England Get The Trotts – Will It Lead To Runs?

The England selectors have handed Jonathan Trott the opportunity to make his England Test debut on Thursday with the news that he has replaced the stuttering Ravi Bopara for the final Ashes Test at The Oval.

Bopara’s omission from the squad is hardly surprising given the no.3’s performances with the bat this summer. He’s been a shadow of his former self, when you remember the succulent stroke play he punished the West Indian bowlers with just 3 months ago, but that was then and this is now. Bopara will have to focus on making amends for his Ashes nightmare when the Twenty20 and one day games begin in September.

I, like many England fans, would have preferred the selectors to have shown a little more faith in Bopara, who made an unbeaten 52 for Essex last week, steering them to victory over Middlesex. However, Bopara’s failure to regain his England place was down to his 7 dismal innings where his biggest score was 35 and he was averaging just 15. The statistics don’t lie. It simply wasn’t good enough. The bowlers Monty Panesar and Graeme Onions, who both bat at no.11, are the only players with lower averages than Bopara.

So to Trott, the man of the moment. He’s an unknown quantity in international Test cricket, which begs the question – Why choose to introduce him in the decisive Ashes Test, against an Australian team that have the bit between their teeth, and the momentum of a freight-train?

For such an important match, having a debutant may well be playing into the hands of the touring opposition. Australia will claim to be indifferent as to which 11 men they face on Thursday, but I’d bet that the prospect of facing a man of Trott’s inexperience will suit Johnson, Hilfenhaus and the rest of the Aussie attack.

I’m aware that Trott’s performances for Warwickshire this season have been exceptional, while statistics place him in the top four county batsmen, but to blood him for this huge, no, gigantic Test, does leave me scratching my head.

It would appear that Ashley Giles, a Warwickshire teammate of Trott’s, and member of the selection panel, seems to have a large influence on team selection. When you consider that Ian Bell, another Warwickshire cricketer, has kept his squad berth, Warwickshire favouritism seems to be in effect.

Bell, whose 3 innings this summer have confirmed that he fails to produce the goods against Aussie bowlers, has struggled after replacing Kevin Pietersen. If Bopara lost his place, then surely the faltering Bell should be making his journey back to county cricket too.

Without sounding negative, I do fear for the backlash if Trott fails at The Oval. Criticism will be flung at the selectors for choosing inexperience for a game of such magnitude, while if he was to make back to back centuries, then it would indicate he should have been in the XI since Cardiff, and that his introduction was long overdue. Who’d be a selector, hey?

But now, we wait, the squad is decided, it just a matter of the players doing their job for the biggest 5 days of their life. One man who has played in a game of similar significance before, Andrew “the first name on the team sheet” Flintoff, has huge wicket taking responsibilities, while Jimmy Anderson and Graeme Swann are surely to feature alongside Big Fred.

I’d be expecting Onions and Sidebottom to miss out, and then for Harmison or Panesar to take the final place in the bowling attack. The fact is that England requires all 20 Australian wickets, and so variety in their bowling attack is essential, so that we reign supreme at The Oval, finishing these Ashes as the victors.

Guest Post by David Owen

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Retiring From Test Match Cricket

You’ll have noticed that I haven’t posted anything on the site since England’s humiliating defeat at Headingley. Despite what our Aussie readers might be thinking, it’s not because I’ve been sulking or because I only write stuff when England win. Let’s face it. If the latter were true I’d never write anything.

The reason I’ve not updated Flintoff’s Ashes is because I’ve spent the last week getting ready for my Test match debut at The Oval.

As I read the newspapers on the Monday after England’s shocking performance in Leeds it became quite clear that there were going to be some major changes to the team for the Oval Test match. Looking at some of the names suggested, it struck me that I might be in with a chance of selection. After all it seemed that age was not going to be a barrier, being a window licking mentalist wouldn’t preclude me and the fact I like a pie and a pint seemed to indicate that I was a shoo in for the vacant number three position.

The last week has been spent honing my batting technique in the nets, working on the cardio vascular machines in the gym to get my fitness levels right for a gruelling three day Test match and preparing myself for the inevitable ‘mental disintegration’ from the Aussies by getting my nephew to hurl insults at me for hours on end. It was an interesting week. I didn’t realise my nephew was of the belief that I have had carnal knowledge of his grandmother.

