Wayward Broad…

16 06 2011

Just a quick thought to follow on from our piece about Broad the other day.

Currently he sports figures of 4 overs for 11 runs – not bad by any means. However this hawk-eye picture taken from the Times live update site tells the story. This, we believe, is his third over.

Bear in mind there are two left handers batting and you can see why England fans have a right to be annoyed. This on a pitch which looks like it has plenty of bounce from Broad’s end.

We wonder how long it will be before the very deserving Tremlett gets the new ball regularly. He would certainly get our vote.


Ashes Review: England (Player by Player)

7 01 2011

Andrew Strauss (307 runs @ 43.85)

A man who has made history for English cricket. Although not in the same quantity as his opening partner, Alistair Cook, he scored vital runs at the top of the order with his hundred at the Gabba and his momentum grabbing 60 off 58 balls in the 5th test springing to mind. Also a vital part of the England fielding machine with his catching behind the wicket being more or less perfect all series.

Led the side excellently and appeared to have plans for all the Australian batsman which, thanks to the quality of the bowling, usually worked. Could still be a touch conservative for our tastes on occasions but this is frankly quibbling. Fully deserves all the plaudits he is likely  to receive. Now onward and upward…

Rating: 8/10

Alistair Cook (766 runs @ 127.66)

One feels that 766 will be a number forever associated with the Essex opener after this series. A tour in which he went from perceived weak point to run machine and lifted his average from a reasonable 42.78 to a world class 47.50 it would be fair, perhaps, to predict that this could well be the high point of his career. A double hundred to save the game in Brisbane followed by two big hundreds in Adelaide and Sydney to set up the two innings wins are astonishing returns and fully justified his selection as Man of the Series.

Rating: 9.5/10

Jonathan Trott (445 runs @ 89.00)

Like Cook, Trott also had a memorable series with the bat and has entrenched himself as England’s number 3 for years to come. We started the year doubting him after some frenetic and poor performances in South Africa and Bangladesh, but have finished believing in him entirely. There is something delightfully unfussy in the way he bats, always totally aware of his options and never taking undue risks (until Sydney perhaps when over confidence lured him into dragging a wide Johnson ball on). Loves playing Australia.

Rating: 8.5/10

Kevin Pietersen (360 runs @ 60.00)

Not quite as consistent as some of his colleagues with two thirds of his runs coming in a single innings, it was still a series in which we were pleased to welcome him back as, while perhaps not England’s ‘gun’ batsman anymore, certainly one of our best. Still guilty of throwing his wicket away on occasions when set, he needs to erase these habits to truly claim his place in the elite echelons of English batsmen. His 227 in Adelaide will live long in the memory however and for that alone he deserves enormous praise. Also picked up an important wicket at Adelaide which hastened the Australian demise before the rain set in.

Rating: 7/10

Paul Collingwod (83 runs @ 13.83)

Obviously a dreadful series with the bat but as ever Collingwood is a player whose contributions in other areas offset this partially. Fortunate in that his lack of runs did not matter in the grand scheme of things with the prolific form of the other batsman, he was nevertheless outstanding catching in the arc from slips to gully coupled with crucial wickets here and there – notably Hussey in the Australian first innings at Sydney. Such a team man that there is no doubt the win means more than his personal performance and bows out from the game a much loved member of the side.

Rating: 4/10

Ian Bell (329 runs @ 65.80)

Bell has always been a joy to watch, the sheer timing and gracefulness of his batting meaning that he has always made it look easy, and finally he has added the steel to go with his undoubted talent. Suffered in part from a lack of opportunities to score runs at the beginning of the series due to either being forced to bat with the tail or simply not getting in early enough, he eventually got to a much deserved hundred in Sydney. Our pick as our leading run scorer in the series he failed to quite hit these heights due to Cooks efforts, yet this has still been a brilliant tour for the Warwickshire man.

