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December 24, 2009

Flower Criticises Review System

In my last piece for Silly Point, I spoke about my dislike of the review system. Now, in the aftermath of the first Test in South Africa, England coach Andy Flower has revealed that he is against the system.

One of the main talking points from the five days in Centurion was when Kevin Pietersen was bowled off a no-ball by Morne Morkel. Despite the introduction of technology, the decision could not be overturned under the current rules.

This seems to be one of the things that Flower has a problem with. He believes there are some 'illogical anomalies' with the system and that if technology is going to be used it should be 'done properly'.

Flower has a point, that's for sure. Why have someone sitting in the pavilion after being bowled off a no-ball when the third umpire could check this in a matter of seconds?

The Zimbabwean wasn't finished there though. He said that he would prefer it if 'the umpire made a decision and people get on with it'. Overall, Flower believes cricket has gone from a system that was 'nice and simple' to one that has 'more and more complications'.

Basically, he isn't a fan of reviews and his comments back up the fact that England have been against the system from the start. However, it is unlikely that the ICC will abandon the project any time soon, so England will have to get used to it.

Perhaps if they start having a bit more success with it, that will help things along. After all, they lost seven of their on-field referrals in Centurion. They were also unhappy with how long South Africa took to refer a decision regarding Stuart Broad's dismissal in the first innings.

The fact is Flower makes some valid points. It does make everything more complicated. Nobody is quite sure where they stand and it would be a lot easier if everything was moved back to how it was. However, as frustrating as the system might be, the team will have to make sure it doesn't impact onEngland's second Test chances.

In other sports news, pundits have already started casting their eyes over the runners and riders for next year'sGrand National.


July 30, 2009

Ian Bell talks a good game, but can he deliver?

Unless you have been on a different planet for the last week or so, you will know that Kevin Pietersen is set to miss the remaining three test matches of this year’s Ashes series. You may also know that Ian Bell – who was dropped from the side earlier this year – is the man who will replace him.

It has been confirmed that the Warwickshire man will look to fill KP’s boots by batting at No.4 for England. This means there is plenty of pressure on Bell to deliver the goods. Can he turn his County form into runs against Australia? Can he make sure England don’t miss Pietersen?

Before we go into this, I wanted to bring some of Ian Bell’s Twitter updates to your attention. The fact he calls himself IanBellMBE probably says it all, but it is fair to say that he is rather confident in his ability and his place in the England team! Take a look...

‘Brett Lee out of the first Test - my mum's right, you never know what's going to happen. Maybe Colly will get injured too!’

'Liam has picked Australia - I'm playing as England! I've put myself in at no.3! Bad luck Ravi, you're not on EA Cricket 07!’

‘Had lots of texts from my mates today about KP's injury. The man's a legend but - if selected - I'm determined to step up to the plate’

‘Back where I belong!’ (speaking about being confirmed in the England eleven for Edgbaston)

Anyway, enough about Bell’s tweets. It’s his runs that we should be more focused on and I am confident that he can produce plenty. He is a class player who has performed well at international level in the past and there is no reason why he can’t excel again.

A lot could depend on his first innings. If he manages to get a century, or even a fifty at the first time of asking, it will do his confidence no end of good. Then, he has the talent to go on and have a big say on the remainder of this series.

For now, take a good look at the Third Test oddsbefore any Edgbaston test betting.



May 27, 2009

Strauss can enjoy his break after England thrash woeful Windies

The next time Andrew Strauss plays international cricket will be on the 8th July in Cardiff against Ricky Ponting’s Australia. The England captain will play no part in next month’s World Twenty20 tournament, meaning that he has a significant break from playing for his country.

Strauss can go back to Middlesex with his head held high though after leading England to the perfect start to their very busy summer of cricket. Strauss’ men secured a 2-0 One Day International series
victory against the West Indies yesterday by thrashing the tourists by 58 runs at Edgbaston.

This follows the 2-0 test series victory over the same opposition and it is fair to say that England have looked very commanding on home soil. Yesterday’s display in particular was extremely ruthless. This
isn’t something we have associated with England recently, so it has to be taken as a positive sign.

