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Posts Tagged ‘ian bell’

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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Ian Bell will definitely start the Third Ashes Test at Edgbaston, after England opted not to call up a replacement for the injured Kevin Pietersen. Bell hasn’t played for England since February, when he was part of the touring side that collapsed to 51 all out against the West Indies in Jamaica, and the lack of any competition for batting positions could be seen as indicative of a lack of strength in depth.

Certainly, Bell’s average against Australia (a mere 25.10, as opposed to Pietersen’s 50.72) doesn’t inspire much confidence. Australia’s bowlers have had the better of Bell in the past, and he will need to come up with more convincing performances than he has in the past if he is to make an impact on the series.

Pietersen’s absence, of course, also heaps more pressure on Ravi Bopara to make some runs at the top of the order, and perhaps the expectation will be for Bopara to take on the role of aggressor in the manner that KP made his trademark. Whatever happens, there is a long way to go in the series, and plenty of time for reputations to be made, restored or cemented.

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In all the (admittedly irresistable) excitement about Flintoff, 1934 and all that, it’s important to remember that 2009 is not 2005. The tension has been similar, but mainly because both sides have alternated between dominance and capitulation, rather than because the standard of cricket has been as high as it was during the much exalted series of four years ago.

England, certainly, have looked much less impressive with the ball than they were at their mid-decade peak, with even Flintoff only occasionally managing to dispel the impression that he is something of a nostalgia act (today, of course, has been a glorious exception). The batting, too, is less assured – perhaps surprising, given that Ian Bell was in the 2005 side.

It’s hardly revelatory to suggest that Australia’s bowling attack is weaker than it has been for any Ashes series for nearly two decades, but it’s nevertheless accurate. Whereas the Aussies used to have the best bowlers in the world, Hauritz isn’t even necessarily the best spinner in Australia, and comparing McGrath to Hilfenhaus or Siddle is a bit like comparing Elvis to Jimmy Ray, at least for the moment.

So, it’s not time to start planning that chapter in your memoirs about the ‘legendary summer of 2009’ just yet, but unfortunately, this Ashes series seems to be having a similar effect on my mental health to the 2005 edition.

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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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Although many would suggest that their recent form in the World Twenty20 hardly merits it, Australia’s cricketers are set for a pay rise after the Australian Cricketers Association (ACA) and Cricket Australia agreed a new Memorandum of Understanding.

The move is being seen as motivated by a desire to stave off defections from the national side to a freelance (or, less generously, mercenary) existence of the sort that Andrew Symonds looks set to pioneer following his recent troubles.

It has also been revealed that the new deal will see the highest-paid player or players earn bonuses based on “their recognition and their popularity”, although reports that Ian Bell is strenuously lobbying the ECB against adopting a similar system are as yet unconfirmed.

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Monty Panesar has not been included in England’s 13-man squad for the Second Test against the West Indies at Chester-le-Street, confirming that he is now very much England’s second choice spinner. The first choice (and man of the match at Lord’s), Graeme Swann, has burst onto the Test scene to supplant Panesar – with the latter now looking less likely than ever to feature in the Ashes frontline.

Amongst the reasons suggested for the selectors’ preference for Swann had been Panesar’s reluctance to set his own fields, which some amateur psychologists have pointed to as evidence of a mindset too fragile to withstand the inevitable Aussie onslaught of an Ashes series. More obviously, Swann has taken 33 wickets in his six Tests, whereas Panesar has taken only 11 in the period since Swann joined the England setup.

Geoff Miller ‘explains’ the selection here, although he doesn’t adequately explain what Ian Bell has done since the last Test squad was announced that justifies his recall.

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After all the speculation about whether Bell, Key, Shah or Vaughan would be England’s number 3 batsmen against the West Indies, the collective gasp from the nation’s cricket writers was almost audible even outside of London as none of the aforementioned candidates even made it into the squad for the First Test.

Ravi Bopara is now expected to fill the third slot in the England’s batting order. Whilst I’m a fan of Bopara, he doesn’t strike me as a Test number three. It has always struck me as a little strange that Kevin Pietersen is so reluctant to bat at three, which suggests that he doesn’t rate himself against the new ball.

To think that Kevin Pietersen doesn’t rate himself at anything is so counter-inituitive that it makes my head hurt.

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Michael Vaughan missed another chance to prove his form ahead of the announcement of England’s sqaud to play the West Indies when he fell to fellow England outcast Steve Harmison for 24. Television replays suggested Vaughan may not have got a touch on the fatal ball, but the evidence from the single available angle was inconclusive.

