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Posts Tagged ‘andrew strauss’

It may feel like Ajantha Mendis has been around for ever (he’s already had a dramatic arrival on the international scene, followed by a relative fall from grace and then a minor resurgence), but it’s only about 15 months since he took 6-13 in the Asia Cup final. In that time, he is yet to bowl England’s batsmen, who nervously await in tomorrow’s Champions Trophy match.

Mendis bamboozled Graeme Smith with his first ball of Tuesday’s curtain-raiser, ending up with 3-30. With England struggling with the bat throughout the latter part of the summer, he may get a similar return tomorrow. Even if it doesn’t turn, Andrew Strauss’ stomach might.

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There’s not much time for England’s cricketers to get over their Ashes hangovers (although that seems less of a problem this time) as they head off to Belfast for a One Day International against Ireland. Paul Collingwood resumes his role as stand-in captain whilst Strauss takes a rest, and of course both Pietersen and Flintoff are recovering from surgery, but the inclusion of Irishman and spell-check confusion-causer Eoin Morgan in the England side will guarantee a fair bit of ‘banter’, as Irish captain William Porterfield put it.

Ireland have caused a few surprises in recent years (including their recent elimination of Bangladesh in the World Twenty20), and if any of the tourists are nursing sore heads, they may well be found out by the likes of Niall O’Brien and Boyd Rankin. Jonathan Trott looks set for his ODI debut in the match, and will be hoping to take to Limited Overs Internationals as naturally as he seemed to settle into Test cricket.

With the One Day series against Australia coming up, a comfortable win will be expected of England, but the Irish are often underestimated, and almost as often throw a spanner in the works. Also, it should of course be remembered that England’s recent record against so-called ‘minnows’ isn’t great.

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The follow-on, and specifically whether or not it should be enforced in any given situation, is always a subject that provokes debate, and Andrew Strauss’ decision not to ask Australia to bat again at Lord’s is no different, with those who think he should have put them back in debating the issue with those who feel that batting again was the right decision.

It’s not necessarily an easy call to make. In the past, Strauss has been accused of conservative captaincy, and there is a danger that he will overestimate the possibility of the Aussies chasing down a monster total when he times his declaration. But five or six sessions should be plenty of time to bowl a side out, even Australia (although it will still require decent performances from the bowlers), and a faint heart never won a fair urn in any case.

Of course, soon those on both sides of the debate will have the benefit of hindsight -if England win, Strauss is a genius; if the Aussies escape, he’s too cautious and England don’t have the ‘killer instinct’ or ‘ruthlessness’ required.

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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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What is it about international cricketers and buses? After Jamie Siddons’ concerns about Bangladesh’s coach-related timekeeping comes news that Andrew Flintoff is similarly lacing in bus-catching skills. Although no mention of alcohol consumption has been made by the ECB, The Times have chosen to illustrate Michael Atherton’s report with a picture of Flintoff downing a beer, implicitly drawing parallels with a certain other power-hitting all-rounder who has recently made headlines for reasons other than cricket, as well as raising the spectre of the infamous ‘Fredalo‘ incident of 2007.

Perhaps more worryingly, Andrew Strauss has said that “punctuality has been a bit of an issue recently with a few players“, which doesn’t bode well for team morale, togetherness and all the other things that the team’s trip to Belgium was supposed to instill in the first place.

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England have always struggled for balance and stability in their Twenty20 side, particularly at the top of the order, and the absence of Andrew Flintoff seems likely to exacerbate those struggles, as does the fact that the Test and 50-over captain does not feature in the squad for this tournament. Home advantage may be valuable, however, and in any case the team can hardly do worse than in 2007- in that tournament, England managed only a single victory (over Zimbabwe) .

The Netherlands qualified along with Ireland and Scotland, with Ryan ten Doeschate and Peter Borren impressing in the qualifying tournament. Added to those players for the finals is Dirk Nannes, a Twenty20 specialist who has ‘gone Dutch’ after continually missing out on selection for Australia. Progress to the Super Eight stage seems unlikely, but a surprise result against England (or even Pakistan) isn’t out of the question.

Pakistan are highly fancied to go one better than in 2007 and win the tournament. Their T20 International record is the best around. The exclusion of Pakistani players from this season’s IPL may have been a blessing in disguise, as it has given the national side plenty of time together to train (and has allowed the week-long RBS cup to become a sort of intensive private rehearsal for the players who would otherwise have been in South Africa).

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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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Well, that was easier than expected.

England enjoyed a comfortable 10-wicket win over the Windies, mainly thanks to a combination of some fine bowling by the hosts and some awful fielding by the tourists. No doubt this will encourage some people to start dreaming of Ashes success, but that may prove to be a little wide of the mark.

Nevertheless, it’s nice to see an England Test victory – there hasn’t been one since last August, before SStrauss was captain, before Allen Stanford was a wanted man, and before English Test cricketers played in the IPL.

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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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  • Derbyshire have brought in Stuart Law (who was cut loose by Lancashire) to boost their one-day firepower, but he won’t feature much in the County Championship. Charl Langeveldt will also be absent for at least three matches following his acquisition by Kolkatta for the IPL, but captain Chris Rogers is probably the best short-sighted colour-blind ginger cricketer in the world.
  • Gloucestershire, if anything, had an even worse season than Glamorgan, finishing rock bottom of the Championship in 2008. John Bracewell has a tough task on his hands to turn things around, but James Franklin’s arrival will help improve the standard of a bowling attack that struggled so much last year.
  • Northamptonshire struggled to win matches in 2008, so may be secretly hoping that Monty Panesar is dropped by England so that he can take key wickets for his county. The motley crew of Kolpaks and ‘Steelboks’ will otherwise have its work cut out to improve on last year’s showing.
  • Surrey find themselves back in Division Two once again, but the summer’s signings of Andre Nel – who will be available throughout the season – and Grant Elliot will boost their chances of promotion. Mark Ramprakash, of course, is still there, and now that he has passed the 100 centuries milestone, his county will be hoping that the part-time ballroom dancer returns to his form of 2006 and 2007.

A Division One preview will follow tomorrow.

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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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