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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


December 29, 2008

Vaughan Misses out – and rightly so

Vaughan rightly misses out on West Indies Tour

Former England captain Michael Vaughan has missed out on a place in the England squad for the tour to the West Indies. Some had expected the Yorkshire batsman the nod in place of Ian Bell or Owais Shah, but it wasn’t to be and he now doesn’t have much time to get himself back in contention for the 2009 Ashes series.

To be honest though, I am quite surprised Vaughan was even considered for this tour. What has he done to prove that he deserves a place? It was unfortunate that he didn’t get the chance to impress for the England performance squad, but the reality is that the man hasn’t played any cricket of late.

Had Vaughan been given the chance on this tour, what message would it have given out to the likes of Joe Denly, Robert Key and Ravi Bopara who have been working hard and scoring runs in county cricket?

The only reason that I may have been on board with the Vaughan selection would have been his record against Australia. It is superb. By selecting him for the West Indies, it would have given him time to find his form before the Aussies come to town.

Overall though, the correct decision has been made. Had Vaughan come in and really struggled, it would have left the England selectors in a very difficult situation. The best thing he can do now is score runs for Yorkshire and try and get back in contention at some point during the West Indies test series in England.

Anyway, in terms of the rest of the test squad, there were no real surprises. Ian Bell – who has struggled for form of late – has held onto his place in the squad and Ryan Sidebottom has been included despite recent injury problems. The only other talking point was the selection of Adil Rashid.

The uncapped Yorkshire all-rounder has been called up as ‘extra competition for places in the spin-bowling department’ according to national selector Geoff Miller, but also to allow the coaching team to ‘monitor his development closely.’ Rashid is obviously a very talented young man and England seem very conscious about getting the timing of his selection right.

This is fair enough I suppose, but I have always been a fan of his and I really hope he isn’t just the water boy on this tour. In fact, given the poor form shown by Monty Panesar, I would stick him in straight away. I may be alone in this opinion, but if he is good enough – he is old enough!

With this in mind, this would be my starting eleven for the first test against West Indies at Sabina Park in February:



Alistair Cook
Andrew Strauss
Owais Shah
Kevin Pietersen
Paul Collingwood
Andrew Flintoff
Matt Prior
Adil Rashid
Stuart Broad
Steve Harmison
Ryan Sidebottom

This means the likes of Ian Bell, James Anderson, Graham Swann and Monty Panesar miss out. This may be a bit too drastic in terms of changes from the tests in India, but I actually like the look of this team. Realistically though, I imagine the cricket odds will favour this being the team that does play at Sabina Park:

Alistair Cook
Andrew Strauss
Ian Bell
Kevin Pietersen
Paul Collingwood
Andrew Flintoff
Matt Prior
Stuart Broad
Ryan Sidebottom
Steve Harmison
Monty Panesar

We will just have to wait and see I suppose. Cricket betting suggests that England should win this series, but it will be fair from easy. West Indies have some decent players and will always raise their game at home, so anything could happen.

With just six tests left before the Ashes though, all of which are against the West Indies, it is very important that England start to dominate Chris Gayle’s team sooner rather than later.

By Thomas Rooney – A sports writer who blogs about England cricket


February 16, 2007

World Cup Squads Round Up

The deadline for the world cup squads has come and gone and all the teams have now announced the 15 players they are going to be taking to the Caribbean next month. There are few major surprises all round. The minnows on the whole picked the same squads they took to the ICC World Cricket league, a one day tournament set up by the ICC this year to give the non test playing nations some match practice before the World Cup, while Bangladesh selected a team most would have expected.

One of the first to release their squad details was New Zealand who picked a fairly uncontroversial side. The squad is almost the same as that which played the CB series but with one addition, Daryl Tuffey has been selected for the first time in two years. The 28 year old seam bowler tore a shoulder tendon two years ago and has not managed to break into the national side since. He has a chance in the forthcoming Chappell-Hadlee Trophy, having been selected for the 13 man squad there.

Friday Kasteni has been included in the Zimbabwean squad after making his debut last weekend. The left hand batsman is only 18 years old but he has played well for Zimbabwe A and the selectors have put their trust in him despite only making 9 on debut.

The Indian selectors have taken a conservative approach and picked no surprise candidates either. One contentious issue is that of the place of Virender Sehwag, who was dropped a month ago and is currently struggling for form. The selectors have, however, shown faith in his abilities to score big runs quickly when in form and are taking him to the World Cup. This must surely be the best decision; a Sehwag on full form can take any line up apart. As a potential match winner, he is a must for such an important tournament.