In fact, the whole summer has been positive so far. The only downer has probably been the low crowds that have turned out to watch England play so well. On field matters are looking firmly under control though and credit must go to the partnership of Strauss and Andy Flower.

It seems like they have created a happy and united dressing room that is brimming with confidence. The likes of Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Ravi Bopara are all stepping up to the
plate in the absence of Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff as well. New heroes are developing and the England team is moving in the right direction.

Whether this will be enough to defeat Australia this summer, nobody knows. It is likely to be a very close series against an impressive Aussie side, but England have every chance of winning. With regards to Ashes bets, I am much more likely to back them now than I was a year ago anyway.

Before Australia come to town though, there is the ICC World Twenty20 tournament to deal with. Paul Collingwood will lead the team in Strauss’ absence as England look to improve on their showing in the
same tournament two years ago.

Despite not being involved, Strauss has claimed that the hosts will be a ‘good outside bet’ to win the competition because playing in familiar conditions can give them ‘the edge’ over the other teams. This, combined with the fact that the team are ‘playing with confidence’ mean that Strauss expects England to be there or there abouts come the end of the competition.

Personally, I think England have every chance of emerging victorious if they play with the aggression and belief that they have done so far this summer. They haven’t played too much Twenty20 cricket though, so this could end up costing them.

Overall, as long as the momentum gained from the two series wins over the West Indies can be maintained somewhat, England are in good shape to face the biggest test of them all – the Ashes.

By Thomas Rooney


May 20, 2009

Strauss hails Anderson as world beater

Following England’s comfortable 2-0 series victory over the West Indies,
Andrew Strauss has labelled James Anderson ‘as good as anyone in world
cricket’.

The Lancashire bowler recorded match figures of 9-125 in Durham as England
secured victory by an innings and 83 runs. On a flat wicket, Anderson’s
swing bowling was fantastic and it has led to his captain singing his
praises in the aftermath.

Speaking about his No.1 strike bowler, Strauss said that ‘the way he is
controlling the swinging ball’ is very effective and means that he is one of
the best seam bowlers around at the moment.

As for the player himself, Anderson admitted that the ball didn’t really
swing in the first couple of days, but yesterday was a time where ‘it swung’
a great deal. This meant that the West Indies innings was quickly ended to
hand England the win.

Anderson was keen not to take all of the praise though and he had plenty of
good words to say about his fellow bowlers after the game. The 26-year-old
said that England have ‘a great set of bowlers’ at the moment that he hopes
will ‘continue to gel and bowl well’.

This is very true, it has to be said. Stuart Broad is bowling with an extra
yard of pace and improved accuracy, Graeme Onions and Tim Bresnan both made
encouraging starts to their England careers while Graeme Swann has been a
revelation with the ball.

Overall, Strauss should be extremely pleased with the bowlers he has at his
disposal. There is always the option of bringing back Steve Harmison, Andrew
Flintoff or Monty Panesar at some point during the summer as well and you
can always bet on Andrew Flintoff to provide something
different.

For now though, England have a settled and in form bowling attack that is
being led by the constantly improving Anderson. With regards to UK Ashes
betting,
it is a shame that all the other forms of cricket have to come now
because if the Ashes started tomorrow, I’d back England.

December 23, 2008

Two test matches in a series is such a waste of time

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


July 07, 2007

Do the numbers lie?

Muttiah Muralitharan today took 4/14 against Bangladesh at Colombo, his 100th haul off 4 wickets or more in a test match innings. By doing so, he took his career tally of wickets to 687 and is closely honing in on Shane Warne’s world record figure of 708 test wickets. If (or should I say ‘when’?) he does so, his supporters will have even more of an argument to claim that Murali is the best spin bowler of all time. Aside from his controversial action, of which it seems no two people will ever have the same opinion, just how good is Murali when compared to the great Australian legspinner?

