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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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Something has happened to England’s batsmen – have they been replaced by replicas grown from plantlike pods, identical in every way apart from their ability to pace an innings and remain steady under pressure?

Certainly, Owais Shah demonstrated a seldom-glimpsed ability to keep his head, making 98 (OK, he didn’t maintain his composure long enough to make a century) of England’s 323 against South Africa. Eoin Morgan also continued the swashbuckling form he displayed against Sri Lanka, knocking off 67 from just 34 balls to keep the pace up after Shah and Collingwood’s 163-run partnership came to an end.

The contrast with the pathetic displays of the late summer could hardly be more striking. With typical timing, England seem to be getting serious about 50-over cricket just as the format is on its deathbed.

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Yesterday, few (including myself) would have given England much of a chance of victory against Sri Lanka. However, thanks partly to their suddenly revitalised and potent pace attack and partly due to a fluent innings from Eoin Morgan, that’s exactly what they managed to pull off.

The unexpected six-wicket triumph throws Group B of the Champions Trophy wide open, with only New Zealand yet to win, and no-one managing more than one win so far. Who knows, maybe England will even reach the Semi-Finals?

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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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Ireland qualified for the Super Eight stage of the World Twenty20 with a victory over Bangladesh that came courtesy of brothers Niall and Kevin O’Brien.

Of the two teams, Bangladesh looked more like the side unused to the big occasion, with wickets being thrown away with gay abandon throughout their innings, with Tamim Iqbal’s run out being a comic highlight. Mohammad Ashraful also committed the cricketing equivalent of hari-kiri in the sort of display that had coach Jamie Siddons up in arms. Apparently, one of the main issues is “getting to the bus on time”.

For Ireland, such minor transportation issues are as insignificant as the absence of Eoin Morgan. Roll on the Super Eights…

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The ICC World Twenty20 gets underway from Friday. Here’s part one of my preview:

India, the defending champions, will face high expectations after emerging triumphant from the thrilling finale last time out.  The intervening years have of course seen the development of the Indian Premier League, a competition that means India’s players have a wealth of Twenty20 experience (although the national side has only played five T20 Internationals since the last competition, winning only one). Twenty20 superstars such as MS Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh will certainly strengthen the holders’ chances of retaining the title.

Bangladesh caused a minor shock last time out when they beat the West Indies to make the Super Eight, and hopes will be high that they can reach that stage again. The likes of Tamim Iqbal, Mohammad Ashraful and Shakib Al Hasan are potential match-winners, but no Bangladeshi player has yet set the IPL alight, and any progression beyond the last eight seems unlikely for the Tigers.

Ireland qualified for the tournament mainly thanks to an impressive performance from Andre Botha. The side will, however, be missing a key player of recent years in Eoin Morgan, who has been called into England’s squad for the tournament.  A surprise result against Bangladesh could see the Irish sneak into the Super Eight (much as they did in the last 50-over World Cup), but on balance the current side (especially without Morgan) may be hard-pressed to repeat the heroics of 2007.

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England fans who have handed over £45 to watch England versus the West Indies at Headingley (or up to a whopping £66 to watch the Second ODI at Bristol) may be, how shall I put it, a little disappointed that they will see neither Andrew Flintoff nor Kevin Pietersen. They may also be less than impressed with the tourists’ attitude so far.

Nevertheless, England’s success in the ODI series over in the Carribbean, as well as ever-growing Ashes fever, will ensure plenty of attention is paid to this series. The return to the side of Dwayne Bravo, and the move to a format of cricket that Chris Gayle cares about, will boost the Windies’ chances no end.

For England, much of the attention will be on the new blood in the squad. Tim Bresnan returns for the first time since 2006, whilst Eoin Morgan looks set to get his big chance in Pietersen’s stead. Meanwhile, Ravi Bopara’s recent Test and IPL form means that he may now be the headline-grabber.

England are favourites, but I think they’ll have a tough time of it if Chanderpaul, Gayle and Bravo all perform for the Windies.

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England have announced their squad for the summer’s World Twenty20, having trimmed their initial 30 down to a more manageable 15:

Paul Collingwood captains the side, somewhat suprisingly given his previous reluctance to do so, and the fact that he stood down as One-Day captain a mere nine months ago. Cynics may also suggest that if England’s best hope is someone who couldn’t even get a game in the IPL, then things don’t look good.

