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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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