Few surprises too in the Pakistani squad, but there are question marks a plenty. There are rumours going around that Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif have recently failed a seconds drugs test done privately by the PCB. If this is true then their selection for the World cup is certainly dangerous. If they fail an ICC drugs test before the World Cup, they will almost certainly face bans; Shane Warne copped a 12 month suspension for taking a banned diuretic before the start of the 2003 World Cup and didn’t play a game in the tournament.

The two are also carrying injuries, along with Umar Gul who is also in the squad, which have not yet been cleared for the tournament. Gul missed the entire ODI series in South Africa recently due to an Ankle injury and Shoaib is currently in London to see specialists about his knee injury.

Perhaps one surprise addition to the Pakistani squad is the Leg spinner Danish Kaneria. Kaneria has been a key player in the Pakistani Test side for six years now but has rarely been considered an ODI bowler. He has only played 16 ODIs to date and only seven in the past 3 years.

Sri Lanka announced a strong squad, with Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah Muralitharan returning from being rested for the series against India recently. Vaas, the reliable left arm seamer, memorably took a hat trick with the first three balls of the innings in a match in the last World Cup. Coupled with such a devastating spinner as Murali and the difficult slingy seam of Lasith Malinga, Sri Lanka have a formidable bowling line up. The batting too is strong, with Jayasuriya the veteran opener who starred in Sri Lanka’s unexpected 1996 world cup win and top players such as Sangakkara and Jayawardene also playing.

Sri Lanka are not a team to be underestimated, as England showed in the CB series, it only takes a few players to perform well to win ODIs and with just some of Murali, Vaas, Malinga, Sangakkara, Jayasuriya and Jayawardene on top form, Sri Lanka could be devastating.

The Australian selection was always going to cause a few upsets. The current Australian domestic set up has so many high quality cricketers the ACB have the kind of selection problem that most countries dream of. Most of the Australian side pick themselves; it would be foolish to leave out names such as Gilchrist, Ponting, Hussey, Symonds, Clarke, McGrath and Lee while other names such as Brad Hogg, Nathan Bracken and Shane Watson had booked their places months back.

Matthew Hayden staked a claim for his place back in the DLF Cup tri series in Malaysia and secured it in the recent CB series, as did Brad Hodge with a stunning 99 not out against New Zealand to secure a victory that at times looked unlikely.

The birth of Adam Gilchrist’s third child has meant that he is expected to miss the first three weeks of the tournament which made Brad Haddin, Gilly’s long term understudy, an automatic selection. So with 13 out of the 15 places virtual shoe-ins, only two spots were left up for grabs and with the possible injury of all rounder Andrew Symonds, it seemed the obvious choice to fill the gaps with fast bowlers. Mitch Johnson, the nearly man of the Ashes series who carried the drinks for all five matches has made the squad as has Shaun Tait, who made his ODI debut in the CB series. Stuart Clark, the fast bowling star of the Ashes was unlucky to miss out, having not put a foot wrong since breaking through to the international side after his debut against the ICC World XI.

I’m sure many of cricket’s great minds would struggle to understand the England One Day selection of late, let alone the general public that are supposed to support the team. It seems however, that with a sudden turn around in form, and a series victory in Australia, some sense has been brought to those charged with finding 15 men suitable to attempt to become World Champions. That does not mean that the selection has been devoid of contentious decisions.

Michael Vaughan, the under practiced top order batsman has been given a place and, as expected, the captaincy to go with it. Vaughan has a poor record as a limited overs batsman, in his international career he is yet to make a one day century and only has an average of 27. This aside, he is the captain who won the 2005 Ashes and an inspirational figure in the team. His captaincy has a calming influence on the side and he seems to have a way of getting his players to perform. He is of course, currently out of action with a hamstring injury but that should be out of the way by the World Cup and he didn’t seem to suffer from his knee which he had surgery on earlier in the year. Or so England hopes.

Mal Loye was arguably unlucky to miss out, having made his debut in Australia and been a part of the team throughout much of the CB series. However in 7 matches he failed to register a half century and many fear he is too keen to unleash his trademark slog sweep off the fast bowlers and hasn’t shown enough all round abilities with either the bat or in the field.

Ed Joyce made the cut after having impressed the selectors with his 107 against Australia to turn their CB series fortunes around. He does have a tendency to throw his wicket away at vital opportunities (in 12 innings he has made only 1 fifty and 1 century) but he has the capacity within him to make hundreds against good opponents and that makes him a potential match winner.

Stuart Broad, who made his debut last summer against the Pakistanis, was unfortunate to not find a place but he is only young and will have plenty of time to prove his worth. Altogether, the squad contains no one in it who was not in England’s CB series winning squad; a sign that the selectors feel that stability is the key to success.

