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August 14, 2009

Trescothick and Ramprakash: The next in line?

England’s batting performance at Headingley has led many to suggest that there will be major changes for the final test at The Oval. It is a winner takes all affair with the series squared at 1-1 and a similar display from Andrew Strauss’ men will not be tolerated.

So, what changes to be made? Ravi Bopara has struggled batting at No.3 in this series and he could be the first in line for the chop. Other than that, Ian Bell hasn’t been in inspired form and Paul Collingwood seems to have left his big performances behind at Cardiff.

With this in mind, it seems fair to suggest that at least one batting change will be made. Who comes in though? You would think that Jonathan Trott, Owais Shah or Robert Key would be the men talked about as they have been involved in the England set-up in some shape or form over the last year.

However, the fact that it is a one-off test match seems to have alerted the selectors. This is because returns for Marcus Trescothick and Mark Ramprakash are being talked about. They are apparently both being considered for a dramatic recall in this final Ashes test to shake things up somewhat.

Looking at each player individually, you can see some logic in this. Trescothick in particular has been in superb form this summer and with Somerset chief executive Richard Gould saying that the 33-year-old ‘would consider a return for home internationals’, there could be something in it.

Personally, I would love to see this. Trescothick is a world-class batsman still and he would love the challenge of facing Australia again. I’m pretty certain Ricky Ponting and co would rather bowl at Ravi Bopara or Ian Bell all day long before they would want to at Trescothick.

As for Ramprakash, this one seems a little bit more unlikely. He hasn’t played international cricket since 2002 and it really would be a sign of England’s desperation. Regardless of the form he is in and the fact he would be playing on his home ground, Ponting would be rubbing his hands at the prospect of bowling to a man who averages 27.52 in test cricket.

For me, it is a yes to Trescothick and a not quite to Ramprakash. Bring in the Somerset man for Bopara and let him open the innings with Alistair Cook. This gives Strauss the responsibility of batting at No.3. The line-up would look much more solid. Bringing Flintoff in for Harmison completes the changes.

My England team for The Oval:

Alistair Cook, Marcus Trescothick, Andrew Strauss, Ian Bell, Paul Collingwood, Matt Prior, Andrew Flintoff, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Graeme Onions.

Make sure you take a look at The Oval Test oddsbefore placing your Oval Test bet.



April 21, 2009

IPL Update – how are Flintoff and Pietersen getting on?


The Indian (or should I say South African) Premier League seems to have got under way with relatively little fuss. The tournament is up and running with some of the biggest names in world cricket doing all they can to justify their large price tags.

This is more relevant to England’s Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen than most as they were the most expensive players in the IPL auction. So, how have they got on so far?

Well, they came up against each other last night as Flintoff’s Chennai Super Kings and Pietersen’s Bangalore Royal Challengers did battle for the first time. Flintoff was the man smiling at the end though as his team ran out comfortable winners.

The England all-rounder hit an unbeaten 22 off 13 deliveries as the Super Kings made a respectable 179-5 off their 20 overs. In reply, the Royal Challengers struggled their way to 87 all out with Pietersen
getting a golden duck.

It was certainly a bad day at the office for the former England captain, who is skipper of the Royal Challengers. They have now won one and lost one of their opening two games. During their first match,
where they won by 75 runs, Pietersen hit an encouraging 32.

As for Flintoff, his team have the same record as Pietersen’s so far – one win and one defeat. In the Super Kings' first game, Flintoff was hit for three sixes as he conceded 44 off his four overs. He then made 24 with the bat as his team lost to the Mumbai Indians.

Overall, they have had a mixed start and will be hoping that they can push on in the next couple of games. Both of them have shown what they can do in brief spells, but to prove they are money well spent, they need to produce a couple of match-winning performances.

They will get their pay cheque either way, but I am sure that they would like to make a good impression in their first IPL season. Neither of them like losing and it's a safe cricket bet that they will be doing all they can to help their teams win the next couple of games.
By Thomas Rooney – A sports writer who blogs about International 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


December 15, 2008

Why Monty Might Want to Bin the Twin


It was often said that Shane Warne didn’t like having a spin-twin. That is, he preferred to be the sole specialist spinner in the line up and not have to share the spin bowling duties. Indeed, this view is vindicated by the statistics – in matches where Warne played alongside Stuart Macgill (his long term legspinning understudy) his bowling average rose from its usual 25 to almost 30. Needless to say, when two spinners were played one would expect the pitch to be conducive to turn and for his statistics to be more favourable, not less. It would not be too outrageous at this point to suggest that the great SK Warne quite possibly has something in common with England’s very own MS Panesar.

When Monty Panesar burst onto the scene in 2006, claiming Sachin Tendulkar as his first Test wicket and started to win matches for England many were filled with hope. One commentator humorously noted that ‘the thing with Monty is, he turns the ball’. Although it is questionable to what extent they intended humour, it was still an odd comment to make. Spinners are meant to turn the ball – it’s what they do. Yet it was indeed true that for years it was something that English spinners had resolutely failed to do.

This is not to say they didn’t put on an England jersey and play with all their heart, Ashley Giles for example took his place in the side with great pride and took criticism very much to heart. Unfortunately though, for Ashley is the nicest of chaps, he wasn’t the most naturally gifted of cricketers and his late-in-life switch to spin bowling from average left arm seamers didn’t help him make the most of the limited ability he possessed.

There have been other England prospects of late that have had more natural ability but have squandered it – Philip Tufnell for example whose attitude and approach to the game rarely found favour with senior members of the set up. Similarly, Chris Schofield was sounded out by Duncan Fletcher as a young spin bowling talent and was even handed one of the first ever central contracts. Schofield was, sadly, poorly managed though – he was thrust into the deep end by making his Test debut at the age of 21, went wicketless for 2 Tests and discarded. Scarred from the experienced, his game suffered and within five years he was dropped by Lancashire and playing club cricket as a specialist batsman.

