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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


July 15, 2009

Ashes 2009: Thoughts ahead of Lords

A drawn match often suggests that the two teams taking part were relatively even throughout the contest. They started level and they finished level. Well, I think it is safe to say that this was not the case between England and Australia during the first Ashes test of 2009.

The Aussies thoroughly outplayed England in every department at Cardiff and yet the hosts somehow escaped with a draw. A washed out Saturday evening session, a defiant Paul Collingwood and some inspired resilience from the tailenders can be thanked for this.

Realistically though, England need to prepare for Lords as if they are recovering from a defeat. I say this because their performance was far from the required standard and they will have to make huge improvements if they are to stand a chance of regaining the Ashes.

What does this entail though? What should England do to ensure they are able to compete with Australia at Lords?

The first thing they can do is use the momentum of the final day at Cardiff. The crowd were buzzing, the players showed passion and Australia were left extremely frustrated. England can use this in the early part of the Lords test to make a more positive start to proceedings.

The second thing they can do is make changes to the team. Presuming Andrew Flintoff is fit, (Andrew Strauss seemed confident enough in an interview today) England should still tinker with their side.

Two spinners cannot be justified at Lords, so one of Monty Panesar or Graeme Swann has to be dropped. As for who it should be, I think Monty has to go. He looked low on confidence and as disappointing as Graeme Swann was, he has achieved enough over the last six months to hold onto his place.

Who should come in for Monty? It has to be Steve Harmison I think. Just to add something extra to this attack and to provide someone other than Flintoff who can intimidate the Australians. He seems in decent form as well, so he could work wonders.

The only other change that is possible given the 14-man squad that was announced, is to bring Graeme Onions in for Stuart Broad. Broad was very below par with the ball at Cardiff and is reportedly struggling with a calf injury, so the in-form Onions has every chance.

The most important thing though is that England forget about Cardiff and start performing like they believe they can beat Australia. The support, the interest and the passion for this series is higher than ever and England need to match this with their performances.
Keep checking the Lords Test oddsbefore any Second Test betting

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 12, 2009

Pietersen inspires England to victory

There is no doubt that Kevin Pietersen's 58 runs helped England  improve on their batting performance from the embarrassing defeat to  Holland. However, it wasn't just Pietersen's runs that gave England much needed lift during their vital victory over Pakistan yesterday.

From the moment that England's best batsman declared himself fit, the hosts had the edge on Pakistan. The fans were more optimistic, the  batting line-up was stronger and the rest of the team would  have been reassured by Pietersen's presence.

The Hampshire man is a very influential character and is one of  England's few world-class professionals, so his availability was crucial to the victory. KP can make something happen himself or he can inspire others to lift their game. Either way, it was fantastic to see him back and batting well.

As for the game as a whole, well it was much better from Paul  Collingwood's men. In the shortened forms of the game, whether that be  Twenty20 or One Day International, England seem to have performed at their best when they are faced with a MUST win. They don't enjoy being overwhelming favourites that much.

The batting was a lot better than against Holland. Luke Wright was destructive at the top once again, Kevin Pietersen and Owais Shah built an important partnership and Dimi Mascarenas and James Foster finished the innings off well. In the end, 185-5 was always going to  be a match winning score.

In response, Pakistan struggled to get going. They lost Shehzad early  on and when Stuart Broad took two wickets in two balls to reduce them  to 41-3, the game was as good as over. They were constantly behind the  rate and only captian Younis Khan made an impact with an unbeaten 46  as Pakistan finished on 136-7.

As far as England's bowlers were concerned, Stuart Broad bounced back from his nightmare last over against Holland with figures of 3-17. Everyone performed a valuable role though - including man of the match  Luke Wright - and only Adil Rashid finished wicketless. It was a  superb team effort.

Overall, the two performances from England so far couldn't have been more contrasting. This means that it is very hard to predict how far  they will go in this competition. They are capable of winning it, but they are also capable of not winning another game.

Which team will turn up in the super eights? Hopefully the one that was on show against Pakistan yesterday.


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


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

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 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


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


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