Rating: 8/10

Matt Prior (252 runs @ 50.40, 23 catches 0 stumpings)

After a slow start with the bat, an excellent morale sapping hundred in Sydney allied with an excellent 80 at the MCG means that this has been yet another successful series for the excellently hirsute man. Allied with an impressively inconspicuous performance behind the stumps where his only error we can remember was a missed stumping off Swan, Prior can be rightly proud of this performance.

Rating: 8/10

Stuart Broad (2 wickets @ 80.50)

Despite boasting unimpressive stats from the two games he played before suffering injury, Broad kept it tight and ensured that the pressure was never relinquished. Could probably justifiably claim a couple of Finn’s wickets as his own for this reason…

Rating: 6/10

Steven Finn (14 wickets @ 33.14)

Dropped despite being England’s leading wicket taker after three tests, he can still be very pleased with his efforts. Remarkably still only 21 he has a massive future and we would bet that he will be around and at his peak by the time the Australian’s come to England in 2013. Despite being the least consistent of England’s bowlers, he has the happy knack of taking wickets at important times as he appears to have something of a golden arm.

Rating: 7/10

Tim Bresnan (11 wickets @ 19.54)

Much derided on this website and entirely, it seems, unfairly so; Bresnan deserves huge amounts of praise for his performances in the final two tests. The quickest of England’s bowlers in the games he played, he kept it tight, swung the ball and generally bowled brilliantly. With Broads return will still probably be first or second reserve, yet when you consider his batting too, he is some replacement to have.

Rating: 8.5/10

Chris Tremlett (17 wickets @ 23.55)

Along with Anderson, eventually the most potent and important member of England’s attack – remarkable considering he started the tour as a back up bowler. A genuine man mountain who pleasingly appears to have discovered some menace to go with all his natural fast bowling attributes, Warne’s comments pre-selection for the tour that Tremlett could be the best fast bowler in the world don’t seem so ridiculous now. Exceptional performances in all the games he played in. England’s fast bowling stocks look strong indeed with him in the reckoning.

Rating: 9/10

Graeme Swann (15 wickets @ 39.80)

A solid performance if not quite the series defining one many had him down for before the tour. Bowled brilliantly in Adelaide to wrap up the game for England before the rain came but for the rest of the tour and with the lack of spin on offer was mainly a defensive option for Strauss. Still took important wickets occasionally and remains one of the lynchpins of this England side. Gains a bonus half point for the excellence of his video diaries – a born entertainer.

Rating: 7.5/10

James Anderson (24 wickets @ 26.04)

They said he wouldn’t be able to swing the new ball. They said he couldn’t take wickets if it wasn’t moving and above all they said he would struggle with the Kookaburra ball. All of which, we are very pleased to say, was proved to be rubbish of the highest degree. The attack leader, Anderson proved himself once and for all and can now genuinely go on to become an England great. Deserved the man of the series award almost as much as Cook, this was a career defining performance for the Lancashire man.

Rating: 9.5/10

The Ashes Are On But It’s Not All Bad For England

19 12 2010

So much for almost having their fingers on the urn then!

England were outplayed in every department of this game, yet again finding the pacier, bouncier pitch of Perth not much to their liking. It is our considered opinion though that there is no reason to panic and that England remain, on balance, the finer of the two sides.

Before this test series started the general consensus was that it would be a close affair fought tooth and nail to the end. After the Adelaide induced hubris of the fans and pundits, if not the team themselves perhaps, and considering England’s track record of winning well only to follow up with a serious low soon afterwards, this result shouldn’t have been entirely unexpected.

The positive view point from England’s perspective is that it was a sharp, bitter taste of reality and a reminder that there is still much work to be done in this series. For Australia of course there were plenty of good things to take from this test. The astonishing return to form of Mitchell Johnson; the batting of Watson (not that he has ever failed exactly – just this time he scored more than his usual 50 odd) and of course the once again peerless batting of Michael Hussey. If Ricky Ponting is indeed out, there is no question as to who should replace him in the number three slot (and probably as captain) leaving a probable debutant at 5. Ryan Harris, too, bowled well in the second innings although scoreboard pressure and silly shots had ensured the fight had long gone out of England by the time he mopped up the tail.

