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January 05, 2009
There is only really one cricket story that I could have written about today. The increasingly frosty relationship between England captain Kevin Pietersen and coach Peter Moores has led to the latter’s future being extremely uncertain.
The possibility of Pietersen being the man to step down is an unlikely one according to the cricket odds, so unless they settle their differences quickly – Moores could be on his way. Many people have claimed this would be bad news for England, especially when you consider the timing of it all. We are in an Ashes year, after all.
However, it is my opinion that Moores potential departure could be a blessing in disguise for the future of this England cricket team. Below are five reasons why this is the case.
His record isn’t the best – Since Moores took over as coach in April 2007, England’s record hasn’t been great. This isn’t all down to Moores, but if certainly doesn’t help his case for remaining in the role. In total, Moores has been involved in eight test match victories. Seven of these have been against teams below England in the rankings – West Indies and Zealand. Cricket betting always expected England to beat these two. Then, the other win was against South Africa once the series had already been lost.
Pietersen is vital – I think it is fair to say that Kevin Pietersen is England’s best batsman. By quite some distance. The one day series against South Africa and the way he led his team during difficult circumstances in India, also proved his worth as a captain. Therefore, it is probably best that the ECB aren’t seen to be unsupportive of his views.
We need 100% KP – If England are to give their all to the ‘Pietersen era’ they need to let him do his own thing. Anything that compromises this will have a negative affect on the team and therefore results. Pietersen wants his team to reflect his personality and this can only be a good thing in my opinion. Bring in a coach that is happy to take a back seat to captain KP.
Do the players trust Moores? As a result of this much publicised disagreement between captain and coach, the rest of the squad will be confused as to who has more authority. Naturally, they are more likely to side with their captain, so how much would they respect Moores views from now on if he stayed in the role?
The experts say so – The future of Moores has provoked much debate in the press and a number of pundits or ex-players have had their say on the best solution.
* David Gower believes that Pietersen will get his way.
* Ray Illingworth says that it one man goes, if has to be Moores.
* Graham Gooch believes Pietersen has been influenced by Shane Warne’s views on coaching being too highly thought of in the game.
* Glenn McGrath admits that the captain should have the final say on most matters.
Overall, it doesn’t look great for Peter Moores does it? However, a new coach that would be prepared to let Pietersen do his thing may well be a positive thing for English cricket. It will certainly be interesting to see how things unfold.
By Thomas Rooney – A sports writer who blogs about England cricket
December 23, 2008
So, the second and final test match between England and India has ended in a draw. After the home side were rather negative in their second innings, they eventually declared on 251-7 to set England over 400 to win the game. This was never going to happen though and with the game destined for a draw, the captains shook hands with the tourists 64-1.
It meant that India secured a 1-0 series victory and that England finished the tour without winning a single match. Not the most encouraging few weeks results wise, but there have been some positives of which I will discuss in a moment.
The thing that really bothers me though is that only two test matches were scheduled for the series. India and England are two of the most cricket mad countries in the world, they are two of the best teams in the world and yet only two test matches are played. Are the organisers trying to assist in the death of test cricket or something?
Not only is it disappointing that the series is shortened, but it also means that once the first game has been won by a team, the second match is more likely to be a dull finish. That’s exactly what happened in this series.
There was some excellent cricket played throughout and the entertainment levels were high, but during the latter stages of the Mohali test, India were happy to play out for a draw. They had won the first test, so it was job done as far as they are concerned.
The series should have been at least three matches long. This way, England would have had the chance to respond again to going behind. I appreciate that I may sound like a bitter England fan, but it’s more than that. For the sake of the fans watching, two test matches just isn’t enough.
There isn’t enough time for the twists and turns that make test cricket so fantastic, or for the one-on-one battles between the likes of Kevin Pietersen and Yuvraj Singh to well and truly develop. Overall, I hope two test match series are a thing of the past.
Unfortunately though, this is not something I will be putting any of my sport betting money on. The significance of Twenty20 cricket is more valid than ever and perhaps shortened test series will become to norm. This bothers me, but there you go.
Anyway, onto the reflection part of today’s blog. Despite losing the series, Pietersen says that he is ‘really proud’ of the team’s efforts and I have to say I agree. So what are the positives to come out of the tour?