Anyway, after a sleepless night I sat by the phone this morning waiting for the call from Geoff Miller. A scene, I imagine, played out across the country by anyone who has ever held a cricket bat in their life. After all, Mr Miller had gone on record as saying he wasn’t ruling anyone out so if he was true to his word then I was in with a chance of playing. And so were you. However I bet you hadn’t spent the week preparing for the game, had you? That’s why I had the edge. That’s why I was confident I would get the call.

However, as you’ll probably know by now, Miller reneged on the deal and ended up picking someone who plays county cricket. Again.

Why, Mr Miller? Why? Why do this to me us? Why give us all a hope of playing for England in the deciding match of the Ashes series and then go back on your word? You’re not fooling anyone. When you said “I’m not ruling anyone out” you didn’t mean it, did you? You never intended on picking anyone outside of your little circle of buddies, did you? If the England cricket team isn’t an Old Boys Club then I don’t know what is.

Well here’s a thing, Miller. I never trusted you back in the 70′s. That tash made you look like a geography teacher. A geography teacher with an unhealthy interest in helping out on sports day. I could see through your corduroy jacket with leather elbows patches back then and you’ve done nothing since to convince me that you’re anything other than a liar and a charlatan.

You made a big statement and then couldn’t or wouldn’t back it up. You’re a fraud.

As a result of your shameless about face I hereby announce my immediate retirement from Test cricket. It’s clear that despite your assurances that I figured in your plans that you’ll continue to pick the England team from the minute pool of talent that is the County Championship. Maybe if I’d been born in South Africa things would have been different but somehow I doubt it.

Headline Photo: Mark Hillary

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Ashes Rivalry – Tuffers v Dizzy – Challenge 4

For those of though keeping up to date with Betfair’s fanvfan series this summer, you will know what Phil Tufnell is leading Jason Gillespie 2-1 in the alternative Ashes rivalry.

So far, they have raced on a pedalo, a lawnmower and a horse. This time though, they are taking part in some Sphereing. As I’m sure you will agree, the duo are as entertaining as ever.

Enjoy!

Guest Post by Thomas Rooney

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EXCLUSIVE: Agnew and Boycott – The Lunch That Took Twitter Down

Earlier on today Jonathan Agnew posted the following message on Twitter:

Jonathan Agnew Tweet: Now to lunch with Geoffrey Boycott. What have I done to deserve this?

This single tweet caused so much activity that it forced the popular social networking site to go offline for most of Thursday afternoon. Twitter claimed the outage was due to a denial of service attack but we’ve been told by unnamed sources within Twitter that  it was actually the overwhelming number of people sending Aggers sympathetic messages that caused the Twitter servers to collapse under the sheer volume of tweets.

Clearly the Agnew/Boycott lunch was something that people wanted to discuss so we sent our undercover agent to the unnamed restaurant (for legal reasons) and he managed to plant a microphone under the table just seconds before the duo arrived.

Here is the exclusive transcript from their lunch date*


(shuffling of chairs)

WAITER: Good afternoon, gentlemen. Can I get you a drink?

AGNEW: Hello XXXXXX (removed for legal reasons). I’ll have a sparkling water

BOYCOTT: Water? What’s wrong with you, man? Water is for washing. I’ll have pint of Tetley’s. Proper Yorkshire beer, is that. None of your Southern fizzy lager nonsense

AGNEW: Well actually, Geoffrey, I’m from Macclesfield

BOYCOTT: See? I told you. Soft Southern fairy

WAITER: So a bottle of spring water…

BOYCOTT: Poof

WAITER: …and a glass of Tetley’s for sir

BOYCOTT: And it had better come in a jug. With handles. Proper pint pot.

WAITER: I’ll see what I can do, sir. And what would you like for your meal?

AGNEW: What would you recommend, XXXXX?

WAITER: Well, sir, the foie gras is a popular choice with our customers and the gulls’ eggs with celery salt is simply divine

(sound of chair legs scraping on floor followed by unknown object crashing onto floor)

BOYCOTT: Phwoar what? We’ll have two steaks. Proper mans food. We’ll have meat and none of this phwoar grass business

WAITER: But fois gras is liver of goose…

BOYCOTT: Two steaks! Have you got that?