The fact remains though that without Hussey and Johnson playing so extraordinarily well England would have likely been in this game still. The key for the rest of the series in Australia’s case is whether Johnson can maintain his form – something that his previous track record suggests might be tricky.

Hussey on the other hand appears to go on and on and at this rate will be in serious danger of breaking some longstanding records. England need a plan to him immediately and preferably one that doesn’t involve bowling a succession of short balls to feed his pull shot. They’ve proved he can pull like the best of them and, as England fans, we desperately don’t want to see anymore… In fact it’s a bit like Doherty’s dismissal of Pietersen in the Adelaide test – Hussey did get out to the short ball so, if it was a plan, it worked eventually – the problem was he had over a hundred by then.

Tremlett deserves praise albeit he was one of the main contributors to the short ball mania in the second innings and perhaps struggled a little at the left handers in the Australian side. Nevertheless it was still a hugely impressive comeback and one that is likely to have secured his place in the team for a while – potentially at the expense of Steve Finn.

Whilst he was inconsistent and expensive, Finn does have an uncanny knack for picking up wickets which is useful in any bowler. We would hesitate to drop him for Boxing Day at the MCG as some have suggested – he is after all the leading wicket taker on either side.

Looking ahead, there have been some calls by ex-players, Flintoff and Jonathan Agnew amongst them, to play five bowlers at the MCG as it is likely to be another bouncy result wicket. Considering the batting woes in this test we would hesitate to play a side along these lines as we think it could weaken what was already a major problem for England in this match. Despite the inconsistent performance of the bowlers in this test England still managed to take 20 wickets so we would suggest this isn’t really why England lost.

The possible swap, Bresnan for Collingwood is a non starter in our eyes. It is true that Collingwood contributed little with the bat, but I’m not sure who else would have taken that catch at slip off Ponting on the first day for one. As we saw someone describe him on Twitter, he is a cockroach of a cricketer and will surely score some runs at the MCG now that, once more, his place is under threat.

All things considered there is no need to panic, or indeed conversely get carried away on the Australian side. From England’s point of view the plan should be simple: Namely, get Hussey out early and bat better. If they can do this there is no reason why they shouldn’t wrap things up in Melbourne.

‘Curtly’ Tremlett and Other Stories From The WACA

16 12 2010

Tremlett you beauty! On another excellent day for England’s bowlers it was the replacement, the new boy to England’s team who stood out. In three spells of sustained excellence and aggression, Tremlett proved why he could potentially become a major part of this English bowling attack and demonstrated a depth that Australia can only dream of.

People laughed a while ago when Warne declared that Tremlett had the ability to be the best fast bowler in the world in an article for the Daily Telegraph, yet today the huge potential he has always had translated into important test match wickets.

As everyone knows Tremlett is a very tall man, but unlike Finn, he has a real presence at the crease – akin perhaps to the great West Indian bowlers of the 80’s and 90’s, Ambrose for example. Whilst it is obviously wildly overstating things to claim that Tremlett is anywhere near as good a bowler as the great Antiguan; there were times, especially during his opening spell with the new ball, that we as spectators felt an anticipatory horror and an instinctive sympathy for the batsman every time he ran up to bowl.

The difference is of course that in the past, with Ambrose, this feeling was heightened by the knowledge that some hapless English batsman was inevitably going to be walking off head bowed at any given moment rather than in this case, Australian.

This was a good pitch, bouncy and certainly quicker than the last few years, yet Australia should have made a good first innings total and still be batting. That the Australians got close to 300 was really down to some profligate short pitched bowling from Finn who, if Broad was available for the next test, would probably miss out, so well did Tremlett bowl today.

Anderson and Swann were also effective and, along with Tremlett and Finn, were brilliantly supported by the English fielders. Collingwood in particular should be pleased as his catch to dismiss Ponting is up there with Strauss’ effort at second slip to dismiss Gilchrist in 2005. Mind you, its all fairly run of the mill for the Durham man!

