31 December 2010

Magnanimous modesty

I see from today's Times that KP considers that his standing down as captain was a major contribution to the Ashes success. May I , in the same vein also say that the selection of Swann as off spunner ahead of me was also, on balance, a good thing.

30 December 2010

Age on Ponting's side

I was amazed to read that Peter English believes that Ricky Ponting has played his last Test for Australia. Although it would not be the norm for an Australian ex-captain to continue as a player, if Ponting is sacked as skipper it would be in Australia's best interests to retain him as a player. The fact that Australia's next Test after Sydney isn't until August shouldn't impact that at all - Ponting will still be a few months off 37.

He hasn't scored runs in the Ashes and those wanting to force him out will point out that he's been struggling for a while. By his standards he has - rather than the lofty standards of his career average of 53.5, he averaged 45 I read over the 12 months leading up to the Ashes. If Australia have 6 batsmen who can average 45 in Test cricket and are equally good in the field, both at slip and diving around in the covers, then indeed they should drop him. They don't though!

It would be interesting to think about the Indian batsmen reaching the end of their careers when considering Ponting's position. Laxman is the closest to Ponting's age, although still older, and has just played the match-winning knock against South Africa. Tendulkar was ICC player of the year last year by some distance and has just scored his 50th Test hundred. Only Dravid, who is the oldest and like Tendulkar is closer to 38 than 37, could be described as a qualified success, having struggled a bit with the bat recently but taking a brilliant 200th Test catch in his last match.

The likes of Khawaja need to find their way in Test cricket with the likes of Hussey and Ponting around them - time will tell if the Australian selectors agree. With Ponting only about 3 months older than Hussey it would be a strange decision to have one rule for Ponting and another for Hussey.

South Africa v India decider

While England have been retaining The Ashes a remarkable game was going on in South Africa where India came back from being thrashed in the 1st Test of the series, to take the second match and level the series between the top 2 sides in the world. Just one innings of over 40 from man-of-the-match VVS Laxman in the match tells the story of two supposedly strong batting sides struggling. The series is now on a knife-edge and will make brilliant viewing.

It's a pity that captain's only speak about the UDRS when they suffer poor decisions, but that's better than nothing I suppose, with Graeme Smith asking for it to be used in all series after one highly questionable and one terrible umpiring decision helped India wrap up the match.

Incidentally, the fourth of New Zealand's ducks at the top of the order was Ross Taylor who was given out LBW to a ball going over the top of the stumps....


Difficult for New Zealand to compete when the first four scores on their scorecard are 0,0,0 and 0. And only one score in double figures....

New Zealand still won the Twenty20 series v Pakistan 2-1 though.

England sprinkler celebrations

It had to be done....

Ponting Out

It is possible Ponting has played his last test match after being left out of the squad for Sydney due to his broken finger. This means Clarke has been named captain. What worries me a little about this scenario, however is that Usman Khawaja is going to slot straight into the number three position. There is no doubt he is a talented player, he's leading this seasons Sheffield Shield runs tally, but I don't think you should be throwing a rookie sraight into the number three position. Some may argue that its a dead rubber (its not, we can still draw the series) lets see what the kids made of, but I would rather see him eased in at number 5. Throw Hussey up to number three. Not many players, no matter how talented, are expected to come into a test side in the pivotal number three slot.........even the great Ponting himself served his apprenticeship at number 6.

Why did England retain The Ashes?

As always when a series is settled, analysts and journalists from both sides try to explain why the result has gone the way it did. In The Guardian Mike Selvey has given 10 reasons why England retained The Ashes. Here's a few thoughts for you from myself....some serious, some slightly less so.

The Aussie Press

Very helpful when their team is winning, very willing to stick the knife in and twist it when they aren't. Not so long ago on Cricket Burble whether there should be patriotism within journalism and we agreed (I think!) there shouldn't be. But some objectivity from the press could help Australia bounce back, rather than taking great joy in the national team's demise as seems to be the case at the moment where the Aussie press seem to advocate the "drop the lot of them" approach.

Shane Warne

When he wasn't being touted for a potential comeback as either leg-spinner or skipper, Warne was busy getting his leg-over with English rose Liz Hurley. The jealously from playboy wannabes Clarke, Watson and Johnson may have got too much....

Steve Smith

Smith may one day be a number 6 international batsman but I fear he may have to settle for number 7. And right now he's a number 8. Sadly he's no Test match bowler though so Australia picked a player on the basis that he was ultra-keen and he could make the other players laugh in the changing room. Not much of a rationale - better to have a Graeme Swann who is in the side on the strength of his playing ability and also likes to keep the side sniggering like school boys.

The Aussie selectors

And on that note....

No selectors can be blamed for injuries, but they can be blamed for inconsistent selection. Australia didn't play their best spinner throughout the series (Hauritz) and that's the selector's fault, as well as Ponting's for the terrible way he used him in India. Since Warne retired, the selectors are now into double figures of potential replacements tried - a truly awful reflection on their ability to do their job.

They did get one call correct though, sticking with Mike Hussey. It'll be interesting to see if Greg Chappell sticks with his "better to give an ageing champion one game too many than one game too few" philosophy when considering Ponting's future.