Murali’s figures look good: 687 wickets at 21.49 compared to Warne’s 708 at 25.41. His strike rate is marginally better too: 54.12 plays 57.49. But as always statistics can be deceiving. I believe it is Geoff Boycott who says that statistics don’t tell the whole story, but they can generally be a good guide. To take the stats as a guide we know that both are very good spinners who are difficult even for the best test batsman in the world to face but there is a striking difference when viewed more closely.

The table below shows the two bowlers’ career records against the two ‘lesser’ test teams, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh followed by their career figures without those two teams:

Muttiah Muralitharan

M

B

R

W

Ave

Econ

SR

5w

Bangladesh

7

1695

728

59

12.3

2.6

28.7

8

Bangladesh Today

1

32

14

4

3.5

2.6

8.0

0

Zimbabwe

14

4721

1467

87

16.9

1.9

54.3

0

Total

22

6448

2209

150

14.7

2.1

43.0

8

Shane Warne

M

B

R

W

Ave

Econ

SR

5w

Bangladesh

2

524

300

11

27.3

3.4

47.6

1

Zimbabwe

1

319

137

6

22.8

2.6

53.2

0

Total

3

843

437

17

25.7

3.1

49.6

1

As we can see from the tables above, Murali has played a lot more games and collected a great number more wickets against the weaker teams than Shane Warne has; 150 wickets to the Sri Lankan compared to a mere 17 from 3 games from the blonde legspinner.

What this shows is that as far as sheer number of wickets is concerned, Murali has very much filled his boots against weaker opposition and without the cheaper wickets would in fact be very far from Mr. Warne’s world record tally. But what about the bigger picture, how do the two slow bowlers’ records compare against the stronger opposition?

Full Career 

M

B

R

W

Ave

Econ

SR

5w

Shane Warne

145

40704

17995

708

25.4

2.7

57.5

37

Muttiah Muralitharan

112

36967

14751

687

21.5

2.4

53.8

58

Top 8 Teams

M

B

R

W

Ave

Econ

SR

5w

Shane Warne

142

39861

17558

691

25.4

2.6

57.7

36

Muttiah Muralitharan

90

30519

12542

537

23.4

2.5

56.8

50

Evidently, Murali’s stats have taken a battering without the disproportionate number of fixtures played against weaker opposition but they do still hold true when compared against Warne’s, showing that Murali is in fact still a match for the great legspinner.

What is more interesting to note is that Warne’s figures have hardly been affected. This is of course due in part to the fact that he has only played an somewhat insignificant number of matches against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh compared to the rest of his career but even his overall average against these teams are not much departed from his overall career average. What this shows is that Murali’s statistics are, quite probably, to be taken even more with a pinch of salt.

It is without a doubt that both of these players are two of the best and most challenging spinners to face in the history of test cricket and it is clear that the fact that Warne’s wickets tally against the Top 8 opposition is considerably larger due in part because of a greater number of matches. This aside, when Murali does take his 709th Test wicket and march ahead of the retired Shane Warne it should be noted that on wickets tally alone, it will not quite be the achievement of the great Mr Warne.

Many view Murali’s efforts as not so much of a great achievement as Warne’s due to controversies over his action, and statistics like these do him little justice either. Nonetheless, I have no doubt that history will be as kind to Murali as it is to Warne (although I’m sure Australian reports will generally favour Warne much as Sri Lankan reports will profess Muralitharan as the greater). It is true that English and Australian fast bowlers from years gone by such as Fred Trueman had their records brought into question by the fact they played a lot against weak Indian batting line ups susceptible to fast seam bowling, something that is seldom mentioned today.

Another key point to note is that Warne has played in one of the best teams to ever set foot on a Test match field where as Muralitharan has been one of few reliable go-to strike bowlers in the Sri Lankan side for a large part of his career. This means that Murali has had more of an opportunity to take more wickets because there was less likely to be a player at the other end taking them with the same degree of regularity as a Glenn McGrath or any other of Australia’s top class seam bowlers.

Murali v Warne: who is the greater? I doubt we’ll ever agree and we’ll not have a fair view on the matter until after they’ve both retired but as it is at the moment, on the basis of sheer value of their wickets, I will have to pass my vote for Shane Warne.


May 25, 2007

The Path to Greatness

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.


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