a poor record as a limited overs batsman, in his international career he is yet to make a one day century and only has an average of 27. This aside, he is the captain who won the 2005 Ashes and an inspirational figure in the team. His captaincy has a calming influence on the side and he seems to have a way of getting his players to perform. He is of course, currently out of action with a hamstring injury but that should be out of the way by the World Cup and he didn’t seem to suffer from his knee which he had surgery on earlier in the year. Or so England hopes.

Mal Loye was arguably unlucky to miss out, having made his debut in Australia and been a part of the team throughout much of the CB series. However in 7 matches he failed to register a half century and many fear he is too keen to unleash his trademark slog sweep off the fast bowlers and hasn’t shown enough all round abilities with either the bat or in the field.

Ed Joyce made the cut after having impressed the selectors with his 107 against Australia to turn their CB series fortunes around. He does have a tendency to throw his wicket away at vital opportunities (in 12 innings he has made only 1 fifty and 1 century) but he has the capacity within him to make hundreds against good opponents and that makes him a potential match winner.

Stuart Broad, who made his debut last summer against the Pakistanis, was unfortunate to not find a place but he is only young and will have plenty of time to prove his worth. Altogether, the squad contains no one in it who was not in England’s CB series winning squad; a sign that the selectors feel that stability is the key to success.

Having just come off the back of a 3-1 series win against Pakistan, South Africa have wisely chosen the same squad of 15 that has proved successful there. Makhaya Ntini though, will not be with the squad as they arrive on the 28th February as he will be staying to attend the birth of his child. There’s a lot of it about at the moment, there must be something going on in May that the rest of us are missing. Ntini will join the squad on March 9th for the second warm up match.

All eyes have been on one man’s name in the lead up to the West Indies’ squad announcement. Marlon Samuels is currently under investigation by the ICC and the Indian Police for supplying squad information to Indian bookmakers. Many felt that because of this, he should be left out of the squad so as not to draw any more attention to the issue. The selectors however have shown their faith in his innocence.

On the whole the squad selection seems to have followed a theme of no surprises all round. This is a sign that most teams feel comfortable within their own ranks at the moment and hopefully there will be a great deal of confidence going into the tournament.

Let’s hope, for the sake of a tournament that lasts about a month and a half long, that this is not a theme for the tournament as a whole. A few more upsets like Kenya provided in the 2003 World Cup would do world cricket the world of good and show that the boys can really stand up to the men.

Squads:

Australia:

Ricky Ponting (capt), Adam Gilchrist (wk), Nathan Bracken, Michael Clarke, Brad Haddin (wk), Matthew Hayden, Brad Hodge, Brad Hogg, Michael Hussey, Mitchell Johnson, Brett Lee, Glenn McGrath, Andrew Symonds, Shaun Tait, Shane Watson.

Bangladesh:

Habibul Bashar (capt), Shariar Nafees, Tamim Iqbal, Aftab Ahmed, Saqibul Hasan, Mohammad Ashraful, Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), Mohammad Rafique, Abdur Razzak, Mashrafe Mortaza, Shahadat Hossain, Tapash Baisya, Syed Rasel, Rajin Saleh, Javed Omar.

Bermuda:

Irving Romaine (capt), Dean Minors (wk), Delyone Borden, Lionel Cann, David Hemp, Kevin Hurdle, Malachi Jones, Stefan Kelly, Dwayne Leverock, Saleem Mukuddem, Steven Outerbridge, Oliver Pitcher, Clay Smith, Janeiro Tucker, Kwame Tucker.

Canada:

John Davison (capt), Qaiser Ali, Ashish Bagai, Geoff Barnett, Umar Bhatti, Ian Billcliff, Desmond Chumney, George Codrington, Austin Codrington, Anderson Cummins, Sunil Dhaniram, Ashif Mulla, Henry Osinde, Abdool Samad, Kevin Sandher.

England:

Michael Vaughan (capt), Ed Joyce, Ian Bell, Andrew Strauss, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Andrew Flintoff, Paul Nixon (wk), Ravinder Bopara, Jamie Dalrymple, Monty Panesar, Jon Lewis, James Anderson, Liam Plunkett, Sajid Mahmood

Ireland:

Trent Johnston (capt), Kyle McCallan, Andre Botha, Jeremy Bray, Ken Carroll, Peter Gillespie, David Langford-Smith, John Mooney, Paul Mooney, Eoin Morgan, Kevin O'Brien, Niall O'Brien, William Porterfield, Boyd Rankin, Andrew White

Kenya:

Steve Tikolo (capt), Thomas Odoyo (vice-captain), Ravindu Shah, Tanmay Mishra, Collins Obuya, Peter Ongondo, Nehemiah Odhiambo, Maurice Ouma, Malhar Patel, Hiren Varaiya, David Obuya (wk), Rajesh Bhudia, Jimmy Kamande, Tony Suji, Lameck Onyango.

Netherlands:

Luuk van Troost (capt), Peter Borren, Daan van Bunge, Ryan ten Doeschate, Mark Jonkman, Muhammad Kashif, Alexei Kervezee, Tim de Leede, Adeel Raja, Darron Reekers, Edgar Schiferli, Jeroen Smits, Billy Stelling, Eric Szwarczynski, Bas Zuiderent.