WAITER: Two steaks and how would you…

BOYCOTT: Well done. Now get our drinks. And make sure it’s a proper pint pot

AGNEW: That was a bit embarrassing, Geoffrey

BOYCOTT: Rubbish! You wouldn’t know embarrassing if it hit you on the head with a wet kipper. I’ll tell you what embarrassing is. I remember playing a game for Yorkshire against Middlesex in 1962 when Vic Wilson, who were captain at the time, forgot to pack his box and had to go out to bat with an egg carton stuffed down his Y-fronts. He took a quick single off the bowling of Fred Titmus. Now he was a proper spin bowler. Not like that Harpyjama Singh fella. Like I told that Aussie fella the other day, it were proper spinners back in my day…

WAITER: Your drinks, gentlemen

AGNEW: Thank you, XXXXX

BOYCOTT: What do you call that?

WAITER: Ermm..it’s a pint of Tetley’s, sir, as you ord…

BOYCOTT: Where’s the bloomin’ head on it?

AGNEW: Geoffrey, don’t make a scene

BOYCOTT: But there’s no bloody froth! I want froth on my beer! Take it back, son, and bring me a proper beer with a proper head!

(there is a pause in conversation for several minutes)

WAITER: Your beer, sir

BOYCOTT: That’s more like it. Proper head on it

AGNEW: Good grief, Geoffrey. Is there any beer actually in there?

BOYCOTT: Proper froth. Proper Yorkshire froth. Not like today’s chemical froth. This is froth from good, honest, hard working Yorkshiremen

(a further pause in conversation punctuated by occasional slurping sounds)

AGNEW: I say, Geoffrey. Have you seen those two ladies over there?

BOYCOTT: Where?

AGNEW: To your left

BOYCOTT: They’re alright, I suppose

AGNEW: Alright? If I were a single man…

BOYCOTT: And a good few years younger

AGNEW: Yes. Thank you, Geoffrey

BOYCOTT: Come on, Jonathan. I can’t see why you’re making so much of a fuss. Look at them. All covered up like that. Back in my day we used to play with uncovered bitches. That were the real mark of a man. You had to get your length spot on and you didn’t have someone on a computer telling you if you had a problem with your length. Not like today. I get hundreds of emails every day promising to help me out with my length. You never had that back in my day. You had a problem with your length and you had to get a grip and sort it out yourself

WAITER: Your steaks, gentlemen

AGNEW: Thank you, XXXXX

(a grunt is heard from an unknown source)

WAITER: Bon appetit

BOYCOTT: Bloody foreigners

(Pause in conversation. Sounds of cutlery on china plates)

AGNEW: Ermm. How’s your steak, Geoffrey?

BOYCOTT: S’alright

AGNEW: Only mine is a bit…ermm…tough

BOYCOTT: Tough? Tough? Call that steak tough? Steaks were much tougher back in my day. That’s not a tough steak, man. Hedley Verity would have made mincemeat out of that steak. My grandma would have eaten that steak without complaining and she had no teeth. Honestly, you youngsters don’t know how easy you’ve got it these days

AGNEW: Geoffrey, all I’m saying is that my steak…

BOYCOTT: Look in Wisden

AGNEW: I’m sorry?

BOYCOTT: That’s OK. Apology accepted but look in Wisden

AGNEW: What’s that got to do with anything?

BOYCOTT: Our listeners, who know about steak, will already know the answer to this. They’re knowledgeable people. They won’t need to look it up but if you don’t believe me, get out your copy of Wisden. The facts speak for themselves

AGNEW: All I’m saying, Geoffrey…

BOYCOTT: Wisden

AGNEW: …is…

BOYCOTT: Wisden

AGNEW: …my steak…

BOYCOTT: Wisden

(A loud sigh is heard from an unknown source followed by ten minutes of silence. Sound of cutlery on plate. Piped music can also be heard)

WAITER: And how was your food, gentlemen?

AGNEW: Well, XXXXX, my steak was…

BOYCOTT: It were alright. For modern food. Not as good as the steak I had on my first tour of South Africa back in 1964. They had uncovered beaches back then. Proper beaches. Not like today

WAITER: Ermm, yes. Would you like coffee?

AGNEW: A cappucino, please, XXXX

WAITER: And for you, sir?

BOYCOTT: None of that foreign muck. I want Tetley tea. Proper tea. From Yorkshire

WAITER: I believe they’re owned by an Indian company now, sir

BOYCOTT: Aye well that’s as maybe but I’m sure they’re still using Yorkshire tea leaves

WAITER: Very well, sir

(A further pause in conversation. There is a change to the piped music in the background)

AGNEW: Oh, this is one of my favourites

BOYCOTT: What is it? I can’t tell with all this modern music. All sounds the same to me

AGNEW: Oh come on. This is an old classic, Geoffrey. A traditional folk song. You must have heard this before

BOYCOTT: Sounds familiar but I can’t place it

WAITER: Your tea, sir

BOYCOTT: What’s this rubbish you’re playing on the gramophone?

