Showing posts with label Cricket. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cricket. Show all posts

9 December 2013

England's latest self-destruction confirms fall from grace

Photograph from Wikipedia Commons

England's lower order inevitably folded amidst a flurry of feeble shots parallel to those played by their more heralded team-mates yesterday. The biggest worry for Flower, Cook and the beleaguered batting line-up is that they can't put together an acceptable innings on pitches flatter than the Dutch landscape, and against an Australian side who hadn't won a Test in nine before this series.

The shot that Cook played yesterday morning set the tone for a disappointing effort at batting for two days, but it was the way they subsided to a successive first innings collapse that will worry Englishmen the most. 

25 November 2013

Why England can still retain the Ashes despite their deficiencies

Photograph from Flickr

England took a battering from a bunch of fired up Australians over the weekend and have a mountain to climb if they are to regroup and retain the Ashes, especially after the loss of top order mainstay Jonathan Trott. Harsh words were sent in England's direction from both on and off the pitch and it could be these that spur Alastair Cook's men back into action. 

Anyone who thinks that England are going to be thrashed in this series are deluded, but it is certain that they are going to have to work hard to keep hold of the precious urn.

England rock Trott will be sorely missed

Photograph from Wikipedia

For decades England trialled multiple top order batsmen for the vacant number three role, from county run machines (e.g Mark Ramprakash and Graeme Hick) to young prodigies (e.g Rob Key and John Crawley), but all failed to meet the demands of being the first man in after the new ball in Test match cricket. 

But then came the answer to the woe; the latest world-class South African-born batter Jonathan Trott. For the four years since his Ashes-winning hundred at the Oval in 2009 he has been the glue that has given the England team their greatest level of stability in many a year.

Clarke and Australia send out brash message to England

A man in cricket whites and baggy green walking towards the camera
Photograph from Wikipedia

The baggy green of Australia is bouncing with a level of unbridled joy that even the most ardent West Brom fan could not dream of. Without a Test win since January and having been outplayed in the last three Ashes series they looked desperate when they so confidently talked up their chances before walking out at the Gabba last week. But that's the way they are and there was nothing fraught about the way Mitchell Johnson and David Warner got stuck into the more passive 'Poms'.

After the first day Stuart Broad called England 'silent assassins', but come the early hours of Sunday morning they had been reduced to nothing more than unsuccessful shoplifters with Michael Clarke's men attacking without respite, relentlessly exposing their top order's flaws on a pitch devoid of demons.

13 July 2013

Broad criticism helps Dar and Clarke avoid inquisitions

Photograph from Wikipedia Commons

The Ashes is back. People all over the country are forgetting to check football transfer news or read the latest article about Andy Murray because of the wicket-tumbling, tail-end wagging and controversial scenes in Nottingham.

One thing is for certain; even the most patriotic Englishman should not assume that victory is in the bag despite Ian Bell's heroics taking his team's lead over 300. This match has been unpredictable from the off and the Aussies have quelled the naive doubts of supporters and pundits alike - they are very much up for the fight.

26 March 2013

England should take plenty of positives from tricky New Zealand series

Photograph from Wikipedia Commons
Colin Cowdrey, Michael Atherton, Ricky Ponting, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Paul Collingwood. Add Matt Prior to the list of batsmen who have all stood in the face of extreme adversity to see their teams to unlikely draws. Today was a day that saw England muster all the fight and desire in the world to hang on against a determined New Zealand side. 

While Prior's innings was magnificent, Ian Bell set the tone with a near six-hour vigil reminiscent of Collingwood at Cardiff in 2009. 

Today was an excellent day for England as very few thought, at 90-4 and with an inexperienced middle order, that they stood much of a chance of saving the series. 

What resulted was a day of thrilling Test match action that made many watching at home wish that they were filling up an empty-looking Eden Park.

22 March 2013

James Anderson: From yips to swing king

Photograph from Wikipedia Commons 

"Oh Jimmy Jimmy, Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy Anderson!"