England need to bat all day tomorrow and preferably until around tea of the next as well. If they can do that – well, they will practically be able to feel that urn of inverse importance to its size is in their hands.

Ashes Third Test Preview

15 12 2010

With the anticipation building for what could be the decisive test in the Ashes battle, we thought we would do the obvious thing and put a few of our thoughts down on paper (or screen perhaps?!). There are still a few questions to be answered for both teams as to the composition of the two sides yet the essential feeling remains that England should, if they play well, come out on top.

Australia are, as many observers closer to the team than us here in sunny Dubai, a team in no small amount of turmoil – something emphasised by their selection policy and the obvious panic within it. We know that if we were Ricky Ponting we would be fuming at the general inconsistency shown. As if the prospect of losing a third Ashes series isn’t enough, he is being asked to captain a side that has little do with his own preferences and that includes someone he has never laid eyes on before.

According to Simon Hughes and others on their Twitter accounts, that man, Beer, looked lost during the Aussie net session today and, with the pitch being green, (and therefore in theory offering assistance to the seam bowlers) apparently the Aussies are leaning towards four seamers. The alternative of playing Beer with the hat trick hero from the Gabba, Peter Siddle, being left out as many have suggested, implies the Aussies are no where nearer a coherent selection policy. Granted he has taken zero wickets since his six wicket haul in the first innings in Brisbane, but dropping someone who is your only success story in four innings of test cricket beggars belief – especially when the other quicks apparently first in the queue to play have both been dropped already in this Ashes.

For England it is a simpler equation and as we have written before our pick would be Shahzad – there is something about his bustling nature that we quite like. Tremlett had been the hot favourite until the last 24 hours when Jonathan Agnew, Michael Vaughan and one or two others threw their weight behind Tim Bresnan.

As long time readers will be aware we have a profound distrust of Bresnan’s ability to take wickets in test cricket. A wholehearted trier, a useful limited overs bowler and someone who undoubtedly would be willing to run in the ‘Freemantle Doctor’ (the stiff wind that is liable to blow up at a moment’s notice causing havoc with the bowlers) that we have been hearing so much about over the past few days – but surely someone who is less likely to take a crucial ‘fivefer’ than the other two.

Perhaps we are wrong – and few people try harder and therefore perhaps deserve success as much as Bresnan – but in a game where Ricky Ponting particularly knows that perhaps his entire career, let alone the Ashes, is on the line; we think that Bresnan is the bowler the Aussies would most want us to pick. On that basis alone it should be one of the other two…

Mind you, perhaps this is balanced out by the Australian’s picking Steven Smith to ‘have fun’ and be the joker in the team. We can’t remember any specific examples but imagine if ten years ago England had picked a young player and gave him this message – think what Steve Waugh’s take might have been! The word scathing would probably not have done justice to his response.

As a Kiwi friend of the Compulsive Hooker warned us yesterday in one of our cockier moments, ‘you can never discount these buggers until their beaten’; something that remains undeniably the case. If Ponting gets going; if Hussey continues where he left off or even, as is possible, Hughes blazes a quick ton and Australia manage to get 450 on the board – well then things could get tricky. England should still have enough of an edge in the batting to stay in and eventually win the game, but runs on the board adds a pressure that was absent in Adelaide and this, being cricket, you simply never know.

Whatever happens we cannot wait and have decided to side with the prevailing winds. We believe that after a close fought battle, England will ultimately emerge triumphant.

Premature Gloating and The Real Number One Battle

12 12 2010

Gloating Too Early?

In amidst the euphoria of England’s innings win in Adelaide and the glee with which the selection of Michael Beer and Phil Hughes has been greeted, an important and sobering fact lies in England’s record at the WACA. As Scyld Berry’s excellent piece in the Telegraph explains, England have never won against a full strength Aussie side at Perth. (The sole victory coming in 1978 against an Australian side depleted by Kerry Packer and his World Series Cricket).