The fact they were there – It took great courage for the England players to get on a plane to India again. They have been a credit to cricket and the Indian people will never forget this.
Andrew Strauss – The opener well and truly confirmed his place in the team with two centuries in the first test. Well done Straussy.
Andrew Flintoff – Bowled with just as much heart as ever and his batting is improving. Could he be back to his peak for Australia next year?
Greame Swann – Performed admirably in his first two test matches and should push Monty Panesar for a place against the West Indies after Christmas.
Kevin Pietersen – Ok, it may only have been one good innings for KP, but what an innings it was. This and the way he led the team in a difficult time deserves credit.
So, that’s that for the Indian tour. The England players will now travel home to enjoy Christmas with their families before flying out to the West Indies at the end of January. The sport odds are more likely to favour an England win in this series and it is important that momentum is developed ahead of an important English summer.
By Thomas Rooney – A sports writer who blogs about England cricket
December 15, 2008
"After day one, if you'd said to us we would be defending 250 on the final day, we'd have taken that” These were the words of Kevin Pietersen after his side had fallen to a six-wicket defeat to India in the first test in Chennai.
Instead of the 250 that Pietersen would have been happy with though, the hosts were set a rather commanding 387 target after Andrew Strauss had recorded centuries in each of England’s innings.
Speaking of England’s batting, it is my opinion that the mentality in the latter part of the second innings played a huge part in the tourists losing the test match. The scoring rate was abysmal with Strauss and Paul Collingwood taking comfortably 200 balls to record their centuries.
After England had ensured a first innings lead, there was a real chance to push on when they ended day three leading by 247 runs with seven wickets in hand. Now, I find it hard to criticise either of the centurions even though they were a bit too watchful. It was when these two were dismissed that I became really frustrated.
England should have assessed the situation and opted to attack. Instead, Andrew Flintoff and Graeme Swann decided to take up valuable bowling time by facing 32 balls for a combined total of 11 runs. Did they not want to win this game? Do they not understand the value of momentum in test cricket?
I suppose the only thing the slow scoring rate did was overshadow the fact that England had suffered yet another devastating collapse from 257-3 to 311-9 before they eventually declared. It was such a limp way to go into the fourth innings and it significantly undone a lot of the previous hard work.
Nevertheless, England were still backed by the cricket odds to win the game. It was muted that the pitch had caused the slow run-rate and that India would inevitably suffer the same fate. Hmm…I don’t think so. Up step Virender Sehwag.
The Indian opener completely turned the game on its head with a blistering innings late on day four. He scored 83 runs from just 68 deliveries as India went into the final day run chase on 131-1, 256 runs from victory.
It was an amazing performance from Sehwag and it was the innings that won his team the match in my opinion. Yes, Sachin Tendulkar’s unbeaten century and Yuvraj Singh’s 86 not out were important, but if it wasn’t for Sehwag they would have come to the crease in much different circumstances.
Had it been on 20-2 when Tendulkar walked out or had India been behind the rate, it could have worked out very differently. However, as it was the ‘little master’ came in with the score on 141-2 with plenty of time to score the remaining runs. A perfect setting for the leading test run-scorer of all time, it has to be said.
As for England, well Pietersen has admitted that the defeat was a ‘very bitter pill to swallow’. He does expect them to bounce back in the second test though, even though a series victory is now beyond them.
To finish with for today, let’s take a brief look at the positive and negative aspects of England’s performance.
Andrew Strauss – Excellent return to form after limited preparation.
Paul Collingwood – Typically battling display in the second innings.
Matt Prior – Looked composed at number seven and was tidy with the gloves.
Graeme Swann – Excellent test debut for him as he took four wickets.
Ian Bell – Only 24 runs in the match. Time for a ‘rest’ I think.
Kevin Pietersen – Only five runs in the match and he must have had an influence about the negative strategy in the second innings.
Monty Panesar – Took three wickets in the first innings, but just doesn’t look confident enough for me. Vary it a bit Monty!
Overall, there were some decent individual performances, but the team display in the second half of the match wasn’t good enough. I’d like to see Owais Shah come in for Bell, but to be honest, cricket betting will be favouring a 2-0 India series win whatever happens.
