Keeping Confusion: Prior In For Davies

19 01 2011

Particularly until the advent of central contracts, but even since then to a large degree, there have been few constants in the England cricket team. Players come and go, coaches do the same, and despite levels of success having improved since the dire days of nineties cricket, results have done much the same thing too. In amongst this little lot there has been one position that has changed above all – that of England wicket-keeper – and this tendency to chop and change shows no sign of abating.

While the situation does not even closely rival the Australian spin situation – a dozen or so spinners since the great Shane Warne’s retirement in 2007 – it is hardly an ideal one. Partly this lack of clarity has been caused by the different demands of each cricketing format but some, it has to be said, has been down to a mixture of poor selecting and simple mediocrity amongst the players chosen.

In the latest about face, Matt Prior has come back into the ODI fold having displaced Steven Davies for the Cricket World Cup. Prior is of course the established and much improved test match keeper with an argument to be the best in the world in this format, yet in ODI’s has, on the whole, flattered to deceive. Like the reinvigorated Bell, the England management are banking on England and Prior’s recent successes to imbue him with the confidence required to succeed. There is little doubt that as a batsman he has the capabilities although this, as in the case of Michael Vaughan, does not always guarantee success.

Davies could be justified for feeling a little disgruntled although the management are probably justified in his removal despite a reasonable record in his opening handful of ODI’s. As we mentioned the other day, we would have picked Davies in our squad in the interests of consistency and giving a young player with huge potential a chance, yet it is also difficult to find fault with the selectors eventual choice.

Part of the problem in our view has been how the role of the wicket keeper, particularly in the limited overs formats, has been interpreted. It is probably possible to blame that once in a generation talent, Adam Gilchrist, for this although it is worth mentioning Romesh Kaluwitharana in the same breath for his exploits as keeper/batsman at the 1996 world cup.

As exciting as the Sri Lankan was though, it was Gilchrist who took this role to the heights and should indirectly shoulder some of the blame for England’s keeping dilemmas. Ever since he started opening for Australia, England’s selectors have been trying to find someone to emulate him as apparently that is the de facto position for any international keeper to bat these days.

Phil Mustard, Craig Kieswetter, Matt Prior (once already) and Steven Davies have now all been tried and discarded in this role and we hope that with Prior’s second coming in this format he will not be asked to reprise this role. Class batsman that he is, we would rather see Bell given the chance to build an innings and become the man to score big runs at the top of the order. Prior should slot in at six or seven and become a player capable of either rebuilding in times of crisis or blasting a quick 40 in the last ten overs. If he can do this he will become an integral part of England’s plans across all formats for many years to come.

Players used by England as designated wicket keepers through the last 10 years in all international formats: (Click here)





England vs Australia Series Wrap

4 07 2010

Australia, having found their usual one day form over the last two one dayers, ensured yesterday that neither side will go into the Ashes in November with any bragging rights at all. This was always likely to be a series of little relevance and so it has proved. Interesting entertainment, enjoyable cricket and has allowed one or two to state their cases once more, but other than that not much meaning.

The point has been raised that by having a series like this it devalues the meaning of a genuine Ashes contest, but in our opinion, this is not the case. It has served as a tasty hors d’oeuvres and in that sense is welcome – Ashes cricket after all is about test cricket, no other form, and therefore the Compulsive Hooker has little problem with our appetites being whetted. Coming as it did after some long months of pretty uninteresting cricket against Bangladesh it was a welcome relief to be honest! (But never fear – fans of uninspiring cricket have more to come with a further three one day games against Bangladesh this month!)

If the result has little relevance; what did we learn?

What we have learnt is that looking at the averages seems to mean little when looking at who was dominant over who. Australia had four regular bowlers averaging under 30 with the ball and all conceding less than five runs an over. England on the other hand had two bowlers averaging under 30 and most still going at over five an over. Yet England won 3-2! Things were more even on the batting, but it is an interesting aside to see that once again as in the Ashes, England seem to have won the crucial exchanges without dominating in terms of wickets taken.