Hailed as a wonder-kid in the 2003 World Cup, James Anderson then fell into the international wilderness in 2005 as people said he had lost it, but now the Barmy Army are rightly blowing his trumpet again.

Just five wickets short of adding to an illustrious list of names that have taken 300 Test wickets for England, the burly Lancastrian has transformed himself from a wild, but exciting young prospect, to one of the best exponents of swing bowling in the world. 

1 March 2013

Tragic train death exposes flaw in cricket’s drug-testing system

Drugs in sport have been a problem for decades. From Ben Johnson to Lance Armstrong everyone knows of at least one performance-enhancing story that has shocked the world and many of sport’s governing bodies have addressed this predicament, for example the Football Association now runs over 1,000 tests a year. 

Events over the past few days have suggested that cricket, one of Britain’s oldest sports, is not quite up with the times. Even though drug tests are carried out during the season to ensure that stimulants are not taken, it is almost as if cricket players are just expected to conduct themselves in a ‘gentlemanly’ manner during the winter.

30 November 2012

Changing masculinities in sport

Masculinity has, and always will be, one of the most important features of men’s sport. Since sport started to become regulated in the nineteenth century it has mainly been fought out by men trying to secure dominance over others.  

Hegemonic traits are often “homophobic, misogynistic, and aggressive” (M.McCormack 2011) and these characteristics have always been present in sport. The most popular sports have always featured men going head to head, whether including contact or not. However, there are signs that this way of thinking is changing as media coverage and the public’s perception of sport develops.

‘Soft’ masculinities are becoming more prominent in the world of modern day sport. Metro-sexuality is a word that not many people would even have heard of in the 1980s, but now there are many top-level sportsmen that would be described as ‘metro-sexual’.

(Mark Simpson 1994) wrote that the “metro-sexual man, the single young man with a high disposable income, living or working in the city (because that’s where all the best shops are), is perhaps the most promising consumer market of the decade. In the Eighties he was only to be found inside fashion magazines such as GQ, in television advertisements for Levi's jeans or in gay bars. In the Nineties, he’s everywhere and he’s going shopping.” Examples of this type of masculinity are commonly found across the world of sport. England footballer David Beckham became the poster-boy of football in the early twenty-first century and since then others have followed his example, for example Welsh rugby union player Gavin Henson.

The twentieth century was an age when strength, power and dominance were promoted as important qualities of a man. The 1980s was a decade when homosexuality was frowned upon, as many people blamed gay men for the out-break of AIDs. These feelings were prominent in the world of sport, especially in association football, and the problem of hooliganism grew in the UK as a result of men trying to prove their masculinity and hetero-sexuality. 

The 1985 Heysel disaster that resulted in the banning of British football clubs from European competition was a prime example of this growing predicament, as Liverpool supporters caused trouble at the European Cup final. Although hooliganism was clearly a big problem, the press often jumped to blame events, and sometimes tragedies, on football fans. The Sun produced one of the most controversial front pages in 1989 when they published an article blaming Liverpool supporters for the Hillsborough disaster under the headline ‘The truth’. 

It was not until this year that The Sun apologised for the article when editor Dominic Mohan said: ''It's a version of events that 23 years ago The Sun went along with and for that we're deeply ashamed and profoundly sorry.” This was a prime example of society and the media accusing masculinity in sport for causing unruly behaviour, even though this type of conduct was often indirectly endorsed at the time.

Despite the media often condemning hooliganism, manliness has been encouraged by the press for many years. Sports journalism has been mainly based on men’s sport since the 19th century and people do not only see male contest when they watch sport, but they also view media coverage that is dominated by men. These “gendered institutions” (Creedon 1998) exist on television, radio and print every time sport is covered, for example on Sky Sports and the BBC almost every presenter and commentator is a man, and even though there are more women in the roles during female sport matches/competitions, coverage is still usually controlled by men.

