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October 01, 2009

Credit must go to Shah and co

Sometimes you have to hold your hands up and say well done to a player
you may have criticised in the past. This is the case with myself and
Owais Shah. After the shocking displays of the England team in the One
Day International series against Australia, I questioned his place in
the team.

Then, when he was promoted to No.3 in the batting line-up, I
questioned the England selectors. However, I have to give credit to
Shah for how well he played against South Africa on Sunday. He hit six
sixes in his fantastic innings of 98 to help England post a
match-winning 323-8 against the hosts.

England went on to win the game by 22 runs to reach the semi-finals of
the ICC Champions Trophy competition

and in doing so, knocking South Africa out of the
competition. It has been a drastic turnaround since the Australia ODI
series and this is represented superbly by Shah’s change in fortunes.

Finally, after constantly getting himself in, Shah went on to get a
big score. It would have been nice if he made it to three figures, but
his innings was just as valuable as a century. It was what England had
been crying out for.

Both Shah and Paul Collingwood – who played well for his 82 – blended
maturity and aggression perfectly to set England on their way and
leave Eoin Morgan with the final power-play to blast the score above
300. It was a near perfect batting performance and boy did I enjoy
watching it.

Speaking after restricting South Africa to 301 to win the game, Shah
admitted that he was ‘low on confidence’ going into the game, but that
he and the batting unit showed just how ‘dangerous’ they can be on
their day.

The key for the Middlesex man (and the team as a whole) is that we
take things on from here. Shah must produce more innings like this and
they must perform with this freedom, aggression and purpose more
often to ensure that Englands cricket betting odds
keep increasing.

Let’s face it, if they manage to do so twice more in this competition,
we could be celebrating a very unexpected ICC Champions Trophy
victory.


September 24, 2009

Sympathy for Strauss as England trail 6–0

It seemed very unlikely that an extended One Day International serieswas going to put a dampener on England’s excellent Ashes win earlier in the summer.

However, after being humiliated again to go 6-0 down to Australia, England’s cricketers are doing their very best to make it happen. The performances in the limited overs series have got worse by each game and ‘embarrassing’ doesn’t quite do it justice.

The most worrying thing is that Australia have hardly slipped out of the comfort zone. The first game aside, they haven’t really been given anything like a test. They have been superior in every single department.

History does suggest that England have a rather poor ODI side, but they are outdoing themselves on this occasion.

Now, normally the blame would head towards the captain in this situation. However, I have a great deal of sympathy for Andrew Strauss who is in charge of a side that, quite simply, isn’t good enough.

How many ODI games has Owais Shah won for England? How many times has Ravi Bopara built on a decent start? How many times has Matt Prior looked like a top six batsman in the 50 over game? The reality is that you could count the combined total on one hand.

The batting from England has been nothing short of disgraceful. The tactic seems to be - get to 20 slowly and then, out of frustration, try and launch one only to get caught inside the ring.

I say this is what the ‘plan’ is, but to be honest I don’t think England’s batsman have anything like a plan in mind. Perhaps Strauss can take some blame for this, but there seems to be no intent. What is Bopara’s role at three for example?

Strauss has been England’s best batsman, but he hasn’t been supported anywhere near enough. With the likes of Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff in the side, there is no-one that wants to stand up for their country. There seems to be no pride.

I can accept that we are a decent test side, but not quite as good at the 50-over game. However, this is taking it too far. On home soil, to lose every single game to an Australia side in transition is not good enough.

The quicker this series is over the better. As for whether it will be 7-0, of course it will be. What would make anyone think any different? Certainly not the One Day Cricket betting odds. Even when the batsman somehow get 300, we forget how to bowl or field.

Strauss’ ODI side are a bunch of no hopers and the only thing they have achieved is taking the shine off a superb test series win over Australia. That takes some doing.


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


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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