WAITER: The song is called “Michael Row The Boat Ashore”, sir

BOYCOTT: And who’s it by?

WAITER: I believe this particular recording is by The Spinners

(there is a sound of crashing cutlery and china)

BOYCOTT: Spinners? They’re not bloody spinners! I’ll tell thee who were proper spinners. Bill O’Reilly. Clarrie Grimmett. Wilfred Rhodes. Johnny Wardle. I’ve done my homework. I know. This lot? They’re not bloomin’ spinners. My mum could play them with a stick of rhubarb

AGNEW: I think it’s time to go, Geoffrey. I’m sorry, XXXXX. Put this one on my account and I’ll settle up tomorrow

(sound of chairs scraping)

WAITER: Any chance of a tip?

BOYCOTT: Yes. Get in line and use soft hands. See thee later


Just in case you missed it, you can hear the Geoffrey Boycott v Matthew Hayden argument on TMS by clicking this link. Fast forward to about an hour in to get the full build up and then listen in to around 1’17″ to hear Our Geoffrey unplug his microphone in disgust.

* May contain traces of lie

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What Team Should England Go With For Headingley?

headingley-ashes

The fourth Ashes Test starts at Headingley tomorrow. This excites many people around the country, including me. Not only are we set for another five days of competitive cricket between England and Australia but the series could be decided.

If Andrew Strauss’ men emerge victorious in Leeds, they would have regained the Ashes. A 2-0 series lead would be taken into the final Test at The Oval with Ricky Ponting’s men only able to aim for a consolation victory. (MB: I hope so cuz I’ve got a tenner on 2-1 @17/2!)

This is a long way off at the moment though. Australia are far from done on this tour as yet and will be determined to take the series into a final Test decider.

So, it is all eyes on Headingley and the first point of interest will be the team that England put out. Will they go with an extra batsman? Will they bring in Ryan Sidebottom or Steve Harmison to shake up the bowling line-up?

Well, a lot depends on the fitness of Andrew Flintoff. His all-round ability provides a great balance to the team and if he is unavailable, there are one or two changes that will have to be made. So, I think it is best to go with a ‘Freddie Fit’ team and a ‘Freddie Un-Fit’ team.

Freddie Fit:

Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook, Ravi Bopara, Ian Bell, Paul Collingwood, Matt Prior, Andrew Flintoff, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Graham Onions.

I appreciate that this is a bit boring as I have gone for the same team as the last Test at Edgbaston. However, if Flintoff is fit to bowl, I don’t see the need to change it. There is enough form in this bowling line-up to bowl-out Australia twice and there is enough batting to post at least one score of above 400.

Freddie Un-Fit:

Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook, Ravi Bopara, Ian Bell, Paul Collingwood, Jonathan Trott, Matt Prior, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Steve Harmison, Graham Onions.

This might not be the most popular team choice, but if Flintoff isn’t fit you have to bolster the batting line-up a little bit. This isn’t a negative tactic because England are 1-0 up, it is a sensible tactic to try and ensure that the team scores enough runs to force a result.

So, Trott comes in at No.6 to replace Flintoff. Then, Harmison comes in to replace Broad. This is so England can get someone in their bowling line-up who does a similar job to that of Flintoff. Harmison has had his troubles, but Australia don’t like facing him. Simple as that.

The only worry with this second team is whether the bowling is too light. There will be only four front-line bowlers, after all. If this proved a significant concern after looking at the pitch, Broad would keep his place and bat at No.7 with Harmison coming in as a straight swap for Flintoff.

We won’t know about Freddie’s fitness until the morning, so plenty of decisions to be made for Strauss and Andy Flower before the coin is tossed! Before then, keep a close eye on the Fourth Test odds before making your Headingley Test bet. (MB: Thomas is spot on. Betfair are currently trading at 4.3 for an England win which is miles better than anyone else but get on it before Freddie is declared unfit as the price will drop)

By Thomas Rooney, a sports blogger who writes about Ashes Test cricket

Headingley photo credit: Tony Kennick

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