New Zealand:

Stephen Fleming (capt), Shane Bond, James Franklin, Peter Fulton, Mark Gillespie, Michael Mason, Brendon McCullum (wk), Craig McMillan, Jacob Oram, Jeetan Patel, Scott Styris, Ross Taylor, Daryl Tuffey, Daniel Vettori, Lou Vincent.

India:

Rahul Dravid (capt), Sourav Ganguly, Robin Uthappa, Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Dinesh Karthik, Irfan Pathan, Ajit Agarkar, Harbhajan Singh, Anil Kumble, Zaheer Khan, Sreesanth, Munaf Patel.

Pakistan:

Inzamam-ul-Haq (capt), Younis Khan (vice-captain), Mohammad Hafeez, Imran Nazir, Mohammad Yousuf, Shoaib Malik, Abdul Razzaq, Shahid Afridi, Kamran Akmal, Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammad Asif, Umar Gul, Danish Kaneria, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, Rao Iftikhar Anjum

South Africa:

Graeme Smith (capt), Loots Bosman, Mark Boucher, AB de Villiers, Herschelle Gibbs, Andrew Hall, Jacques Kallis, Justin Kemp, Charl Langeveldt, Andre Nel, Makhaya Ntini, Robin Peterson, Shaun Pollock, Ashwell Prince, Roger Telemachus

Scotland:

Graeme Smith (capt), Loots Bosman, Mark Boucher, AB de Villiers, Herschelle Gibbs, Andrew Hall, Jacques Kallis, Justin Kemp, Charl Langeveldt, Andre Nel, Makhaya Ntini, Robin Peterson, Shaun Pollock, Ashwell Prince, Roger Telemachus

Sri Lanka:

Mahela Jayawardene (capt), Kumar Sangakkara (wk), Sanath Jayasuriya, Upul Tharanga, Marvan Atapattu, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Russel Arnold, Chamara Silva, Chaminda Vaas, Farveez Maharoof, Lasith Malinga, Dilhara Fernando, Nuwan Kulasekara, Muttiah Muralitharan, Malinga Bandara.

West Indies:

Brian Lara (capt), Ramnaresh Sarwan, Chris Gayle, Dwayne Smith, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Dwayne Bravo, Marlon Samuels, Ian Bradshaw, Corey Collymore, Jerome Taylor, Denesh Ramdin, Devon Smith, Lendl Simmons, Daren Powell, Kieron Pollard

Zimbabwe:

Prosper Utseya (capt), Gary Brent, Chamu Chibhabha, Elton Chigumbura, Keith Dabengwa, Terry Duffin, Anthony Ireland, Friday Kasteni, Stuart Matsikenyeri, Christopher Mpofu, Tawanda Mupariwa, Ed Rainsford, Vusi Sibanda, Brendan Taylor, Sean Williams.


February 13, 2007

CB Series, Aussie captaincy and World Cup

Writing about web page http://warwick.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2237660522

England beat Australia on 11th February 2007 by 34 runs under the Duckworth Lewis method to win the Commonwealth Bank series finals 2-0. After a torrid start to their campaign, England managed to claw their way back into contention with victories over Australia and New Zealand in their last two group match games thanks to gritty centuries from Ed Joyce and Paul Collingwood. PDC has been outstanding over the past 3 matches, notching up two consecutive hundreds and a fighting 70 in the last final to seal the series.

Australia now go on to New Zealand to play the three match Chappel-Hadlee Trophy. Ricky Ponting and Adam Gilchrist are being rested for the series, Ponting because of a sore hip and Gilchrist due to his heavy workload as opening batsmen and wicket keeper.

The resting of captain and vice-captain has left a few openings in the team. It has become the obvious choice for Mike "Mr Cricket" Hussey to fill in the captaincy role, as he did in the DLF Cup tri series last year but the VC role has created some interest. Michael Clarke has been given the job, which is an indication of where the Australian management are looking for a captain after Ponting.

The 25 year old middle order batsman averages around 42 in both tests and ODIs and has currently found himself back in form after a period of drought. But despite this drought, which began after his first year in Test cricket, he has been widely tipped as a future captain of Australia. One advocate of his future captaincy is Shane Warne, who many argue had the cricketing nous to become a high class international captain himself.

The CB series loss to England will obviously cause upsets and concerns within Australian cricket with the World Cup looming less than a month away but Australia should not be underestimated. After returning home from the 2005 Ashes humiliated they have come back stronger and more determined, drawing one test and winning 15 since the Ashes with no losses just outlines their class and determination. Australia will take this defeat onboard and learn from it, no doubt to emerge a stronger team at the World Cup.

England on the other hand, have to be careful not to become complacent as they did after the 2005 Ashes win. They still have a very fragile squad, the top order certainly won't be scaring many opening bowlers just yet and the bowling can still be haphazard at times. This is of course, not to detract from a strong win against the World number one, but just to emphasise the importance of remembering that England is still the number eight ranked team and had it not been for Paul Collingwood, Andrew Flintoff and Liam Plunkett, it is very questionable as to whether it would have even been an England v Australia final.

Last year Duncan Fletcher said he knows who 10 of his World Cup XI will be, just last week the ECB asked the ICC for permission to choose their World Cup squad of 15 from players outside their pre approved list of 30. This is obviously not helped by injuries and other problems but it does beg the question of what exactly has happened since Fletcher made that comment. On paper England have a strong team and have the ability to do well in the World Cup, but they will need their top players to 'come to the party' as they say down under.

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