England's stability

With the level-headed Andy's at the helm, ably supported by a support staff and a number of senior players in the changing room, England went into the tour with a stable squad and a well defined game-plan. They're on the way up, were as Australia appear on the way down.

5 out of 7 England batsmen fired

With one match to play 5 England batsmen average over 40 and Trott and Cook average well over 100. For Australia, 3 out of 7 fired - Hussey, Haddin and Watson.

The wind direction

Fortunately there was only a gale blowing in the right direction to help Mitchell Johnson get some in-swing once in 4 matches.

But on another note...

Not everything is perfect just because you win. England also need to think about how they can improve, and I'm sure they will. Paul Collingwood is crucial if they are to play 4 bowlers and his batting form has slumped. Having their batting coach Graham Gooch leave the tour to see his family in the UK at Xmas just after the side were bowled out for less than 200 twice in Perth was an issue, and Strauss' lack of faith in Swann to get the better of batsmen looking to attack him could have been critical against a better Australian side. All sides have areas they can improve on though...

28 December 2010

What About Nielsen's Position?

Well, after three disastrous days of the fourth test we can safely assume that for the first time in 14 years an ashes series in Australia will end with the urn in England's possession. Australia have been thoroughly outplayed for the majority of the series. Understandably, most people in and around the Australian team are under fire from the media and the cricket loving Australian people. Captain, vice-captain, senior players, rookie players, and selectors are all being questioned and criticised. Australians aren't used to losing at home, and particularly not to the old enemy so they want heads to roll. This is to be expected.

One person who strangely seems to be flying under the radar , however, is coach Tim Nielsen. Granted, Nielsen is not pushing at balls outside his off stump with hard hands, or bowling short of a length when clearly a full length is required, or getting into heated discussions with umpires. But just what is he doing? The simple fact that his players are making these kinds of errors reflects poorly on his performance. To be honest I can't remember exactly when he took over from Buchanan (perhaps I should check my facts before blogging), but it seems to be roughly around the time the Aussies started their slide.

Whenever he fronts the media, I never hear any pearls of wisdom, or anything particularly insightful. Most of what he has to say is particularly inane "we need to put the ball in the right areas consistently" sort of stuff. Maybe he is more expansive in the privacy of the dressing room and saves the cliches for the media. Its difficult to know what goes on behind the scenes, and how much of a role a cricket coach plays. I just hope that his performance is being reviewed and monitored by the powers that be.

26 December 2010

England's Xmas Present

England provided the perfect Xmas present for English supporters yesterday, but being English I still can't relax. What if we're bowled out for 280 and Ponting comes good in the second innings?

Come on England - be ruthless and deliver an even better present overnight tonight. I'd take still batting at the end of the day.

24 December 2010

Cosgrove happy with Glamorgan again

He's signed for Twenty20 and he's bantering with Glamorgan staff on Facebook, so I think we can assume that Mark Cosgrove holds no bad feeling towards his employers, despite their move to reduce his role for summer 2011.

Lies, damn lies and statistics

Interesting to see that when the England players are ranked on their performances in The Ashes on the PCA website, the stats don't appear to entirely back up the view that Finn and Collingwood are England's most at risk players. Finn is considered England's second most valuable player according to the table, and Collingwood is 10th out of 12, with Prior and Broad below him.

Interesting to see what a few pros have said about the FTI MVP stats. What I'd add to their comments is that when looking at England Test performances in The Ashes, it's a 5 Test series and we're only just over half way through the series, so the value of each player in the series still has enormous potential to change - the final standings will make interesting reading.

The Wisden Cricketer magazine changes hands again

As a subscriber to Wisden Cricket Monthly I'm a big advocate of it - of course websites now offer up to the minute cricket information, but there's still definitely a valuable place for non time sensitive pieces about cricket and TWC does that nicely.

It's nice to know that the magazine is in the hands of real cricket lovers like Jonathan Agnew and CMJ though - it will be interesting to see how the new ownership impacts on the magazine and how content is incorporated (if it is at all) into their Test Match Special website.

Old Trafford ground development issues

It seems that ground developments may not be going smoothly in Manchester. I stayed in the Old Trafford Lodge and played in their indoor school in October and the ground definitely needs development if it's to remain an international venue. Fingers crossed the planning issues / arguments get resolved.

Zimbabwe to make Test comeback in 2011

The Zimbabwe cricket team has made great strides lately and it's great for the players that they are making a comeback to Test cricket next year. I can't help having mixed feelings though, given that Mugabe is a cricket supporter and he and his dispicable regime are still in power.

Don't schoolboys have work to do in India?

No wonder Indian batsmen are good at batting on and on - their schoolboys seem to play rediculously long matches....sufficiently long for one school to amass 800-8 declared and 13 year-old Arman Jaffer (nephew of Wasim Jaffer) to score 498. Presumably a record in schoolboy cricket in India by some distance? Don't be silly - that's 515.

I remember losing an under-11 school match to a team who scored 22. Very different in India it seems! Check out the kids media skills too - he speaks like he's already a veteran Indian international!