Having just come off the back of a 3-1 series win against Pakistan, South Africa have wisely chosen the same squad of 15 that has proved successful there. Makhaya Ntini though, will not be with the squad as they arrive on the 28th February as he will be staying to attend the birth of his child. There’s a lot of it about at the moment, there must be something going on in May that the rest of us are missing. Ntini will join the squad on March 9th for the second warm up match.

All eyes have been on one man’s name in the lead up to the West Indies’ squad announcement. Marlon Samuels is currently under investigation by the ICC and the Indian Police for supplying squad information to Indian bookmakers. Many felt that because of this, he should be left out of the squad so as not to draw any more attention to the issue. The selectors however have shown their faith in his innocence.

On the whole the squad selection seems to have followed a theme of no surprises all round. This is a sign that most teams feel comfortable within their own ranks at the moment and hopefully there will be a great deal of confidence going into the tournament.

Let’s hope, for the sake of a tournament that lasts about a month and a half long, that this is not a theme for the tournament as a whole. A few more upsets like Kenya provided in the 2003 World Cup would do world cricket the world of good and show that the boys can really stand up to the men.

Squads:

Australia:

Ricky Ponting (capt), Adam Gilchrist (wk), Nathan Bracken, Michael Clarke, Brad Haddin (wk), Matthew Hayden, Brad Hodge, Brad Hogg, Michael Hussey, Mitchell Johnson, Brett Lee, Glenn McGrath, Andrew Symonds, Shaun Tait, Shane Watson.

Bangladesh:

Habibul Bashar (capt), Shariar Nafees, Tamim Iqbal, Aftab Ahmed, Saqibul Hasan, Mohammad Ashraful, Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), Mohammad Rafique, Abdur Razzak, Mashrafe Mortaza, Shahadat Hossain, Tapash Baisya, Syed Rasel, Rajin Saleh, Javed Omar.

Bermuda:

Irving Romaine (capt), Dean Minors (wk), Delyone Borden, Lionel Cann, David Hemp, Kevin Hurdle, Malachi Jones, Stefan Kelly, Dwayne Leverock, Saleem Mukuddem, Steven Outerbridge, Oliver Pitcher, Clay Smith, Janeiro Tucker, Kwame Tucker.

Canada:

John Davison (capt), Qaiser Ali, Ashish Bagai, Geoff Barnett, Umar Bhatti, Ian Billcliff, Desmond Chumney, George Codrington, Austin Codrington, Anderson Cummins, Sunil Dhaniram, Ashif Mulla, Henry Osinde, Abdool Samad, Kevin Sandher.

England:

Michael Vaughan (capt), Ed Joyce, Ian Bell, Andrew Strauss, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Andrew Flintoff, Paul Nixon (wk), Ravinder Bopara, Jamie Dalrymple, Monty Panesar, Jon Lewis, James Anderson, Liam Plunkett, Sajid Mahmood

Ireland:

Trent Johnston (capt), Kyle McCallan, Andre Botha, Jeremy Bray, Ken Carroll, Peter Gillespie, David Langford-Smith, John Mooney, Paul Mooney, Eoin Morgan, Kevin O'Brien, Niall O'Brien, William Porterfield, Boyd Rankin, Andrew White

Kenya:

Steve Tikolo (capt), Thomas Odoyo (vice-captain), Ravindu Shah, Tanmay Mishra, Collins Obuya, Peter Ongondo, Nehemiah Odhiambo, Maurice Ouma, Malhar Patel, Hiren Varaiya, David Obuya (wk), Rajesh Bhudia, Jimmy Kamande, Tony Suji, Lameck Onyango.

Netherlands:

Luuk van Troost (capt), Peter Borren, Daan van Bunge, Ryan ten Doeschate, Mark Jonkman, Muhammad Kashif, Alexei Kervezee, Tim de Leede, Adeel Raja, Darron Reekers, Edgar Schiferli, Jeroen Smits, Billy Stelling, Eric Szwarczynski, Bas Zuiderent.

New Zealand:

Stephen Fleming (capt), Shane Bond, James Franklin, Peter Fulton, Mark Gillespie, Michael Mason, Brendon McCullum (wk), Craig McMillan, Jacob Oram, Jeetan Patel, Scott Styris, Ross Taylor, Daryl Tuffey, Daniel Vettori, Lou Vincent.

India:

Rahul Dravid (capt), Sourav Ganguly, Robin Uthappa, Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Dinesh Karthik, Irfan Pathan, Ajit Agarkar, Harbhajan Singh, Anil Kumble, Zaheer Khan, Sreesanth, Munaf Patel.