However there are signs that the media’s perception and promotion of masculinity is changing. In an age when physical prowess is becoming less important, more non-aggressive people are finding it unproblematic to fit into the world of sport. “Male advantages erode when society is pacified” (Elias + Dunning 1986) and the modern Western world has definitely pacified in the past twenty years. 

An example of this was the public’s views towards homosexuality in sport. In 1990 professional footballer Justin Fashanu agreed in an exclusive interview with The Sun to come out as gay and was widely ridiculed, both by the public and his peers. In stark contrast, in 2009 Welshman Gareth Thomas came out to the press to become the first openly gay professional rugby union player and mainly received only praise. This made a big impact as Thomas was seen to be very masculine; after all he won 100 international caps for Wales. The press were much more supportive and as a result other sportsmen followed his suit within the next year, one of them England international cricketer Steven Davies. This shows how many people have come to accept that not all men are ‘manly’ and that feminine men are not necessarily “sissies” or masculine girls “tomboys” (Connell 1983).

The promotion of sports such as tennis, cycling, swimming and running has seen a decrease in the need for masculinity. More people feel able to get involved in non-contact, individual sports that do not focus on physicality or fighting skills. Even though the media’s and the public’s perception of sport is still male dominated, there are signs that this is changing and the recognised boundaries of ‘masculinity’ have broadened.

For example (Donaldson 1993) makes the point that, despite common beliefs, homosexuality and physical sporting masculinity fit in with one another: “It is not ‘gayness’ that is attractive to homosexual men, but ‘maleness’. A man is lusted after not because he is homosexual but because he's a man.”

Social life is still organised in a certain way; men are usually the ones seen to be more physical and women more restrained. On the whole people still have some sort of gender ideology ingrained in their brains, mainly because of society and the way that the social order dictates thinking. “Most people take it [gender ideology] as a given, it is deeply rooted in their psyches and the way they live their lives” (Coakley 2009). 

As a result sport is still mainly built around masculinity, despite the modern changes. For instance boxing is a sport where men use their fighting skills and physical prowess to earn honour in society, which is exactly what hegemony is. Many boxers also take these characteristics out of the ring into society, Mike Tyson and Floyd Mayweather’s prison sentences are prime examples of this. Even though women’s boxing is now a part of the Olympic Games (in 2012 Briton Nicola Adams became the first-ever woman to win Olympic boxing gold), sports like boxing and wrestling clearly still promote hegemony. 

Traditional masculine traits are “avoidance of femininity; restricted emotions; sex disconnected from intimacy; pursuit of achievement and status; self-reliance; strength and aggression; and homophobia"(Levant 1995). It could be seen that these characteristics are engrained in a male’s way of thinking early on in their lives and if they do not conform, then they can be cast aside. Many young men still grow up believing that strong men are heroes and weak men become omitted by society, and as a result they relate this to the way they live their lives.

Since the nineteenth century sport has been affected by the view that males should show physicality and controlled aggression. Despite these early ideas, there are signs that society’s view towards masculinity in sport is changing. 

Many sports retain focus on domination and power, although there are now people that go against the norm. Social beliefs and the boundaries surrounding masculinity have altered and the current sporting climate is witnessing a change to the definition of ‘masculinity’. The ‘softer masculinities’  have appeared through men like Beckham, Henson, Fashanu and Thomas as people have become gradually less influenced by gender ideology.

McCormack, M. (2011). Hierarchy without hegemony: Locating boys in an inclusive school setting.

Simpson, M. (15/11/1994). The Independent newspaper.

Creedon, P J. (1998). Women, Sport, and Media Institutions. Chapter 6: Issues in Sports Journalism and Marketing.

Elias, N + Dunning, E. (1986). The Quest for Excitement: Sport and Leisure in the Civilising Process. Blackwell.

Connell, R W. (1983). Which Way is Up? Essays on Sex, Class and Culture. Sydney, Allen & Unwin.

