England Win Something. Bloody Hell.

england-world-champions

Quite frankly I don’t know what to say. This is uncharted territory. England winning a one day tournament. Not only that but a Twenty20 tournament. Did someone forget to tell them that we’re shit at T20?

I didn’t see much of the tournament but did manage to watch the final yesterday and couldn’t help but feel I was watching a different team. I guess this was probably because I was. Andy Flower has assembled a squad of Twenty20 specialists who are very different to previous England Twenty20 specialists. This lot are actually quite good.

It’s not just that. From what I’ve read and from what I witnessed yesterday, there’s an energy and, more importantly, a belief in this group of players. Right from the outset, they believed they could beat Australia and beat them they did.

No. That’s not true.

England thrashed Australia.

It’s couldn’t have been more of a thrashing if Paul Collingwood had pulled down Michael Clarkes trousers and thwapped his bare naked rump with one of the stumps (preferably not the one containing StumpCam as we’d have then been “treated” to super slow mo images of Clarkes rusty sheriffs badge in the post match review).

OK so a lot has been made about the number of Saffers in the team and that Eoin Morgan had played internationally for Ireland but to the haters Aussies reading this I say pffffffffffft. No rules were broken and in the eyes of the ICC Morgan is as English as I am, to be sure, to be sure.

Regardless of all that, the England players deserved to win the tournament and deserved their post match celebrations. After all, they are the World Twenty20 champions so who could refuse them a good old fashioned English knees up of a braai and a few pints of the Black Stuff?

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Colly Wobbler?

Paul CollingwoodI will level with you straight away – I have never been a huge fan of Paul Collingwood. I’m not quite sure what it is, but I have never taken to him as an England player as much as some of the others. Whether it is his obvious arrogance, his ginger hair or his boring interviews – I’m not sure.

To be honest though, the main issue is that I don’t rate him very highly as a batsman. Don’t get me wrong, his record is respectable and he has stood up for England on the odd occasion. Look at his performance in Cardiff to save England the test match for example.

This was his only significant knock of the Ashes series though and I can’t help thinking that he might be coming towards the end of his spell in the England test team. As a batsman, I don’t quite know what role he is supposed to play.

He looks to be positive, but his footwork has been nonexistent of late and you can tell that his confidence is suffering. Then, if he attempts to go into his shell, he hasn’t got the defensive game to play a more matured innings. The knock in Cardiff aside, of course.

With Kevin Pietersen hopefully returning this winter and with Jonathan Trott performing so well on debut, you have to start wondering whether
Collingwood’s days are numbered. Other than Ashes victory talk, this has been one of the main points of discussion for the cricket pundits in the last few days.

Nasser Hussain described Collingwood as ‘one of the good guys’ of this England team, who it would be easy to stick with this winter. He is an
excellent fielder after all, a model professional and someone who can chip in with the odd wicket or two. Has he got what it takes to improve as a batsman though?

I can’t help thinking that Collingwood isn’t going to get any better than he is or has been in the past. Can he step his game up an extra level as England look to step up theirs? I don’t think so. Ian Bell, Jonathan Trott, Joe Denly and even the out-of-form Ravi Bopara will see their best days ahead of them. Collingwood, I’m not so sure.

It’s for this reason that I would question how long he can remain in the side for. He could very easily prove me wrong and score a shedfull this winter – he often performs at his best when his backs against the wall – but I just can’t see it.

Alistair Cook, Andrew Strauss, Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott and Matt Prior might be the way to go for England’s batting line-up with Bopara and Denly waiting in the wings.

It’s certainly an interesting situation for the England selectors to be in and it will be interesting to see which way they play it.

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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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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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Ashes Cricket Blog Watch

The third Test fizzled out into an altogether predictable draw. Part of me was disappointed with the result. The other part of me was elated when I picked up my £40 from Coral’s this morning having wagered twenty notes on a draw at evens before a ball was bowled.

Twitter post predicting Edgbaston Test draw

Interestingly enough, the other part of my prediction didn’t come true. I didn’t get any more work done. Ho hum…

Anyway I’ve been looking over the reaction to the third Test on the blogs today and, on the whole, most cricket bloggers agree that a draw was pretty much the right result. Neither side really did enough to win the game and the England batting tactics were borne out of a desire to get a result rather than anything else.

That is apart from Jon over at Cricket-Blog.com. See if you can guess where Jon lives from this extract from his blog:

I think I can say…that if you elimated [sic] weather and umpire errors, Australia would be leading this series 3-nil.
From post marked Edgbaston review: England saved by the weather

Now don’t get me wrong. I like Jon and I enjoy reading his blog. Equally, despite what you might have read elsewhere, I like Australians. I think everyone should have one.

However when I read this I laughed so hard that a little bit of wee came out.

Headline photo courtesy of makelessnoise

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