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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Vaughan v Bell: Three Is The Magic Number

As we approach a crucial summer of international cricket for England, one of the roles in the team still up for grabs is the No.3 batting slot. Nobody has been able to nail down the position and this means that a number of players are keen to impress.

Owais Shah is technically the man in possession of the position having played there for the majority of the West Indies tour. However, he failed to make a big score and looked particularly scratchy when he came in at first wicket down.

At the start of the County season, the spotlight seems to have been on two men in terms of the No.3 batting position. Michael Vaughan and Ian Bell are both desperate to get themselves back in England’s plans and could be battling it out to for fill the role in the first Test of the summer.

Personally, this probably sums up England’s problems. Vaughan hasn’t been in form for what seems like an eternity and Bell wasn’t dropped from the side long ago at all. It seems like a bit of a worry that no one was able to make the position their own in the months that Vaughan has been out of the side.

You just know that had a similar situation occurred with Australia, they would have had someone who came in and perform admirably. If a 34-year-old former captain had been out of the side for a number of months, they probably wouldn’t get the chance to get back in.

Nevertheless, Vaughan still has a chance and so does Bell. So which of the two is in the driving seat? Well, Bell has been in better form for his County. In fact, he has managed two centuries already this summer. Vaughan, did make 43 in Yorkshire’s opening game, but he only has one County Championship game to stake his claim for a place.

If Vaughan doesn’t get runs when Yorkshire visit Durham this week, then he can kiss goodbye to any chance of facing the West Indies next month. I get the feeling that Andrew Strauss would really like Vaughan back in his team and in his dressing room, but he can’t be picked unless he scores runs.

As for Bell, everyone knows that he is an extremely classy player and is probably one of the most talented batsman in the England set-up. However, his mentality could still be a problem. If he comes back will he continue to get out after giving himself a start? Is this what England need when Australia come to town?

In the end, it will probably come down to what the selectors consider to be less risky. Do they risk putting Vaughan in even though he hasn’t scored many runs in the last year or do they risk putting Bell back into a position that he has struggled to cope with of late?

Personally, I’d go for Bell. At least against the West Indies. If he fails against them, then bring in Vaughan for Australia. He may even have found some form by then.

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

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Is Kevin Pietersen God?

Well he’d certainly like us to believe he is and, if you were to go along with some of the stuff that’s been written recently, it’s a view shared by journalists and pundits alike but just how good is he?

Now don’t get me wrong, our performances since he took over the reigns from Vaughany have been pretty impressive. We won the final Test match of the series and are 4-0 up in the ODI series with just the final match to be played tomorrow. Freddie Flintoff is back amongst the runs and Steve Harmison is back amongst the wickets. On the face of it he’s performed miracles since taking over. A win tomorrow lifts England up to second in the ODI world rankings but let’s just put things into perspective for a minute, shall we?

The win in the final Test was against a South African team who had already done what they set out to achieve which was secure a first Test series victory on English soil for over 40 years. Sure there’s the professional pride thing but I’m sure that as far as the Saffers were concerned they’d already done the job. To a certain extent that attitude has spilt over into the one day team. They weren’t helped by the injuries to key players but I can’t help feeling that their heart wasn’t in it. I’m not saying they’ve rolled over and kicked their legs in the air but I feel that if the Test series had gone the other way that we’d be seeing a different South Africa team.

Ian Bell gives us an interesting insight into Team KP in this quote from the BBC website:

Kev (Pietersen) sat down with us before the series started and gave us an honest chat about where he thought we were as a team…It’s pretty obvious to see that at times we can play outstandingly well and at times we can be pretty poor…The one thing he has tried to mark on everyone is that we have to have consistency and everyone has bought into that…

So the key ingredient to Pietersens success is by getting highly paid professional sportsman to stop being shit, then. Getting the players to agree that they need to perform consistently doesn’t strike me as being revolutionary and, if anything, says more about them than it does about him.

Maybe it’s just the curmudgeon in me. Possibly it’s because I wanted Fatboy Fat to take over but for whatever reason I’m still not totally sold on Pietersen as skipper.

Bring home the Ashes next summer and then I might reconsider.

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