First of all the bowling. It is clear that an Australian attack with Shaun Tait in it is a much more fearsome thing than without him. Yesterday Tait bowled a ball clocked at 100 miles an hour, only slightly slower than Shoaib Akhtar’s record, and ripped the heart out of England’s batting. Demonstrating just how difficult it is to bat against such extreme pace; Tait took 8 wickets at 12.38 and went for less than four runs an over! Predictably there has already been talk about whether he might return to the longer forms of the game with one eye on the Ashes, and worrying as that prospect is for Englishman, it is unlikely to happen given Tait’s record at breaking down if required to bowl more than 8-10 overs a day.

Likewise Harris also proved a handful on occasions, taking 10 wickets in four games, with his ability to bowl up above the 90 mile an hour mark suggesting that he is around to stay for a while. With Bollinger also thrown into the mix and Hilfenhaus, Siddle and possibly even another young gun like Hazlewood to come in, the Australian bowling stocks don’t look bad at all.

For England it was a different story with only Swann and Broad really having good series. Anderson had his moments too, notably at Old Trafford, yet in three of the five games he went for more than sixty in his allotted overs and yesterday for 75. Bresnan also belied his recently acquired status as a good limited overs operator with only one wicket in the series. Call us fickle but, having witnessed his performances in this series, we are doubly concerned about any potential Ashes involvement he might have! As an opening bowler Sidebottom would surely have been a better selection (limited as he is also by conditions), but Bresnan’s batting in the end saved him (mostly) from our ire. Swann, who despite being strangely under bowled, was his usual excellent self and these days really is the heart of this England team.

The batting was strangely inconsistent for both sides in this series with almost everyone contributing something at some point. The much maligned Clarke top scored for Australia and did much to win the fourth match for them, although the pedestrian finish to his 87 not out at the Rose Bowl also possibly lost them that match. Watson got starts without going on and looked in a continual sulk; all of White, Hussey and Ponting contributed well at some point; but on the whole the batting was fractured with generally only one man performing at a time.

England’s batting was also mixed. Strauss proved he can score quickly enough to be a threat at the top of the order although, despite his 87 in the third match, he is guilty perhaps of not going on and taking the game away from the opposition. Morgan won the man of the series award for his excellent contributions in the first three games – his hundred at the Rose Bowl was a brilliant exhibition of how to pace an innings. Collingwood had a quieter series but showed his worth last night with an excellent 95 as all others struggled against the extreme pace and Bresnan did well at 7. The notable failures were Kieswetter, KP and Wright though for varying reasons.

KP looked in great touch but was too frenetic, looking to smash everything for four; Kieswetter was undone by a mixture of good bowling and poor shot selection but deserves another chance. Wright on the other hand, despite his important 35 at the Rose Bowl, looks too high up the order at six which begs the question – what is he there for? Currently he appears to be doing the Mark Ealham bits and pieces role from a front line batters spot which is probably a luxury England can’t afford come the world cup next year.

All in all it was an entertaining series and one that should encourage England for having won with only three batsman really firing. The potential shortfalls are easily apparent though and it will be Andy Flower’s priority to remedy those over the next 9 months up until World Cup time. Australia on the other hand won’t feel despondent and Ponting will be pleased with the way one or two have come through and taken responsibility, particularly in the last two matches. There is a depth to Australian cricket that means they are rarely going to be too far off the pace and so it showed here.





World Champions!

17 05 2010

England are World 20/20 Champions.

That is a sentence that we never thought we would write. England have long been the rank outsiders for these tournaments, usually collapsing in a mire of mediocrity. This tournament, however, the limited overs world has flipped on its head and now here we are, able to celebrate England winning an ICC world title.

