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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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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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