Rather than regurgitate the article we recommend you click here as it will help keep matters in perspective… As much as we and almost all other judges around the world are convinced that England will win this series, the fact remains, this is the Australian’s we are talking about. A wounded and discounted Aussie is a very dangerous thing…

In the same paper the inevitable chat about England challenging for number one status has been raised once more. If England win this series well, say 3-0 perhaps, then it is worth posing these questions, yet, up until the point where this potential score line is reached – the English within us wishes that people would refrain from what appears to be premature gloating!


The Real Number One Battle

On the subject of challenging for number one status, the top two sides, India and South Africa, kick off their three test series at Centurion on Thursday. For all the naysayers and doubters (of which we admit for a while we were one) with regard to the justification of India’s number one ranking status, this will either seal the deal for the next 6 months or simply open up all the old arguments once more.

South Africa are ranked a comfortable number two and possess a fearsome pace bowling attack. India’s batting line up of course requires no introduction and this battle for supremacy promises to be a brilliant one to watch. Our money is on either a drawn series or South Africa shading it as we still believe that, at home, any of the top four or five teams (minus perhaps Australia in their current form) would be favourites to beat any of the others.

What with the Ashes coming to a head as well over the next four weeks, we cannot wait for what should be a feast of test cricket!


Broad’s Replacement

No need to panic for England at the WACA despite only one wicket between Bresnan, Shahzad and Tremlett. On what was more akin to a pudding than a proper cricket pitch, England’s three back up seamers were swiftly removed from the attack in the second innings to be replaced with a mixture of Panesar, Collingwood and some declaration bowling yesterday from Morgan and Strauss of all people.

Despite one or two articles in the Australian press suggesting that England are having difficulty deciding who will play as a result and that perhaps the back up isn’t of sufficient quality, this is simply straw clutching by a media starved of their usual ‘pommie bashing’ material.

Anderson Out Of Opening Ashes Test

15 10 2010

News is emerging from the England camp that Jimmy Anderson is likely to be out of the opening two test matches of England’s Ashes campaign due to an injury sustained at the end of season ‘bonding camp’. It remains to be seen why the injury is only just emerging now, several weeks after they returned from Germany, but – and you, the reader, may be surprised we are taking this line being as we are big fans of Jimmy A – it could perhaps not be a total disaster for England.

Anderson’s record against Australia in Australia is very poor and, whilst over the past couple of years his overall performance has improved, his away performances are still relatively ineffective – over the last two years he has taken 29 wickets in 10 games at 38.06. This is better than his overall record overseas (bowling average 43.84) but has obviously still got a substantial amount of room for improvement.

One mans loss is another’s opportunity as the saying goes and in this case Anderson’s injury opens the door for Ajmal Shahzad; a man who we felt should have been in the party already and whose brand of nippy, skiddy bowling reminds us of Simon Jones. Indeed against Bangladesh he was even reverse swinging the ball which makes the potential parallels even more obvious.

What we sincerely hope does not happen (and the potentiality of this happening is something that has caused us nightmares in the past) is that the England management swap like for like and pick Tim Bresnan as the one swing bowler in the team. Bresnan is an admirable trier but not nearly in Anderson’s class as a swinger meaning that we would rather use the unknown but classy looking Shahzad in a four man attack. The other option within the squad is Tremlett but he is a very similar type of bowler to Broad and Finn and so will probably remain on the sidelines.

One thing that we feel has definitely got to be avoided is playing a 5 man attack. It would be easy to argue that with the loss of one of England’s front line bowlers, and with relative rookies in reserve, it would be necessary to play an extra bowler. However, as we stated yesterday, we believe the Ashes will be won and lost in the batting meaning that England need as many runs as possible; hence 6 front line batsman. Plus to follow on from the preceding thoughts about Bresnan; it is practically assured that 5 batsman would mean playing the Yorkshire seamer to bat him at 8 with Stuart Broad at 7 – a solution that reeks of trying to plug two perceived holes (not enough runs or wickets) with a man who is unlikely to be the answer to either problem.

Anyway – thats our two pennies worth – what are your thoughts?

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