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December 24, 2009

Flintoff on the comeback trail

Andrew Flintoff is hopeful that he will resume batting in the New Year as he continues his recovery from knee surgery. The England all-rounder - who hasn't played since the final Ashes Test of the summer - doesn't expect to bowl for some time yet though.

Speaking about his progress to date, Freddie said that it will be 'great to start hitting balls again' as he looks to get himself in adequate condition to compete in the shorter forms of the game for Lancashire and England.

As for the first step in Flintoff's return to cricket, he says that he should 'start batting against a bowling machine' next month, although this is assuming he doesn't have any setbacks in the next couple of weeks. Something he is famous for, it has to be said.

Freddie says that he 'won't be doing anything daft' as this is obviously a crucial stage in his career. It is very important that he doesn't return too early as this could hamper what he is able to achieve in the rest of his life as a cricketer.

This is probably why he is remaining realistic about when he will return. Flintoff says that the prospect of bowling again is 'still some way off'. It could even be a 'good few weeks' until he is able to start practising this form of the game.

Overall, it seems like everyone involved knows how important it is that Flintoff gets the recovery process right. The next aim is to start batting, then he will look to pick up a ball again before hoping to join in with some of Lancashire's training sessions in February.

The 32-year-old will then aim to return to England duties next summer in the one day international and Twenty20 games. If he does return, his presence would provide a boost to England's ODI odds. This may well seem like a long way off, but he has to aim for something. It will be what keeps him going.

The thought of representing his country again and performing to the best of his ability will help him get through this latest bout of rehabilitation. Hopefully it will be a smooth process and he can get back to somewhere near his best before too long, something he thoroughly deserves for everything he has given to English cricket.

Meanwhile, his former international colleagues are preparing for the next match against South Africa as they attempt to enhance England's second Test chances.


November 26, 2009

Trott happy to open batting

Jonathan Trott has revealed to England coach Andy Flower that he feels happy to remain at the top of the order for the 3rd One Day International against South Africa on Friday.

The South African born batsman opened the innings with captain Andrew Strauss in the second game of the series to great success.  He scored a crucial 87, playing anchor to the fantastic Paul Collingwood as England emerged victorious by 7 wickets.

Trott looked classy and assured throughout his innings and now it seems he is comfortable with trying to make a name for himself as an ODI opening batsman. He revealed that he has opened for Warwickshire on a number of occasions and that he ‘enjoyed batting there’ on Sunday.

The 28-year-old certainly provided a rare sense of stability at the top of the order in this form of the game. Over the past couple of years, Matt Prior, Ian Bell, Phil Mustard and Ravi Bopara have all tried their luck without consistent enough success to improve the sports betting oddsof the team. 

Hopefully, in the remainder of this series and beyond, Trott can keep making valuable solutions and solve a few problems for Strauss and Flower. He has certainly made an impressive start to his international career – averaging 43 in ODI matches and 80 in test matches  - with many seeing him in the team for years to come.

Should the rest of this limited over series go well, some have suggested that Trott could even open the batting in the test arena. However, he has been less enthusiastic about this prospect saying that he has never done so in first-class cricket and that he is most affective as ‘a number four’.

Thinking about it, this is probably better for England anyway. Trott is clearly more comfortable in the middle order during test matches, so why risk jeopardising the good start he has made by forcing him to open the batting?

If Alistair Cook is fit for the test series, he will open with Strauss. Then Kevin Pietersen, Trott and Collingwood will follow. That seems strong enough for England to be happy with their selections.

As for the remainder of the One Day International series, Trott will be opening the batting again on Friday as England look to go 2-0 up in the five match series.


September 11, 2009

Bopara convinced he is the man for England


In what has been a successful summer for English cricket (despite the recent One Day International performances) Ravi Bopara has had a pretty rough time. He failed to make an impact batting at No.3 in the Ashes, was dropped from the side for the final test and wasn’t present for the series win celebrations.

Since then, he has been given the chance to redeem himself by opening the batting in the One Day International games, but so far it has been the same old story – Bopara is getting a start and then getting out. So, cna he overcome this nightmare run of form and establish himself in the England team?

