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Posts Tagged ‘ravi bopara’

England beat Ireland by a mere 2 runs in a rain-shortened thrller in Belfast, having posted a mere 203/9 from their 50 overs. Oddly enough, Owais Shah saved the day by taking a best-ever 3 for 16 after Trent Johnson had embarrassed England’s batsmen, claiming four wickets (including Trott and Bopara for ducks).

Australia will be hoping for better luck when they take on Scotland tomorrow in their own warm-up match, although it’s hard to see Scotland putting up the sort of fight that Ireland did – the latter beat the former convincingly last weekend.

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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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Unless you’ve been hiding away in a University tower for the last couple of months, it can hardly have escaped your notice that the Ashes starts tomorrow with the First Test in Cardiff.

England’s fans (and some sections of the media) seem to have suffered a bout of collective amnesia (or perhaps repression), with the last series (which, of course, Australia won 5-0) as infrequently referred to as an old copy of the Encyclopedia Britannica or an Atlas that still has Yugoslavia and the USSR on it, and with many non-experts apparently believing that the 2005 series was in fact the last time these two sides met.

Nevertheless, the events of four years ago are likely to foremost in the mind of Ricky Ponting, who will be desperate to restore his reputation and prove the doubters (such as a certain Mr. Thomson) wrong. If Mitchell Johnson can bowl at his best and the openers can cope with reverse swing more competently than Langer and Hayden managed four years ago, then the tourists can more than justify their status as favourites.

The home side, meanwhile, are – as ever – reliant on Pietersen and Flintoff. The emergence of Graeme Swann as a genuine spin threat who can hold a bat (and a catch) adds some balance to the lower order, but there is a lot of pressure on Broad, Anderson and the fifth bowler (a position that my be filled by a number of players throughout the series) to take wickets, something which Flintoff hasn’t done much of in recent years. The top order needs to display more solidity than it did over the winter, and while Ravi Bopara may have the element of surprise (although not to the extent that KP did four years ago), he will struggle to sustain his brilliant early-season form against a bowling attach which – for all its much-heralded weaknesses – will be far more motivated than the Windies were (and, of course, won’t suffer from as many misfields).

Although it pains me to admit it, it’s tough to see past an Aussie series win.

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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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Shane Warne, hair-loss expert (“The decision for me to do something about my hair loss was simple… I didn’t want to go bald“) and sometime soap star, thinks Ravi Bopara is “too worried about how he looks” to make an impact on the Ashes.

The Ashes phoney war, it seems, is well and truly underway.

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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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Given that the West Indies, and Chris Gayle in particular (although it’s not entirely clear whether he was misinterpreted or not), have more or less said that they don’t want to be in England, the home side’s convincing win in the First Test is looking a little less impressive.

The Second Test is England’s last opportunity to work out the ideal Test side to take into the Ashes. The slightly less than impressive showing with the bat by everyone except Ravi Bopara in the first match is a valid cause for concern, and the Australians certainly won’t roll over as easily as the Windies did at Lord’s.

Kevin Pietersen in particular was uncharacteristically anonymous last week, and will be keen to get back into form before the Aussies arrive. The arrival of Bopara as England’s newest saviour (which may have temporarily usurped KP from his usual role as big-hitter and headline-grabber), and a difficult winter when the latter’s commitment to England came into question on more than one occasion, mean that England’s former captain and foremost Aussie-baiter may feel that he has much to prove.

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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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After a brief interlude which many of the players involed spent playing (or bench-warming) in the IPL, England and the West Indies go toe-to-toe for the second time this year with the Test series starting tomorrow. The Windies, of course, were hastily lined up as replacements for first Zimbabwe (who were banned from touring the UK for political reasons) and then Sri Lanka (who decided they preferred the IPL millions and to getting rained on in May in the UK), but have proven themselves formidable opponents for England, winning the series in the carribbean after a memorably awful performance from the English batting order.

For the hosts, thoughts are already drifting towards this summer’s Ashes series, and many of the squad will be looking to stake their claim for a spot in the side to face Australia. Ravi Bopara gets his chance at number three, on the grounds that everyone else is either too young, too old or too rubbish. Tim Bresnan and Graham Onions are the other new faces as Andy Flowers tries to liven things up a bit. The absence of Flintoff means there will be opportunities to shine for the young bowlers, but it will take something special to guarantee an Ashes place.

The West Indies haven’t had the best of preparation, being soundly beaten by the England Lions in the absence of their captain (who seemingly shares the Sri Lankan’s preference for the IPL over the UK), but their performances over the winter will have brought encouragement. As ever, Gayle and Chanderpaul are the danger men, but the likes of Fidel Edwards and Sulieman Benn also gave England plenty to worry about last time around.

Anything less than a series victory for the hosts will be seen as catastrophic, but catastrophe has befallen England so often recently that it’s difficult to rule out another abject failure from the home team.

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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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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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There was much excitment in some quarters when it was announced that English players would be available for the second season of the IPL, and Chennai and Bangalore alone spent $3m between them on Flintoff and Pietersen respectively, but how have England’s IPL stars got on so far?

  • Kevin Pietersen has struggled too, getting out cheaply in nearly every innings. His famed aggression hasn’t always been on display for Bangalore (at least not until after he’s out), and the treatment he’s getting from the South African crowds can’t have helped. Having captained his side to four defeats in a row, the Royal Challengers might not be too upset to see the back of him when he returns to England.
  • Dimitri Mascheranhas, the only English player with prior experience of the IPL, made an explosive start to his second season, taking 2 wickets in 2 balls, and batted well against Kolkatta. He seems to have graduated from last year’s bit-part at Rajasthan to the role of front-line bowler, and has taken the wickets of some very good players indeed.
  • Owais Shah has apparently enjoyed practising his Hindi with his Delhi Daredevils team-mates, and has had plenty of time to, with little in the way of cricket to occupy himself with.
  • Ravi Bopara blasted 84 from 59 balls against Bangalore, and claims that he has now learnt how to open in Twenty20 cricket, something that may bring cheer to England ahead of the World Twenty20 in June.
  • Paul Collingwood has made it onto the field, but only as a substitute fielder (would it be cruel to suggest that Delhi signed him with that in mind?), and may not get a chance before England duty calls.

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