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June 22, 2009

World Twenty20 best XI

I really enjoyed the World Twenty20 and I think it is fair to say that it was a huge success. There were upsets, fantastic bowling performances, huge hitting and relatively decent weather. All in all, it went according to plan for the organisers.

Today though, I want to focus on which players made the biggest impact. What would be the ultimate Twenty20 eleven based on this most recent tournament? Which team would have the most representatives?


Let’s take a look.


Tillakaratne Dilshan – Sri Lanka

Chris Gayle – West Indies

Kevin Pietersen – England

Kumar Sangakkara – Sri Lanka

AB De Villiers – South Africa

Jacques Kallis – South Africa

Shahid Afridi – Pakistan

Umar Gul - Pakistan

Ajantha Mendis – Sri Lanka

Muttiah Muralitharan – Sri Lanka

Lasith Malinga – Sri Lanka


Not a bad team for any form of the game I’m sure you will agree! It has absolutely everything for Twenty20 cricket though and represents the best players from this year’s competition in England. The batting line-up is destructive and contains plenty of experience. Imagine preparing to bowl against this lot!


As for key roles in the team, Kumar Sangakkara would be the wicket-keeper and the captain. Sri Lanka may have lost in the final against Pakistan, but the Sri Lanka skipper impressed me a great deal. He has a fabulous cricket brain and speaks a great deal of sense in post-match interviews as well. Plus, he is a world-class batsman which

helps!


Opening the bowling would be Gul and Malinga. They both have a fantastic record in the shortest form of the game and took 25 wickets between them in the World Twenty20.


These two would be backed up by Kallis in the seam department before the spin kings Murali and Mendis took over. Even if these two didn’t come off for some reason, there is Afridi and Gayle to get through a couple of overs.


Sri Lanka have the most representatives which is testament to their consistent form throughout the tournament. World Twenty20 champions Pakistan have only two players in this eleven, but what an impact Afridi and Gul had!


Overall, this is a fantastic group of players who each helped the 2009 World Twenty20 become a huge success. For now, we can look forward to Ashes 2009 bettingand, if you're looking to get in the betting mood, check out Betfair's fanvfansite.


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


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.

May 11, 2009

Another surprise as Sidebottom and Bell are recalled


It seems as though the England selectors are keen to surprise us all this summer. First of all there was the inclusion of Graeme Onions, Ravi Bopara and Tim Bresnan in the first test of the summer and now two men have been recalled much earlier than many expected.

Ryan Sidebottom and Ian Bell have both been named in a 13-man squad for the second (and final) test against the West Indies. To the majority of us, this was undoubtedly a surprise.

Let’s talk about Sidebottom first. To be honest, the Nottinghamshire bowler has had so many injury problems in the last year or so that you would have thought he needed to do more to earn a recall.

Since returning from injury, Sidebottom has played only two County Championship matches and even though he has performed OK, it has been
nothing to suggest that he is back to his best. Overall, he has claimed seven wickets at an average of 31.42.

His inclusion does give Andy Flower another seam option though and there is an outside chance he could be preferred to Bresnan who only
bowled seven overs on his test debut. If anything though, I would say that Sidebottom’s inclusion is just a sign that he is still part of
England’s plans. (I wonder what Hoggard makes of all of this!)

Anyway, what about Bell? His situation has been talked about for a number of weeks now and there was no doubt he was disappointed to be
left out for the first test. However, with there being increasing uncertainties over Paul Collingwood’s form, he has been selected as part of the latest test squad.

It is probably deserved as well. If Sidebottom has done enough to warrant a recall, then so has Bell. The Warwickshire man has scored
320 runs in seven first-class innings, including two centuries early on in the season.

Bell could be called upon should England believe that an extra batsman is needed in what are expected to be bowler friendly conditions at the
Riverside. There is also the possibility that Bell is pushing Collingwood for a place in the side.

To come in at No.5 for England would probably suit Bell down to the ground and Collingwood hasn’t exactly been in the runs of late. Knowing Collingwood though, he will probably record a century in the next test. It is at his home ground after all!

The most significant thing for Bell and Sidebottom though, even if they don’t manage to force their way into the side for this match, is that they are still in England’s plans. They still have a chance of playing a part in this remarkably busy summer for English cricket.

This should give them a huge boost.

