All 6 entries tagged Bell

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July 30, 2009

Ian Bell talks a good game, but can he deliver?

Unless you have been on a different planet for the last week or so, you will know that Kevin Pietersen is set to miss the remaining three test matches of this year’s Ashes series. You may also know that Ian Bell – who was dropped from the side earlier this year – is the man who will replace him.

It has been confirmed that the Warwickshire man will look to fill KP’s boots by batting at No.4 for England. This means there is plenty of pressure on Bell to deliver the goods. Can he turn his County form into runs against Australia? Can he make sure England don’t miss Pietersen?

Before we go into this, I wanted to bring some of Ian Bell’s Twitter updates to your attention. The fact he calls himself IanBellMBE probably says it all, but it is fair to say that he is rather confident in his ability and his place in the England team! Take a look...

‘Brett Lee out of the first Test - my mum's right, you never know what's going to happen. Maybe Colly will get injured too!’

'Liam has picked Australia - I'm playing as England! I've put myself in at no.3! Bad luck Ravi, you're not on EA Cricket 07!’

‘Had lots of texts from my mates today about KP's injury. The man's a legend but - if selected - I'm determined to step up to the plate’

‘Back where I belong!’ (speaking about being confirmed in the England eleven for Edgbaston)

Anyway, enough about Bell’s tweets. It’s his runs that we should be more focused on and I am confident that he can produce plenty. He is a class player who has performed well at international level in the past and there is no reason why he can’t excel again.

A lot could depend on his first innings. If he manages to get a century, or even a fifty at the first time of asking, it will do his confidence no end of good. Then, he has the talent to go on and have a big say on the remainder of this series.

For now, take a good look at the Third Test oddsbefore any Edgbaston test betting.



May 11, 2009

Another surprise as Sidebottom and Bell are recalled


It seems as though the England selectors are keen to surprise us all this summer. First of all there was the inclusion of Graeme Onions, Ravi Bopara and Tim Bresnan in the first test of the summer and now two men have been recalled much earlier than many expected.

Ryan Sidebottom and Ian Bell have both been named in a 13-man squad for the second (and final) test against the West Indies. To the majority of us, this was undoubtedly a surprise.

Let’s talk about Sidebottom first. To be honest, the Nottinghamshire bowler has had so many injury problems in the last year or so that you would have thought he needed to do more to earn a recall.

Since returning from injury, Sidebottom has played only two County Championship matches and even though he has performed OK, it has been
nothing to suggest that he is back to his best. Overall, he has claimed seven wickets at an average of 31.42.

His inclusion does give Andy Flower another seam option though and there is an outside chance he could be preferred to Bresnan who only
bowled seven overs on his test debut. If anything though, I would say that Sidebottom’s inclusion is just a sign that he is still part of
England’s plans. (I wonder what Hoggard makes of all of this!)

Anyway, what about Bell? His situation has been talked about for a number of weeks now and there was no doubt he was disappointed to be
left out for the first test. However, with there being increasing uncertainties over Paul Collingwood’s form, he has been selected as part of the latest test squad.

It is probably deserved as well. If Sidebottom has done enough to warrant a recall, then so has Bell. The Warwickshire man has scored
320 runs in seven first-class innings, including two centuries early on in the season.

Bell could be called upon should England believe that an extra batsman is needed in what are expected to be bowler friendly conditions at the
Riverside. There is also the possibility that Bell is pushing Collingwood for a place in the side.

To come in at No.5 for England would probably suit Bell down to the ground and Collingwood hasn’t exactly been in the runs of late. Knowing Collingwood though, he will probably record a century in the next test. It is at his home ground after all!

The most significant thing for Bell and Sidebottom though, even if they don’t manage to force their way into the side for this match, is that they are still in England’s plans. They still have a chance of playing a part in this remarkably busy summer for English cricket.

This should give them a huge boost.

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


April 29, 2009

Bopara puts himself in the frame to replace Flintoff

The news that Andrew Flintoff will miss the upcoming test series against the West Indies should come as no surprise. The all-rounder is at a stage now where he is unable to go a significant amount of time without an injury.

Therefore, every so often, there is a debate about who should play the ‘Flintoff role’ when he isn’t there. In other words, who should replace him for the two test matches against the West Indies that start next month?

Well, one man has put himself firmly in the frame thanks to some excellent form in the Indian Premier League. Essex’s Ravi Bopara has been in top form for Kings XI Punjab and recently smashed 84 from 59 balls against Kevin Pietersen’s Bangalore Royal Challengers.

You may remember that in Bopara’s last test for England he managed to notch a century, only to be dropped in favour of an extra bowler for the following match. This, combined with his IPL form, could mean that he gets a place in the side for the first test at Lords.

Speaking about the possibility of replacing Flintoff, Bopara said that he is ‘definitely eyeing up that No.6 spot’. Then, if he manages to achieve this, he will set his sights on ‘moving up the order’.