21 December 2010

Strauss' use of Swann

I've got to say that I find it hard to disagree with Shane Warne's view that Strauss is using Graeme Swann poorly. It really could be the difference between the two sides if he doesn't get this right. I've Burbled before about the need for Strauss to attack with Swann and make Australia take risks - if he doesn't do this then the world's best spin bowler becomes a back-up bowler to give the faster bowlers a rest....and he didn't even play that role in Perth as he was given just 9 overs (even Collingwood got 6!).

Strauss is absolutely the right leader for England but just as players need to think about improving their batting, bowling and fielding, the captain needs to think about improving their captaincy. Captaincy includes many facets but the most visible is the on-field tactics and at the moment he's being too defensive. Strauss hasn't got much time to change this but I hope Andy Flower is atleast addressing this with him.

New Zealand moving in the right direction

New Zealand Cricket Chief Exec Justin Vaughan seems to have made some sensible decisions to move New Zealand cricket forwards. Many will say it's a bit late, but perhaps better late than never! They have a proper coach now in John Wright, and Daniel Vettori's responsibilities have been reduced a little.

Interesting to see that Wright has talked about youngsters/surprises in his first squad. The Kiwis desperately need to stick with the young players they identify and allow them to grow into international cricket. Getting that right will be a huge step in the right direction.

20 December 2010

Ponting out of luck, not form

I always read what Ian Chappell has to say, but generally with growing agitation as I get through his pieces as I disagree with 95% of what he has to say. He likes to say things that will get him exposure and with that as his objective, rather than worrying about whether his assertions are correct, he's always going to rub a few people up the wrong way.

In his piece on Cricinfo about Ricky Ponting - typically entitled provocatively "Ponting's captaincy is hurting Australia", I found a snippet I agree with entirely. To celebrate the rare occasion of agreeing with Chappelli, I thought I'd repeat the offending sentences:

"He's currently a batsman out of luck rather than out of form. In this series he's either got a good one early or he's edged to the keeper down the leg-side - a batsman's worst nightmare. Ponting's footwork is still intact and this generally means, for a player of his calibre, a big score is just around the corner."

Couldn't agree more Chappelli. More of the same please, rather than headline grabbing rubbish.

A very special half century

I couldn't let the amazing achievement of Tendulkar getting to 50 Test centuries to go unmarked on Cricket Burble....sadly I didn't see the innings though. Amazing for someone to stay at the top of the international game for so long - this gallery shows just how young he was (and looked) when he started scoring international hundreds. Although Graeme Smith appears to be surprised that he exposed the tail on the 5th morning, I think we can safely say that even the great Tendulkar wasn't going to be able to save the game from the overnight position.

Tendulkar would of course have preferred to reach his milestone and get a win, but it doesn't take anything away from his personal incredible feat - a truly amazing display of skill and longevity.

19 December 2010

Australia looking for benefits of a settled side

Unlike England, Australia have already announced that they will go with the same 12 for Melbourne as in Perth. There will always be a debate about whether they are playing their best XI - and I would argue they aren't because Hauritz isn't in the squad - but it's an important show of continuity after several changes. Australia's best XI for the final two matches would be as in Perth but with Haddin batting ahead of Smith and Hauritz in for Siddle. But they aren't far off if Beer replaces Siddle at the MCG and the Boxing Day Test looks like being a real cracker of a Test.

Kallis and South Africa close in on win

It's brilliant to see Jaques Kallis finally getting to 200 - he's an absolutely class act and unlike many - I'd have him in my all-time international cricket XI. Together with centuries from Amla and de Villiers, South Africa look certainties to take a 1-0 lead against the number 1 side in the world.

India look alarmingly poor in the field. It was their batting collapse in the 1st innings that set up the game but their batsmen will bounce back, although they need to get used to playing on bouncy wickets again. Sreesanth, however, is not a good enough bowler to lead an international attack, and Dhoni seems to have forgotten how he became a successful captain. When de Villiers came in on day 2 he was greeted by not a single catcher. That's right - no slips or gully. Dhoni got the job by demonstrating how he could take calculated attacking risks to get wickets and I hope he doesn't forget that. He simply has to attack more if India are to compete, let alone win the series.

England selection for Melbourne

With Australia levelling the series in Perth, attention is suddenly on the make up of the England side - amazing how one result shifts focus. While last week I was defending Ponting and Clarke, this week it looks like it will be the likes of Collingwood and Finn!

Paul Collingwood

Let's start with Collingwood. England have chosen to go with 4 bowlers which means they pretty much have to play Collingwood. He's proven that his canny medium pacers can do more than give the main bowlers a rest - he really should have had 2 wickets in Australia's 2nd innings in Perth if Swann could catch. He also went at a miserly 0.5 runs per over. In any team with four bowlers, there has to be a batsman who can be relied on for a few overs and Collingwood is that man for England.

Now let's look at Collingwood's fielding. He's the best allround fielder in the England side - people like Bell and Anderson (and Morgan) are as athletic but less good catchers...people like Strauss are as good catchers but less athletic. And given Andy Flower's emphasis on statistical analysis I expect he has a metric of some sort to demonstrate that Collingwood's value in the field is second-to-none - we'll never know if Ponting would have gone on to a huge innings but for Collingwood's one handed stunner, but he may well have done.