Donaldson, M. (1993). What is Hegemonic Masculinity? Springer.

Coakley, J. (2009). Sports in Society: Issues and Controversies. McGraw-Hill.

Levant, Ronald F. Dr (1995). Masculinity Reconstructed: changing the rules of manhood: at work, in relationships and in family life. New York: Dutton.

19 November 2012

England's spinning failures cost them opening Test

Five days ago England went into the first Test match against India full of hope that they had left their problems with spin in the UAE last winter. Those hopes were crushed by a ruthless Indian side who cruised to a nine-wicket victory.

On a dry surface in Ahmedabad England's top order were skittled out as England fell to 97-7, just hours after the hosts had amassed 521-8 declared. Numbers two to seven (excluding night-watchman James Anderson) scored only 36 runs between them with Kevin Pietersen's desperate 17 the best. 

The second innings was not much better, as apart from Nick Compton's 37, the highest score between those same five players was Ian Bell's 22. 

                                                                                                   Test averages:   In UAE and India 2012    Overall
Jonathan Trott:                 22.25                      48.96
Kevin Pietersen:               10.75                      48.93
Ian Bell:                    9.13                      46.24
 Eoin Morgan:                  13.66                      30.43
         Matt Prior:                  48.17                      43.33
Alastair Cook:                 47.00                      48.71

As you can see by the table above, the majority of England's current batsmen have found life much harder on the sub-continent than they do in other places across the world. 

It is hard to pin-point why, although it could be due to a lack of quality spinners/spinning pitches in county cricket. Although this is the case in some circumstances bowlers like Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar have proven that spin-bowling is a big part of the English game. 

The Indian spinners, and the Pakistani attack last year, appear to have got themselves into the English batsmen's heads. (Just look at Ian Bell's shot in the first innings of this match for an example.) With the exceptions of Cook and Prior England's top order looked unsure of what tempo to play, especially Bell and Pietersen.

A big problem for the tourists is that they do not have any great players of spin for the others to learn from. Prior is probably the best player of the turning ball while Pietersen and Cook are both capable of scoring big runs, although that is more down to their natural batting talents rather than a specific ability against the slower bowlers. 

Cook showed great defiance, while Prior applied himself well in both innings. Pietersen played horrific shots  to get out in two uncertain spells at the crease, while Bell looked close to clueless. 

With Bell going home to attend the birth of his baby England will need to find a replacement, and that person may just be Jonny Bairstow; the young man who scored two fifties in the final Test against world number one side South Africa in the summer. 

His youthful exuberance and raw talent may be exactly what England need to bring a breath of fresh air into the batting line-up, as well as make the other batsmen feel under a bit more pressure for their places. 

England's other spinning mistake in this match was the failure to pick a second specialist spinner, which probably would have been Monty Panesar. 

The turban-wearing left-armer played very well in the Test matches last winter and also looked good in the games leading up to this series. England clearly did not need three seamers on such a slow, low surface, one on which Panesar could have thrived.

Swann bowled well and was the only bright spot of an England bowling attack that faltered in the Indian heat. Samit Patel proved that he is far from good enough to play as a second spinner with match figures of 1-120 in 36 overs, while Tim Bresnan and Stuart Broad were distinctly innocuous in their combined 43 wicket-less overs. 

Andy Flower's men must bounce back in Mumbai where a loss would all but seal consecutive series defeats. 

In order to do so the top order must apply themselves better against the likes of Ashwin and Ojha, while Panesar and Swann have to prove that England have their own destructive twin spin attack. 

India v England 1st Test day five as it happened

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India win by nine wickets

That is all from me, a disappointing end to a disappointing match for England, but well played to the Indians who fully deserved their comprehensive victory.

Some poor shots earlier in the day were the main reason why today was such a short-lived one for England. All is not lost as they have three more matches to prove their worth, but there will need to be some changes before the next match, both in the line-up and their mentality.

