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December 18, 2009

Thoughts on the Review System

I am going to come out and say it straight away - I am not a fan of the review system. It takes something away from the greatest sport in the world.

I don't want to be celebrating a wicket, forget about the new rule and then be forced to wait for the decision to come through. Then, either the decision is overturned and my celebrations were a waste or the decision stands and it feels like a bit of an afterthought.

While the change won't have any impact on England South African Test odds, it does seem to have taken something away from the game.

To be honest, I didn't think there was much wrong with just the umpires doing their jobs, at least everyone knows where they stand. Yes, there may well the occasional wrong decision, but that's all part of the game.

The review system should only be used to prevent absolute howlers. In this sense, I think the power should be taken away from the players. At the moment, they are using the 'might as well challenge it' approach, which doesn't suit the game.

When one of a team's best batsman is given out, they think they should challenge it just on the off chance that they will be able to keep their star man in. Again, not quite what the system is intended for.

Likewise, the bowling side might challenge an LBW decision if it concerns an opposition player that is taking the game away from them. They might not think it is definitely out, but if there is an outside chance Hawkeye will say it is brushing the off stump, they will challenge the decision.

So, unless things improve in this sense, I think the decision to refer should be taken away from the players. Let the Umpires or whoever watches the replays decide if a decision should be reviewed.

Again though, there are flaws to this system. Which is why I think it should have been left how it was. If England take a wicket to 'win the series' and I celebrate like a mad man before realising the decision has been overturned – I'm not going to be happy.

The umpires are of the highest quality and they should be left to do their job.

In other sports new, the odds for the 2010 Cheltenham Festival are really starting to hot up.

Blog by Thomas Rooney, Professional Sports Writer


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.


October 09, 2009

Bopara can benefit from winter break

One of the biggest talking points after England announced their touring part of South Africa this winter was the omission of Ravi Bopara from both the Test and One Day International squads. The Essex batsman was heavily involved in all forms during the summer and now finds himself with a free winter.

This could end up being extremely beneficial for him though. His confidence is clearly low at the moment and maybe a winter away from international cricket is just what the doctor ordered. He can build his self-belief up again and work out his game.

It’s not as if he has to start from the beginning, he just needs to iron out a few technical glitches (that flick shot across the line which gets him out LBW for one) and realise what it takes to become an international batsman. It takes determination, it takes focus and it takes a lot of hard work.

It wasn’t that long ago that Andrew Strauss found himself out of the team and having to do the same thing. Now, he is one of the most consistent batsmen in the world, captaining his country to an Ashes win and being named in the 2009 ICC Test Team of the year.

I’m not saying that Bopara will go to this extreme, but it can make him realise that he can get back into the team and be successful. His talented is unquestioned; he just needs to direct it in the right way.

As for the decision to leave him out this winter, I think it is a sensible one all things considered. Was Bopara guaranteed a place in the team? No, he wasn’t. Therefore, would he have benefited from being the 12th man all winter? Not at all. It could have set him back even further.

The selectors probably looked at it and thought that the best thing for him would be to have a break from the stresses of International cricket. This is a very important winter for Bopara and as a big fan of his, I hope this time next year we are talking about what a fantastic 2010 he had for England.


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.


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.


September 01, 2009

Will Flintoff play cricket again?

After announcing that he was set to retire from test cricket at the end of the recent Ashes series, Andrew Flintoff spoke of his aim to become the best One Day Internationalplayer in the world.

However, after playing a relatively small part in England’s series clinching victory at The Oval last week, Flintoff has immediately gone under the knife again to have surgery on his troublesome knee injury.

Such is the seriousness of the operation that Flintoff has openly admitted that he may never play cricket at the highest level again. Speaking in his News of The World column, he said that there was a ‘possibility’ that his days as an international cricketer are numbered.

Until he finds out how successful his operation was, Freddie admits that there is a ‘question mark’ in his mind about what the future holds. The 31-year-old will just have to wait and see how the knee is after the operation and then how it feels during the rehabilitation.

On a more positive note though, Flintoff pointed out the fact that the success rate for an operation like the one he has had is ‘pretty good’. It’s not as if the big man isn’t used to recovering from injuries either is it?

Presuming the operation and recovery process does go well, Flintoff says that he is targeting a return for the One Day Internationals against Bangladesh in March. Time will tell how realistic this is though.

Overall, it does seem as though Freddie is as determined as ever to make a comeback. He says that he doesn’t want to end his career in a physio room, instead, he wants to do it by winning the World Cup with England in 2011.

So, in the next two years, Freddie wants to recover from a serious operation, become the best ODI player in the World and somehow turn England’s 50-over sideinto a team that can win the World Cup.

Would be a good way to bow out Fred!!


August 30, 2009

Flower and Strauss the key to Ashes success

What a remarkable day Sunday was for the English cricket fan. England secured a 2-1 victory over Australia by winning at The Oval and it was a special occasion for all concerned. The famous little urn is back in English hands after a second consecutive home series victory over the old enemy.

Quite rightly, a lot of the attention has been on Andrew Flintoff in the aftermath. The win at The Oval was the final test that Freddie will play for England, having announced his retirement from the longest form of the game earlier in the series.

