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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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