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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First Test Reaction

If ever you thought that Sky Sports was too expensive, I’d suggest that the look on Pontings face in the closing minutes of the first Ashes Test was worth every single penny. He looked like a bulldog licking piss off a nettle.

Jimmy Anderson may well be the record holder for the most number of innings since debut without a duck but at 6pm yesterday you wouldn’t have bet on him and Monty batting out three quarters of an hour and saving the Test, would you? Let’s be honest here. Panesar only bats at number eleven because you can’t put him at number 12.Yet somehow survive they did and we go to Lord’s all square.

If I’d written this post at lunch on day 5 the title would have been something along the lines of “Spineless” or “Clueless” or “You Bunch Of Fucking Wankers”. However, since I was heading out the door to play cricket myself, I didn’t get a chance to update the blog so, instead, I left this message on Twitter:

Nuts to this. I’m off to play cricket. ECB selectors I’m available if you’re looking for another hopeless batsman who can’t spin the ball

True enough, I bowled 5 overs without the ball deviating so much as a millimetre and I got out playing a soft shot for 7 so I made sure my mobile was on as I headed off to the bar to watch the last knockings in the Cardiff Test. I’d guessed we were nine down by the collective groans from the handful of die hards sitting in front of the TV.

The masochistic tendencies shown by England cricket fans would have the Marquis de Sade wincing. However this random collection of cricket enthusiasts and cricket less than enthusiasts (i.e. their wives) were full of optimism that Jimmy and Monty could save the game. Full of optimism or Kronenbourg. One of the two.

The final 45 minutes of this match proved why Test match cricket is the premium version of the game. To hear a capacity crowd cheering every dot ball. To see the Australian bowlers straining every sinew of their body to get that last wicket. To see monkey man Ponting throwing his toys out the pram when the England physio came on.

Kim Hughes - Almost As Useless As Ricky Ponting

And that brings me nicely on to my next point. This game finished a draw because Ricky Ponting is the worst Australian captain since Kim Hughes. He is a world class batsman but, as a captain, he is shocking. It was easy for him when he could turn to Shane Warne or Glenn McGrath and chuck them the ball. He had players like Hayden, Langer and Gilchrist to get him out of the shit with the bat. Take all of them away and he’s shown up for being what he really is. A crap captain. Just what in the name of Stuart Broads jockstrap was he thinking in bringing on Marcus North to bowl the last few overs?

England were woeful in this Test. Of the 15 sessions of play, you can probably give the convicts Australians all but two. At the time I thought 435 was a below par score but enough for us to make a match of it. However the next few days showed up an alarming lack of application by the England bowlers. Outside of Freddie Flintoff’s opening spell, I never really saw a wicket coming. Credit where it’s due, with the exception of Mister Cricket (who should surely be renamed Mister Ball) the Aussie batsman looked superb.

As I say, I don’t rate his captaincy but Ponting is one of the best Test match batsmen I have seen. Katich was a completely different player to the one we saw here in ’05 and, as predicted by Tony from After Grog Blog Haddins batting average in on the way up. As a batting line up the Aussies look pretty solid.

However, despite taking 19 wickets, I still don’t rate their bowling attack. Mitchell Johnson is a bit Harmisonesque – one minute he looks a world beater, the next he looks like a wife beater. Hilfenhaus is short of the couple of yards of pace that would not only make him a genuinely quick bowler but also make it nigh on impossible for any commentator to finish saying his name before the ball hit the stumps. Peter Siddle will never be taken seriously as a Test bowler whilst he has a whores muff stapled to his chin and after a long bowling spell Nathan Hauritz looks too much like Gareth Gates to be a world class spinner. (Note: I tried to find a picture to illustrate this but after a Google search for “hot and sweaty Gareth Gates” I gave up as I had some sick in my mouth)

England were outplayed in this Test, there’s no question of that, but the fact remains that the series remains level with four to play. It’s interesting to see that Australia’s answer to Mystic Meg – Glenn McGrath – has now changed his prediction to a 4-0 series win. Well done, Glenn. I’m glad to see that you’ve spent your retirement mastering the rudiments of mathematics. Not for the first time, though, I’m going to disagree with you. I still stand by my original prediction of a 2-1 series win.

Why?

  1. That losing draw in Cardiff will be the kick up the arse some of those England players needed. Too many of them were believing their own press and they listened to too much of the “this Australian team is the worst to come here for years” nonsense the press have been spouting off for the last few months. Sure, they’re not the Invincibles but you put an Australian dominoes team up against the English and they will fight you every single inch of the way so do not underestimate the old enemy.
  2. As a unit, our bowling attack will not perform as badly as that again. In 30 years of watching Test cricket I’ve not witnessed such an inept display as that shown by Messrs Anderson, Broad, Swann, Flintoff or Panesar so the chances of it happening twice in a couple of months is unlikely.
  3. Kevin Pietersen will have watched his dismissals in this Test match over and over on tape and realised that his lucrative sponsorship deals are at risk if he ever plays shots like that again. Let’s face it, if you were a marketing exec for sadida*would you want your brand associated with a clueless fuckwit?
  4. Likewise Alastair Cook. His eyeliner contract with lemmiR* will be in jeopardy if he fails at Lord’s.
  5. England will drop Monty Panesar. I’m sorry, Monty, I know I’ve championed you in the past but I’m of the same belief as Shane Warne. I don’t believe you’ve learnt enough in your 30+ Test matches to be considered a Test match player. Yes, I know you saved the game this time but, let’s face it, when New Zealand’s Chris Martin looks a better batter and Steven Hawking looks a more mobile fielder, you’ve got to be able to turn it on with the ball. Or just turn it.
  6. The England squad and the entire backroom staff – all 358 of them – would not dare to do anything other than win the series 2-1. They know I have a tenner riding on it and that I will be after them if they fail me. I have connections, you know, and I also know where every single one of them will be on August 24th so let that be a warning.