Being English, right up until the final couple of overs, there was a suspicion that something could have gone wrong and that Australia would somehow snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Such fragile confidence though appears to have little place with this new England. In test cricket England have been greater than the sum of their parts for sometime and despite only flashes of brilliance against Australia last Summer, and then this Winter in South Africa, they have managed a win and a draw away from home. Even as recently as England’s games against Pakistan in Dubai, this form hadn’t yet translated into limited overs cricket, although this now appears to have changed.

From the first over when Watson was caught by Swann with a brilliant reaction catch, to the point where Collingwood smashed his second ball over mid wicket for six to bring the scores level, England had been in charge and the win when it came, was as emphatic a victory we can remember over Australia in the shorter forms of the game.

Craig Kieswetter picked up the man of the match award for his occasionally devastating 62 from 49 balls, however in our view it would have been more fitting had the award gone to a bowler. It was the bowlers after all who as a collective, Michael Yardy’s 3rd and final over excepting, restricted Australia to a total a long way under par. Michael Clarke afterwards said he thought Australia needed another 30 or 40 runs to make it truly challenging, although even had this been the case England may well have chased it down. Graeme Swann once more bowled with exemplary control and his 4th over battle with Cameron White was gripping. Sidebottom, too, was tight and the Compulsive Hooker feels we owe him an apology, as we had cited him as the seamer most likely to be taken apart by the Australians.

In the end England’s more balanced team won the day as when it game down to it, Australia lacked the slow bowling options which might have taken the pace off the ball and made life more difficult for the English batsman. More than this balance though, it was the composure of the English team though that you noticed. At not one point was their any panic, with the one over in which a few nerves came to the fore following the dismissals of KP and Kieswetter being assuaged swiftly by Morgan’s cool head. By contrast the Australians looked rattled throughout with mix ups running and uncharacteristic errors in the field. In the past any team trying to ‘stick it up ’em’ would have been confronted with an arrogant stare, before being pulverised back from whence they came. These days, like the South Africans, the Australians are vulnerable when under fire and in recent times England have shown the required gumption to take advantage of this fragility.

England’s man of the tournament was undoubtedly Kevin Pietersen whose batting on occasions has simply been breathtaking. He has always been recognised as a special talent, albeit one with a talent for throwing his wicket away, yet perhaps this tournament will herald the new and mature KP that we have all been dreaming of. As in the semi final he played a couple of shots which simply defied belief, the best of which was his extra cover drive of Shaun Tait for six. The look on the bowlers face said it all. This was after all a ball delivered at over 90 miles an hour being sent, with the minimal amount of effort, way back into the grandstand. With the Summer games against Bangladesh and Pakistan to come and then the big series at the end of the year, we hope this is not simply a flash in the pan, but a genuine change into a world class player at the same level as the Kallis’, Pontings and Tendulkars of this world.

Australia, it must be said, did little to help themselves, with both the captaincy and batting of Michael Clarke being an obvious problem. Clarke is simply not a powerful enough player to justify his place in the team for his batting, especially when you have as hard a hitter as James Hopes, for example, waiting in the wings. As skipper, he has shown leadership qualities more out of the Paul Collingwood school (hard working but unimaginative), than the Mike Brearley or Michael Vaughan style of leadership. His decision to bowl Watson, when (in our humble opinion) it was crying out for Steve Smith or even David Hussey was flawed and Watson duly ended up with figures of 0-42 from 3 overs. It will be interesting to see what happens over the coming months. There is an argument that Mike Hussey for example could do the job just as well, leaving Clarke to concentrate on the longer forms of the game where he is an undoubted master.

England’s job now, is to transform this new found 20/20 success into 50 over cricket. Strauss will have to slot in somewhere, perhaps at 4, with Lumb and Kiewsetter left to continue their development at the top of the order.

Above all, though, we are just very pleased to say ‘Congratulations’ to the England team and just to reiterate…..

ENGLAND ARE WORLD CHAMPIONS!!!!!





An English Juggernaut?

14 05 2010

And so the English winning run continues.