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


March 23, 2009

Amongst England’s failings, Pietersen doesn’t seem himself

After the fiasco of resigning from the captaincy and being installed once again as ‘batsman only’ ahead of the tour of the West Indies, many people (including myself) predicted big things from Kevin
Pietersen this winter.

However, although there has been the odd sparkle from KP, he has been largely disappointing when England have needed him most. Scores of 97, 1, 51, 32, 41, 72*, 10 and 102 in the test matches don’t look too bad on paper, but we have learned to expect more from our best batsman.

These scores in the test matches have since been followed by 12 in the Twenty20 match, 17 in the first ODI and 12 again in the second ODI. Overall, things aren’t going Pietersen’s way at the minute and it is hard to figure out why.

For whatever reason, I feel more nervous when he is facing. Originally I thought it was because he was our best batsman and his wicket would be more detrimental to the team.

However, I’m not so sure that this is the case anymore. I think I am nervous because his technique looks so unconvincing. The unique and original stance he used to be praised for now looks like a technical flaw.

His mentality seems to have changed as well. Where is the KP swagger? Where are the un-English characteristics that made him so valuable to the team and popular with the fans? At the moment he looks more nervous than anything else.

You have to understand that this isn’t straightforward criticism of KP. Everything is in perspective. If he continued in the same form as he did now, averaging around 50 per series, he would still perform an
extremely important role for the England team.

However, he is such a talented player that he shouldn’t settle for this. Pietersen is one of the most exciting players that this England team have ever had and at the moment, we are not getting quite enough from him.

I’m aware that we shouldn’t place all of our hopes on one batsman, but if England are to push on this summer and win back the Ashes, they need more from Pietersen. More centuries, more confidence, more influence and more passion.

Before closing things for today, it is just about worth mentioning that England lost a One Day International yesterday. They failed to make the most of the fielding restrictions and lost regular wickets as they failed to chase down 265. Who’d have thought it?

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


March 16, 2009

England Rue Another Collapse

It doesn’t come as much of a surprise when England’s batsmen collapse
in front of our very eyes any more does it? It just seems normal. The
England cricket team often capitulate with the bat and get a
hammering. That’s how it works isn’t it?

The latest horrific batting performance came over the weekend when,
batting first in a Twenty20 International against West Indies, England
were bowled out for 121 in the final over.

The collapse followed a relatively decent start with Steven Davis
impressing as English reached 55-1. There were then two moments which
set the tone for the rest of the innings.

First, Davis walked across his stumps in ridiculously unnecessary
fashion and was clean bowled by Dwayne Bravo. Then, Kevin Pietersen
got an absolutely horrific LBW decision from umpire Norman Malcolm.
Despite the fact that the ball was blatantly missing leg stump, KP was
sent on his way and England never recovered.

Only Paul Collingwood and Andrew Strauss made double figures after
this as the West Indies ran riot. It was a desperate batting
performance from England and one which suggests that the One Day
Internationals are going to be far from an enjoyable time.

The most annoying thing was that 150 would have been a decent enough
score. Ravi Bopara didn’t need to try and smash the ball out of the
ground, Davis didn’t need to walk across his stumps and Collingwood
didn’t need to go for the big shot.

Even when Strauss and Collingwood were together at 82-4 there was an
opportunity to bat sensibly and get the score to around 150. It is
always easier to score quickly in the final three or four overs with
wickets in hand, after all.

Inevitably, West Indies chased the target down with relative ease.
They only lost four wickets and achieved the required total with two
overs to spare. In Twenty20 cricket – that’s a hammering.

Next up for England is the ODI series which starts on Friday. It is an
opportunity to salvage some pride after a rather horrific winter.
However, unless the return of Andrew Flintoff can inspire them enough
to win a few games, this just doesn’t seem at all likely.

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


March 12, 2009

Plenty of criticism over England’s delayed declaration

First of all, it has to be said that England’s bowlers put in an almost heroic performance in the final two sessions of the final test yesterday. However, it proved to be too late for them to force a victory that would have seen them draw the series.

West Indies managed to bat out the final session to secure a 1-0 series win, their first in a major test series for five years. This isn’t the main talking point in the aftermath of the match though.

Instead, many have questioned England’s delayed declaration. Andrew Strauss waited until lunch to call time on the England innings, with many believing they should have declared when Matt Prior was out for an aggressive 61.

