World Cup Squad: England

17 01 2011

England’s world cup campaign kicks off a little over a month away although for many players this Wednesday will be an important day. This is the day that the original squad of thirty is pared down to a more manageable fifteen. Much of the squad picks itself, but, as we are approaching a tournament that conceivably England could win, we thought perhaps we would take a look at the various borderline selections.

Batting

In many ways, the batting picks itself with Strauss as captain, Trott, Pietersen, Bell and Morgan all being shoo-ins. After being dropped for the opening game of their current ODI series, Paul Collingwood may be feeling worried although it is unlikely, given his fielding and bowling, that they would even consider going to India without him.

Wicket-Keeper

The man in possession, Steven Davies, is almost certain to be selected as the only wicket keeper despite Matt Prior’s competing claims. As ever the wicket keeper spot is causing debate amongst English fans with many not convinced by the youthful Davies claims yet we firmly believe that he is the right man. Attacking, fluent and confident, we believe it will be a surprise should he fail to make the spot his own.

All Rounders

This is where the selections start becoming tricky. In the current squad playing Australia are two all rounders (if for the purposes of this you classify Bresnan and Collingwood as specialists who contribute with their weaker suit), Luke Wright and Michael Yardy.

Yardy continues to bemuse. He is a man who, if you looked at his record in the domestic game, would by rights be a more amusing pick than the current Aussie fall guy, Xavier Doherty, yet somehow he continues to do a job while adding ballast to the lower order. He therefore is an automatic pick. Competitors for his place – notably the rotund Samit Patel – it can safely be assumed will not get a look in.

Luke Wright, on the other hand, is clearly a favourite of Andy Flower and previous England coaches, For us, the fans, he is yet to convince, rarely scoring runs and even more rarely bowling a meaningful spell. At times it appears he is a professional number 7 batsman – good for a quick 15 but almost never anything more telling.

Instead of Wright we would take Adil Rashid. Ignored for the academy and Ashes squads but still a consistent performer over the last two years and a hard hitting batsman to go with his leg spin, it is possible that if given the opportunity Rashid could be the surprise package of the tournament.

Bowlers

Again England are in a position where many of the names pick themselves. Bresnan, Anderson, Tremlett amongst the seamers are virtual certainties, whereas Swann is never going to be anything else apart from the premier spinner and go to man.

To go with this front line attack we would also take Shahzad and Tredwell, both of whom have shown they will not let anyone down at this level. Shadzad in particular may push Tremlett for a first team spot as his brand of fizzing swing could be effective on the flatter pitches of the sub continent.

Compulsive Hooker Preferred Eleven: Strauss, Davies, Bell, Pietersen, Morgan, Collingwood, Yardy, Bresnan, Swann, Shahzad, Anderson. Reserves: Rashid, Shahzad, Trott and Tredwell.

Thoughts?





Andrew Hilditch: A Selecting Legend?

10 01 2011

Something now that is a couple of days old, yet we have only just seen it and we couldn’t resist writing something quickly about it…

Andrew Hilditch, Australia’s Chairman of Selectors, believe that the selection panel ‘have done a very good job’. Instead of accepting any blame for the Australian Ashes debacle he has laid all the problems at the players doors saying they were outplayed and didn’t perform as well as they should. The article hits quite an amusing note so we would recommend you read it, but while we’re at it, let’s just have a look at some of the selections and rate how they went…

  1. Started the series by picking a squad of 17 players demonstrating that they didn’t really have a clue what side made up their best eleven. Can’t have given the players much confidence so this is gets a bad rating.
  2. Left out Nathan Hauritz and picked Xavier Doherty. Hauritz had had a nightmare tour against Sachin Tendulkar and company, yet he is hardly alone in that (even the great Shane Warne had a poor record in India) and Doherty was called up despite having a worse than useless first class record. Another bad selection.
  3. Bollinger wasn’t allowed to play for his state prior to the first test causing Australia’s bowler with the best record over the last year to be left out in the first test, only to be called up and dropped when he was clearly not match fit in Adelaide. Definitely a case of bad selection planning.
  4. In a rare good selection, Hussey was picked despite enormous pressure from the media for him to be dropped and immediately justified his place.
  5. After Doherty ever so predictably failed miserably, the selectors, having backed themselves into a corner, apparently read Shane Warne’s piece in the Daily Telegraph suggesting Michael Beer and promptly picked him. Never mind that Hauritz had scored a hundred and taken six wickets in his previous two state games… Clearly a bad piece of selecting.
  6. Hilditch himself then said that Beer could then look forward to his debut at Perth but on the morning of the game was dropped. After dropping Johnson for Adelaide the Aussie selectors welcomed him back into the fold for Perth by saying they had ‘always planned to rest him’ in the second test. These are two further examples of extremely bad and misleading man management although in the selector’s favour…
  7. …Johnson did take 9 wickets in the match. A good if lucky selection considering you simply do not know what you’re going to get with old Mitchell J.
  8. Playing four front line seamers and no spinner at the MCG. Watson, Australia’s usual fourth seamer, was also playing meaning that this had to be about the most badly balanced attack the Aussies have fielded for some time. Again a bad selection which was not thought through. Even Beer would have helped them at the MCG.
  9. Steven Smith. Not a number six. Not a bowler. Claps well in the field though… An appallingly bad selection.