If this was any other country around the world, certainly if it was one of the other top four or five nations, we would have used the term juggernaut by now. However, being English, and therefore positive that it is only a house of cards being built and therefore liable to all come down in a heap with one ill directed gust, we have refrained from using this terminology. English cricket supporters, due to the long years of pain in the 90’s and in limited overs cricket seemingly for ever, are rarely a confident bunch, even when the evidence before their eyes would support such an emotion.

In this tournament, after a faltering rain hit beginning, England have belied their supporters lack of faith with a string of performances straight out of the Australian ‘How to beat the world at cricket’ handbook. What has been notable during this run is the lack of wobbles and nerve jangling moments. Over recent years when England have won, it has always seemed to be despite their own best efforts to the contrary, and along the way have provided their fans with as many moments to hold their heads in their hands as to cheer. Now we have something new, an England confident in themselves and winning clinically and efficiently.

This has been epitomised by the batting of the two openers, KP and Eoin Morgan. In previous tournaments, both 20 over and 50 over, England have struggled to get off to a good start and now with this current success, it seems bizarre that it took 13 years after Sri Lanka pioneered this approach at the ’97 world cup, with Jayasuriya and Kaluwitharana providing the fireworks at the top of the order, for England to copy this method. The rest of the world followed quickly but for some reason England always persisted in the safety first, ‘wickets in hand’, more traditional way. Lumb and Kiewswetter have been brilliant, whilst they have not scored the volume of runs Jayawardene has for example, they have still provided England with the fastest starts of any team in the tournament.

KP, a proud new father, has demonstrated not only his awesome ability but also a new found level-headedness. Some of his batting in this competition has been verging on the truly extraordinary (witness his destruction of the worlds premier fast bowler, Dale Steyn), and on top of this, the rushes of blood to the head he suffered whilst set in the past have been eradicated. Responsible, brilliant and devastating – that’s the KP we like.

Morgan, likewise, has reveled in the role of the ‘finisher’. Steve James, in his blog for the Daily Telegraph, has called Morgan one of the cleverest players he has ever seen and generally sung his praises to the skies. We totally agree with this and believe that if one player has provided England with that extra something that was needed, it is Morgan. With Collingwood currently out of form but usually so reliable in his own right, this is a top order to be feared.

The bowling of course has also been excellent. Swann and Yardy again providing admirable control in the middle overs. Bresnan, if you ignore the one bad over of the Sri Lankan innings, was excellent once more and Broad amply demonstrated how difficult slow half trackers are to hit in a man of the match display. The one fly in the ointment for us is Sidebottom as we fear that the Australians particularly might get hold of him.

Moments of the Match

We don’t normally do this as we regard it a little on the cheesey side, however, there were two moments at the end of the England innings that summed their performance up and which we feel we must mention.

With KP facing and with seven runs to win, he played the most casual flick over midwicket off Malinga, up until that point the best of the Lankan bowlers, which despite appearing to not be hit hard, just kept going and going. KP then followed it up with a stroke for the purists amongst us, with a perfectly balanced and majestic on drive for four.

The Final

With Australia being probably (despite our eulogising of England) the best team in the tournament and Pakistan suffering their usual and alarming inconsistencies, we suspect it will be the old enemy in that England will face. And, for once, we are pleased. Nothing would be sweeter for an Englishman to beat our old antagonists in the final, although by some distance it would be the hardest challenge. Pakistan however, cannot be discounted as with Afridi you never know what might happen!





A Newfound Love of 20/20

9 05 2010

Its official. The Compulsive Hooker has been converted to 20/20 cricket. We still retain our cricketing purists natural bent towards test cricket, but right from the start this tournament has been captivating and most importantly a genuine contest.

With the Super 8’s stage well under way, there are, by our reckoning, 7 teams still in with a chance of reaching the knock-out stage, current world champions Pakistan being the only ones likely to be going home. Yet even their fate is not completely decided as if they win their last game well and England beat the Kiwis there is still an outside chance. Extraordinarily England are currently the only team looking certain to qualify for the semi’s, which considering their travails in the group stage is unlikely.