Bopara has been rather unlucky during his international career to date because he hasn’t batted in his preferred position very often at all. Instead of coming in at No.3, he has either had to open the innings or come in down the order.

For now though, the No.6 position suits him and there is every chance he will get the nod to replace Flintoff. He is probably one of the most in-form English players right now and would add some much needed flair to the batting line-up.

There are question marks over his bowling, but he needs to be given the chance to prove himself in this department. As yet, he hasn’t really been given the opportunity to shine for England with the ball.

The announcement about the England squad will be made on Wednesday with Michael Vaughan and Ian Bell joining Bopara in keeping a very close eye on proceedings. This is my cricket prediction for the team for the first test against West Indies.

Strauss
Cook
Vaughan
Pietersen
Collingwood
Bopara
Prior
Broad
Swann
Harmison (other options?)
Anderson

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


January 26, 2009

Shah has to play in first test – but who will make way?



I have always been a fan of Owais Shah. Often labelled as one of the unluckiest England cricketers of all time, the Middlesex man has only played two test matches despite his undoubted talent to score big runs.

However, on this West Indies tour, Shah should more than double his test match appearances. This is because he was in fantastic form for England in their opening tour match against a St Kitts Invitational XI, smashing an unbeaten 125 on day one.

By hitting such an impressive century in the only warm-up match before the test series, Shah has done his chances no harm at all of being named in the team for Jamaica next week. In fact, considering his excellent ODI form in the latter part of the English summer and in India, he simply has to play.

Should this be the case, there are two questions that would need to be answered by whoever makes the final decision on England’s team for the first test. First of all, who does Shah replace? He hasn’t been playing test matches, so one of Ian Bell or Paul Collingwood will need to sit out.

Secondly, what number does he come in to bat? Admittedly, this will more than likely be answered by the conclusion drawn from the first question!

So, with this in mind – let’s tackle it. Who should Shah replace? At this moment, it would seem as though the cricket odds are backing him to come in for Collingwood. The Durham man is absent from the match against St Kitts and Shah excelled at number five, so that is the most likely scenario right now.

As for Bell, well he only made 36 in the first innings against St Kitts, but he may well get another chance to confirm his place in the team during England’s second innings. Should he make a valuable contribution, even a 40-odd not out, then he could well keep his place as Collingwood’s expense.

Overall, the only certainty is that Shah has to play. If he misses out this time, then he may as well give up trying to play test match cricket for England. It would be a scandalous decision to select someone out of form (Bell) and someone who hasn’t played the warm up match (Collingwood) ahead of him.

You will probably be aware that there are two other major talking points after day one of England’s tour match that I haven’t mentioned as yet. Kevin Pietersen’s hundred in his first innings since relinquishing the captaincy and Andrew Flintoff’s injury scare. This is extremely deliberate, for different reasons.

In terms of KP’s hundred, well I just wasn’t surprised! He is the type of character that will always, always respond to his critics. It was obvious that he would score a hundred in his first innings as captain against South Africa last summer and it was the same on this occasion. It is just business as usual for KP and long may it continue. A lot of my cricket betting money will be placed on him scoring big on this tour.

As for Flintoff’s injury, well to be honest it isn’t something I want to think about. Freddie is such an important player for England and has been slowly moving back to his best in recent months. To have an injury setback now would be so, so frustrating. For what it’s worth, the latest is that his side strain will result in him sitting out the rest of this match.

So, a mixed day for England, but one that will hopefully guarantee a place in the side for Owais Shah. As for who he will replace, that depends on two things – Ian Bell’s second innings and Andrew Flintoff’s injury.

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


March 21, 2007

A Crucial Conundrum

Much has been talked of the antics of Flintoff and Co. after the New Zealand game and the disciplinary measures put in place by the management. Perhaps the most notable of these is the fact that Flintoff has been stripped of the vice-captaincy. This presents a number of issues: the effect it will have on Flintoff as a player, the effect it will have on the team and who to appoint as vice captain for the rest of the tournament.

Flintoff is a leader, even if not captain he is an inspirational figure within the team and it usually goes that when Fred is doing well, so are England. He loves playing for England and loved being captain. In the lead up to the announcement of the Ashes squad he made it very clear that he really desired the captaincy. It is entirely possible that being stripped of the vice captaincy in this way will have an effect on his game.

If England are to hope to progress in this tournament they will need their talisman firing on all cylinders so England hopes that Flintoff can put the politics to the back of his mind and focus on being one of the best all rounders in world cricket at the moment.

Flintoff is such a liked figure in the England camp that it is also entirely possible that a decision like this could cause fractions within the squad. Even if Flintoff is still 100% behind Vaughan (as I am sure he is), politics can be complicated and it could come about that players find themselves drawn more towards Flintoff than they do to Vaughan or the management.