By Thomas Rooney – A professional sports writer who blogs about England cricket
October 24, 2007
Back in the spring, Sri Lanka were taking part in a somewhat shambolic World Cup final while only a week previously England had played their last match of the Super Eights, playing only for pride, after having been knocked out of the tournament previously.
Both were deserving outcomes for the two sides. Sri Lanka were by far the second best team in the tournament and the only team deserving of partnering the Australians in the final.
England on the other hand, had been predictably disappointing and deserved to have been knocked out. The limited overs form of the game is one that England have never truly looked comfortable playing since the World Cup of 1992 where they were overwhelmed by a strong Pakistan side in the final.
Today, just six months later, things could not appear more different. England, for the first time in their history, have won a One Day series in Sri Lanka and their first One-Day series in subcontinental Asia since Stuart Broad’s Dad played in Pakistan under Mike Gatting’s captaincy in 1986/7.
It is a series that has been won with some authority too, despite losing the first match quite convincingly. England’s bowlers have been superb, bowling accurately and to carefully formulated plans and as such have restricted the Sri Lanka top order that was so instrumental in their World Cup successes.
The Sri Lankan opening pair has been one of the most important aspects of their game plan (not to mention the fact that numbers three and four are Kumar Sangakkara and Jayawardene, two of the world’s best batsmen at the moment).
The Jayasuriya/Tharanga pairing has given the innings a fast moving impetus which takes the pressure off the middle order and allows the whole side to play with freedom.
In this series, Jayasuriya and Tharanga have averaged 18 and 16 respectively, meaning that more often than not Kumar Sangakkara is in the action immediately with the pressure of the innings on his shoulders.
The encouraging thing about this series, from an England point of view is that they have succeeded without, for the most part, their main One Day batsmen truly firing.
Alastair Cook has shown he has what it takes in the fourth match with a steady match-winning 80 and Owais Shah deserved his man of the match award for his 82 in the second match.
On the whole though, England’s victories have come more as a result of a strong team effort with each member chipping in when their team has needed it, such as when Broad and Swann chipped in during the 3rd Match to turn the match around and guide England home to victory.
If anything can be said about the impact that Peter Moores’ coaching has had on the England team it is that he has restored a sense of stability that is crucial for the success of any team effort and promotes a strong team ethic.
This is very much as was the case when England won the 2005 Ashes; the England management used the same 11 players for the first four Tests (and only 12 in the entire series). Stability breeds familiarity and confidence in the players as each member of the team is aware of what their duties are and when they need to step up to the plate.
By taking the series 4-1, England had the opportunity to move to 4th place in the international rankings and push Sri Lanka to 7th, a situation that would have seemed very improbable at the culmination of the World Cup but seems to reflect the efforts in the current series.
In another part of the world, Pakistan are playing host to South Africa in a somewhat punctuated tour consisting of 2 Test matches and 5 ODIs. Arguably, it is a tour that has very little significance in the grand scheme of the international arena.
It is however the setting for a somewhat unceremonious departure from the international arena of one of the game’s all time greats: Inzamam-ul-Haq.
Having been out of the side for the first Test of the series, he was recalled for the deciding match to allow him to bow out on his own terms. In the event his last hurrah took place very much in the manner he played his cricket: with a minimum of fuss.
In his two innings, he mustered 14 and 3 as Pakistan clung on for a draw that sealed the series at 1-0 for South Africa. In many ways though, it was a sad exit for one of the greatest batsmen to come out of Pakistan.
Great is an oft overused word in sport but with Inzamam, his contemporaries argue the case for him. In a tribute to his career, some of the most established names in Anil Kumble, Allan Donald, Damien Fleming, Chaminda Vaas and Matthew Hoggard have almost invariably rated him among their Top 5 batsmen that they bowled to.
Another striking endorsement of his talents and versatility is that the variety of shots named by those bowlers as their “Favourite Inzy Shot” from the back foot punch to the straight drive or even the hook and pull shots. All of which, he played with consummate ease always appearing to have all the time in the world.
Pakistan cricket is entering a new era, with a fresh young face as captain in Shoaib Malik and with some exciting new players such as Misbah-ul-Haq making his way after showing he has potential in the Twenty20 World Cup.