Of the others Australia, typically, have looked an awesome unit. Their fielding has been better than any other teams, with their catching in particular superb. In this shortened form of the game, fielding takes on an added significance. A half chance taken, or direct hit to effect a run out can be crucial in stopping a batting sides momentum and it is interesting that the one side looking likely to go home, Pakistan, have dropped a large number of chances.

The Aussie game plan, like the South African one, revolves mainly around pace bowling. In Nannes, Tait and Johnson they have genuinely fast and intimidating bowlers, which so far in this tournament is paying dividends. This is then backed up by a level of hitting ability which is unusual in 20/20 cricket, Warner, Watson, the two Husseys and Cameron White all having their moments. Warner in particular, much as we don’t like the idea of a cricketer focused on 20/20 cricket, does seem to have been fashioned particularly for the shortest form of the game. His ability to hit more or less any type of ball for six is extraordinary. The Aussies have a genuine chance to win the tournament, although of course being English fans we will be hoping they come unstuck somewhere along the line!

South Africa, similarly to the Aussies have been relying on the pace of Morne Morkel and the, until last night, devastating Dale Steyn. To watch these two reduce Afghanistan to 32-8 was as awesome as it was sad for the Afghani’s. The fairy tale came to an abrupt end under the pace, bounce and swing of these two brilliant bowlers. Yet, as David Lloyd pointed out on the commentary during last nights England vs South Africa game, the Proteas are like a school yard bully. Tough and domineering until you take the fight to them and stick it up their noses instead, at which point they are wont to fold. Last night Kevin Pietersen, Craig Kieswetter and briefly Paul Collingwood and Eoin Morgan demonstrated exactly how to play a South African team.

England, using a more balanced method of attack having brought in Yardy who bowled his left arm tweakers very effectively, look like (and it worries us to write it in case we jinx them) the real deal. For the first time in our cricketing memory an England limited overs team looks like a genuine contender for the title. Michael Lumb and Craig Kieswetter must be praised for their positivity at the top of the order, as despite neither having made a major contribution, the fast scoring starts have been crucial, allowing England’s high class middle order of KP, Collingwood and Morgan to come in and dictate terms.

Of the others, India cannot be written off although their bowling looks a little lightweight. India have also never been the best fielding side in the world and this was illustrated against the Australians in the Super 8 stage perfectly. The number of times Australian batsman sneaked two runs to an Indian boundary fielder was astonishing.

Sri Lanka, touted as the potential winners by the Compulsive Hooker prior to the tournament, have had an up and down couple of weeks. The one constant though has been Jayawardene whose peerless batting has made him the leading run scorer in the tournament. As long as he keeps firing there is no reason they shouldn’t progress to the semi finals as they have the requisite quality in all disciplines. Similarly to Sri Lanka, New Zealand have also had a mixed bag of results and probably need to beat England on Tuesday to qualify. Difficult to write off in any situation, we do feel however that the Super 8’s will be as far as it goes for this gutsy team.

West Indies, the host nation, are struggling and to our eyes look to mercurial to really threaten the more clinical teams at the tournament. Their batting hasn’t really fired and their bowling, like India’s does not look particularly threatening. All is not lost although they will have to win their next two games to have a chance. As they have tournament heavy weights Australia and India to come, we feel it unlikely that they will progress.

The most captivating thing of all, though, is that this tournament has shown that if you have good bowling attacks, 20/20 cricket can be a genuine battle between ball and bat. Watching Pietersen’s battles with Dale Steyn last night was brilliantly exciting. Some balls beating the bat, others travelling great distances and crucially one not dominating the other. Whilst there have still been a high number of sixes hit (particularly by Warner and Watson), unlike the extended slog fest of the IPL, they have been interspersed by periods where the ball has been difficult to get away and this factor alone has meant that the tournament as a whole has kept our interest.