Samit Patel will be sweating on his place for the next match. He scored a total of 10 runs in two innings and finished with match bowling figures of 1-120 in 36 overs. Ouch.

Another very poor day from England, but in all truth it was the performances of their top order bar Cook that lost them this game, as well as the failure to play Monty Panesar on a pitch that offered nothing for the seamers.

0724: 80-1
After a couple of dot balls Kohli hits Swann down the ground for four and it is all over in Ahmedabad. Kohli (14) and Pujara (41) the not out men.

0722: 76-1 (1 to win)
Anderson almost pulls off a great catch at short extra cover but Kohli then plays a magnificent straight drive for four. He then collects a single to leave India needing just one and then changes his bat! Surely the last couple of balls up next...

0720: 71-1 (6 to win)
Pujara keeps his hopes of a 50 alive with a four through mid-wicket off the first ball of the over. India just one blow away from victory now...

0717: 67-1 (10 to win)
Pujara picks up a single as England just about continue to hang on.

0714: 66-1 (11 to win)
England prolong the agony as Swann bowls the first maiden over of the innings, but with Patel up next we could be about to see the last over of the match...

0712: 66-1 (11 to win)
Virat Kohli is the new man and he creams Patel through the covers for four from just his second ball before picking up a single.

0710: 61-1 (16 to win)
Pujara is on strike for the last ball of the over as the batsmen crossed and he helps himself to yet another four, his seventh.

WICKET: Sehwag c Pietersen b Swann 25
Pujara lets Sehwag have a go as he turns Swann away for a single into the leg-side. He gets a two to move onto 25. He tries to hit Swann for six but it goes miles into the Indian sky and Kevin Pietersen settles himself underneath it and takes a good catch, staying narrowly inside the boundary rope.

0704: 54-0 (23 to win)
Patel rolls them in with no real threat and Pujara gets a single off the last ball. He could get a fifty if he can keep the strike.

0701: 53-0 (24 to win)
Sehwag brings up the 50 partnership from just 44 balls before captain Cook takes a smack on the foot and they run a single. Sehwag gets two more as India continue to cruise to their tiny target.

0658: 49-0 (28 to win)
Much better over that time from Patel as Pujara comfortably sees off the over.

0655: 48-0 (29 to win)
The openers trade singles once again before Sehwag gives Pujara the strike and he is loving this. A bit of a half-volley that from Swann and the 23-year-old hits it past mid-off for four more before he gets another single to keep the strike.

0652: 39-0 (38 to win)
Sehwag will be licking his lips as Patel makes it a twin-spin effort for England. Those lips will be dry soon because the left-armer has just served up the juiciest full-toss you're ever likely to see, even I don't bowl them. Sehwag duly dispatches it into the stands. The opener then takes an easy single as he continues to rotate the strike. The only Englishman enjoying this is Monty Panesar as Patel produces a shocking drag-down and Pujara smashes it to the fence. This run chase might not even last 10 overs at this rate...

0648: 28-0 (49 to win)
Swann continues, England need something extra special from him but Sehwag smashes him through the covers for four and then picks up a single. Pujara continues the fun as he advances at the spinner and hits him for yet another boundary through extra cover. India want this one over in a hurry...

0645: 19-0 (58 to win)
Sehwag cuts for one before Pujara creams Anerson through extra cover for four. He looks like some player this lad...

0641: 14-0 (63 to win)
Sehwag tries to flay Swann through the covers and gets a thick inside edge up to long-on for a single. Pujara then whips the ball airily through mid-wicket for four. The youngster then picks up four more before surviving  an LBW appeal and India are now only 67 runs away...

0637: 5-0 (73 to win)
The players are back out and James Anderson will take the new ball. Sehwag and Pujara trade singles and India are off to a good start. Surely Swann will share the new ball...

So, it is lunch here but the Indian batsmen won't be sweating over their curries. A great session for them and England folded rather pitifully in that session I'm afraid. I'll be back for the run-chase, but it all looks a formality now.