Had England chosen to end their innings here, they would have set the West Indies are more achievable target of 209. Surely it was worth taking a risk with the series at stake though?

Several former England players agree with this notion, in particular Ian Botham who described the declaration as ‘pathetic’. The Sky Sports commentator then went on to say that the England players have obviously ‘not got long memories of Antigua’.

Botham then went on to claim that England ‘lost the plot’ by failing to declare when prior was dismissed. The former all-rounder then questioned whether Strauss actually wanted to win the game at all.

Other players turned pundits to criticise the declaration were Alec Stewart who believes that England ‘missed a trick’ by not putting the West Indies before lunch and Bob Willis who said that the only way England were going to win was if the ‘West Indies were going for runs’.

Overall, Strauss and co can expect a lot of negative press for their decisions made in this series. Sticking with Ian Bell for the first test was a mistake, selecting a ridiculously unfit Ryan Sidebottom for the fourth test was a mistake and delaying the declaration in this final test was a mistake.

There were others as well though and in reality, England have caused this series defeat themselves. The cricket odds expected them to defeat the West Indies before the tour began, so it has to be disappointing that they have lost.

The most worrying thing though is that they appear to have forgotten how to win a test match. They got within one or two wickets of victory of two occasions, but failed to close it out. How can a team that declared five times in a series not win a test match?!

Next up for England is a home series against the West Indies in May. There is no doubt that cricket betting will have the home side down as favourites for this one and they should win.

Whether this will be enough to build confidence ahead of a much anticipated Ashes series though, remains to be seen.

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


March 03, 2009

Strauss refuses to blame bowlers as England are forced to bat our fourth test

The fact that Andrew Strauss has publically backed his under-fire bowling attack after England drew the fourth test with West Indies is no surprise. The England captain is hardly going to admit his attack never looked like taking 20 wickets is he?

Instead, Strauss pointed to the fact that he would struggle to blame his bowlers who ‘tried hard’ on a pitch that offered them very little assistance. He believes that they ‘stuck at their task’ and that their effort cannot be faulted in any way.

This may well be the case. However, the selection of a ridiculously un-fit Ryan Sidebottom has to be questioned. There is just no way on earth he should have played. If England were 1-0 up in the series, perhaps his ‘economical qualities’ would have been valuable.

The fact that England picked him for a must-win game as part of a four-man bowling attack though was ridiculous. What had he done to justify a place? Yes, he was excellent during parts of 2008, but he hasn’t hit those heights in quite a few months.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not blaming Sidebottom. He, as Strauss suggested, will always give his all. The problem being that ‘his all’ on a flat pitch that offers little swing isn’t anywhere near enough.

The selectors knew about his fitness / form problems and they knew that West Indies would probably prepare a very flat pitch. Despite this, they still picked Sidebottom as part of a four man attack. The phrase ‘masters of their own downfall’ comes to mind.

In all honesty though, the selection of Steve Harmison or Amjad Khan probably wouldn’t have affected the outcome. However, Strauss would have been given more variety and Khan in particular would have given the bowling attack a much needed fresh face.

With the West Indies on 281-4 in their innings, England were one decent spell away from getting into the West Indies tail sooner than they did. Perhaps the unknown factor could have resulted in Khan being the man to provide this?

Hopefully he will get the nod for the final test in Trinidad. Harmison seems out of favour and I can’t imagine England going for broke with the same line-up. You never know though and the cricket odds are by no means ruling it out.

Onto a slightly more positive note – Alistair Cook’s hundred. The England opener hit three figures for the first time since December 2007 and has since revealed that the ‘monkey’s now off my back.’

Cook also said that he was now determined to ‘go to Trinidad and get another one’. This is the key as far as I’m concerned. It’s no good getting a hundred in a relatively meaningless innings and then waiting 15 months for the next one.

It is time that Cook kicked on as a test cricketer and started converting his 50’s more often. If your opening batsman is consistently hitting centuries, the team will benefit a great deal.

Overall though, it has been a disappointing tour for the team so far. Cricket betting suggested that they would win the series, but this is now impossible. Instead, they have to win in Trinidad to ensure that they come away with a drawn series.

With another flat track likely, this surely means that some sort of change needs to be made to a seam attack that was totally outshone by an off-spinner on a lifeless pitch.

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


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


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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