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Posts Tagged ‘alastair cook’

Could England be getting good at One Day cricket? The batting line-up actually seems to be reasonably balanced, with openers who are neither ridiculously cautious, overly aggressive, or Ian Bell. Meanwhile, Eoin Morgan has found a useful niche, and Matt Prior and Luke Wright at six and seven are actually quite good.

The bowling was also fairly impressive on Sunday, and the discovery of Trott as an economical medium pace bowler has been an unexpected boon.

England have, of course, fallen victim to false confidence before, so I’m reluctant to get too carried away. As Andy Zaltzman has said, “It will make a pleasant change if England can buck their recent trend by following up a spectacular victory with something other than a spectacular defeat.

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The ECB’s decision not to offer central contracts, nor even incremental contracts, to Steve Harmison or Monty Panesar has left both with their international futures in doubt. Harmison has been rumoured to be considering international retirement in any case, but Panesar now looks to have been cut adrift, particularly when the fact that Adil Rashid has been given an incremental contract is taken into account. Being England’s third-choice spin bowler isn’t a particularly attractive proposition, but at least he’ll always have Cardiff.

Just in case anyone thought the ECB were being radical, though, they gave full central contracts to Paul Collingwood, Alastair Cook and Ian Bell.

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England’s selectors have announced their 13-man squad for the First Ashes Test at Cardiff, and there’s good news and bad news.

The good news is mainly for Graham Onions – his performance against the West Indies (as well as a strong start to the season for Durham) has seen him included, and also for Monty Panesar, with whom Onions is competing for the last bowling slot, albeit with conditions rather than form likely to be the final arbiter of the decision about who plays.

The bad news is for Steve Harmison (although he was expecting it, as he should have been after being left out of the 17-man training squad) and for everyone who hates Ian Bell, who has been included despite managing only 20 runs in two innings against the Australians last week. Bell is very much the 13th man, but an injury to any of England’s top order could see him play a part.

The squad in full is as follows: Andrew Strauss, James Anderson, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Stuart Broad, Paul Collingwood, Alastair Cook, Andrew Flintoff, Graham Onions, Monty Panesar, Kevin Pietersen, Matt Prior, Graeme Swann.

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Since his Test recall in the West Indies, Ravi Bopara averages 118, and his overall average (at the time of writing) is nudging 50. It seems England have found their number three.

That said, such were conditions today that even Alastair Cook was able to convert his 50 into 100 (his first century at home since June 2007), although Strauss threw away his wicket after being tempted by his new nemesis Chris Gayle into an ill-judged sweep.

There weren’t many people there to see all this, though – whether that had anything to do with the alleged death of Test cricket, or was (as Durham’s chief executive claimed) due to the rival attraction of the North-East’s Premier League strugglers (or perhaps the increasing price of Test cricket over the last few years) isn’t entirely clear. Maybe the fans have simply realised that this series – which was organised purely to keep up the Test quota for the ECB’s deal with Sky, isn’t worth the outlay, particularly with the hefty cost of the Ashes just around the corner.

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Ravi Bopara grasped his chance at number three with both hands whilst all others fell about him. Strauss (who was crowned England’s best player of last year before the start of the match) made just 16; Cook did his usual of getting in and getting out; Pietersen was out first ball as his disappointing IPL form spilled over into the English ‘summer’; Collingwood didn’t get out of single figures; Prior and Broad both battled beside Bopara but didn’t hang around for long enough (although in Broad’s case he probably lasted longer than his batting deserved); and Tim Bresnan made about as many (and as few) as those who have never heard of him may have expected.

For the tourists, Fidel Edwards took 4-53 (and might have had another two or three but for some dropped catches) and Sulieman Benn took a couple as well.

If Bopara can hang around tomorrow morning and shepherd the tail, then England can make a decent enough score, but I shudder to think what Australia would have done to this batting line-up.

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Andrew Strauss hasn’t played a limited overs international since April 2007, but tonight he leads England in a Twenty20 international against a West Indies side superficially similar to the Stanford Superstars team that beat England by 10 wickets back when Allen Stanford was more likely to be asked ‘is it fun being a millionaire?‘ than ‘how do you plead?‘.

Cricinfo’s preview of tonight’s match expects Ian Bell to open the batting for England alongside Strauss. Yes, that’s right, Ian Bell.

England have never quite managed to get their Twenty20 opening partnership right. They have tried the following in the last four years: Geraint Jones and Marcus Trescothick, Strauss and Trescothick, Trescothick and Bell, Ed Joyce and Michael Vaughan, Alastair Cook and Matt Prior, Prior and Darren Maddy, Prior and Luke Wright, Maddy and Vikram Solanki, Wright and Phil Mustard, and Bell and Wright. That’s 10 different partnerships in a mere 14 matches.

I doubt that Bell and Strauss are the solution, but I will graciously suspend judgement until, ooh, maybe the fifth over of tonight’s match.

UPDATE: It now seems that England will try another opening pair – Steve Davies and Ravi Bopara. They seem more like a Twenty20 opening pair than Strauss and Bell, so let’s hope for some success.

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Now that the dust has settled on England’s god-awful performance with the bat against the West Indies, it’s time to start thinking about what England need. The answer, it seems to me, is change.

What do I mean by change? Not a radical throwing out of the baby with the bathwater, but a reasoned reassessment of the whole batting line-up. Ian Bell has had enough chances now, and keeping him in the side because he has occasionally showed promise (mainly when England are already cruising) would be foolish. Owais Shah is the only ready replacement in the squad, and his good form in the tour of India has probably earned him another shot (his four knocks so far aren’t necessarily enough information to go on regarding his ability at Test level).

As well as dropping Bell, Collingwood needs to be made to feel under pressure. His recent form has been poor, as has Cook’s, but there are limited options for making wholesale changes in the middle of a tour. Much as I rate Rashid, whether he is good enough to come in purely as a batsman is uncertain to say the least. Swann may get his chance soon

In the medium term, England need to chop away at the dead wood, but the fear of angering senior players, or of not having a settled side for the Ashes will probably save most of the old guard.

As for blaming the IPL, that’s lazy journalism (as predicted elsewhere) at its most clichéd. All the players who aren’t involved in the IPL made equally poor scores, and Flintoff, who could potentially have been adversely affected by learning of his newfound riches, made the side’s biggest score (admittedly a below-average 24, but the next-highest was Strauss with 9). There shouldn’t be any excuses made for a performance as bad as Sunday’s – the players, after all, are supposed to be taking more responsibility for their own performances.

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