Some Thoughts on Australia, the Kiwis and England

1 04 2010

Australia’s quest to keep the pressure on as they build towards the Ashes in December has resulted in a convincing 2-0 win over New Zealand. Next they play Pakistan in a ‘home series’ for the sub continental team, and if as expected they complete a clean sweep here, preparation for England could not have gone much better.

In the just completed series against their rivals across the Tasman, New Zealand’s lack of top quality players was unfortunately shown up. As we wrote previously, the Kiwis will never be accused of not trying, or buckling too easily. Yet unfortunately, with one or two exceptions, they lack the depth of talent Australia have. In what was Vettori’s 100th game for the Black Caps, they had Australia under pressure for a day and a half (having been trounced in the first game), but with support for Taylor’s remarkable 138 sadly lacking we always felt that the game would drift away from them.

For us here at the CH, the highlight of the series was indeed this innings by Taylor. With his hundred coming off only 81 balls it was a brilliant display of calculated hitting. It is true that it was not without luck and certainly not chance less, yet in the context of the game it was brave and inspiring. Comparing this innings to David Warner’s 107 for Delhi Daredevils which, despite being made off substantially less balls, illustrated why test cricket will always be the superior form of the game. A boundary, let alone a 6, is worth infinitely more in a test than in a 20/20 game as it requires a great deal more bravery and provides a significantly higher shock value.

Having written an article about the dearth of bowling talent in the world yesterday, we are reluctantly forced to admit that Australia’s arsenal is looking decidedly threatening, and is possibly an exception to the general rule of toothless attacks discussed in said article. The 95 mile an hour liquorice allsorts that Johnson delivers, have propelled him to the record of the quickest to 150 test wickets ever. Bollinger is also looking useful and with Hauritz improving to the extent we are prepared to call him a threat, the Aussies look in great shape. (Perhaps this is our English cricketing pessimism coming through, years of hurt and all that, but they are looking threatening all the same….)

The Kiwis will keep battling on and praying for another Shane Bond to come through sooner rather than later. As Ponting admitted afterwards, a Kiwi attack with Bond is a decidedly different prospect to one being led by that bowling non-entity Chris Martin. Ponting didn’t put it in those words exactly, but you understood what he meant exactly! Their batting has some promise with McCullum scoring runs more regularly and Guptill showing promise to compliment Taylor in the middle order. A couple of openers and that’s a useful line up!

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The England World Cup 20/20 squad has been announced and as usual with this form of the game there are a handful of, if not outright surprises, selections worthy of a second glance.

Hampshire’s Michael Lumb has come into the squad after performing well in February for England A in the UAE, Craig Kieswetter is included following his hundred in the final one day match in Bangladesh, and James Tredwell’s solidity and reliability wins him a call up. Ravi Bopara is given another chance, perhaps due to some decent showings for Kings XI Punjab, which could be the first occasion performances in the IPL have been taken into account.

The big name missing of course is Jonathan Trott and the Compulsive Hooker can admit to having a little cheer when we heard this news. And not entirely because he is South African. Unfortunately Trott is one of these characters that are intensely irritating to watch. Whether it is his prolonged and totally unnecessary pre ball ritual, or his habit of grinding out tear inducing 50’s against mediocre attacks, or indeed the total opposite when grinding is what is needed (see his bizarre innings in the 3rd South African tests), it all comes together to irritate us. His innings in the final 20/20 against Pakistan in Dubai when opening the batting, was an exhibition of how not to bat in this format so it is a logical decision. Indeed in all formats he is looking flaky which is particularly surprising when you consider how well he batted on his debut.

Trott is likely to be replaced at the top of the order by two other players of South African origin, Lumb and Kieswetter, which could be a highly exciting all action partnership. We caught Lumb batting in the IPL for Rajasthan Royals and were highly impressed by what we saw. He has the ability to pick the ball up and hit cleanly over the top anywhere between cover and mid wicket.

All in all this squad has some serious potential and with 20/20 being quite a lottery in many ways, don’t quote us but….. we actually have a sneaking suspicion that England have a serious chance.





