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July 21, 2009

Ashes 2009: Second Test Player Ratings

England are 1-0 up against Australia. Regardless of what sport it is, this sounds very good to me. The fact that it is after two tests of an Ashes series makes it absolutely fantastic. With three matches to go, England are in the box seat and in with a chance of regaining that famous little urn.

Who would have thought this going into the last day at Cardiff? England were on the brink of defeat and any thought of being 1-0 up after two tests would have been greeted with disbelief. However, it has happened and we should enjoy it.

The second test at Lords was deservedly won as well and it was wrapped up without too much trouble on the fifth morning thanks to Andrew Flintoff. Playing in his last test match at Lords, Freddie finished with figures of 5-92 after an extraordinary 10-over spell on Monday morning. He really is a true English cricket great.

It was a team performance though and a number of England players contributed to the victory. With this in mind, let’s take a brief look at the player ratings for Andrew Strauss’ men.

Andrew Strauss – The skipper’s hundred in the first innings was crucial to setting the tone for the test match. His captaincy was decent in my opinion as well. 9 / 10

Alistair Cook – Like Strauss, he batted superbly in the first innings. It would have been nice if he went on to score a big one, but the form he showed suggests we might not have to wait too long. 8 / 10

Ravi Bopara – The Essex man doesn’t look quite at home at the moment. Scores of 18 and 27 aren’t good enough for a No.3 and he must improve. Reminds me a bit of Ian Bell in 2005. 5 / 10

Kevin Pietersen – There is no doubt that the injury to KP’s Achilles is affecting his form and perhaps more significantly, his confidence. Hopefully there is still plenty more to come from him. 6 / 10

Paul Collingwood – To my mind, Collingwood has found his role in this England team and can adapt according to the situation. He seems to know what is needed. His relatively brisk 54 in the second innings was extremely helpful to the situation. 7 / 10

Matt Prior – This is a man that has won me over. I wasn’t convinced that he was up to batting at No.6, but he has proved me wrong by adding a great deal of aggression and flair to the top six. Excellent glove work as well. 8 / 10

Andrew Flintoff – Not much more can be said about the big man. He was superb with the ball and inspires everyone around him like no one ever has before or ever will. 9 / 10

Stuart Broad – The fact he dismissed Ricky Ponting in Australia’s second innings was vital. He needs to produce more moments like this in the coming three matches. 7 / 10

Graeme Swann – I really like Swann as a cricketer. He always gives honest and interesting interviews as well. Helped Freddie finish things off on the final morning and deserved his four wickets. 8 / 10

James Anderson – It was all about the first half of the match for Anderson. First, his 29 with the bat steered England over 400 and then his four wickets with the ball left Australia in deep trouble. 8 / 10

Graeme Onions – In a five-man attack, there is always going to be someone underused. In Australia’s second innings, this was Onions. He managed to take three wickets in the first innings though and contributed well to the last wicket stand with Anderson. 7 / 10

There we are then. A splendid team performance from England, with only Bopara and Pietersen left searching for considerable improvement. Bring on Edgbaston after this one! In the meantime, keep an eye on the Edgbaston Test oddsbefore making your Third Test bet.


By Thomas Rooney


June 19, 2009

Collingwood reflects on World Twenty20 exit

England Twenty20 captain Paul Collingwood was in reflective mood after his side missed out on a place in the World Twenty20 semi-finals by losing to the West Indies at the Oval.

The hosts posted 161-6 in their innings before the rain intervened to reduce the West Indies target to 80 from nine overs. With ten wickets in hand, this task proved very achievable for Chris Gayle’s men who went on to win by five wickets in the ninth over.

Collingwood admitted afterwards that the rain played its part in England’s defeat by saying that ‘in 20 overs we’d have had a better chance’. Many argue that the West Indies were handed a huge advantage by the Duckworth-Lewis system and Collingwood was clearly frustrated at the way things worked out.

The Duckworth-Lewis system may well be the fairest way to get a result in these circumstances and it suits the 50 over game perfectly. However, in Twenty20 cricket it doesn’t quite seem to add up. To score at nine per over for nine overs with ten wickets in hand should be extremely easy - much easier than chasing 162 to win in 20 overs anyway.

Nevertheless, England are out and we have to deal with it. Collingwood is positive that the tournament has been a success regardless of the earlier than hoped exit. He says that ‘England are starting to get some players in there who are getting to grips’ with Twenty20 cricket. All the team needs is ‘a bit more experience’ to take things to the next level.

On the more negative side of things, Collingwood said that there were areas that the team ‘let ourselves down in’. The middle order has failed to shine for example, with England often stumbling over the line towards the end of the innings.

Focus must now be placed on the Ashes cricketaction for England. The performances have been a bit up and down in the World Twenty20, but hopefully more consistency can be found in the second part of the summer.

An Ashes win will always be more important than winning the World Twenty20 after all and that’s why England can’t get too down about going out of this competition. Let’s look forward and let’s prepare for the Australians and some exciting Ashes 2009 betting.


June 03, 2009

Collingwood confident of Twenty20 success

Ahead of England’s World Twenty20 campaign, captain Paul Collingwood has claimed that home advantage could be enough for his side to have a genuine chance of winning the tournament which gets underway on Friday.

The hosts take on Holland at Lords in the opening game and Collingwood is confident that this can be the start of a successful couple of weeks. He says that he and his team ‘know the wickets and venues well’, something which could give them an advantage over the other teams.

England’s confidence is certainly high after the comfortable Test and ODI series victories over the West Indies, so perhaps Collingwood is right to feel optimistic. The combination of self-belief, being familiar with the conditions and having the fans behind them could be enough to make England contenders.

They must surely do better than they did in the inaugural World Twenty20 tournament back in 2007. During their time in South Africa, Collingwood’s men only won once in five matches and had a thoroughly miserable time.

England are in much better shape this time though with players such as Ravi Bopara, Stuart Broad, James Anderson and Graeme Swann starting to establish themselves as world-class cricketers. Then, there is the returning Kevin Pietersen to throw into the mix. Overall, the squad looks strong.

Speaking about Pietersen, Collingwood said that the former captain is ‘raring to go’ in this tournament after failing to make an appearance in the recent ODI series against the West Indies. KP hasn’t got the best record in Twenty20 games, so perhaps it is time he put this right.

As for England’s chances of winning the tournament, Collingwood reminded everyone how no England team have won an ICC event before. However, ahead of the warm-up games, the temporary skipper believes that he and his side have a ‘huge opportunity’ to continue the momentum picked up in the early part of the summer.

If you're looking to make a Twenty20 bet, personally, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if England made the semi-finals, at least. They are a happy dressing room right now and should have enough to progress in the competition. As for winning the whole thing, well I can’t look too far beyond current holders India. Their line-up looks formidable.

And, by the time all this is over, we might be able to make slightly more informed Ashes bets!

By the way, if you fancy seeing what I am up to, you can follow me on Twitter @Thomas_Rooney


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


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?



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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