That aside, it is never going to be easy to replace a player of such class as Inzamam. Not only was his record as a batsman outstanding but his experience in the dressing room is invaluable and his calm and unflappable captaincy has been a very much under-rated commodity in the past few years.
May 25, 2007
An interesting stat stood out to me today while I was passing some time on the cricinfo.com website. After another good day’s cricket by England where Michael Vaughan registered his 16th Test match century after 18 months away from the game and Kevin Pietersen notched up 130*, his eighth three figure score in Tests I decided to see how the current England side lines up with England’s past masters.
Vaughan’s 16th century puts him within 6 of the England record of 22 held jointly by Hammond, Cowdrey and Boycott; whether Vaughan catches up with these figures depends largely on whether his knee holds up for long enough. At the age of 32, he should have a good few years left in him and it is often said that batsmen get better as they mature.
The little nugget of information that caught my eye this evening though is that when Pietersen drove a Dwayne Bravo half volley to extra cover for a single, his career tally of runs move to 2351 and he overtook Mark Ramprakash’s total of 2350 career runs. The fact that he has done this in fewer than half the matches says a lot about each of the men.
Ramprakash’s Test career came in a time when English selection appeared to follow few logical paths. A look at the Test caps given in the nineties reveals a staggering number of players who have only played a handful of matches. As a result no player in the England team of the day had a safe place in the side and most played every match as if their careers depended on it.
Such a pressure had a positive effect on some players, much as it has had a positive effect on Paul Collingwood’s career of late, with his place under threat he had to score runs just to keep the critics quiet.
Others did not perform quite as well. Mark Ramprakash was one of these; he put too much pressure on himself and regularly failed. For someone who many regard as the most talented English batsman of his generation, to say that a final Test average of 27 is disappointing is an understatement. Ramps once admitted that after one of his many failures in Test cricket, he returned to the pavilion and vented his frustration and tension out on a pillar in the dressing room, repeatedly smashing it with his bat until what was left in his hands bore no relation to a cricket bat.
Ramprakash has proved to the world in domestic cricket that he is a highly talented batsmen since those days, last season his in the County Championship he scored a healthy 2211 runs at an average of 105.28 in to help Surrey to promotion. If any critics were citing the difference in standards between second and first divisions in the Championship and the value of runs in each, he has started this season with 676 runs at 135.2 in five matches.
By plundering county attacks to all corners of the country, is Ramprakash making one final claim for a Test berth? He has said recently that he is not thinking of playing for England and most who mention his name in selection discussions do so with a despairing air of hope rather than any real expectations. Not only that, with 6 of England’s batsmen providing 7 centuries in the first 6 days of Test cricket this season he would be relying on injuries to be able to force his way into the team.
Many have written off Ramprakash’s chances of a revival of a Test career as unimaginable given how late on his career is but has the new coach brought the Surrey batsman a new lifeline? A week ago none would have expected Ryan Sidebottom to be playing his second Test match at the moment. I must admit that even once he was admitted into the squad I was completely confident he would not gain a place ahead of James Anderson but Peter Moores and the selectors have shown that they have the courage of their convictions to go against the popular opinions and pick a left field candidate.
Mark Ramprakash is still one of the best batsmen in England and even though he had a relative failure at Test level, the fact that Kevin Pietersen overtook his Test run tally today shows a lot about the ability of England’s new hero and that he has the temperament to boot.
The aura surrounding English cricket these days may be a lot different compared to what Ramprakash was thrust into but he has still scored his runs through some difficult times, in some of the hardest places to play cricket: India with a squad vastly hampered by injury; Australia in a series where his team was floundering badly and Pakistan with the hopes of a nation still behind him and suffering with an Ashes hangover.
That he has coped with this and actually improved his game shows a lot of promise for the future of English cricket. That Mark Ramprakash has found a way to stay true to his game and not drift off the circuit like Chris Schofield did after being thrust into Test cricket too soon and being dumped after two wicketless Tests can give English supporters even more solace that there is enough batting in England to step up to the plate should it be needed.
When Kevin Pietersen pushed that Dwayne Bravo delivery to extra cover today to take his 2351st run in Test cricket he overtook one of English cricket’s greats who never managed to live up to his potential on the big stage and carried along on his own way on the path to greatness.
March 21, 2007
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?