England ODI=Oh Dear Ingerland

For as long as I can remember, England have been hopeless at One Day International cricket. There have been some highlights – the comfortable series win over South Africa last summer for example – but as a rule, England are clueless in this form of the game.

The latest defeat showed many of the reasons why in my opinion. Chasing 265 to win, Andrew Strauss’ men fell 22 runs short of victory as they were bowled out inside the 49th over.

More often than not, the batting has been the problem for England in ODI games. Generally, we are a good fielding side and occasionally (make that very occasionally when Harmison and Batty are in the team) we can keep it tight with the ball.

However, the decisions made by the batsmen are nothing short of appalling most of the time. Whether that be shot selection, running between the wickets or when to select the batting power-play. All
three of these were in evidence on Sunday in the defeat to the West Indies.

Poorest shot selection: Ravi Bopara was looking really solid at the beginning of the innings and chasing a more than reachable target meant that there was no need to flash at one outside off stump and
drag on.

Most shocking running: Gareth Batty should hang his head in shame after running himself out. Considering his captain was settled at the other end, considering 8 runs were required an over, considering he was the last of the capable batsmen and considering he had just smashed Chris Gayle for four, there was probably no need to attempt a dodgy single was there, Gareth ‘I thought they were joking when they called me up’ Batty?

Poor power-play usage: For whatever reason, England waited until the final five overs to use the batting power-play. This meant that the men charged with making the most out of the fielding restrictions were Steve Harmison and James Anderson. Brilliant call. Why on earth wasn’t it used when Strauss and Mascheranas were looking half decent?

So there you have it, another England ODI performance dominated by poor decisions. They weren’t actually that far away from the win in the end, meaning that they could have emerged victorious had just one of these mistakes been prevented.

This just makes it all the more frustrating. Roll on the Friday in Barbados, a match that gives an excuse for a half-day at work if nothing else…

By Thomas Rooney – A sports writer who blogs about England cricket

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Cheltenham 2009 Tips – Day 4

It’s the last day of the Cheltenham Festival which will please my cricket following readers who want to get back to reading irreverent commentary on the state of the game. If you’re new to Flintoff’s Ashes why not stick around and sign up for the email updates? It could be fun and what other website offers you pictures of famous cricketers taking a dump?

On with the racing. If you’ve followed my tips this way and placed each-way bets you’ll be up by now. Not enough to bail out HBOS but it’ll treat your long suffering partner to a takeaway so I hope that the following selections will allow an extra couple of pints of Cobra beer :)

Triumph Hurdle 1.30pm

Likely to be a closely contested race with a number putting up a serious challenge.

Of the horses in the money at the moment, Ebadiyan has performed well under more trying conditions than this so could figure. Was beaten by Jumbo Rio on last outing who is another one likely to be mixing it up having beaten Mourad on last couple of outings. Tony McCoy’s ride Lethal Weapon could be one to watch.

Master of Arts is well fancied but question marks over the distance. Starluck unbeaten this season and will definitely be up there. Zaynar beat Walkon on debut and these two are likely to battle it out with Walkon edging it @9/2.

County Hurdle 2.05pm

Unbeaten Aachen is sure to figure early doors but I feel the handicapper hasn’t been too kind and unlikely to be there at the end. Farringdon could be a surprise package here and possibly worth a look for a place @20/1.

Nicky Henderson horse Dave’s Dream is well fancied and likely to figure. Sunhillyboy with AP on board will be up there in what could be a scrappy race so I’m going with the champion jockey to bring it home. Generally available at 7/1.

Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle 2.40pm

Alpha Ridge untested on firmer ground so be interesting to see how it performs. Cape Tribulation well fancied after its 17 length win at Doncaster. Pride of Dulcote is reunited with Ruby Walsh after the fall at Cheltenham that put the jockey in hospital so this could be a nervy race for both.

The Midnight Club has got strong place chances as has Weapons Amnesty. On Raglan Road could figure with the going to his favour.

Another tricky one to call but I’m going with Alpha Ridge @8/1.