And finally the batting, which I've deliberately left until last because it's the two paragraphs above which clinch why Collingwood should be selected. Morgan is the anti-Collingwood - ultra-talented but a little loose - they have two completely different styles. I would put them as equals in terms of Test match batting, but I know which of the two I'd want batting for my life.

So for me - and I'm sure Andy Flower - it has to be Collingwood, but it's possible they'll look at moving him to 6 given Bell's good form. I'd consider that as an option for two reasons....first, Bell doesn't seem at his best when batting with the tail. He's always looked class but he starts to play pretty strange shots when with 10 and 11 and, although there's been much talk about him running out of partners, he was the 8th wicket to fall in the 1st innings in Perth. And in Brisbane in the 1st innings he was the 9th wicket to fall when Anderson was holding up an end nicely for him. I've Burbled before about how top-order batsmen get their tactics wrong when batting with the tail, and I think Collingwood is more likely to get that right. The second reason is of course Bell's good form. He's not in Michael Hussey world-beating form, but he's looking a class act and averaging 71.

Steve Finn

I couldn't work out if Finn was fully fit at Perth. He grimaced a few too many times and his run up - which is never that fluent at the best of times - looked laboured. He bowled too short and leaked runs, but he's the leading wicket-taker in the series. He's 21 and the odd poor performance shouldn't mean he gets dropped. But Broad's absence demonstrates that without him England's tail is longer than we've got used to in the last couple of years and Bresnan would certainly strengthen that area.

For me it all comes down to fitness - if Finn is fit then he needs to play in Melbourne and bowl at the top of off. If he isn't fully fit then pick Bresnan and take the benefits he offers, which is more swing and a stronger batting line up. But with 7 batsmen (after all I don't think anyone in England would suggest that Prior is Foster's equal at wicket-keeping), England shouldn't be worrying too much about the bowlers' batting capabilities.

So fitness excluded, the same side again for England at Melbourne. It won't stop there being a huge amount of talk in the press about possible changes though!

16 December 2010

Will England rue day 1 tactics?

They certainly won't rue their selection of Tremlett who bowled brilliantly and ensured that the England selectors get a pat on the back for choosing him ahead of Bresnan, even after various speculation that Bresnan would bowl well into the Freemantle Doctor. Hopefully the 3 England seamers can be as effective in the second innings - they will certainly hope to bowl a bit better as in truth Anderson, and particularly Finn, weren't near their best.

Hopefully England can bat Australia out of the game over the next day and a half, but if not they may look back on day 1 as a missed opportunity. Not only did the bowlers fall short of their best, but I couldn't get my head around Strauss' field positions. Haddin (who incidentally should have batted 6 ahead of Smith) scored his 50 with a risk-free tap down the ground the ground to long-off. Why wasn't mid-off in? And when he'd come out after tea, rather than making it hard form him to play himself back in, Strauss gave him an easy one out to deep cover.

Flower will probably feel that Australia should have been bowled out for less than 200. It's up to England's batsmen to prove that it doesn't matter either way.

India struggle in South Africa

Australia have had a couple of low first innings totals in The Ashes but compared to India they're doing brilliantly. 136 for 9 isn't quite what Dhoni would have liked, albeit on a wicket that helped the bowlers a bit.

Interesting that Harbajan was quick to defend the fact that India didn't have even a solitary warm up game. The cynic in me wonders if he's thinking about protecting his IPL money there - he doesn't want to play in Test warm ups rather than the IPL, but deep down I'm sure he realises that they needed to give themselves a better chance of getting accustomed to the harder South African wickets. If they come back and don't lose this Test, it will be one of the most miraculous recoveries ever....

14 December 2010

Shane Watson as captain?

Surely not I hear you cry! Well I agree but there seems to be some talk about Shane Watson usurping Michael Clarke as heir to Ricky Ponting. Watson has been a revelation at the top of the order compared to his previous Test batting, but I'm still not sure he has the media skills to take on the captaincy, or the people skills to win over those in and around the team.

So let him do it I say, and make it harder for the Australian team to get back to number 1!

Keeping cash in a hotel room

Hmmm, there's something that doesn't add up when it comes to the reason for so much money being in Salman Butt's hotel room. We hear that the Pakistan players are paid a pittance (in international terms), and that was one of the reasons put forward for why some could potentially have been tempted to spot fix in return for money. But now Salman Butt seems to be comfortable about the fact he had big wedges of cash in his hotel room.

What confuses me is (a) why the players weren't using bank accounts or even safes to keep their money in, and (b) why they are treated like small children and given a daily allowance in cash. They are on contracts with the Pakistan Cricket Board presumably so why aren't they paying them a proper salary monthly?

All sounds extremely weird. And to top it off apparently some ice cream parlour in Tooting is happy to pay Salman Butt £2,500 to open it. If true, I think we can safely say that ice cream parlour won't be making a profit and will close at some point....if it hasn't already.

New Zealand woes

Having lost two series in a row against Bangladesh and India without winning a game, New Zealand seem to be really struggling. And the worry for them is that the World Cup coming up will be in similar spin-friendly conditions. However, anyone who saw the final ODI against India will appreciate that the amount of spin that the slow bowlers got was rediculous, and even spin friendly wickets shouldn't play like that. In retrospect, both sides would have played spinners only if they could have, and that means the wicket was at fault to some degree.