Despite an exceptionally disappointing performance by England, the series remains all square going into the Lord’s Test match. Mystic McGrath points out that we’ve not won an Ashes Test there since 1934 and, to be honest, I don’t see much changing this time around. However, given the weather forecast, my gut feeling is another draw (11/10 at both Paddy Power and Sportingbet) with England snatching back some pride by playing four seamers and giving the Aussie top order a working over.

*- name changed to prevent expensive lawsuits

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All Change For Lord’s?

First of all let me say how shocked I am that England managed to draw the first Ashes Test match. It was a remarkable effort from Andrew Strauss’ men, especially from Paul Collingwood, Graeme Swann, James Anderson and Monty Panesar.

They batted heroically and deserved their draw in the end. Fair enough, the session lost on Saturday evening helped England. However, at 70-5, even the most optimistic of England fans would have said that defeat was inevitable anyway.

For the first time in the series though, they showed some fight and some passion. They did something we didn’t expect them to. Despite being dominated for the majority of the Test match, they came out with a draw to leave Australia extremely frustrated.

There is no getting away from the fact that England were completely outplayed though and that they were very poor in many areas. The top order didn’t score enough runs, the seamers got their line and length wrong too often and the spin duo of Swann and Panesar only managed one wicket between them.

England have a clean slate to move forward with though and they can go into the second Test at Lord’s knowing that they are still level in the series. This is a huge bonus. What changes should be made though?

Well, one of the spinners has to go as Lord’s is normally rather seam friendly. This probably means that Panesar will have to miss out.

Swann wasn’t at his best in Cardiff, but he is England’s No.1 spinner right now and will stay in the side for consistency purposes.

As for who comes in for Panesar, well there are a number of options. Most would agree that it is between Durham’s Graeme Onions and Steve Harmison, but the likes of Tim Bresnan and Matthew Hoggard shouldn’t be completely ruled out. They have been in the wickets for Yorkshire recently anyway.

Personally, I would go for Harmison – I think. If he can get it right against Australia, they will fear him. After the first Test, they won’t be fearing many England bowlers so this has to be something to consider. The Durham man is fit and in form so has to play.

It doesn’t matter if he won’t be selected this winter in South Africa. We need him to perform this summer against Australia. That’s the most important thing. At home, he can be a very threatening bowler and whether he turns it on or not is probably worth the risk. Elsewhere, there probably won’t be any changes. Stuart Broad was poor with the ball, but he can come back fighting. The top order didn’t score enough runs, but who would you bring in to replace any of them? Ian Bell?!

For England, the Ashes starts this Thursday at Lord’s. Hopefully the momentum from this draw can be used to produce a much more positive performance so make sure you stay on top of the Lord’s Test odds.

Guest post by Thomas Rooney

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ICC World Twenty20 Starts Tomorrow

Twenty20 World CupSo after literally minutes of anticipation, the ICC World Twenty20 competition is upon us. Not only that but it’s the Women’s Twenty20 World Cup too. Be still my beating heart…

Forget the Ashes. This is what we’ve all been waiting for, right? Who cares about that silly, overrated Test match business. This is the real deal. World famous athletes at the top of their game going head-to-head in a bludgeoning battle of ball bashing brutality. If Bangladesh v Ireland doesn’t get your pulse racing then you’re clinically dead already.

Let’s not forget the ladies. Fresh from their success in the Women’s World Cup in Oz, the English lesbians ladies take on the moustachioed might of India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka to fight for the right to spank New Zealand in the final. Again. My only concern here is that with 22 women on the pitch, who is going to make the teas?

Oh bollocks. Who am I trying to kid? I couldn’t give a squirrels scrotum about the next two and a half weeks. The chances are I won’t even bother watching it. It’s just another example of the I Crave Cash organisation trying to squeeze yet another meaningless tournament into the crowded international cricket calendar.

Want to stop global warming? Stop all these poxy tournaments. I’d love to know what the carbon footprint is for each of the international cricket teams. I’m no tree hugging hippie but I reckon that if you went back to the old days and made Australia travel by boat, the polar bears would have more ice caps than they could shake their left paw at*.

It seems utterly crazy to schedule in the Twenty20 so close to the Ashes series. To all those people who say “it will increase interest in the Test series”, I say you’re talking piffle. England v Australia for the Ashes shouldn’t and doesn’t need any kind of hyping up despite the best efforts of the ECB to ensure that only a tiny fraction of the country can actually watch the series.

So when Kevin Pietersen, Stuart Broad, Paul Collingwood and Jimmy Anderson get injured in the World Twenty20, are the ECB still going to think it was a good idea?

Still, on the plus side the boys at King Cricket are practically walking around with a permanent lazy lob as a result of Rob Key making it into the England squad, Andrew Symonds’ international career can now be officially classed as over following his latest drunken antics and let’s not forget our old friend Shoaib “I’ve got genital warts” Akhtar. Quite possibly the best excuse for pulling out of a squad I’ve ever heard. If only he had pulled out of the ropey old Doris he caught it from…

* all polar bears are left handed. Did you know that?

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