So there we have it – seven bads and two goods (one of which was the equivalent of a dice roll and therefore can almost not be claimed by the selectors) which seems to suggest that Hilditch is living in cloud cuckoo land!

The fact that we as English supporters feel quite outraged by his ostrich impression suggests that he will be in serious danger from the average Australian fan should they get hold of him!

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Ashes Review: Australia (Player by Player)

8 01 2011

Simon Katich (97 runs @ 24.25)

Unfortunately for Australia, Katich’s injury robbed them of perhaps their most consistent player over the past 18 months and some much needed solidity at the top of the order. Got starts in both games before being found out by a combination of Shane Watson’s running and the moving ball. Doubtful perhaps whether he will ever play again although Phil Hughes travails at the top of the order had most Australian’s wishing Katich was still there.

Rating: 5.5/10

Shane Watson (435 runs @48.33, 3 wickets @ 74.33)

Watson must be a frustrating character to have in the team you support. Obviously hugely talented, a fine stroke player and someone who rarely fails. Unfortunately Watson inhabits that middle ground though of not failing but never quite succeeding which, if Australia are honest, is one of the major reasons why their batting never quite fired. Openers are there to score hundreds and on this basis, despite Watson being Australia’s second most successful batsman, he shouldn’t be at the top of the order.

Surprisingly underused as a bowling option although this was as much to do this Australia’s strange selection policies rather than his skippers apathy towards his bowling. Watson is a very decent fourth seamer so why play four front line fast bowlers?!

Rating: 6.5/10

Phil Hughes (97 runs @ 16.16)

Hughes is not currently a test match opener. Against attacks who don’t swing the ball perhaps he might succeed, but any bowler who moves it off the straight will always find him out. Clearly talented and possesses a reasonable temperament so the rudimentary elements are there and it is paramount that Australia work with him. Struggled against Tremlett in particular and is surely going to be returned to state cricket for the foreseeable future.

Rating: 3/10

Ricky Ponting (113 runs @16.14)

We never thought we would see Ricky Ponting struggle against England as much as he did in this series. The pressure, his middling form and perhaps his age all contributed to a series performance which has perhaps meant the end of his career. Possible that lack of other options will continue to ensure he is picked but unlike the other modern great, Sachin Tendulkar, his time appears to be up.

Didn’t look in bad touch entirely as a number of rasping pull shots indicated and he habitually got to 10 or 12 before nicking Anderson or one of the other England bowlers to slip. The catch by Collingwood to dismiss him at Perth will live long in the memory.

Captaincy is always difficult when you’re under the cosh and this was no exception. Often appeared to run out of ideas and could perhaps have stood up for a better balanced side the MCG.

Rating: 3/10

Usman Khawaja (58 runs @ 29.00)

To hear the Australian press you would think a modern Don Bradman had been discovered. Whilst this is clearly over the top and a testimony to the paucity of good news for any Aussie supporter, he did look the part and should be around for some time. Confident, composed and with a lovely pull shot was one bright spot in the Sydney thumping.

Rating: 5/10

Michael Clarke (193 runs @ 21.44)

When your captain and vice-captain average 16 and 21 you know you’re in for a tough series. A shadow of the player he has been in the past and it looks like the scorn the Aussie media and fans alike show for him is finally getting to him. His one major innings came in a losing cause at Adelaide although it tells you all you need to know about his series when you consider a part timer, Pietersen, dismissed him off practically the last ball of the day to set up and England win the following morning.

Showed some good signs captaining initially with some interesting field placings and willingness to do things his own way but was eventually simply overwhelmed by the English juggernaut.

Rating: 3/10

Michael Hussey (570 runs @ 63.33)

Brilliant for the first three tests, it was astonishing to think that Hussey was on the verge of being dropped at the beginning of the series. Almost singlehandedly kept Australia in it in the early stages of the Ashes and his partnership with Haddin at the Gabba was a once in a career performance whilst his hundred at Perth set up the win for the Aussies. The problem is that no one else supported him.

Rating: 8/10

Marcus North (49 runs @ 16.33)

Finally dropped despite scoring very few runs for some time. Probably not a test player on balance as despite his hundreds he scores too many innings below 10. Useful bowling and on that basis alone could have probably played instead of Xavier Doherty.

Rating: 2/10

Steven Smith (159 runs @ 51.80, 0 wickets)

Australia used to laugh at the English when they selected a bit part player but now the boot is on the other foot. Clearly not a number six player due to a technique with more holes in than your average sieve, he looked more comfortable when at seven. The fact that he then was hardly bowled suggest that Australia would have probably been better off without him in the team. Selecting a specialist batsmen at number 7 is something that not many sides do after all…

Rating: 2/10

Brad Haddin

The one player that would possibly get into England’s side on a form basis although even his contributions tailed off by the middle of the series. An excellent hundred at the Gabba and some uncomplicated wicket keeping mean that he, like Hussey, was one of the few who could put their hand up and say they contributed. Latterly, Australia’s vice captain as well.

Rating: 7/10

Mitchell Johnson (122 runs @ 17.42, 15 wickets @ 36.93)

If Johnson could reverse the averages achieved for batting and bowling he would be a devastating all rounder indeed. Chronically inconsistent he is undoubtedly the Australian version of Steve Harmison – someone who when on song is an incredibly dangerous player but, sadly, is rarely on song. His spell in Perth won the match and was reminiscent of Wasim Akram at his best and, even when bowling poorly, still has the habit of picking up the odd wicket here or there. Unfortunately this is negated by the fact he is going for over four an over.

Rating: 5.5/10

Peter Siddle (14 wickets @ 34.57)

Workmanlike, ever willing but only occasionally dangerous, Siddle was nevertheless probably Australia’s best bowler. A memorable hat trick at the Gabba followed by six wickets at the MCG, he only took two other wickets outside of these two venues. Solid lower order batting of the best annoying tail end variety his efforts were ultimately not nearly enough.

Rating: 6.5/10

Ryan Harris (11 wickets @ 25.54)

Harris is a bowler who appears to be without much about him yet was in his three games prior to injury, was undoubtedly Australia’s best and most consistent bowler. Hurried England’s batsman and moved it enough to be a threat. Will want to forget his King Pair in Adelaide though.

Rating: 7.5/10

Ben Hilfenhaus (7 wickets @ 59.28)

Despite taking a wicket with the third ball of the series, Hilfenhaus consistently struggled. Little swing and not a great deal of pace meant that in spite of his consistency (his economy rate was 2.62 in four games) he was ineffective all series long.

Rating: 2/10

Doug Bollinger (1 wicket @ 130.00)

Someone we feel who was a victim of the selectors ridiculous whims and was clearly unfit at Adelaide. When totally match fit someone we feel who is still amongst the best four bowlers Australia have.

Rating: 1/10

Xavier Doherty (3 wickets @ 102)

Remember him? It seems an age ago now, but Doherty was flawed pick right from the start. An appalling first class record was not belied by his performances and his time is unlikely to come again. Did get KP out – on 227.

Rating: 2/10

Michael Beer (1 wicket @ 112)

The man whose name inspired a thousand awful puns and was another ridiculous pick by the selectors. With only five first class games under his belt he did at least look better than Doherty, yet may quickly find himself on the scrap heap anyway. Still someone who is not going to run through a side.

Rating: 2/10





Adelaide Oval, Day 4: Excuses And An Australian Selection Success

6 12 2010

Another solid days work from England has ensured that, provided the inclement weather holds off, England should move to a one nil lead in the Ashes tomorrow. It has been a much more determined effort from the Aussies all round in their second dig, yet, once more, England are proving to have more of an edge in their bowling attack than the Baggy Greens and are chipping away at the Australian top order.

For the second game in a row, England have been bolstered by a couple of outstanding innings combined with a disciplined and intelligent bowling effort – two fairly large aspects of the game of cricket that Australia appear to be missing at the moment. It has been a joy to welcome Kevin Pietersen back to his imperious best and look forward to a series (and indeed another five years) of heavy run scoring whilst Cook and the entire bowling attack deserve credit for their efforts as well. At this rate Ian Bell, Paul Collingwood and Matt Prior must be wondering when they’re going to get a chance to score some serious runs…

**********

One interesting observation that has been made repeatedly over the past few days has been the Australian fans reactions to the way the cricket is going. The grounds have been swamped by English supporters with a curious lack of Aussies; the papers have moved the cricket from the back pages and the old rubbish about England being South Africa’s B team is being circulated continuously.

Essentially, all just ways of either explaining away or ignoring the cricket – something that makes us proud of the English fans whom whatever the result, and despite a slight reservation regarding some of the more ‘yobbish’ elements, could be relied upon to be in the stands supporting their team.

**********

On the subject of the foreign born test players, it is interesting to note that there are plenty that have represented Australia. Below is as complete a list as we can find anywhere on the net.

ENGLAND (10): Charles Bannerman, John Hodges, Tom Kendall, William Midwinter, Percy McDonnell, William Cooper, Henry Musgrove, Hanson Carter, Tony Dell and Andrew Symonds.

SCOTLAND (1): Archie Jackson.

IRELAND (2): Tom Horan, Tom Kelly.

SOUTH AFRICA (1): Kepler Wessels.

NEW ZEALAND (3): Tom Groube, Clarrie Grimmett and Brendon Julian.

INDIA (2): Bransby Cooper and Rex Sellers.

SRI LANKA (1): Dav Whatmore.

Whilst being true that England have selected many more than Australia over test cricket’s history, it is obvious that Aussie cricket fans searching for cricketing ‘banter’ should probably leave this particular whinge alone. Far better to acknowledge and accept the fact that in this modern day and age of a smaller world and high migration rates this is only going to increase in regularity.

After all, we would imagine few of the people complaining about Trott, KP et al would complain if Usman Khawaja went on to score twenty hundreds for Australia over the next few years.

For our money, as long as the players fully commit to England, we have no issues with anyone doing this.

**********

One bit of good news though now for Australia.

It appears the plan to select Xavier Doherty maybe working after all… As we all know he was picked with an eye to dismissing KP whose weakness against left arm orthodox spinners is well known. Pleasingly this can be calculated as another success for the Australian selectors following his dismissal of the English number four today…

Problem is of course – KP was on 227 at the time!





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!

 





Aussie Squad For 1st Ashes Test: A Confused Selection?

15 11 2010

As promised, the Australian squad for the first Ashes test was announced this morning. Bizarrely however, rather than the usual 12 or possibly 13 a board would normally name for a home test, a bloated squad of 17 players has been announced. We, the fans, already knew that there was a degree of confusion as to the Australian selector’s views on the best eleven – yet we didn’t quite expect this.

In the squad there are:

  • 7 batsmen (Katich, Ponting, Clarke, Hussey, North, Khawaja, Ferguson)
  • 2 all rounders (Smith and Watson)
  • 1 keeper (Haddin)
  • 2 spinners (Doherty and Hauritz)
  • 5 seamers (Johnson, Bollinger, Harris, Siddle and Hilfenhaus)

This is a tour squad for a 5 test series – not one for a single test!

What we suspect is going to happen is that after much praising of the youngsters and talking about their various ‘big futures’ the eleven will line up as follows:

  1. Watson
  2. Katich
  3. Ponting
  4. Clarke
  5. Hussey
  6. North
  7. Haddin
  8. Johnson
  9. Hauritz
  10. Siddle
  11. Bollinger

Essentially more or less exactly the same as the side that just lost to India 2-0 and, from an English point of view, exactly the one we would want to face. The only confusion here would be who to play out of the seamers as one of Hilfenhaus, Siddle and Bollinger would have to bow out.

An alternative side (and one which we would feel more nervous playing against) would see Smith come in for Hauritz, and Khawaja and Ferguson in for Hussey and North. Mind you if the Compulsive Hooker had been asked our opinion by the ACB we might have recommended the two Phils, Jacques and Hughes, as well. After all there is not much difference between 17 and 19 is there?

If the Aussies do name the 12 as above (with possible variations on the seamers) quite frankly it all seems a ridiculous exercise and one that can’t help but give the English a little more confidence. This Ashes is being competed by two ‘mid table’ sides and, without either side having the true stand out players of the early part of the decade,  confidence and a settled side may well end up being the deciding factor.

If we were Australian we’d be worried that all Andrew Hilditch and company are doing is undermining this!





The Lankans Win! Australia Collapse

3 11 2010

Edit: Xavier Doherty has bowled well in a LOSING cause!

Brilliant and slightly incredible stuff from Lasith Malinga and Angelo Matthews!

There is no defeat quite like one in which the opposition do their best impressions of Lazarus… As English supporters we can’t quite believe the build up to the Ashes that the Australians are having. Being Australian and clearly not poor players, at some point they are going to bite back and find that famed spirit and grit of theirs – yet lose too many more of these sorts of matches and it will all be buried in a morass of self doubt and fear.

It’s a strange thing writing in this fashion and inserting the word ‘Australian’ – it feels wrong and makes us want to swap the word ‘England’ in instead as that would be a concept we are used to. We only ask that this current losing streak can be continued  until the Ashes are decided!

Hardly a considered piece and not at all balanced – but we simply cannot resist the gloating!








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