As with any struggling side they need to retain their best team, successful or not, and ensure that they give themselves the best possible chance of turning things around. They've started by enlisting the services of Duncan Fletcher, who has reportedly suggested a reduction in Daniel Vettori's responsibilities. I'm glad that's all he's suggested - Vettori is the stand out player in New Zealand and there were a few reports that the captaincy would get taken off him. If that's what he wants, fair enough, but to sack him would be catastrophic for new Zealand cricket in my opinion.

It will be interesting to see if New Zealand can rally, given that their coach Mark Greatbach seems to want to push all blame to the players rather than taking any responsibility himself.

12 December 2010

Its Official....Hilditch et al have lost their marbles

I usually avoid criticising selectors. My logic being that they have more information at their disposal than I do, they have the opportunity to watch far more first class cricket than I do, and while I like to think I'm fairly knowledgable about the game I would assume that those entrusted with selecting our national teams have slightly more cricket knowledge than myself. But really........

I've bitten my tongue long enough! Here goes.
I'll start with the most obvious question. Who on god's green earth is Michael Beer? Well he's a man with two months first class experience, which equates to five matches, 16 wickets, best innings figures of 3/39, best match figures 5/207 and an average touching 40. I remember when baggy greens had to be earned! One of the reasons quoted for selecting beer was his home ground advantage given that Beer plays for WA. Well, WA recruited him in the off-season from Victorian grade cricket. He's played two Sheffield Shield games on the WACA for six wickets. Nathan Hauritz played one game and took seven. They seem obsessed with finding a left arm spinner, but have neglected the most obvious choice. Stephen O'Keefe has played only ten first class matches, but he has 37 wickets at 24.83. Best figures of 7/35. And he can bat, he actually averages over 50 with 4 half centuries and a highest score of 91. He was considered good enough to play for Australia A less than a month ago against England and was, along with centurion Cameron White, Australia's best performed player in that match with 4/88 from 24 overs and scoring 66 and 27. Two of his wickets were tail enders, but the other two were Cook and Pieterson. Unfortunately, since that match he hasn't played another first-class game because Hauritz has come back into the NSW side pushing him out. I could understand dropping Hauritz for the first test, he was bowling without confidence, but I always thought O'Keefe was next in line. And he's a left arm finger spinner! In his favour, Beer does seem to be fairly highly rated by some influential people. His name was thrown up by his former St. Kilda team mate Shane Warne during the week. I also read that WA coach (and former South African coach) said early this season that if he was South African, Beer would already be playing test cricket in front of Paul Harris. Seems a big call. Anyhow, maybe these testimonials have swayed the selectors.
OK.....that rant is over, onto the other selections. I was amazed that Hilfenhause was dropped for Adelaide, but if in the opinion of the selectors he wasn't in our best lineup for that test, does a week bowling in the nets change that......ditto for Johnson. Bollinger was deemed not good enough for the first test, came in for the second due to poor form of other bowlers, but then is axed for those same bowlers after one test. Surely the selectors should know who they believe are their best bowlers. If they lose form, drop them and promote the next in line, but you don't then drop a newly promoted player, for the same player he replaced only a week ago. I can not accept that a week bowling in the nets has suddenly solved all of Johnson's problems. It just smacks of indecision.
The selectors also seem to be in love with Steve Smith. To my mind, his bowling is too eratic to be considered anything other than part time, in which case, there are far more consistent batsmen that should be ahead of him in the pecking order. Khawaja and Ferguson to name a couple of young players, but I would have gone with Dave Hussey, I don't care how old he is. He also brings some part time spin to the table and some good old fashioned hard nosed experience. He's not a long term solution, but I don't care, this is the ashes. He was the Shields leading runscorer last season and has a first-class average this season around 43.
The other addition to the squad is Phil Hughes. He is not in great form, but to be honest there aren't too many option around at the moment when it comes to opening batsmen. The only other option I can see would have been to promote Mike Hussey to open and bring in a middle order player, but this would be too risky considering Hussey's form in the middle order.
I apologise for the length of this post, but I just needed to get this of my chest. One final thought, I bet the selectors are regretting ignoring Brad Hodge for so long and forcing him into first-class retirment.

11 December 2010

Glamorgan problems continue

It goes on and on at Glamorgan as the club tries to recover from the self-induced problems amongst players and administrators. After the initial mess that followed Alan Hamer and Paul Russell's "strategic changes" that involved sacking Matthew Maynard and Jamie Dalrymple and lead to Paul Walker resigning, disagreements at the recent committee meeting meant that Nigel Roberts resigned and Glamorgan were left with no lead sponsor.

But it seems that Roberts has been tempted back now by Hamer (which wouldn't have happened if he wasn't taking his sponsorship money with him) so stay tuned for the next chapter in Glamorgan's self-induced chaos. Player-wise they have apparently secured Mark Cosgrove for T20 next year but it looks like their best young talent, Tom Maynard, may want out which is unsurprising given the way his father was stabbed in the back.

