Saturday, May 26, 2007

England v West Indies, Headingley - Day 1

Good, yes that's good. Very good. Virgil was outstanding. Just fantastic. Aggers said of one of his cover drives that there is no one in the world who plays a better stroke and he is right. Vaughan is stylish and makes it look easy. Hats off to Virgil...the king is back.

KP's at it again. This guy is surely going to be the best Test batsman of all time isn't he?

Ok. 366 for 5. Start of Day 2. Good position but the weather is about to get involved. So, what's the plan? England will not want a draw. It looks like a decent day up there today but heavy rain for Sunday. Let's assume that they get 90 overs in today and England are either out just after lunch or declare. I think that 450 will be enough. That should still leave 50-60 overs to have a go at WI. Now Sarwan looks like he is out and we already know about Chiv. This leaves their batting looking very exposed. Only Chris Gayle stands as a potentially outstanding bat. We should knock them over easily. But with so much time about to be lost to rain we need to be clinical: get them out for around 250, bat again and declare at 150 which will set a target of 350. This target will inspire WI to play shots and if the weather holds Monday afternoon and Tuesday we should have a win in the bag!

So this morning KP and Matt the Gloves have got to come out blazing. I already think they have enough on the board to win this. The sooner they are bowling the better.

Friday, May 25, 2007

England v West Indies, Headingley - Day 1

The return of Virgil was greeted with some scepticism by the sporting hacks at yesterday's press call. They have a point. After 16 Tests missed the skipper is back. But how long before he is injured again?

The weather in Leeds for today is set to be 16C with light right at times. This will favour our swing attack. I would like to see Sidebottom have a go as he seems to be brimming with confidence. No Freddie, which I think is right. He could do with a proper recovery a year off. Harmison needs to be disciplined when they bowl, as does Plunkett. I am tempted to suggest playing both Anderson & Sidebottom (leave Plunkett on the bench) because they are superior at swinging the ball.

That said, England just need their bowlers to support their bats this time round. Should be an interesting day...especially if Harmy starts by spraying the ball down leg. However, I have a feeling that he will be on form today because he must be aware that his place will be under threat from the likes of Broad...and even Jones.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Would you like Onions with that?

Of course, further to the suprise inclusion of Sidebottom, I would have liked to have seen Graham Onions in the squad. Here's why:
93 wickets in 35 1st class matches at an ecomony rate of 3.79
Only 24 years old and he adds to the fun for scorers:
caught Mustard bowled Onions

Sidebottom's Back

So Sidebottom returns to the England fold after 6 years in the wilderness. A surprise choice (and he looks surprised doesn't he?) but it does show that Peter Moores is applying some thought to like for like replacements for injured players.
He didn't take a wicket for England when he was last called upon but, if he gets a game, he knows the Leeds conditions well and should 'come good'.
PS This was the only picture I could find of Sidebottom. I think it was taken before he grew his hair.

Ramps - Modern Day Cricket God

Well, what can you say about this guy? Awesome is one word that springs to mind. Technically, the most correct batsman that this country has ever produced. He is showing the world that the form of the last two seasons was not just chance. He is a class act. Here's some numbers to look at:
1st Class
391 Matches; 644 innings; 82 Not Outs; 29309 runs(!); High Score - 301*; Average - 52.15; 91 Centuries; 130 Half Centuries oh! and 228 catches.
If you get a chance to see this guy before he retires I highly recommend it. His front foot cover drive is second to none. Watch his straight bat and the high elbow - all text book stuff. And the lesson that we can all draw from his game? Watch the ball. Watch the ball. When you see him facing any bowler that is all he does. He watches the ball and his mind then controls his body. Most batsmen start to lose their 'eye' and timing after 32 but at 37 this one is just fantastic.
Go see him him play. Oh, by the way, he's a bloody nice chap too.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

England v West Indies, Headingley - Preview

Right then. So Freddie & Virgil are bouncing back in time for Leeds on Friday. I'm a little concerned about Freddie I must confess. I suspect that he will be a straight replacement for Hoggard now and that Ian Bell is saved, at least for the moment, from the unfair deselection that hangs above his head like the proverbial Sword of Damocles. Virgil will push Shah out of the side, who hasn't really done anything to merit any re-inclusion in the future.

Time to get serious now. This is a must win Test. We simply must win. Our batting is looking really strong but our bowlers (Monty excepted) are just not fit for the task. I see that Peter Moores is defending Harmy and saying he will come good. But what we need isn't a come-good Harmy but a consistent stock bowler like Fraser & Caddick once provided. We don't need Harmison to have a devastating spell in which he picks up 3 wickets and then fails to knock the tail over. We need a steady Harmison who can control the game and run rate with accuracy of Glenn McGrath & the ferocity of Alan Donald. Whilst I am convinced that the Northern lad can provide such performances, I feel that he needs control. Back to basics time; figure out what the problems are with the line he bowls. Take the pace off his run until he gets some consistency. With that in mind, I would drop him now until he gets it right and bring in either Broad or Mahmood. This is a relatively unimportant series (important for Moores and team morale) so we can afford to draft in the stars of the future.