Monty though is unfortunately shaping up to be a further unfulfilled England spinning potential unless he heeds the advice coming to him from all quarters. Monty’s figures currently stack up quite well – 117 test wickets from 34 matches at an average of 32.58. Not figures to set the world alight but steady figures at least. Indeed when measured up against Daniel Vettori, who is widely regarded as the best left arm finger spinner of the modern age, the stats are actually quite favourable: Vettori currently has 282 wickets from 88 matches at an average of 32.98. in fact, if one compares Monty’s with Vettori’s at the same stage in their careers Monty’s figures are remarkably adjacent to the Kiwi’s – Vettori had 119 @ 32.75. From this many will undoubtedly infer that Monty is on the right track, that he is following in the footsteps of Vettori, that he can be England’s Vettori.

This argument has its flaws though. Monty has more natural ability than Daniel Vettori, who is without a doubt one of the hardest workers and most committed cricketers on the scene at the moment. Monty has massive hands and the ability to get big turn off any pitch. If the pitch is responsive and offers a little bit of bounce as well as turn the Sikh of Tweak, as he is affectionately called, can trouble the world’s best. Monty is a match winner.

The problem though, is that match winners do not average 32 with the ball. Shane Warne averaged 25.

Glenn McGrath averaged 21.

Stuart Macgill – 29.

Anil Kumble - 29.

Bishan Bedi - 28.

Match winners average in the twenties and Monty Panesar averages 32 (and rising). The difference is Monty can be a match winner but he isn’t one often enough. For well over a year now cricket commentators have been comparing, quite rightly, Monty with Vettori because although their figures are very similar the Kiwi left armer is very much the better bowler and troubles batsmen on a more frequent basis.

Vettori, although he can’t spin the ball as big as Monty can nor can he extract as alarming bounce as his England counterpart, thinks about his bowling more. He uses more variation, he changes his pace subtly and isn’t afraid to toss the ball up. The way to extract the bounce that troubles batsmen playing spin is to get the ball to leap up unexpectedly and this is done by flighting the ball up higher so that it falls down more suddenly – more vertically. Not only does the dip make the ball harder to hit, it gives the ball more momentum to bounce back up again.

Vettori’s art of clever variation means that the batsman is always kept guessing; never quite sure how to play the next ball. Monty on the other hand, seldom varies his pace or trajectory. This allows the batsmen to settle into a rhythm, confident that the next ball will do something similar to the last. His stock ball is about 56-57mph when he should be looking to bowl about 52-53mph – a speed he rarely even bowls his slowest balls at. He rarely flights the ball and thus rarely troubles the batsmen with unexpected bounce.

So why make the comparison with Australia’s great former legspinner? Monty has been plodding along as England’s sole spinner for some time now and, despite frustrating many at his lack of variation, has survived on the back of a few bright performances on helpful pitches and the potential everyone sees in him. Yet today Monty played his first test match in tandem with another specialist spinner since the last time England toured India almost 3 years ago. Back then Monty, playing in only his third Test match, was significantly outbowled by 37 year old Shaun Udal who took 4/14 to bowl India out for 100 to win the Mumbai Test by 212 runs. This week, Monty played alongside debutant Graeme Swann and again he came out looking second best.

Back in 2006 the excuse will have been inexperience; today, many will call on his lack of match practice (Monty hadn’t played a first class match for almost 3 months). Match practice cannot be Panesar’s excuse for this is not a recent problem. For at least a year many in the media have been commenting on the metronomic and predictable nature of Monty’s bowling, Shane Warne even commented that Panesar hasn’t played 30 Test matches, he’s played 1 Test match 30 times. It is difficult to believe that the England management do not agree with the almost universal criticism of Monty’s bowling and thus the only conclusion can be that either the coaching staff are not taking it upon themselves to have a word in Monty’s ear and help him vary his bowling slightly or Monty is simply not listening.

One of the most important aspects of improving in sport is to learn from your mistakes, learn from your achievements and learn from those around you. It appears that Monty is not doing this; it appears that Monty looks at his 6/37 at Manchester this year against New Zealand, his 5/72 against Pakistan there in 2006 or 5/78 against Sri Lanka in Trent Bridge and tries to repeat it by bowling as he did there in every match. Unfortunately Monty, this won’t work – to succeed in international sport you need to adapt to your situation.

Daniel Vettori averages 32 but Daniel Vettori averages 32 in a different situation. Vettori plays for New Zealand – a team with, without wanting to allude any disrespect to the black caps, a vastly inferior depth in cricketing talent. One of the keys to successful bowling (and spin bowling in particular) is building up pressure and this is not something that can be achieved alone. Bowling with a below-average pace attack around him, Vettori cannot apply the same pressure to batsmen through his bowling as other teams can simply because as tidily as he bowls, runs will come easily more often than not at the other end.

Likewise, with New Zealand’s batting also leaving much to be desired, Vettori often has fewer runs to play with than Monty has and cannot apply scoreboard pressure nor cramp the batsmen with men around the bat.

It is for this reason that Vettori’s 32 average represents a failure to live up to talent that is a result of circumstances out of his hand but Monty’s 32 average represents a failure to live up to his potential that is a result of his own reluctance to learn from the advice regularly offered to him by very experienced old-pros.

Monty would perhaps prefer to bowl alone as the sole spinner in the England line up in future because, on the few times when he has had a spin twin, he has been shown to be still, after three years, not quite as good. The question is though, next time England play one spinner will that spinner be the left armer or the off-spinner who impressed so much on his debut this week? We’ll have to wait and see...


February 16, 2007

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

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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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