Pakistan:

Inzamam-ul-Haq (capt), Younis Khan (vice-captain), Mohammad Hafeez, Imran Nazir, Mohammad Yousuf, Shoaib Malik, Abdul Razzaq, Shahid Afridi, Kamran Akmal, Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammad Asif, Umar Gul, Danish Kaneria, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, Rao Iftikhar Anjum

South Africa:

Graeme Smith (capt), Loots Bosman, Mark Boucher, AB de Villiers, Herschelle Gibbs, Andrew Hall, Jacques Kallis, Justin Kemp, Charl Langeveldt, Andre Nel, Makhaya Ntini, Robin Peterson, Shaun Pollock, Ashwell Prince, Roger Telemachus

Scotland:

Graeme Smith (capt), Loots Bosman, Mark Boucher, AB de Villiers, Herschelle Gibbs, Andrew Hall, Jacques Kallis, Justin Kemp, Charl Langeveldt, Andre Nel, Makhaya Ntini, Robin Peterson, Shaun Pollock, Ashwell Prince, Roger Telemachus

Sri Lanka:

Mahela Jayawardene (capt), Kumar Sangakkara (wk), Sanath Jayasuriya, Upul Tharanga, Marvan Atapattu, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Russel Arnold, Chamara Silva, Chaminda Vaas, Farveez Maharoof, Lasith Malinga, Dilhara Fernando, Nuwan Kulasekara, Muttiah Muralitharan, Malinga Bandara.

West Indies:

Brian Lara (capt), Ramnaresh Sarwan, Chris Gayle, Dwayne Smith, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Dwayne Bravo, Marlon Samuels, Ian Bradshaw, Corey Collymore, Jerome Taylor, Denesh Ramdin, Devon Smith, Lendl Simmons, Daren Powell, Kieron Pollard

Zimbabwe:

Prosper Utseya (capt), Gary Brent, Chamu Chibhabha, Elton Chigumbura, Keith Dabengwa, Terry Duffin, Anthony Ireland, Friday Kasteni, Stuart Matsikenyeri, Christopher Mpofu, Tawanda Mupariwa, Ed Rainsford, Vusi Sibanda, Brendan Taylor, Sean Williams.


February 13, 2007

CB Series, Aussie captaincy and World Cup

Writing about web page http://warwick.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2237660522

England beat Australia on 11th February 2007 by 34 runs under the Duckworth Lewis method to win the Commonwealth Bank series finals 2-0. After a torrid start to their campaign, England managed to claw their way back into contention with victories over Australia and New Zealand in their last two group match games thanks to gritty centuries from Ed Joyce and Paul Collingwood. PDC has been outstanding over the past 3 matches, notching up two consecutive hundreds and a fighting 70 in the last final to seal the series.

Australia now go on to New Zealand to play the three match Chappel-Hadlee Trophy. Ricky Ponting and Adam Gilchrist are being rested for the series, Ponting because of a sore hip and Gilchrist due to his heavy workload as opening batsmen and wicket keeper.

The resting of captain and vice-captain has left a few openings in the team. It has become the obvious choice for Mike "Mr Cricket" Hussey to fill in the captaincy role, as he did in the DLF Cup tri series last year but the VC role has created some interest. Michael Clarke has been given the job, which is an indication of where the Australian management are looking for a captain after Ponting.

The 25 year old middle order batsman averages around 42 in both tests and ODIs and has currently found himself back in form after a period of drought. But despite this drought, which began after his first year in Test cricket, he has been widely tipped as a future captain of Australia. One advocate of his future captaincy is Shane Warne, who many argue had the cricketing nous to become a high class international captain himself.

The CB series loss to England will obviously cause upsets and concerns within Australian cricket with the World Cup looming less than a month away but Australia should not be underestimated. After returning home from the 2005 Ashes humiliated they have come back stronger and more determined, drawing one test and winning 15 since the Ashes with no losses just outlines their class and determination. Australia will take this defeat onboard and learn from it, no doubt to emerge a stronger team at the World Cup.

England on the other hand, have to be careful not to become complacent as they did after the 2005 Ashes win. They still have a very fragile squad, the top order certainly won't be scaring many opening bowlers just yet and the bowling can still be haphazard at times. This is of course, not to detract from a strong win against the World number one, but just to emphasise the importance of remembering that England is still the number eight ranked team and had it not been for Paul Collingwood, Andrew Flintoff and Liam Plunkett, it is very questionable as to whether it would have even been an England v Australia final.

Last year Duncan Fletcher said he knows who 10 of his World Cup XI will be, just last week the ECB asked the ICC for permission to choose their World Cup squad of 15 from players outside their pre approved list of 30. This is obviously not helped by injuries and other problems but it does beg the question of what exactly has happened since Fletcher made that comment. On paper England have a strong team and have the ability to do well in the World Cup, but they will need their top players to 'come to the party' as they say down under.

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