Bowling the issue for England

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England were well and truly sent packing home from India after the recent test series. This after Ian Botham and Nassir Hussain celebrated the draw in the first test as if it was a sign that England would win the series.

There is no question that English cricket is on the up, especially the shorter formats where England now have an exciting group of younger players. What I noticed in the test series was a pretty poor bowling performance.

James Anderson had his little moan about Kohli and the pitches, almost suggesting that he is a flop outside of India. Well he forgets that Virat Kohli has centuries in Australia, South Africa and West Indies. He also forgets that outside of English conditions where the ball swings he is actually not very affective anymore.

For the sake of debate lets just say that Anderson and Broad are currently the best bowlers in world cricket (I don’t believe this!!) If we compare the performance of Umesh Yadav against that of Anderson or Broad in this series they were seriously outclassed. Okay Yadav, Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar need to show this outside of India, but recent performances have been positive.

What happens to England’s bowling once Broad and Anderson go? There is Stokes who has also outperformed the earlier mentioned due throughout the Asia tours, then the inconsistent Finn and a lot of young inexperienced fast bowlers.

On the brightside for England they seem to have found two more star batsman for the future in Hammed and Jennings to add to Cook, Root, Bairstow and Butler.

England Did Not Win The Ashes, Australia Lost It

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I do not want to take anything away from England but quite frankly they were the slightly better side of two poor sides.

We have just seen one of the least competitive series of cricket played for a long time. Despite the 3-2 scoreline it can be argued that this Ashes was less competitive than some of the 5-0 white washes that England have seen in the past. There was no one session that was close. No match went into the 5th day and most struggled to get a 4th day, 18 days play out of a possible 25, this included rain delays in two of the tests.

There was a bit of drama but nothing really that will be high on my memory in years to come. The fact of the matter is that Australia could not bat in grounds that had a bit of sideways movement while England could not bowl on flat pitches. Cardiff did not suit the Aussie quick bowlers, the English bowlers did not have genuine pace to trouble Australia at Lords or the Oval. Edgebaston and Headingly were the two games where Australia proved once again that they lacked any basic skill or patience when it came to playing a swinging ball. If Australia had knuckled down a bit in that one crazy session at Edgbaston it would have been a totally different story. They showed no fight at all, England put the balls in the right areas and Australia helped them out.

Chris Rodgers was the only player to show anything in this regards. Despite all this negativity there are positives for both sides. Australia have shown enough on the Lords and Oval pitch that they will comprehensively beat England in their own country next time round unless England find a genuine fast bowler. For England the positives have to be the way that Broad bowled on pitches that aid him, Cook’s captaincy has to be praised and also the form of Joe Root is a major positive.

On the negative side for England the problems of an opening partner for Cook have been masked over by the win. Lyth had a shocking series and as a result is under pressure. There is talk about Ali coming into to open against Pakistan. This would be a good move to play two spinners but him opening is a short term move as he would struggle in the next series
on pacy South African pitches. Maybe he could take the place of the out of form Ian Bell and move into the top order? There is definitely a tough winter coming up for England.

As for Australia they have a new era beckoning. Smith takes over from the retired Clarke, whilst they have also lost Haddin, Watson and Rodgers most likely. They need to identify the replacements and give these guys a good run in the side. They like England have a tough time coming up.

Bell, Bopara & Cook all playing for their places?

Alastair Cook and Ian Bell in action during the second ODI against West Indies

England travel to Sri Lanka on the back of two ODI series losses. This series is key to the squads preparation for the upcoming world cup which starts in February. Unlike the majority of international sides England have lots and lots of questions to answer before the world cup starts.

India, Australia and South Africa for example have had a settled squad in place for the last two or three years, whilst England have chopped and changed and then brought the original guys back into the fold. It is a very English problem that the side faces. Like many of England’s past sides they do not have players of the same experience as the other sides. This is not due to them having a young squad it is due to the constant experimenting to the ODI side.

Bopara is probably England’s most experienced ODI player now, yet he is inexplicably dropped from the summer’s series against India and Sri Lanka. The reason given was that they wanted to experiment with pace bowling. Ian Bell is another who seems to have been around for ever, yet I can not remember an ODI series where he has been the best batsman for England.

I do not blame either Bopara or Bell, I blame the lack of clear leadership in English cricket, particularly for the shorter forms of the game. Conversely to Bell and Bopara we have England captain Alistair Cook. It is very clear to all that he is only in the side because he is the captain. If he once again fails in Sri Lanka will the selectors make the right call? I somehow doubt it.

In the eyes of the selection committee I fell Alistair Cook can do no wrong. For England’s sake I hope they come to their senses and relieve him of all captaincy matters. He should go back to batting only in test cricket, where he is an undoubted star when the captaincy pressure is off.

Who opens for England? The answer can’t be answered without mentioning Alex Hales. Surprisingly he only played in the India series, but will feature up the top. If England did not stumble on his re-selection we probably would have seen Bell and Cook again opening, ZZzzzzzz..

