All Round England Outclass India

26 07 2011

What a start to the series that was! Hard, competitive cricket during which England ultimately asserted their superiority – and even allowing the difference that Zaheer or a fully fit Tendulkar might have made – the final margin of 196 runs was telling. It will be a surprise if England cannot press home their advantage at Trent Bridge.

Much has been made of the injuries/illnesses to the Indian players (and this includes Sehwag of course), however the match was really lost when they allowed England to get away from them in their first innings during what what was the best bowling conditions of the entire game. One wonders what England’s attack might have achieved in the same conditions… You only have to look at Broad’s performance in the first innings and the collective England seamers effort in the second to realise what might have been.

As unabashed England supporters here at the Compulsive Hooker, perhaps the most pleasing thing was the way in which almost everyone contributed in some way – Morgan and Cook the exceptions. Trott made a valuable fifty under pressure in the first innings, KP was man of the match, Bell made an important forty odd, Prior was probably unlucky to lose the match award to KP and of course all the bowlers did their bit with Broad and Anderson to the fore. Strauss, too, did his bit captaining which means all in all, in a game that is based around individual battles, this was as complete a team performance as we can remember.

The balance of this England team is nothing short of exceptional and far better than the Indian side – stuffed to the rafters though it is with great batsman. We feel compelled to agree with what those excellent pundits, Michael Vaughan and Phil Tufnell, were saying on TMS; namely that they couldn’t see this Indian side taking 20 English wickets. Something we all know is crucial to winning a test match.

This however is not to write India off. We know they had almost no warm up and were/are depleted. We also know that in the last few years they have made a habit of winning or drawing series having lost the first test – an admirable fighting trait and is why, quite apart from the innate talent, they are now the number one rated side in the world.

Tendulkar, Dravid and Gambir will score runs, Mukund looked useful and Laxman will compete as he always does (incidentally it was Laxman that held the most fear for us on the final day – he has repeated the backs to the wall miracle once too often to enable us to sit comfortably in that situation) and Raina looks like he has a similar spirit. It’s the bowling that would worry us as Harbajan, apart from an incisive spell on the fourth day, bowled one day darts and Zaheer is injured. Ishant obviously bowled a dangerous spell but that was 6 overs out of 54 in the match! Until he can do it regularly he will only be an occasional destroyer and otherwise be fairly innocuous.

It was Dhoni however who mystified us most. Towards the end of the England second innings he appeared to have given up – along with, it has to be said the Indian fielders. The passage of play where England raced from around 170-6 to 269-6 was bizarre. Yes England were approaching a 400 lead and therefore what was probably an impregnable position, yet one wicket would have slowed things down and made it easier in the long term for India to save the match. Fielding well would have done the same job too but during this period India represented, at best, a village 3rd XI so poor was their fielding.

They weren’t helped by Dhoni’s fielding positions though. An example of this was on the fourth day with Prior in the 90’s but Broad on strike and Raina bowling his part time off spin, Dhoni brought up the field so everyone was on the one. What this then allowed Broad to do was hit fours at will. We assume he was trying to prevent Prior getting his hundred – but this was at the cost of allowing England to score at 10 runs an over… Similarly with his decision to bowl himself… Strange!

Dhoni has long been a captain for whom you might ‘run through a brick wall’ if he asked (as Phil Tufnell put it) yet on the basis of this he lacks a little tactical nous.

This is all obviously our opinion and, to look at it from the other side, you can make a strong argument for India bouncing back once the injuries have cleared up. Yet with Zaheer probably out and, in English conditions with a home bowling attack on song, we can’t see anything other than an English series win.

A closely fought and thoroughly engrossing contest for the entire Summer – but ultimately an English win.

 

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Jonathan Trott Caught Up in News Of The World Phone Hacking Scandal

18 07 2011

Assistant Commissioner John Yates

It appears Jonathan Trott is leading a double life… Today he has been sacked from his other job as Met Police Assistant Commissioner where apparently he was known as ‘John Yates’.

Perhaps now he doesn’t have to juggle his responsibilities he can start fulfilling his potential.

A scary thought for India considering his already impressive average of 60 odd!





At A Slow Trott…

30 05 2011

Usually a man who has just scored 203 gets a little slack. Usually a man who has just scored 203 as part of a wider run scoring record which in recent times approaches Bradman-esque proportions could do no wrong. Usually a man who does this whilst filling in what has, even until relatively recent times, been a problem number 3 position for England could be expected to to not have a word said against him.

Yet, the remarkable thing about Mr. IJL Trott of Warickshire and England, is that in his particular case this does not appear to be the case with regular, albeit sly, reference to his failings by the commentators and several pundits in the media.