Sri Lanka and Windies boards postpone ODI series

You know the weather must be bad when the two boards postpone the series altogether as the Sri Lankan and West Indies boards had to do earlier in the week!

Australian and England selection dilemmas

Having pretty much ignored cricket news for a couple of days (due to work), it's been amazing to catch up. Australia seem obsessed with the idea that they need a left-arm spinner to get Kevin Pietersen out...that's surely the only conclusion given the inclusion of Michael Beer, a man with an average first class record over just 5 matches. Nathan Hauritz has again been mysteriously overlooked, despite a very decent home Test bowling average of under 30. He produced a good allround performance for his State last week where he took 3 second innings wickets and scored a hundred. The match before, he took 7 wickets in the match at next week's Test venue, the WACA. The only conclusion can be that the selectors fear they will look stupid if they recall someone only 2 matches after they jettisoned him. But then again there is Mitchell Johnson and Ben Hilfenhaus who have been recalled after just one match out.

While I've found myself defending Ponting and Clarke this week, I think Hauritz has suffered from muddled captaincy from Ponting and a lack of selection consistency from the Australian selectors. The likes of England and South Africa have demonstrated what needs to happen when you don't have a world-beating spinner available. Ashley Giles and Paul Harris are/were no world-beaters but their role in their sides was/is well thought out. Australia need to do the same with Hauritz.

Marcus North's time has run out and presumably Brad Haddin will move to 6 with Steven Smith will bat 7. There's huge pressure on Smith's bowling though and it will be interesting to see how he responds after he was taken apart when England played Australia A earlier in the tour. Introducing him as the side's one spinner would be very risky but that could be the direction the selectors are going in?

England on the other hand have just one spot to sort out and none of their second-string seamers have exactly covered themselves in glory during the latest tour match. While he may not be a world-beater I think I agree with Jonathan Agnew who thinks that England should pick Bresnan. Bresnan has been in and around the side for a while now and represents the more logical selection choice, rather than Tremlett who has only joined the current squad at the start of this tour. Needless to say, Bresnan's batting will be useful at 8 too. I wonder how many readers of Cricket Burble realise that he averages over 40 in Test cricket (admittedly over just 5 matches), compared to Broad's 27.

England have also selected the ODI squad this week, where Bopara is out and Chris Tremlett and Chris Woakes are in. I still find it hard to believe that a trier like Luke Wright gets the nod over someone with so much talent as Ravi Bopara, but it's no doubt the right call for now and hopefully Bopara will come back in a better player for this. I still see him as the long-term successor to Paul Collingwood (in the ODI team at least) - I'd love to know if the likes of Geoff Miller and Andy Flower feel the same.

Enough about ODIs for now. The far more important and interesting action starts again at the WACA next Thursday and it will be riveting. If England can win the toss and score 500+ in their 1st innings they will feel they have all but retained the Ashes, no matter what they might say publicly until they've completed the job....

8 December 2010

That's torn it!

Unfortunately for the advertiser in todays Times, underneath tales of victory in Adelaide and the sad departure of Stuart Broad there's a full width advert for Maximuscle with endorsement from the injured bowler himself!
There's also a suggestion that Darren Pattinson ( remember him?) might have been up for a call to the Australia side but for that match he played for us !

6 December 2010

High level of cricket debate in The George

As you'd expect there's a very high level of cricket debate in my local , but the early evening think tank last night ( Postman Ed ex- Worcester II, cider Pete and me) took only 10 seconds to decide on an overnight declaration. As we all now know the overseas think tank disagreed and I suspect that they got it right - Australia might be about level with 5/6 wickets in hand by now if they'd agreed with us.
What I did call correctly, however, was Pietersen as a wicket taker - 1 out of 2 isn't that shabby.

5 December 2010

Weather could come to Australia's aid

Sadly (for England supporters) the rain yesterday in Adelaide meant that the mouth-watering prospect of watching Kevin Pietersen, already with a double century to his name, and Ian Bell, who looked in sumptuous form, step on the accelerator prior to a declaration that would have left Australia an awkward few overs to see out at the end of the day, didn't become reality. It seems a shame that England will now almost certainly have to declare, having scored 1,068 for 5 over their last 2 innings given the Adelaide weather forecast.

If the weather was decent I'd be wanting to get a lead of over 450 because England won't want to bat again, but second guessing how much play there will be over the next two days will be tricky for Strauss. As a pessimist I fear a draw as Ponting will dig in second time round, and Australia won't gift England two wickets with schoolboy running again. But there is just a little optimistic streak in me that says that Anderson might be helped by cloudy and humid conditions and, more importantly, that Swann could turn it big, take a 5 for, and take England to victory. Fingers crossed!

SA and Gibbs reach the end of the road

It's taken longer than might have been expected after his negative autobiography but South Africa have agreed with Herschelle Gibbs that his contract will be terminated. On the surface all seems ok, but I assume that behind the thanks to Gibbs for his input into South African cricket, there's probably a lot of negative feeling still...

De Bruyn joins Surrey

I'll be surprised if Somerset's loss doesn't turn out to be Surrey's gain as De Bruyn had a great year last year...the Surrey project seems to be coming together under Chris Adams....they just need the results to follow now.