Bopara, Broad, Root, Morgan, Voakes, Jordan and Butler have to play. Anderson deserves one last chance in the world cup, although he has never cut it at ODI level. Especially in the sub continent, so another poor showing in Sri Lanka before the world cup may do him more harm than good. Another key player for England is Moin Ali, he has to play but in my eyes can be assisted by another spinner. Ali is now a genuine all rounder, so play him as a batsman that bowls not the other way around.

Ali opens for England in T20 cricket so why can he not do the same in the ODI squad?

The Sri Lanka series will be very interesting to see how England line up. Lets hope they pick the best side and not the side that are most chummy with the coach.

Selectors taking England back to the 90’s?

A bug bear of mine is the way the English selectors work. The problems of the late 80’s and early 90’s looked to be over with has returned.  This being the constant chopping and changing of squads.

 

As a child I remember watching Greame Hick and Mark Ramprakash play every other test series. They are just of a few of the unfortunate players who the ECB ruined. These were two of the most talented batsmen that England have ever produced. This is evident in the stats not only in county cricket, but their international record is much better than what people think. They had good games but one or two bad games would see them dropped. Others on this list could be Rob Key, Jack Russell, Adam Hollioake and lately Ravi Bopara just to name a few. Rob Key’s last match for England included an Ashes double century. Ravi Bopara scored an impressive 3 centuries in his 13 test matches that he played, but one bad series saw him never return to test cricket.

The problem that troubled English cricket for so many years went away under the stewardship of Hussain and Fletcher. It was with great work behind the scenes and strong management that this was allowed to happen. This set up the basis of the great Ashes winning side under Michael Vaughn and later the dominant side that Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower built. Its no surprise that this was best period in England’s cricket history since World War 2.

There were times when a young Andrew Flintoff was not performing regularly, he seemed over weight and constantly injured. If he were 6/7 years older I am sure that the English selectors would have quickly disposed of him. Under the management at the time they stuck with him. Look at the Michael Vaughn that won the Ashes they used a minimal 12 players for the whole series.

My point is that if the selectors pick a player he should be given time to make the position his own or time to show that he is not capable of doing the job. Poor Nick Compton played in 9 tests  scoring 2 hundreds and 1 fifty in that, he was dropped not on form just to make space for someone more exciting. There is nothing wrong in that but the next time that England needed an opener in the side he was overlooked for Carbury.

The Hampshire opener (Carbury) himself has been mistreated by England. He was portrayed as one of the two scape goats with KP for the failed Ashes series. Talking of openers how did the selectors see fit to promote Sam Robson ahead of Varun Chopra? The former Essex man has been overlooked too many times now. Saying all this Robson is a good player and I hope England do not drop him now until they know for sure that he is good or not.

The English selectors need to be more consistent in their selection process, this should also produce more consistent results on the pitch.

 

England v India – My Thoughts

Following a sports team can bring many highs as well as many lows. Especially if that team is the Indian cricket team. I can’t quite bring my self to understand what happened in the test & ODI series, but be sure we won’t be hearing the last of these problems for both sides.

Where to start with India’s problems? The same old problems of a test series abroad still haunt Indian cricket. On paper India should have performed far better than they did in the test series. The only players who can take any consolation from the series are Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Murali Vijay, Ajinke Rahane and MS Dhoni at a push (a big push).

Talking of Dhoni, he did well in patches with the bat but not to the level we expect from him. He seems to be playing within himself. His captaincy was at times to safe in the test series. India started the series very well, with a battling performance on that flat pitch at Trent Bridge, and a great win at Lords. But after that game we saw the same Indian performance that we got in the UK last time around, albeit with different players.

I have said it for a while now but India have a great bowling attack to compliment the star studied batting. Bhuvneshwar Kumar is looking more and more like a young James Anderson, while Sami and Ishant scared the English with their pace. Shame Ishant Sharma got injured after Lords, his injury made a difference. Punkaj Signh tried very hard but wasn’t really up to the standard.

There were two other talking points for India to think about in the test series. The first being the situation between Jadeja and Anderson. This odd little saga, seemed to take the stuffing out of India. For some reason the accuser (Jadeja) was found guilty of his offence, while the accused (Anderson) was not tried at all for another two weeks. What’s more is that Anderson was let off scot free forcing the ICC to re-asses the Jadeja charges also.

There has been lots of talk that Dhoni and his players felt let down by the coach and board not supporting them. Since the Anderson hearing India seemed like a team who didn’t care. I would like to clarify that both players were found innocent, but have you ever seen MS Dhoni so animated, ever? “Captain Cool” got angry, definitely one of the most sporting players around currently. For this reason I know what speculation I should believe. I also believe that Jimmy Anderson is a great bowler but on the field he seems to cross any sporting line constantly.

India bounced back well in the ODI series with Raina even adapting to lots and lots of short pitch bowling. One big disappointment was Virat Kohli, we need him to come good.

England’s main problem is Alistair Cook. He had a poor test series, not reaching three figures once. He was called out by many pundits as being tactically out of his depth as captain also. In many ways India’s shockingly bad batting in the last few test matches has prolonged Cook’s captaincy.