Well, the man himself thinks so. Speaking after making only 10 in England’s defeat at the Rose Bowl on Wednesday, Bopara said that ‘there is a lot to come’ from him as a batsman yet and that it is just a case of getting his game ‘in order’.

It hasn’t just been Bopara that has been suffering in this series though. We have all been frustratingly put through three mediocre England batting performances in this series with Owais Shah, Matt Prior and Paul Collingwood all struggling to find form as well as Bopara.

It is the Essex man who has come and fighting ahead of the must-win match at Lords on Saturday though. He says that he is determined to ‘go out and get a big one’ and start to become ‘the main man for England’.

This would be a fairly drastic turnaround for the 24-year-old, but it is good that he is staying positive. There is no doubting his talentand every England fan will be hoping he comes good. Perhaps he just needs one decent innings in this form of the game to help him kick on.

Part of me feels sorry for Bopara anyway. He has to opening the batting with Andrew Strauss, with the captain’s role clearly to tryand bat through most of the innings. This means that for England to make a positive start, Bopara has to take plenty of risks.

This isn’t an excuse, but perhaps it explains his struggles a little bit more. The team are missing their best batsman in Kevin Pietersen as well let’s not forget. Again, not an excuse, but it does explain why the ‘X Factor’ is missing from England’s cricket batting line up.

Looking ahead to Saturday’s game, I would make a few changes. Bring in Joe Denly, Stuart Broad and Adil Rashid in for Owais Shah, Eoin Morgan and Tim Bresnan. Then change the batting line-up slightly to relive Bopara of his opening duties and to stop embarrassing Prior at No.3.

So, my team to give us a sniff in this series would be: Strauss, Denly, Bopara, Prior, Collingwood, Wright, Broad, Rashid, Swann, Sidebottom, Anderson.


April 12, 2009

England ODI player rankings

So, England managed to win the One-day international series against the West Indies. I am still quite bemused as to how, but credit must go to them for sticking at their task and winning the final two games of the series.

As ever at the end of a series, ranking each player out of ten is often a good way to analyse how things went. It could be especially interesting in this case because even though England won the series,
there were more than one or two questionable performances along the way.

So, without further to do….let’s take a look at how each player did. Starting with the batsman this week and the bowlers next week.

Andrew Strauss – He has been fantastic hasn’t he? Considering he wasn’t supposed to be a limited overs batsman, his performances with the bat have been awesome. Then, he has led the team with dignity. Top man.
9 / 10

Ravi Bopara – Had he been batting down the order, his average of 29.29 wouldn’t have been that bad. However, if he is going to open the batting, he needs to make more significant scores.
6 / 10

Kevin Pietersen – KP knows that this wasn’t his best series. Not by a long shot. His attitude has been questioned and at times, rightly so. He had a couple of shocking decisions, but overall it’s been a poor few games.
5 / 10

Owais Shah – Normally, Shah has been able to moan about lack of opportunities after a tour. However, this time has been given the chance. Has he taken it? Not really. He looked scratchy and only
averaged 26.72.
5 / 10

Paul Collingwood – Colly is probably the most reliable player in this team. More often than not, when called upon – he will deliver. Far from a fluent player, he always makes the most of what he has got.
Averaged 37.00.
8 / 10

Andrew Flintoff – I am including Freddie in the batting section of this, simply because he batted No.6. His main contributions, as we know, were with the ball. He is England’s main man and will need to be
on his best form this summer. He can create a buzz that no one else can.
8 / 10

Matt Prior – There is no doubt in my mind that Matt Prior is a very good batsman. His wicket keeping is still questionable though and it is not a safe cricket bet to make that he is certain of a place in the Ashes team this summer. Considering he was batting down the order, an average of 37 is very handy.
7 / 10

There we have it then. Next time, I will take a look at the remaining five players of the England ODI party. I will probably argue until my heart's content about how Adil Rashid should have been given a game as well.

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


March 30, 2009

Strauss deserves more credit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


March 23, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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