To illustrate this, words commonly associated with Trott and his batting are adjectives such as ‘plodding’, ‘one paced’, and ‘turgid’ to go along with the more pleasant ‘rock like’ and ‘solid’ – the innate causes of the vernacular employed being both his greatest strength and his weakest trait. To see Trott bat in the recent World Cup was to be consistently torn between the two extremes of ‘thank god he’s there – without him we’d be stuffed’ to ‘get a move on mate – you’re going to cost us the game by batting too slowly’.

We usually talk about an excess of 20/20 cricket being bad for players techniques and concentration, yet Trott is one player who it would undoubtedly help. An example of this would be former countryman Jacques Kallis who, in his younger days, was consistently accused of the same thing and it was only relatively late in his career and the advent of the IPL that he seemed to gain another gear. Since then Kallis has become admired not only for his remarkable ability to accumulate runs, but also (crucially) for his ability to bat to the situation. Whilst we have never been hugely keen on the IPL as a tournament itself, even we can see the positive effect that it has had on the South African’s batting.

We once heard Boycott, him of the excellent cricketing mother and grandmother, explain why Ken Barrington is not held in higher esteem by students of the English game – essentially that despite his test average of 58 and 20 odd hundreds he bored the pants off people – and one feels that perhaps Trott might be treading the same path. (Boycott escapes a similar fate by being an ever present on the radio/tv and singing his own praises at every opportunity!)

This is hardly a new idea but until Trott discovers 3rd gear he is unlikely to move from the merely very good to the potentially exceptional and until then, he can expect these murmurs to continue. Mind you, we’re not sure that Trott himself would care as long as the runs keep coming…





Trott Shines: Are We Convinced?

26 01 2011

Trott is one of those batsman who the Compulsive Hooker has long had a little bit of a ‘love/hate/love’ relationship with. Love, first, as it was his innings in the Oval test of the 2009 Ashes that allowed England to bat Australia out of game.

Hate* soon followed on the back of some fairly leaden performances in ODI cricket in the Autumn. This feeling intensified when in his first overseas test series he appeared to be a frightened rabbit in Dale Steyn’s admittedly bright headlights; before reaching its nadir (or peak perhaps) in the Pakistan England 20/20 in Dubai early in 2010. During this game he played, undoubtedly, the worst innings we have ever seen in that form of the game and cost England the match.

This ‘hate’ continued throughout the various Bangladesh series, both home and away, before starting to ebb away as his considered style held together a couple of innings against Pakistan in the last English Summer. With his herculean performances in the Ashes this grudging respect turned into full blown admiration for someone who must surely be classed as one of the most reliable batsman to have played for England in a long time. It’s still relatively early days but the signs are good…

That though is as far as test cricket goes. With ODI’s, as far as we are concerned, the jury is still out although if he could repeat the style of his innings today once or twice during the crucial stages of the World Cup, it would go some way to allaying these doubts.

In the third ODI three days ago he scored what could only be called a stodgy 80 odd, which, while it ensured the England total passed two hundred, was notable for the manner in which he failed to kick on and therefore was of slightly dubious value. Like all essentially defensive batsman he has a tendency to get bogged down but today’s effort was perfect; accelerating in partnership with Morgan before finally perishing to one that turned from Hussey.

Clearly he is not the man for a slog and you would probably rather not have him batting, whether he is 100 not out or 20 not out, in the final five to ten overs, yet as a central pillar – providing he shows a certain amount of aggressive intent – he could be exactly what England need.

We feel we are entering our final stage of metamorphosis from being highly disdainful of Trott to fully fledged Trottskyites (if you will!). We just hope that he doesn’t let us down now… Like any love/hate relationship – we can only take so much!

* A word that is definitely too strong – exasperation might be better but in the context of this piece hate will have to do…

 





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 Gabba, Day 5: More of the same please!

29 11 2010

England 260 & 517-1 drew with Australia 481 & 107-1

Well done Alistair Cook. Well done Andrew Strauss. Well done Jonathan Trott.

What a scorecard! (Just in case you have forgotten – here it is writ large…)

Perfection.

Through the dark days of the ‘90’s and early 2000’s we dreamt of waking up to see a scorecard along these lines and, whilst it wasn’t topped off with a win, it was worth the wait! That it came in Australia only serves to make it all the sweeter as deep down, behind most of the cautious and wildly optimistic, every Englishman would own up to a crawling, sneaking worry in their guts that things hadn’t changed. Now, with one of those draws that feels a bit like a win under their belts, and a clear demonstration of what our heads, if not our hearts, already knew those latent fears have been assuaged.

Yes it is true that it was Australia in a winning position on Saturday morning and, realistically, England never had much of a shot at it but, despite all this, it will be England who are feeling happiest. In our opinion, this Ashes will probably come down to a combination of belief and having a settled side that knows their roles exactly. England have this but Australia only have one of those necessary components. We have little doubt that the Australians still believe they can win but it would be unlikely if they were to do that in amongst so much potential chopping and changing. Not, of course, that it is a given they will change players for Adelaide but, if we were a betting syndicate, we’d lay a lot of money on them changing two or perhaps even three.

Firstly, Bollinger has to come in for Johnson. Hardly a revolutionary statement but one which is so full of validity that it’s practically over flowing. Siddle has taken six wickets so he’s safe at least, Hilfenhaus was one of the few bowlers to look reasonable in India so we feel that it would be a mistake to drop him. Doherty of course is a spinner (more on whom in a minute) which leaves old Mitchell. Probably the biggest insult I could give him, although if reversed it could also be conceivable that it is a compliment, is that he is definitely the Australian Steve Harmison. On a good day devastating but sadly ineffective and leaking runs the rest of the time.

Doherty is the other who will be concerned although it would be unfair in the extreme to drop him immediately. The Australian spin bowling revolving door was not wedged shut by his performance at the Gabba, something that was hardly unexpected as he simply looked exactly what he is – an average state bowler whose not going to let anyone down but equally not going  to run through a test side on a fifth day pitch. We have heard some people mention the possibility of two spinners at Adelaide in which case Hauritz might come back but all this would achieve is to make the Australian selectors look stupid. They got two of their selection calls right – Hussey and Siddle – but remain as confused as ever about the third.

Inevitably it is Marcus North who is the batsman (or bowling all rounder as someone wittily put it) under pressure but, with the squad for the second test already announced, and with only 6 front line batsman in it, it is safe to say he will play. There is a chance that Doherty could be dropped and North could provide the spin option (a suggestion that is not that foolish as North has a better first class record than Australia’s premier spinner…) but this would not satisfy most Australians who want to see him cast out forever, never to return.

From England’s point of view it is easy. Same side again and, providing England can deliver upfront a little better, it could well be happy days for English fans. With a bit more luck Anderson and company will be in business and if this happens – well, Australia are there for the taking.

Mind you – Australia will be saying they were the ones that were in the winning position and, therefore, it’s England who are there for the taking….

Thoughts please!

 





The Gabba, Day 4: Trials and Tribulations

28 11 2010

This test has, for many reasons, epitomised why it is we love test cricket over all other forms of this wonderful game. No single match of 20 or 50 over cricket would be able to bring us through the full gamut of emotions with such regularity and intensity of feeling.

In this test match England fans alone have been given a large dose of disappointment as England folded on the first day; a healthy dose of optimism as England fought back with some excellent bowling and were one dropped catch away from having Australia 143-6; a growing sense of pessimism which eventually turned to downright dismay as Haddin and Hussey ground England’s chances of winning into dust and ensured the spectre of defeat loomed large; and then, today, the sense of imminent defeat and the accompanying gloom gradually giving way, via a strong sense of disbelief, to optimism and a certain joie de vivre as Strauss and Cook piled on the runs. All of this liberally garnished to add spice with a potent mix of tension and passion.

In short – just another Ashes test…

Due to other commitments – namely catching up on sleep following three 4 am starts for the cricket – we didn’t write an update for day 3 yesterday, although, to tell the truth, this was also as much to do with the aforementioned ‘dismay’ we were also feeling as anything else. Today with the threat of immediate defeat removed and a later alarm clock time set, we are feeling much more eloquent.

Firstly though a quick mention for Haddin and Hussey who played two of the finest Ashes innings we have ever seen. Coming in under severe pressure both players were solid from the off with Hussey in particular looking in exceptional touch. As was the way with England today, the luck was with them from throughout their sojourn at the crease and, despite some brilliant bowling from Anderson in particular, they fought through and ensured that the game then on was out of England’s reach.

That the situation has been, if not reversed, certainly made a whole more palatable for England was down to some further excellent batting from Strauss and Cook plus able support from Trott. Both openers scored hundreds – apparently the first time in the same innings since before the war which seems like an amazing stat – on a pitch which is clearly getting easier for batting.

England are not out the woods yet by any means, but, providing they do not lose quick wickets in the morning, can even put Australia under pressure in the afternoon. A lead of 250 just after lunch for example with perhaps 50 overs for Australia to survive, would be a good way of reasserting themselves in this series. After all – take a couple of quick wickets and you never know what might happen in this game…








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