The England selectors now have a massive headache in the selection for the World Cup and Sri Lanka tour before that. Cook is still the ODI captain, yet 99% of people that know anything about cricket know that Alistair Cook does not merit a place in the ODI side.

A special mention needs to go out to Moin Ali, England seem to have found a rough diamond there.

Questions to answer:
Should Dhoni step down a test captain to concentrate on limited overs captaincy?

Should India replace Duncan Fletcher?

Should England pursue with Cook in ODI cricket?

Who are the next captains for both sides?

 

England, Sangakara, Jayawardene and the end of Yuvraj

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The T20 World Cup in Bangladesh was an overwhelming success. For me it was the best international T20 tournament so far. The competition will be remembered for a few things, the first being Kumar Sangakara and Mahela Jayawardene going out of T20 cricket with a bang. The second being England’s total capitulation against The Netherlands and the last being the slow decline of another great Yuvraj Singh.

Although India played well throughout the tournament they were definitely the second best side in the final. Sri Lanka had plenty of experiences in how to lose a major final, but this time they always looked in control of the game. The ending of two of the worlds great players T20 careers was almost the stuff of dreams. Both Sangakara and Jayawardene had been part of great Sri Lankan teams which bravely lost so many finals. It would have been a real shame for them to retire without any silverware to show. They have one more chance in limited overs cricket, the 2015 world cup will be the ending of their ODI careers. Surely they cannot repeat this feat can they?

The two best friends have always been at ease in the international game, breaking many records. It will be fun to see how Sri Lanka will play without their two talismanic figures when they line up against England on the 20th May at the Kia Oval.  It will be a hard few years when they totally call it quits, for Sri Lanka.

England had a very interesting winter, cumulating in the terrible T20 world cup. Not only did they lose all the matches in Australia, they topped it all by embarrassing themselves against The Netherlands. What was very evident for is that Stuart Broad is not a real captain. I read an interesting quote from someone on my twitter feed, (sorry I cant remember who). He said “some people are generals and others are soldiers, Broad is a soldier.” It is not really a secret that Ashley Giles is going to be the next England coach. From the looks of the winter it seems to be the wrong choice, only time will tell.

Finally a real sad sight for Indian cricket was the decline of Yuvraj Singh. He cannot be held solely to blame for India’s loss in the final but he played a major role in it. He has been one of India’s greatest players playing major roles in past glories. The six 6’s against England was what set up India to win the first T20 world cup. He was voted the player of the tournament in the last world cup which India won. Coming back from cancer was a massive battle for him, thankfully he has won. After this he has not been the same player he was.

He is now fit and looking as slim as he has ever been but there seems to be something slightly missing. He is getting in and then getting out. The performance in the final was very unlike him. I do wonder how much more of Yuvraj we will see when players such as Binny, Shikar Dhawan were sitting on the sidelines. This may not be the end as Yuvraj is a fighter he may have one more comeback in him. I wish him well, hopefully he can find form with his new side RCB in the IPL.

What are your best memories of Kumar Sangakara and Mahela Jayawardene? Will Yuvraj make another comeback and who should captain England in T20/limited overs cricket? Please let me know below. 

Comparing the careers of Graeme Smith & Kevin Pietersen

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Graeme Smith and Kevin Pietersen share many characteristics. They are both South African, both aggressive batsmen and both very opinionated. After the retirements of Tendulkar and Kallis, loosing these players is international crickets loss. While Smith was in total control of his retirement it was taken out of KP’s hands. It cant be argued that either player has not become a great for their country. Smith being the inspirational captain for South Africa whilst Pietersen was his sides star man.  Below I have listed a comparison of the players in different categories to see if there is any separation of these two greats.

Batting:

The left handed Smith was a very determined has always opened the batting for South Africa, this may have given him a slight advantage over the England star. The former South Africa captain scored a total of 37 international centuries. KP has an equally impressive 32 centuries to his name. This seems to make them both equal on batting ability seeing as Smith has played a few more games, that probably explains the slightly higher batting average for Pietersen also. In terms of paying money to watch one of the two I would have to give KP the slight edge., for his extra flair and flamboyance. Winner: Pietersen

Bowling:

Neither player was renowned for their bowling, but both took a few wickets. Smith taking 26 international scalps and Pietersen 17. This is not really a category that we should be judging them on. winner: N/A 

Fielding:

Having such a big frame both players found it hard to be top class fielders. Smith was useful as a slip fielder whilst KP was mainly employed around a boundary. I think this is another draw. Winner: draw

Captaincy:

Whilst Pietersen could have been a good captain, he didnt last long. Too many arguments throughout his career seems to be a running theme. Smith on the other hand was probably the best captain of the last ten years. Winner: Smith

Team Player:

If you sat down with a group of guys and introduced them to both Smith and Pietersen they would think both are ultra aggressive people. KP is far more controversial, having been a problem in almost every team he has played in. Over the years Graeme Smith has mellowed down, he is now a likeable character for opposition players. He always put his team first, the classic example of this would be his dislike to Pietersen, which has now fizzled away.

Please list below who you think out of the two is better and why? Also dont forget to vote in the poll: