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Posts Tagged ‘matt prior’

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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England’s batsmen have failed for the second match in a row, failing for the second time in three days to knock off the required runs after their bowlers had restricted Australia to an unexceptional total. With a large Pietersen-shaped hole gaping in the top order (Matt Prior batting at number three? Seriously?), the home side are in danger of suffering an embarrasingly emphatic series win if they can’t win matches when their opponents play poorly.

The good news for England is that they have plenty of ODIs coming up in the next few months to get some practice in (another five ODIs against Australia, the Champions Trophy in South Africa and then the One-Day element of their tour of that country). Whether or not the opportunity to build a stable and balanced side will be taken, however, remains to be seen.

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The Twenty20 reaches its conclusion this weekend with the now traditional Finals Day. This year will be the last season of the current format, and will also see the first qualifiers decided for the Champions League after last year’s cancellation.

As well as the exciting prospect of the mascot race being commentated on by Phil Tufnell, the cricket should be of a high standard, with four good sides involved:

  • Somerset, like Kent, are former winners, and the quality of their top order (Trescothick, Langer, Kieswetter…) is beyond question. The bowling is not quite as strong, but if the batsmen make a big enough score that won’t matter too much, and the experience of the older heads will be priceless in the field.
  • Sussex may be missing Matt Prior for Finals Day, but they have quality bowlers in Yasir Arafat and James Kirtley, whilst Luke Wright can make an impact with bat or ball (or both). Defeat in the Friends Provident Trophy final may have sharpened their hunger for success, but Murray Goodwin will need to regain his form if they are to lift the trophy.

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The so-called ‘Langer dossier‘ detailing all of England’s failings (which, incidentally, Justin Langer almost certainly didn’t write) is getting a lot of coverage today – but it’s hardly full of revelations. In the words of Michael Vaughan, “If I had been asked to write a dossier on English cricket, I would have come up with many of the same points“.

Any English cricket fan could tell you that the team’s heads drop when they’re up against it, that Matt Prior and Graeme Swann have large egos and that Jimmy Anderson can fall apart when things aren’t going his way. Perhaps the dossier also contained suggestions that Pietersen rates himself highly and that Andrew Flintoff likes a beer or two.

A far more profound insight into the (lack of) mental strength of England’s cricketers could be gained purely by watching them bat in the current Test.

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The first day of the 2009 Ashes was quite a day. It had a spectacular catch from Mike Hussey, Mitchell Johnson scaring the horses, Pietersen and Collingwood losing their heads (and their wickets), Prior and Flintoff going ballistic, a wholly unnecessary nightwatchman being employed to protect Stuart Broad, who ended up batting anyway, and Katherine Jenkins, for those of you who like that sort of thing.

On balance, both sides will find plenty of encouragement, as well as plenty of areas for improvement. It seems at least some of the hype about the entertainment value of this series will be borne out.

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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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Sir Allen Stanford has been arrested by the FBI and will face charges in a US federal court this morning. The allegedly fraudulent cricket-loving Texan billionaire and admirer of Matt Prior’s wife has denied any wrongdoing.

If any aggreived West Indian cricket fans want to see the man who was briefly touted as the WICB’s saviour (and who may still owe Ramnaresh Sarwan and Shivnarine Chanderpaul a million dollars) in tears, then go here.

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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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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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Matt Prior has flown home to be with his wife after she gave birth to his son on Monday. All well and good, but lurking at the bottom of the Cricinfo report of this occurence, in a discussion of Tim Ambrose (Prior’s replacement as wicketkeeper) are four words that will strike terror into the hearts of England fans everywhere:

“[Ambrose] is likely to be joined in the middle-order by Ravi Bopara, who scored an attractive century in England’s warm-up in Barbados, or a recalled Ian Bell.”

I’d rather have Amjad Khan batting at three than let Bell back in after one mediocre performance in a tour match against the bowling of Barrington Bjorn Beckenbauer Yearwood. If Bell comes back in, it will arguably be more of a testament to the lack of quality available to England on their current tour than to any resurgence in his own lacklustre form.

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There aren’t many 6’7” spin bowlers out there, so Sulieman Benn (one of my ones to watch way back in March) stands out regardless of his performance. He stood out in another way during England’s first innings of the First Test at Sabina Park, though, namely the quality of his bowling.

For a spin bowler to bowl 22 overs on the first day of a Test in Jamaica is remarkable in itself, but for him to only concede 29 runs (and take the wicket of the other side’s best player) is pretty special. He continued his good form on the second day, too, taking another three wickets (including those of Collingwood and Prior, both decent players of spin) to finish on figures of 4-77 (and with an economy rate of 1.73).

It seems the West Indian attack, once so famous for its pacemen, has a new element – one that England’s batsmen have, in the main, so far stuggled to cope with.

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Texan billionaire, helicopter enthusiast and possible evil genius Allen
Stanford is, according to reports, considering pulling out of the
Stanford 20/20 for $20m tournament following massive losses in the
event’s inaugural run (obviously, with his financial nous, he had expected that an event which mainly consisted of him giving away money would turn out to generate an immediate profit). The ECB have been variously reported as “in shock“, “in denial” and “unaware” – quite a combination. Adding to the speculation is the news that the ‘Stanford Legends’ have been disbanded.

This might turn out to be a blessing in disguise for England, who didn’t
really seem all that comfortable over in Antigua, or indeed to be entirely sure exactly why it was that they were there. The main effect of a Stanford pull-out on the team itself would probably be to reinforce the interest of English players in the cash on offer in the IPL, but that was always going to happen anyway. Matt Prior certainly doesn’t seem too upset.

Quite what the effect would be on the ECB’s finances is unclear, though I’d be surprised if they’d budgeted for any future income from a winner takes all match, given England’s shocking record in Twenty20 internationals.

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