Washout of a Test series in Sri Lanka

After a complete washout of the Sri Lanka / West Indies series, it seems that there's criticism of the Sri Lankan board for scheduling the series at a time when it was always likely to rain. While that isn't sensible, I find it hard to criticise any board that is pushing Test cricket as well as ODIs and Twenty20s that so often seem to take priority....

3 December 2010

Ponting right but arguing with the wrong person

It was interesting to see Ricky Ponting in animated discussion with Andrew Strauss as the players left the field on day 1, after England had faced just one over. They were meant to face 2 to complete the 90 overs for the day, but the time had just gone past the latest the players are allowed to be on the field. That's not Strauss' fault.

He is however right that a complete absence of common sense from those organising the game meant that the paying public were left short of one over. Sun out, enthralling contest, an over still to be bowled that will take a maximum of 5 minutes.....and yet it's the end of the day's play. It's insanity of course and Ponting has every right to be upset, but Strauss wasn't the right person to vent his anger on.

The worst decision ever?

Well that really was a shocker from Billy Doctrove. Ryan Harris called for the review immediately because he'd inside edged onto his pad. It was exactly the type of decision where the technology should help make the correct decision. It was very difficult to tell live that he had hit it (so no criticism of the umpire in the middle), but on replay a small dot showed up on the inside edge on Hotspot, and the TV replay from extra cover seemed to show a deviation. The dot on Hotspot was only small because Harris' bat was coming across the ball and it hit the back edge of the bat, but there was no doubt it was there.

Doctrove thought otherwise and I'm sorry, but I'm struggling to think of a worse decision ever. There's plenty of poor ones in the list of wrong decisions from a couple of years ago, but this one takes the biscuit. Oh dear...

2 December 2010

Is it best to be occasionally brilliant?

Now that Australia have finally dropped Mitchell Johnson I think it raises some interesting questions about why some bowlers are retained for longer than others. Some seem to be retained against all common sense, while others are always talked about as close to being dropped. I'm no psychologist, but it must come down to people (and selectors) feeling more favourable towards players who give brilliant performances and very poor ones, compared to the steady-eddies.

Of course the best bowlers are always steady-eddies and can occasionally put in brilliant match-winning performances too. I'm thinking of bowlers like McGrath, Warne, and dare I say his name in the same breath, Flintoff in his latter career (NB. he had a far better later part of his career). Their worst was a decent Test match performance. And their bowling averages - yes, I know stats don't tell the full story - back that up.

But then you've got the steady-eddies who don't seem to ever be quite as revered as the scattergun occasional match winners. I'm thinking of the likes of Angus Fraser who averaged 27 but always seemed to be on the verge of being dropped in the second half of his career. Or Matthew Hoggard, who's average of 30.5 puts him miles ahead of Devon Malcolm (37), Steve Harmison (31.8), and Flintoff's overall average of 32.8. But no-one remembers Hoggard's regular 3 fors, just the 9 in an innings that Malcolm got against South Africa, Harmison's 7 for 12 against West Indies, or Flintoff's 5 for at Lord's against Australia.

Mitchell Johnson (30.1) had a sensational period in Test cricket and will remember some real highs, such as his 8 for against South Africa. But somehow those highs stopped the selectors from assessing him as they should have done, just as England did with Harmison. Then consider this against Stuart Clark, who averages 23.9 in Tests, only took a 5 for twice and never took 10 in a match, and was swiftly forgotten after injury pegged him back a little (sorry Dave, just had to mention Clark one more time to rile you!!).

Anyone with me on this theory that players get cut far more slack if they can be a matchwinner occassionally rather than a steady performer almost every match?!?

Interesting point from history

We cricketers are proud of the role the sport played in the eventual abolition of apartheid in South Africa but I see from today's Times, which has a repint of the edition that announced that we'd been awarded the 1966 World Cup, that at the same meeting FIFA told the football authority of that country that it neeeded to fall into line with its non-discriminatory policy within 12 months or be removed from membership. And we all thought that FIFA made the ICC look speedy !

1 December 2010

Bowling changes

As expected the word on the street or any newspaper you read/pundit you (try not to) listen to, Mitchell Johnson's Test career is over for the short term. In his place will be either the rather dull prospect of Ryan Harris or the more intriguing Doug Bollinger. Hopefully you will ascertain from my slightly colourful language who I think the Australians should pick. A Bollinger selection would weaken the batting but would certainly improve the bowling, as he's probably the best bowler to test Trott, Pietersen and Bell, who I'd think would be pretty comfortable facing the right-arm-over bowlers. Bollinger would make all the England batsmen play more deliveries than poor old Johnson.

But I think England should also be making a bowling change - Monty Panesar for Steven Finn. Why? Adelaide is a notorious flat pitch, the Kookaburra ball is pretty ineffective after 20 overs for seamers and the Australians seem to have a plan to combat Graeme Swann. Rather than waste Finn as a containing bowler, Panesar could be used to attack the right-handers which would include a fired-up Ricky Ponting and their best player of spin Michael Clarke. This would take the pressure of Swann and allow him to be more relaxed/threatening. If England need a third-seamer to contain Paul Collingwood would be that man. Finn in return will be sufficiently rested ahead of the third Test in Perth where he would come back into the side.