The other headlines are the inclusions of Rob Key (interesting because he hasn’t played for England – as opposed to the Lions – since 2005, and his last limited-overs international was way back in 2004), James Foster (also recalled after a long exile), Eoin Morgan (‘borrowed’ from Ireland), Graham Napier (another IPL bench-warmer, albeit with a fair bit of Twenty20 pedigree) and Leek’s very own Ryan Sidebottom.

The rest of the squad comprises James Anderson, Ravi Bopara, Stuart Broad, Andrew Flintoff, Dimitri Mascarenhas, Kevin Pietersen, Owais Shah, Graeme Swann, Luke Wright.

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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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After five matches each, the wheat have been separated from the marginally more chaff-like wheat, and 12 teams have been reduced down to eight for the Super Eights stage, which it is to be hoped will be more than half well named. The teams eliminated, and therefore definitely not going to the finals (and also missing out on full ODI status for the next 4 years) are Bermuda, Denmark, Oman and Uganda.

  • Afghanistan only just edged through to this stage after losing three matches in a row, but their potential fairytale continues. Even if they don’t qualify, their success against the odds has been a rare good news story from their troubled country.
  • Canada look likely to qualify given their form in the group stages (including an impressive 131 off 99 balls from John Davison against Namibia), and their win over Scotland in the first stage puts them in a good position going into the Super Eights.
  • Ireland will also be well placed heading into this stage, with 6 points carried over from the group stage. Eoin Morgan’s England call-up, whilst unsurprising, will be a blow, but the as yet unbeaten Irishmen will be favourites to qualify for the finals with ease.
  • Kenya are also amongst the favourites to make it to 2011, with only one defeat in their five matches so far. Aging limbs may start to feel the strain at this stage, but they have enough quality to ensure qualification.
  • Namibia only made it to this stage by virtue of net run rate, and will not be expected to progress any further. One or two good results could see them sneak one of the six ODI places, but even that is a tall order.
  • The Netherlands, as expected, have done well so far, and are strong candidates for qualification if they can continue their form into this stage of the competition.
  • Scotland, on the other hand, have failed to live up to expectations so far, and their 148-run defeat to Canada will set alarms ringing. Their matches against the Netherlands and Kenya now take on ‘must-win’ status.
  • The UAE, a team of “baggage handlers and bursars” have exceeded expectations, finishing Group B with as many points as Kenya and the Netherlands, but will be seen as outsiders to beat those teams into the top four. Fifth or sixth place is, however, a realistic target.

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The final stage of qualification for the 2011 World Cup gets underway on Wednesday in South Africa, as 12 teams begin the battle for four places at the finals. Some have played at the finals before, whilst others have fought their way up from the obscurity of World Cricket League Division 5.

Canada’s build up to the World Cup Qualifier was severely disrupted when they were forced to cancel their tour of Zimbabwe following an outbreak of cholera, and they have their work cut out to qualify for the finals with a relatively weak side. If they are to make it, much will depend on emerging star Rizwan Cheema, who has made half-centuries against the West Indies and Sri Lanka in the last year.

Ireland made a big splash at the last World Cup in 2007, when they eliminated Pakistan and made it to the Super Eight stage, and the majority of the players involved in that success are likely to be involved again. Eoin Morgan, who has played for the England Lions, may be called up to the full England side before too long, so will want to put in some good performances in what may prove to be his last major tournament for Ireland.

Namibia will sadly be without the player who would undoubtedly have had the best name in the tournament in Kola Burger, but they come into the qualifier off the back of their best-ever performance in South African domestic One Day cricket. The Namibians have traditionally been stronger in multi-day cricket (they narrowly lost out to Ireland in the ICC Intercontinental Cup final), but batting under pressure in a 50-over game still seems to be an issue for them.

Oman isn’t renowned as a cricketing hotbed, and the majority of the side in South Africa will be subcontinental expatriates. Back in 2005 they lost every match in the ICC Trophy group stage, but beat Uganda and the USA in the play-off stages, and whilst they will be definite outsiders, they do have some players who are capable of winning matches.

Scotland emerged victorious last time this competition was held (when it was known as the ICC Trophy), and will be banking of the experience of -amongst others – Gavin Hamilton and John Blain to see them through. A number of the squad have had injury problems in the past, but if key players remain fit over the three weeks, the Scots will be expected to qualify for 2011 with relative ease.

Uganda have long been talked about as a dark horses in associate cricket, but have shown the sort of inconsistency that has brought wins over Kenya and Zimbabwe but also losses to Papua New Guinea. Bowling all-rounder Kenneth Kamyuka has the potential to make an impact, and making the Super Eight stage is a realistic target.

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