So to the new vice captain: It is highly unlikely that we will never know who the new second in command is unless Vaughan himself actually does get injured. England have a habit of not appointing official vice captains and the Ashes squad announcement was the first occasion in quite a long time that a captain and vice captain were announced.

It is that vice captaincy choice which presents one of the significant problems here. While in Australia, Flintoff was appointed captain and Andrew Strauss his deputy and although Vaughan returned for the CB series, the matches he did miss due to a ham string injury were captained by Strauss while Flintoff was off the field which indicates that Strauss was an unofficial deputy to Flintoff in the one dayers too.

Vaughan tripped in a pothole yesterday while training and hurt his right knee, the knee which had given him trouble over the past year and kept him out of the Ashes this winter. Although the England management have assured us that he will be fit to play against Kenya, they have told us such things before and have been proved wrong on the day.

Strauss has been left out of the starting team for the four matches England have played so far in the Caribbean (the two warm up matches and the first two matches of the main tournament). It would therefore be very difficult for the England management to make Strauss captain should Vaughan fail to pass fit for the match against Kenya because they would be putting someone in a position of seniority who was not even in the main team the match before.

With Vaughan, Flintoff and Strauss the only names to have been bandied about in captaincy conversations recently it would mean that the job would have to go to someone who is not a natural choice.

A sensible choice would be to give the position to Paul Collingwood. The Durham all rounder is a senior member of the side, he was on panel of selectors as an advisor during the Ashes with a small group of senior squad members, he is one of England’s most reliable ODI batsmen, an excellent and agile fielder and a more than handy bowler.

It is through watching his batting and bowling that it becomes obvious that he is in touch with the situation of the game: as a batsman he is aware of when the need to up the tempo arises or when it will suffice to just knock about the singles and twos; as a bowler he is able to assess the batsmen he is bowling to and is constantly thinking about where to bowl and when to vary his bowling.

It is also important for the captain of the side to set the example in the field, something which no one would deny that Collingwood would be able to do. He has long been accepted as one of the best fielders in England, having substituted for many years in Test matches long before he was an established member of the Test side.

An option for looking to the future could be Ian Bell. In my mind, Bell is the England captain for the next generation. He is a classy batsman who is now coming into his own and growing in confidence and has hopefully established his place in the side after some good knocks.

Again, Bell is a good fielder and one of the best catchers in the England side and his bowling is not to be sniffed at although he seldom gets a chance to show it with Collingwood, Dalrymple and Pietersen usually being the fifth, sixth and seventh choice bowlers.

Giving Bell the captaincy would show a vote of confidence from the England hierarchy which could in turn help his form as a batsman. He has admitted himself that he did not feel like he fully deserved his place during the 2005 Ashes and he had a poor series as a result but he has shown extra self belief of late and has improved with the bat as a result.

A decision to give the captaincy to Bell could of course have the adverse affect, it is quite possible that his inclusion for the 2005 Test series was a season too soon and it could be that if introduced to the captaincy at too early an opportunity he could react to it as a captain as he did in 2005 with the bat.

Perhaps the only other senior established figure in the team is Kevin Pietersen. Although almost laughable at first thought, there are few reasons not to give Pietersen the captaincy. He is by far the best batsman in the side and would hopefully be able to lead from the front with the bat. As a fielder he is again one of the best in the side, despite his poor form in the field in his debut test series in 2005 where he didn’t hang on to a single chance and even his bowling is tidy. In fact, while playing in South Africa in the early part of his career he wasn’t even considered as a batsman and played for Natal as a bowler and batted low down the order.

I am sure that Pietersen would want the job, he craves attention and the captaincy would certainly be a perfect opportunity to gain some of the press coverage and some of the best captains to have ever graced the game have been those who had a real desire to lead their nation.

Does Pietersen hold the responsibility for such an important job? Perhaps one of his flaws as a cricketer is that he can at times appear too arrogant, which could be a downfall of his as a captain. After his successes in the Ashes of 2005 and before the tour of Pakistan in November and December 2005, he expressed that he was keen to give more to the team as a bowler, a feeling which was quickly dampened by the management.

It is entirely possible that given the captaincy he could over bowl himself or be too much of an attacking captain. There are always these risks of course; no one can ever know what type of captain a player will be until they are actually given the opportunity to do the job.

It would be a difficult decision for the management, should they be in a position where they have to make it, so much so that I can’t put my finger on a preference. I would be happy to see Bell, Collingwood or Pietersen leading England out on Saturday (or whenever it may be necessary) as each have their merits. Bell is the choice for the future, Collingwood would be the safe option and giving the job to Pietersen would show that England mean business and would take the game to the opposition.

But of course I suppose it’s all irrelevant isn’t it? Because after all, as the England management have reassured us: Vaughan will be fit to play on Saturday. And the England management have never led us astray over a key player’s fitness before have they?



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