0555: WICKET! Bresnan c sub (Rahane) b Khan. England all-out 406.
Bresnan smashes the ball into the leg-side but doesn't quite time it... caught at cover by the substitute fielder Rahane and India just need 77 to win. It is basically game over but we'll have lunch first.

0551: 406-9 (Lead by 76)
The last man is James Anderson and England are desperate for a Test-best from him now. That current stat stands at 34 for the number 11, even that probably wouldn't be enough. He blocks the first ball easily enough though and it is now 406-9.

0548: WICKET! Swann bowled Ashwin 17
Swann plays a very cheeky reverse-sweep and it trickles away fine for four! Nicely-played that by the England number 10. He then comes down the pitch but his powerfully-hit drive is well stopped by Tendulkar at mid-off. It is one too many though from Swann, he tries to hit a reverse slog-sweep this time and loses his middle stump. Not sure the England dressing room will be too impressed by that shot so close to the lunch break, that partnership was just starting to become of an annoyance to India.

0545: 402-8 (Lead by 72)
Zaheer probes away but Bresnan shows good patience and sees out a maiden over.

0540: 402-8 (Lead by 72)
Dhoni gives Ravichandran Ashwin a bowl as Ojha leaves the attack for the first time today Bresnan pushes a single to deep cover to take England past 400. Even though they probably will go on to lose this game, at least they shown that they can bat on Indian wickets. Swann gets two before surviving a couple of close shaves.

0537: 399-8 (Lead by 69)
Zaheer Khan is back into the attack to start his 26th over of the innings and Swann leaves alone this time out-side the off-stump. The Indian seamer sends down a very kind full-toss on the pads and Swann duly clips it away to the deep-backward square leg boundary for four. I expect the England spinner will be hoping to get some runs here and give himself something to bowl at...

0533: 395-8 (Lead by 65)
Swann looks solid in defence before his misjudges the length of the ball and tries to hoik Ojha out the park and is nearly bowled off his pad. He has connected with that one though! Big slog sweep sails out into the stand for six and Swann then knocks the ball into the leg-side for a single. He always does play his shots...

0530: 388-8 (Lead by 58)
Yadav fires one way down leg and Dhoni can't get across to stop it. The resulting four byes take England's lead to 58.

0526: 384-8 (Lead by 54)
Bresnan picks up a single to take him to 19 before Swann almost gets stuck in no-man's land before jamming his bat down on the ball.

0523: 383-8 (Lead by 53) 
Bresnan survives a huge appeal for LBW by Yadav and he was lucky there, that looked to be crashing into middle. He gets a single and England continue to just about hang on by the skin of their teeth.

0518: 381-8 (Lead by 51)
Bresnan is looking in nice shape here and he times the ball nicely through mid-wicket and they run three to take the lead over 50.

0514: 378-8 (Lead by 48)
New man Graeme Swann sees out the rest of the over. England effectively now 48-8 and it is all but game over now in Ahmedabad.

WICKET! Broad c and b Yadav 3: 
Broad starts the over with a two to third man before Yadav bamboomzles him with one that flies past the edge, but Dhoni lets it through his legs and away for four byes. But next ball Broad gets a leading edge and it is the simplest return chance for the bowler. The end is nigh now for England...

0508: 372-7 (Lead by 42)
Broad gets off the mark with a single into the off-side as England gradually increase their lead.

0504: 371-7 (Lead by 41)
Yadav into the attack now and he is pushed through the gap at cover by Bresnan for a couple as he moves into double figures. The all-rounder then flicks one off his thigh-pad fine to the boundary for four. With runs crucial now these two might start to play a bit more positively.

0500: 365-7 (Lead by 35)
Stuart Broad is in and India have two new men at the crease now. It will take something special from England's tail to get England out of this predicament and Broad and Bresnan will have to do it. He survives an optimistic appeal for a bat-pad and it is 365-7.