Morgan’s Magic and Opening Woes

3 03 2010

Morgan showing off his reverse sweep

Over recent years, England have had one or two players come through and look like they are the real deal right from the off. Yesterday Eoin Morgan confirmed, after showing several glimpses of his capabilities since his debut last Summer, that he was the next in this particular line although true to recent form, he is also only English through qualification!

Morgan is not the first and certainly will not be the last Irishman to qualify for England (unless Ireland’s unlikely test match status dream is realised), but is already looking like the best. Yesterday he rescued England from what would have been an ignominious defeat to current wooden spoon holders Bangladesh, by scoring a perfectly paced 110 off  104 balls. Admittedly he enjoyed a little luck early on with a couple of LBW shouts being turned down, which on another day may have been given, yet he took advantage and thereafter played a flawless innings.

With Morgan it is the unorthodox nature and sheer variety of his shots which stand out initially, although truth be told he is equally adept hitting straight and conventionally down the ground. Importantly he is also not just a nurdler in the Neil Fairbrother mode (good at that though he is), but is also able to hit enormously powerfully. During the recent one day series in South Africa (we think it was at Centurion Park) he hit one of the biggest sixes we have ever seen, hooking Dale Steyn out of the ground and into the roof of the building next to it.

Above all, however, he appears to be a calm player, comfortable in big match situations. We realise that this game was against Bangladesh and to any doubters might not have been a stringent enough test to be hailing England’s next great player. Yet he has finished several games, both ODI and 20/20, in his short England career already and has earned comparisons with Australia’s master finisher Michael Bevan.

For our money at the Compulsive Hooker, we would like to see him follow the Marcus Trescothick route in to the test team. Remember when the Somerset opener was picked he was averaging less than 35 in first class cricket (Morgan averages 36 with 6 hundred’s) and was called into the one day series against Zimbabwe having impressed Duncan Fletcher with his temperament. He never looked back and with Morgan’s status as a talented, flexible and big game player confirmed yesterday, we want him added to the test squad and making his début sooner rather than later.

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What seems to be England’s 43rd different opening pair in the past year are also struggling although not in the way we expected. Cook has belied his reputation and scored a couple of valuable 60’s in the past two games, indeed he even hit a six yesterday – an event which was deemed more unlikely than the raising of the Titanic until yesterday. At the other end Kieswetter, who had been hailed as the answer to England’s search for a powerful opening batsmen, failed for the second time in 2 games. Indeed his shot to get out yesterday was reminiscent of Denly’s dismissal in the recent 20/20 against Pakistan, albeit he was caught at slip rather than bowled, as he advanced down the track trying to force the pace.

All is not lost however as he does appear to be a lucky batsman and this is not to be underrated one little bit. There are players who never appear to be dropped and others that seem to be giving catching practise yet don’t get out. Kieswetter has been dropped in every innings he has played so far for England or England Lions (in his 143 against the Board XI he was dropped a scarcely creditable 5 times) and usually he has capitalised. He has probably earned a couple more games at the top of the order without runs, but he will be aware that with Denly, Lumb and the unlucky Trott in the wings, not to mention Strauss, he has to score runs soon to nail down his place in the side.

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Bangladesh showed an admirable level of fight and almost pulled off what would have been a historic and first win for them. It is surely only a matter of time before they start winning regularly and on this form we would back them against the West Indies, Zimbabwe and probably Pakistan. Jamie Siddon’s, the Bangladeshi coach, has been talking about the need for regular ‘performances’, as with these will start coming wins.

Shakib Al Hasan underlined his status as a world class bowler yesterday with a superb spell including 2 maidens and 3 wickets, and Rahim and Kayes also underlined their promise. Factor in Shakib’s ability and burgeoning record with the bat as well, Iqbal and Mahmudullah’s recent form and suddenly you have an outfit which whilst still prone to catastrophic collapses, should run England closer than they think or will be comfortable with in the test series.








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