Cheltenham Gold Cup 3.20pm

I went with Denman last year but he was beaten by 23 lengths by Madison Du Berlais at Kempton so difficult to back again.

I could go through the card and flag up challengers to Kauto Star but why don’t I save everyone the time? Impossible to oppose him to win the race and 2/1 is a handy price. Get on before grandma does.

However, since the bookmakers pay out on the first three places I will be having a cheeky e/w on Exotic Dancer @8/1 with Paddy Power.

Foxhunter Chase 4.00pm

Over the last few years this race has been won by big priced horses. Will it be the same this year?

Amicelli won here last year by 6 lengths but not run since. Border Fusion is a healthy price but might be up there towards the end. Placed on all 7 outings although this is a step up. Cappa Bleu will certainly figure in the race as will Jeveigneur who knows his way around the course.

Royal Auclair is sure to be there at the end but I fancy the other Paul Nicholls horse Ofarel D’airy. It is well priced at 20/1 and has mixed it with better company than this so it’s my tip.

Conditionals Handicap Hurdle 4.40pm

I’m going to stick my neck out here and say that a David Pipe horse might figure in this one ;) Buena Vista fresh from a second in the Pertemps Final might not have the legs. Big Eared Fran is sure to figure as will Mamlook with Hadden Frost on board.

That having been said Penn Da Benn catches the eye and looks handily placed. Presenting Copper also offers up a choice place option. Little Shilling has won all 5 races since moving to Tim Vaughan and could surprise a few.

My money is going on Penn Da Benn @12/1.

Grand Annual 5.15pm

With Chapoturgeon unlikely to run after its Jewson triumph yesterday let’s look at the contenders. Perce Rock ditched AP yesterday and lost me money so I fart in it’s general direction. I’m So Lucky with Tom Scudamore on board might be worth a look at if the market moves. Poquelin well fancied with Ruby Walsh on board and looks to be running off a good mark. Another Paul Nicholls horse Pasco in with a shot.

French Opera will be there or therabouts but a place bet only surely. Tramantano under PJ Brennan is an outsider but be worth keeping an eye on the market. Oh Crick has a vaguely cricketing feel about it and carrying 18lbs less than its last race must appeal.

Lorient Express looks outstanding value on form and with the yard providing 2 winners and 2 places this Festival it has to be worth a squirt @14/1.

Hope you’ve enjoyed my coverage of the 2009 Cheltenham Festival. See you next year!

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Cheltenham 2009 Tips – Day 3

It’s day three of the Festival and if you’ve followed my tips so far and had a little each-way punt then you should be up despite me having a bit of a ‘mare yesterday. Four wins and a couple of places at decent early prices and a possible £650 tricast if you’d read between the lines ;) Wish I bloody had..Anyway here’s my selections for day three of the 2009 Cheltenham Festival.

Jewson Novices Handicap Chase 1.30pm

Northern Alliance looks like it could be handy in this race with Ruby Walsh on board but Tony Martin’s horses haven’t exactly been firing on all cylinders recently so perhaps best to look at something else.

Both Jonjo O’Neill horses are worth a look with Isn’t That Lucky worth a cheeky each-way punt but my money is on Kia Kaha to win the race. 8/1 generally.

Pertemps Final 2.05pm

P’tit Fute is well fancied but carrying 11-12 up the hill at Cheltenham might be its undoing. Ballydub looks tasty but possibly better horses in the race. Don’t Push It regularly places at the course but yet to win over the distance. Pennek in with place chances. Green Mile with Walsh on board is a danger and that’s where my money is going @9/1.

Ryanair Chase 2.40pm

Voy Por Ustedes at even money holds no value so looking at the rest of the field for a contender and some e/w action.

Gwanako looks good for a place. Imperial Commander has course and distance under its belt and sure to figure as is last years Arkle winner Tidal Bay.

Our Vic is likely to challenge Voy Por Ustedes all the way and so an each-way bet is in order @7/1.

World Hurdle 3.20pm

With Kasbah Bliss in or around evens, it’s time again to look for some each-way value.

