Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff Hatrick

I’ve been very lax in updating the cricket video in the sidebar. I’m a naughty boy. Spank me, matron.

However, update it I have and so the old video has been replaced with the video that is capturing the nation – the Freddie Flintoff Sure Man Pedalogate video. Oh that naughty Freddie. Cashing in on his West Indies drinking misdemeanours. Tsk, tsk.

Anyway, if you missed it, the old cricket video was Andrew Flintoff getting a hat-trick against the West Indies. Enjoy it and remember him before he becomes a show pony for 40/40 20/20 cricket.

Just in case you were in any doubt, here’s the vid in question:

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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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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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Replacing Freddie?

With Andrew Flintoff set to miss the fourth Test against the West Indies, the fight is on for many to replace him in the team. Ravi Bopara and Amjad Khan were called up to the Caribbean when Freddie’s injury first became apparent, but they are not the only options to take the place of the big man.

Considering that England must win this Test match to have a chance of securing a series victory, it is crucial they make the right decision here. Replacing Flintoff is by no means easy, so let us take a look at the options.

Ravi Bopara

For – Scored an unbeaten 124 in the recent tour match and looked in very destructive form.

Against – His bowling is very much part-time, so in theory England would be a bowler down if they selected him.

Amjad Khan

For – Took five wickets and looked dangerous against the BCA President’s XI. He would also give England a fresh looking bowling line-up.

Against – Should he come in for Flintoff, it would mean that Tim Ambrose – who will play because Matt Prior has flown home – will have to bat at No.6.

Adil Rashid

For – Provides England with the second spinning option they were missing in the third Test. As an all-rounder, he could also bat at No.6 if needed.

Against – Yet to make his Test match debut and would mean that England go into the match with only three front-line seamers. Is this enough?

Ian Bell

For – Showed signs of decent form in the tour match with scores of 44 and 72 and the pressure would be off him slightly at No.6.

Against – Is it too early to bring someone back in who has been dropped? Possibly. Also, he doesn’t replace the Flintoff bowling option in the slightest!

Ryan Sidebottom

For – The left-armer was England’s best bowler in 2008 and looked back to his economical best when taking two wickets in the tour match.

Against – Again, it leaves England short batting wise should he be a straight replacement for Flintoff.

So, who will England go for? Well, the absence of Matt Prior is extremely significant. Had he been available, Khan or Sidebottom would have come in for Flintoff and Prior – who has looked assured with the bat on this tour – would have batted at No.6.

However, with Ambrose taking the gloves it is likely that England will have to bring in a batsman to replace Freddie. They can’t afford to leave themselves short batting wise in such a crucial Test, after all. This means that Bopara and Bell will fight it out to bat at No.6 for England.

Personally, I think they will go for Bopara. He and Ambrose aren’t the only players I would bring in though. Khan looked very impressive in the tour match and even though this isn’t always a good assessment of how they will perform in Test cricket, the England bowling attack needs a fresh face in my opinion. Bring him in for Anderson maybe?


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

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Countdown to the Windies – Part 2

Photo by Z_dead

Last week I looked at the England batsman that will be hoping to score big runs on the current tour of the West Indies. It has to be said that with both Kevin Pietersen and Owais Shah hitting hundreds in the warm up match at St Kitts, the signs are good. Andrew Strauss seems to have found some form after his first innings duck as well and has just passed three figures on the final day of the warm up match.

Overall, you do get the feeling that England have plenty of runs in them. Especially against what is generally considered to be a rather average West Indies bowling attack.

What about the bowlers though? It is all well and good scoring 400+, but England will need to take 20 wickets to win Test matches! Let’s take a brief look at the bowlers at Strauss disposal. And Tim Ambrose…..

Tim Ambrose – To be honest, he is lucky to be on the tour at all in my opinion. The shortest wicket-keeper in the world and only averages 24.73 in Test cricket.

James Anderson – Never quite know what you are going to get from Jimmy do you? Has been a regular in the side of late, but could do with a tour remembered for his wickets rather than his customary ‘four-ball’ every over.

Stuart Broad – There is no doubting this man’s talent. He can bat, bowl and field to a more than adequate standard. It’s just getting the most out of this talent that appears to be the problem. He needs to get his Test average of 45.23 closer to his ODI average of 27.58.

Stephen Harmison – Another man who could do with a big tour to prove his critics wrong. Had his most successful spell as an England player in the West Indies, taking 7/12 against them in 2004. More of this and he will again be England’s main strike bowler in the Ashes series.

Monty Panesar – Monty probably hasn’t progressed as much as many people would have hoped. He just needs to believe in himself more. You are an excellent bowler Monty! Encouragingly took four wickets in the tour match.

Adil Rashid – The ‘young blood’ of the squad, this Yorkshireman should have a long international future ahead of him. Whether he plays much on this tour, I’m not sure, but the experience will be valuable for him.

Ryan Sidebottom – Arnie, as I like to call him, has been injured for what feels like an eternity. Despite this, he was England’s leading wicket taker in 2008 and his accurate swing bowling will really trouble the West Indies. Is he fit though?

Graeme Swann – Had an excellent Test debut against India and will always do a solid job for England. Can hold a bat and field admirably as well. He will probably act as Strauss’ second spinner alongside Panesar. I hope he can nail down a place in the side. Monty needs competition.

So, there you have it. I have gone through the whole squad in not much detail, but with plenty of realism. In terms of the bowlers, I have to say that I’m a little worried by how many of them need to ‘prove themselves’. None of them have been in exceptional form over a significant period of time. Perhaps expect Sidebottom, but he has been injured. Hopefully several of them can find their best form from this tour onwards.

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

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