Ponting is spot on...

No, not in his field placings obviously. In expressing his frustrations about low catches not being given because of the way that technology is currently being used. I think he's 100% right, but he offers no solution other than to reach a gentleman's agreement with other captains. If you scroll to the comments at the bottom of this piece on The Roar you'll see my proposed solution to the problem of adjudicating on low catches - it's ultra simple - and the same solution I've burbled about before.

Surely the ICC have to see sense eventually?

30 November 2010

Oh how I love the press

I do chuckle sometimes when I read endless analysis about how good players are and whether or not they should be in the team or not. I am particularly thinking of the publicity surrounding Alistair Cook and whether he should even have been picked in the current tour party. I am delighted to see that he has proved what rubbish all the talk was.

If a player is good enough to be picked to play for England I believe that it is counter-productive to analyse every performance to see if there is any way that he can be criticised. I suppose it is the very nature of good press that you build them up only to knock them down. I am sure that adverse comments have an adverse effect on players and surely it is the job of the English press to build up our players and knock the Australian ones. I think the Australian press does this very well the other way round.

My experience of cricketers that I have played with is that you know who the good ones are and pretty much what to expect from each of them. For instance, several surprise me if they do not score a lot of runs or take lots of wickets and some of us are surprised if we contribute at all.

Over the past couple of years the English selectors have been a lot more consistent with their approach with the odd exception where they do not appear to have reached a decision and consequently they were in and out of the side.

Rant over!

29 November 2010

Tweeter deluged as 1st Test ends in draw

As England and Australia were seeing out a draw on day 5 at the Gabba, an unfortunate woman was trying to stop cricket fans on Twitter from contacting her as interest in the series sky-rocketed. With a username of "@theashes" cricket supporters have started to send her messages but her latest comment is "what the hell is a wicket?"!

Trott can now boast an average of 60 in Test cricket and an average of 108 v Australia. Not too shabby!

28 November 2010

Any chance of a result?

After an excellent batting display on day 4, it would seem that of the two sides England are now the more likely to push for victory on day 5. But whether either side can even get close seems unlikely if the wicket plays as it has done over the last 2 days. There's still the (hopefully small) chance that England will suffer a collapse and Australia will be able to to set up a run chase from mid-afternoon. But with a lead of 88 overnight England may well be looking to get to a lead of 250+ and then give Australia a tough few overs before the tea interval.

Annoyingly, the idiotic bad light laws mean that any chance of a sensational win for either side has been reduced as the match is running 17 overs behind. Despite starting half an hour early, it's got to be odds on that the umpires will want to take the players off early at the end of the day. If either side pulls off a victory then it really will be a sensational one, beating the Adelaide Test in the last Ashes tour....

Iain O'Brien looking for a County

I've got to say I feel very sorry for Iain O'Brien. He gave up an international career to settle down and be a good husband to his wife Rosie while playing for Middlesex. She's English so you'd think that it would be easy for him to settle here as presumably they would be accepted in England or New Zealand. Or so you'd think....as Mark Davis mentioned, his recent appeal was rejected by the ECB which means that he can only find employment in the UK as an overseas player. And he's not exactly giving a flat no to questions about an international comeback.

Good luck to him.

Johnson's Shocker

You know you're in trouble when the number of catches you've dropped is greater than the number of wickets you've taken and the number of runs you've scored combined.

27 November 2010

6 reasons to be cheerful as an England fan

I know...I'm taking a risk as I write this before the 4th days play - the game could be over by tea, or even lunch! But having watched a fair bit of the match so far, I can't help feeling optimistic for England's chances in The Ashes. As long as they don't completely crumble today, here's a few reasons to be optimistic as a Pom.

1. As Aussie Dave said, Australia's score of 481 was made up of one partnership of 307 and another of 78, so it feels like Australia are still very prone to collapses.

2. England have used up their bad luck early on. There's no way they can be as unlucky as yesterday throughout the series.

3. Surely Graeme Swann won't bowl that badly again in the series?

4. England's fielding was pretty poor compared to what it's been in the last 12 months or so - they're catching and ground fielding must surely improve?

5. Several batsman got in and didn't go on for England - it feels like it's up to them whether they succeed...there were no wonder-balls from the Aussies - just good honest toil.

6. Anderson looked serious quality.

I remember watching the England rugby team back in 2002/2003 and knowing that they were the better side so feeling relaxed even when they were losing matches well into the second half. Normally they'd come through and win in the last ten minutes due to superior skills and fitness.

I'm not saying that England are necessarily better than the Australians, but watching them in the field yesterday - well below their best - I had a sense that they aren't in danger of being steamrollered like England teams of the past. Win(!), lose or draw this match, I think England will compete well throughout the series and still have a decent chance of retaining The Ashes even if they go one down.

We'll see if that's nonsense by mid-January!

Great day for the Aussies, but.........

Obviously a fanatastic day for Australia today, but the fact that the innings of 481 was built entirely around one partnership of 307 is slightly concerning. I would much rather see more partnerships develop.