Stuart Broad has got a lot of praise as well after finishing off a productive second half of the series with an excellent bowling display in the final test of the Ashes. The 23-year-old was man-of-the-match at The Oval and has since been touted as the ‘new Flintoff’ as England look ahead to life without their talisman.

Taking nothing away from these two though, there hasn’t been enough praise for the partnership of Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower. In England’s hour of need, these two have been fantastic. Following the situation with Kevin Pietersen and Peter Moores, England needed a partnership that worked.

This is exactly what they got as well. Strauss and Flower have been calm, professional, inspiring and determined. They have been tactically sound for the majority and have stayed focused when things weren’t going England’s way.

The relationship between captain and coach is integral to the team’s success and this is why England should be positive looking forward.Michael Vaughan and Duncan Fletcher were in these roles for the English Ashes win four years ago, but they weren’t able to push on due to Vaughan’s injuries.

This time can be different though. Flower and Strauss can look ahead to the next three or four years and have ambitions for what they want their team to achieve. They will undoubtedly keep their feet on the ground as well, something that wasn’t done after the 2005 success, and hold onto Englands odds of winning the Ashes.

Overall, the future of English cricket is potentially very bright and this is largely down to the hard work of captain and coach. Well done lads.


August 21, 2009

Flintoff focused on Ashes glory

The returning Andrew Flintoff has insisted that he is not thinking about the fact that the Ashes decider at The Oval will be his final ever test match. The all-rounder is calling time on his test career after this series, but he says that this is insignificant compared to the importance of the match itself.

Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s decider, Flintoff revealed that he is ‘not too fussed’ by the fact it is his last test match because the ‘occasion is bigger than that’. He then rightly pointed out that many people have retired during a series before and many will do again, so it isn’t a big deal.

As for his fitness, Flintoff is convinced that he can perform to the best of his ability for England despite missing the defeat at Headingley. He says that he has been ‘working hard with the physio’ and is ‘confident’ that he will come through the game unscathed.

In fact, Flintoff admits that he feels in a better state now than he did going into the third test at Edgbaston. This can only be good for England who need their talisman to lead from the front as they look to win the series.

The Australians are confident after their performance in Leeds, but as Flintoff mentions, the game at The Oval is a ‘one-off test match’, meaning that momentum is much less significant than anyone thinks. There has been plenty of time since the last test and the England players will be fresh and ready to go again.

The talking stops tomorrow morning though with both sides after a decent start. A good morning session could end up deciding the fate of the test match, after all. If Australia start well, England’s heads may drop after what happened in Leeds. If England start well, Ricky Ponting and co will remember that they have a lot of work to do yet.

We should all be prepared for a fantastic five days though. Flintoff believes that victory for England would mean a ‘greater achievement’ than when they won the Ashes in 2005, so imagine the scenes at The Oval on Monday. Bring it on!

Before any Oval Test betting, make sure you stay up to date with the Fifth Test oddsto ensure you're getting the best value possible. 


August 14, 2009

Trescothick and Ramprakash: The next in line?

England’s batting performance at Headingley has led many to suggest that there will be major changes for the final test at The Oval. It is a winner takes all affair with the series squared at 1-1 and a similar display from Andrew Strauss’ men will not be tolerated.

So, what changes to be made? Ravi Bopara has struggled batting at No.3 in this series and he could be the first in line for the chop. Other than that, Ian Bell hasn’t been in inspired form and Paul Collingwood seems to have left his big performances behind at Cardiff.

With this in mind, it seems fair to suggest that at least one batting change will be made. Who comes in though? You would think that Jonathan Trott, Owais Shah or Robert Key would be the men talked about as they have been involved in the England set-up in some shape or form over the last year.

However, the fact that it is a one-off test match seems to have alerted the selectors. This is because returns for Marcus Trescothick and Mark Ramprakash are being talked about. They are apparently both being considered for a dramatic recall in this final Ashes test to shake things up somewhat.

Looking at each player individually, you can see some logic in this. Trescothick in particular has been in superb form this summer and with Somerset chief executive Richard Gould saying that the 33-year-old ‘would consider a return for home internationals’, there could be something in it.

Personally, I would love to see this. Trescothick is a world-class batsman still and he would love the challenge of facing Australia again. I’m pretty certain Ricky Ponting and co would rather bowl at Ravi Bopara or Ian Bell all day long before they would want to at Trescothick.

As for Ramprakash, this one seems a little bit more unlikely. He hasn’t played international cricket since 2002 and it really would be a sign of England’s desperation. Regardless of the form he is in and the fact he would be playing on his home ground, Ponting would be rubbing his hands at the prospect of bowling to a man who averages 27.52 in test cricket.

For me, it is a yes to Trescothick and a not quite to Ramprakash. Bring in the Somerset man for Bopara and let him open the innings with Alistair Cook. This gives Strauss the responsibility of batting at No.3. The line-up would look much more solid. Bringing Flintoff in for Harmison completes the changes.

My England team for The Oval:

Alistair Cook, Marcus Trescothick, Andrew Strauss, Ian Bell, Paul Collingwood, Matt Prior, Andrew Flintoff, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Graeme Onions.

Make sure you take a look at The Oval Test oddsbefore placing your Oval Test bet.



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