WICKET! Cook bowled Ojha 176: Cook's vigil is over, as are England's chances. Ojha gets one to turn back into the left-hander and keep low a little, bowling the opening batsman. He could have got further forward there and it is the end of one of the greatest innings ever by an England skipper.

0454: 365-6 (Lead by 35)
Bresnan is getting a long way across his stumps to Zaheer, and he gets another two through mid-wicket. The Indian left-armer goes over the wicket and almost breaches the right-hander's defences. Almost, but not quite.

0448: 363-6 (Lead by 33)
Ojha drops a bit short and the stocky Yorkshireman Bresnan steers him away for a couple before taking a quick single. He is no mug with the bat, he has three first-class centuries at an average of 27.96, England could do with some runs from him today.

0445: 360-6 (Lead by 30)
India looking to target Bresnan with the slip cordon filled, but he plays his first ball from Khan with soft hands, also to third man for a single. England's captain fantastic steers a run of his own to third man, he now has 176 - the highest ever score by an England batsman while following on in a Test match. Bresnan adds another single, into the leg-side this time and the lead is 30.

0441: 357-6 (Lead by 27)
Tim Bresnan is the new man and he has a big job to do now if England are to get anything from this Test. He gets off the mark by guiding his first ball from Ojha to short third man for a single and his team now lead by 27.

WICKET: Prior c and b Ojha 91: Prior goes! His stoic resistance is ended when the ball appears to just stick in the pitch and he mis-times a back-foot drive which results in a tame return catch for Ojha. You don't drop those. Massive wicket, England in deeper trouble now, effectively 26-6...

0434: 356-5 (Lead by 26)
Cook doesn't look sure whether to leave or defend and it results with the ball passing the bat perilously close to the off-stump. Some poor glove-work from Dhoni gifts England two byes before Zaheer drifts onto the pads of Cook who guides it away down to the vacant fine-leg position for four.

0430: 350-5 (Lead by 20)
Cook picks up another single before Prior shows Ojha the full face of his bat for the rest of the over.

0426: 349-5 (Lead by 19)
Zaheer continues to be unerringly accurate and Cook brings up the 150 partnership with a clip into the leg-side. They're doing well here the tourists.

0423: 348-5 (Lead by 18)
Ojha whistles through another maiden thanks to some good work at mid-off by Sachin Tendulkar, much to the delight of the crowd.

0420: 348-5 (Lead by 18)
Good running by the pair earn Cook his first run of the day before Prior gets one of his own. The last ball strikers Cook on the pads, but is clearly slipping down the leg-side.

0415: Ojha continues with his left-arm spin and sends one past Prior's defensive lunge in an otherwise uneventful maiden over.

0413: Prior faces Khan for the first time and he gets it just where he likes it; it is wide outside off stump and the wicket keeper-batsman flays it away for four. Zaheer comes back well and pushes one across the Englishman and past his out-side edge. Prior ends the over with a single to move into the nervous nineties...

0408: Ojha gets the nod to take the second over and his first few balls are blocked by Prior before he nurdles a single to take England to an effective score of 11-5.

0404: Zaheer Khan will start us off and he runs in with purpose and sends down a beauty past Cook's outside edge to get English nerves jangling. Not that the Barmy Army know it, as they blast out 'Jerusalem' with some gusto while Cook plays out a maiden over.

0356: Welcome to the fifth day of an intriguing first Test between India and England at Ahmedabad. England fought back excellently yesterday, but are still precariously placed on 340-5, a lead of just 10 after being forced to follow-on 330 runs behind India. Captain Cook stands tall unbeaten on 168 with Matt Prior his able accomplice on 84.

29 September 2012

England Keep World T20 Hopes Alive With Comfortable Win Over New Zealand

England produced a much-improved performance to keep their World T20 title defence alive with a comfortable six wicket win over New Zealand. Set 149 to win from their 20 overs they cruised home with seven balls to spare, Luke Wright smashing 76 from just 43 balls.