The selectors almost seem to be looking for an excuse to pick Vaughan, so this score will frustrate them as well as their former captain. The number three spot is looking increasingly like it might end up being filled by Ian Bell, which is fine if he’s in form, but it’s only a matter if weeks since he was dropped, so it seems more likely that any recall would owe more to the lack of options available than to a belief that Bell has improved in the intervening period. Indeed, his attitude to being dropped suggests little or nothing has changed.

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England have delayed naming their Test squad for the series against the West Indies, because the selectors “need more time to assess players who are returning after injury”.

This gives the likes of Ian Bell and Michael Vaughan an extra nine days to impress, an effect which may not be entirely coincidental. The poor showing for the MCC by Vaughan, Bell and Rob Key means that there are few real candidates for the number three spot who are in any sort of form. Although Bell recently made 172 for Warwickshire, it is perhaps felt too soon to bring him back (even if he would clearly disagree). An extra week-and-a-bit may provide an opportunity for someone to play themselves into a ‘selectable’ position.

Another factor involved in the delay may be concerns over players picking up injuries in the IPL. Andrew Flintoff is reportedly already feeling the strain on his ankle after a mere 4 overs for the Chennai Super Kings, and it’s not difficult to imagine something happening to Collingwood or Pietersen in South Africa either (even if, in the latter’s case, the main injury threat may come from angry Saffer spectators).

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  • Durham surprised a lot of people with their Championship win last year, and with Steve Harmison out of favour with England once again, their bowling attack looks just as strong as it was in 2008. Ian Blackwell has come in to bolster the middle order and add a spin option, and Shivnarine Chanderpaul returns in June following the World Twenty20.
  • Hampshire arguably owe last year’s survival, let alone their eventual third place, to the spin bowling of Imran Tahir, who returns from June. In the meantime, Australian Marcus North comes in as an overseas player to add runs, and Dominic Cork also arrives following his release by Lancashire. Chris Tremlett will also be key for the attack, whilst Mascarenhas’ England and IPL commitments will drain the Rose Bowl’s resources for much of the season.
  • Lancashire have released Dominic Cork and Stuart Law, whilst Andrew Flintoff and James Anderson are likely to make very few appearances for their county, so the Red Rose lineup will be somewhat unfamiliar in places. Mark Chilton and Francois Du Plessis need to improve on last year’s performances with the bat, or relegation may threaten to make Peter Moores’ 2009 even worse.
  • Nottinghamshire may spend the majority of the season watching their three best bowlers ply their trade for England, so the likes of Shreck and Pattinson will be key. If Samit Patel gets fit enough to be called up as well, the side could look a little thin in the middle order, but if newlywed Adam Voges can translate his limited-overs form to the four-day game then the prospect of a title challenge isn’t too far-fetched to consider.
  • Somerset continue to have an incredibly strong top order (especially with and Marcus Trescothick as an opening pair), but with Ian Blackwell moving to Durham and Andy Caddick into his 40s, the bowling attack looks worryingly thin. Unless a young gun steps up to take wickets, a proliferation of draws may ensue.
  • Warwickshire face the step up from Division Two without Ian Salisbury, but Jeetan Patel should be a strong addition to their four-day side. If Ian Bell stays out of the England team long enough to feature regularly, then the Bears can reap the benefits. Similarly, Tim Ambrose will be a force in the County game even he doesn’t cut it at Test level.
  • Worcestershire enter the post-Hick era in 2009, which puts a lot of pressure on Vikram Solanki and the likes of Stephen Moore. Gareth Batty’s recent England call-up underlined his quality with the ball, but the pace attack is relatively weak, especially given Simon Jones’ continuing injury problems. If Solanki and Kabir Ali find form, then the side can look for more than just consolidation in their return to Division One.
  • Yorkshire came uncomfortably close to relegation last year, but players of the quality of Michael Vaughan, Anthony McGrath, Matthew Hoggard and Adil Rashid should see them improve in 2009 (assuming England call-ups don’t intervene). A championship challenge may be asking too much, and adjusting to life without Darren Gough will be difficult, but there is enough class (especially with Jacques Rudolph in the side) for a top-half finish.

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It was Ian Bell’s turn

Ian Bell still doesn’t quite get it. The most promising Warwickshire young player 1999, 2000 and 2001 told Cricinfo that England “were beaten heavily so someone had to go and it was my turn“, failing to grasp the fact that it was his ‘turn’ because his form had been pants and he keeps throwing away good starts, rather than because someone had to ‘take one for the team’.

It could be that central contracts, for all their positive influence, have also led to a complacency within the England setup where players feel that it’s their right to be ‘given another go‘ in the team when they fail. Second-guessing which players will be in form 12 months down the line will, to some extent, inevitably lead to a situation where the national side is even more of a closed shop than Zavvi.

I would like to see the likes of Bell back in the side, but only if his performances merit it, not just because the selectors prefer the devil they know.

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