With Flintoff back on Friday (and I am assuming that he is actually fit enough to bowl - if he's not then don't pick him) we will have a strong attack (on paper) for a Leeds ground that traditionally favours those who can swing the ball. There is a some possibility that Moores will put Jimmy Boy Anderson on notice in case Freddie is not fit because the one thing that Jimmy can do is swing the ball. But my preference would be for Mahmood who has done well at this ground at county level. If it is overcast on Friday morning England will look to win the toss and field. This is Virgil's home ground and no one in the side will have more local knowledge than him.

And so my final message to Team England is this:

Batters - hey, great job lads, you have put the bowlers to shame.
Bowlers - (Monty excepted) Pull your finger out. Bowl to your field. Bowl wicket to wicket. Bowl on a length and find that rhythm early on.

Monday, May 21, 2007

England v West Indies, Lords - Day 5

Here comes the rain...and it is forecast for light rain. There's a very good chance that this will end as a dead rubber. That said, Team England will need to attack whenever they can. So here's the run down on performance so far:

Strauss - 1st Innings 33; 2nd Innings 24. Good captaincy in places. 7/10
Cook - 105 & 65. 1 Catch. 9/10
Shah - 6 & 4. Poor decsion to bat him at 3. 3/10
Pietersen - 24 & 109. Superb 2nd inns. Awesome shots. 8/10
Collingwood - 111 & 34. Excellent 1st knock. 1 Catch, 1 Wicket. 8/10
Bell - 109* & 3. I like this guy. Class Act. Great 1st inns. 9/10
Prior -126* & 21. Set for a long stint now. Awesome batting. 9/10
Plunkett - DNB & 0. 2 Wickets. 6/10
Hoggard - DNB & DNB. 4/10
Harmison - DNB & 11*. 1 Wicket. Must do better. 3/10
Panesar - DNB & 3*. 6 Wickets so far. Will take more. Great attacking spin. 9/10

Good consistent cricket from our batsmen so far. We need our bowlers to make use of conditions today and what little time there is left.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

A Declaration of Dominance

Excellent. Good call. Can't remember the last time a England side declared twice in a match...the quite often gave up twice! Not this time.

Big ask...but the weather looks bad for Monday.

England v West Indies, Lords - Day 4

I have deliberately avoided posting before now because I was eager to see if Peter Moores has the killer instinct that the conservative Fletcher always lacked. And, by the way the English batsmen are making hay, I would have to say that he has. We just need the declaration. A lead of 400 is safe and will give us a chance to bowl a few overs tonight. Put Monty straight on. Go for the throat!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

England v West Indies, Lords - Day 2

Ian Bell, this morning stands on the precipice of deselection, despite one of the best innings he has ever played. Even after being demoted down the order to 6 so as to allow the hapless Shah to take guard at 3, this 25 year didn't sulk. Instead he raised his game with a show of class and true Test batting. Of course, his innings will always be overshadowed by Matt Prior's magnificent knock because Prior has scored faster and has taken the lion's share of the runs in the partnership. But, in my mind this simply highlights why Bell is the superior player; there can be no doubt of Prior's class but had he been partner to KP or even Collingwood runs would have been harder, much harder to come by. Instead, Bell's maturity as a Test batsman who is versatile enough to adapt his game from top order to middle order made sure that Prior got the strike. This was very very good cricket. Of course, Bell will be dropped as soon as Freddie passes fitness. This will be a mistake. Freddie might be fit enough to bat but he is not fit enough to bowl. Let him rest. He has nothing to offer us with his bat at the moment and a spell of having to fight for his place will do him good.

It's funny because you know that Bell will accept whatever the Selectors decide and bide his time as he has done so often. What this man has written all over him is Future England Captain.

Back from the future and to the job in hand. A declaration will surely come first thing this morning. The Hoggard & Harmison Express will be chomping at the bit right now at the prospect of a shiny new cherry and a damp Lord's pitch. Away you go lads. To be honest England have already done enough to win this game. And we should win without having to bat again. Our strike attack will knock them over cheaply and enforce the follow-on. Moores will be crowned a hero and Fletcher will be admitting to himself that when it came to spotting a decent keeper he was a 1st Class Klutz. And then the other thing a comprehensive win will bring is this: Michael Who? Freddie What?