Fair Along could be in the places and at 12/1 offers good value. Can’t see it winning but a 3/1 place shot is better than a kick in the stones.

The only two horses that can beat Kasbah Bliss are Punchestowns and Big Buck’s. I’m going with the latter simply because Ruby Walsh knows the horse so well (5 wins in 6 rides) and at 13/2 it looks a stand out bet. A little overnight rain would make it even sweeter.

Festival Plate 4.00pm

Open race here with a number of serious contenders. Finger Onthe Pulse could probably do with some overnight rain as could Perce Rock. Three Mirrors is well backed but its recent form doesn’t suggest such a short price.

Turkish Surprise or Or Bleu might be an interesting each-way bet if the first two days have left you flush.

Ping Pong Sivola looks to have been well treated by the handicapper and in what promises to be an open race offers great value at 11/1.

Kim Muir Challenge Cup 4.40pm

Amateur race to finish the card on Cheltenham day three.

Character Building has appeared in better company and could figure. High Chimes won the race last year with the same jockey but not done anything since.

Poker De Sivola with Nina Carberry on board is definitely in with a shot but Nicky Henderson’s Shouldhavehadthat looks the horse to beat. Available 8/1.

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Countdown to the Ashes

2009 Ashes Series

First of all, it is worth mentioning the disappointment of losing the series in West Indies. England fell just short of victory in the final Test as the West Indies managed to bat out the final session with just two wickets remaining.

This meant that despite England declaring five times in the series, the West Indies won 1-0 to leave every England fan frustrated. The declaration on the final day has received criticism, but this was just one of many mistakes that cost Andrew Strauss’ men the series.

However, there is no point lamenting what has gone on in the past few weeks. Instead, let us look forward to the English summer. First up for England is another Test series against the West Indies, but after that it is the Ashes series against Australia.

What will England’s team be for the first Test match against the Aussies though? A lot can happen between now and then, but a bit of speculation never hurt anybody.

1. Alistair Cook – certainty.
2. Andrew Strauss – certainty.
3. Ian Bell – possibly.
4. Kevin Pietersen – certainty.
5. Paul Collingwood – certainty.
6. Andrew Flintoff – certainty, fitness permitting.
7. Matt Prior – certainty, just.
8. Stuart Broad – certainty.
9. Graeme Swann – possibly.
10. Simon Jones – possibly.
11. James Anderson – probably.

I won’t bother going through the players who barring injury or a drastic loss of form that I consider to be certain of a place. Each of them has done enough in the most recent series or in the past to make it a fair assumption that they will be in the side for the majority of the summer.

What of the others though? Let’s go through them.

Ian Bell – The number three slot is up for grabs and if Bell finds form for Warwickshire in the early part of the summer, he could get another chance. Other Candidates – Michael Vaughan, Owais Shah and Ravi Bopara.

Graeme Swann – The off-spinner was fantastic in India and the West Indies and deserves to keep his place. He offers something in the field and with the bat as well. He could be England’s ‘Giles of 2005’ this summer.
Other Candidates – Monty Panesar and Adil Rashid.

Simon Jones – This is probably the least likely, but Jones has declared himself fit for the start of the summer. If he stays fit and takes wickets, why not give him a go? England’s bowling line up needs something extra.
Other Candidates – Ryan Sidebottom, Steve Harmison, Amjad Khan.

James Anderson – Jimmy will probably get the nod. The only reason he won’t is if he is ineffective against the West Indies or if England really do fancy a fresh bowling line-up.
Other candidates – who knows? Anyone who shows some form! Darren Pattinson?!

By Thomas Rooney – A sports writer who blogs about England cricket

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Flintoff Sledging Michael Clarke

Featured video for the last few weeks has been the confrontation between Freddie Flintoff and Michael Clarke in the Ashes series of ’05.

There’s something about Michael Clarke that really gets on my tits. I hope to see him wearing a Flintoff bouncer this summer. Or a Panesar full toss. Don’t care. Just someone give him one in the chops, eh?

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