England looked a vastly superior side to the one that was out-played by the West Indies on Thursday with all sections of their game functioning at it's top level. The bowling and fielding performance was unrecognisable from the one that saw Gayle and Charles take them apart, Steven Finn the star performer with magnificent figures of 3-16 from his four overs. 

It was Finn who made the early inroads that immediately put the Black Caps on the back foot as he claimed the big scalps of Martin Guptill and Brendon McCullum to leave them 20-2. Guptill was trapped in front plumb L.B.W for just five, before McCullum fell after being caught by Wright for only 10. 

Kane Williamson (17) and Ross Taylor (22) gradually brought the Kiwis back into the game, but the run-rate was painfully slow before James Franklin hammered 50 off just 33 balls to drag them back into the match and set a challenging total of 148-6. 

England started slowly as Craig Kieswetter once again struggled to find his timing and was eventually bowled by Daniel Vettori for four from 14 balls. Alex Hales batted fluently for his 22 but it was Luke Wright who did  most of the damage as he hit five huge sixes in his destructive innings of 76. Eoin Morgan played a typically mature innings alongside him as they put on 89 for the third wicket to bring England within 22 runs of victory.

Morgan fell to a stunning catch by Doug Bracewell before Luke Wright's knock came to an end when he skied a ball from the fast bowler and was caught by Ross Taylor. However by then the result was not in doubt and when Yorkshire batsman Jonny Bairstow pulled his first ball for four England needed just three runs from nine balls. 

Stuart Broad and coach Andy Flower will be very pleased with their team's efforts today, but will know that nothing other than a win will do in their final group game against Sri Lanka if they are to hold any hope of defending their world title. Broad echoed these thoughts when he said: "It was really important for us to get a win, Steven Finn set the tone with the new ball and then Luke Wright and Eoin Morgan batted beautifully. We've got a big game on Monday, we've still got areas to improve and we'll take the positives."

27 September 2012

Poor England Out-Played By The West Indies In Opening Super Eights Game

England went into their first Super Eights game of the World T20 with high hopes of beating a West Indies side that has recently been in transition. But with Chris Gayle leading the way with some big hits in the power-play, the Carribean out-fit proved far too good for the reigning champions.

Stuart Broad's side were immediately put under pressure and they did not find a break-through until the eleventh over when their opponents had already passed the 100-run mark. Chris Gayle hit some meaty blows at the beginning as he blitzed 58 off just 35 balls including 4 sixes.

After Gayle's dismissal it was young, unknown quantity Johnson Charles who took centre stage. The 23-year-old smashed 84 from just 56 balls with 10 fours and 3 sixes. He started slowly as he faced too many dot balls and scored just 21 from his first 24 balls. However after that he exploded into life and hammered boundary after boundary as he took just 35 deliveries for his last 63 runs.

Charles was given a life though when, on 39, he hit Jade Dernbach high into the night sky and Steven Finn made a complete hash of the chance. Incredibly Finn was put under the spotlight again straight away, as from the very next ball he did take a very similar chance to dismiss Gayle.

England's two spinners seemed slightly off-colour on a very good batting track as the West Indies batsmen took them apart with consummate ease. Swann took just one wicket from four overs at nine runs per over while Samit Patel bowled three wicket-less overs for 34 runs.

The West Indies ended with a big over to set England a more than challenging target of 180 from 20 overs at exactly nine runs per over. The England chase got off to the worst possible start as wicket-keeper-batsman Craig Kieswetter top-edged an ugly slog off the second ball of the innings and was caught by Kieron Pollard off the bowling of Ravi Rampaul. Rampaul then dismissed Luke Wright for a golden duck as he nicked to a gleeful Chris Gayle at slip.

At 0-2 after one over it was always going to be an up-hill climb but they did not do themselves any favours as they laboured to 55-3 at the half-way stage. Jonny Bairstow scored a pain-staking 18 from 29 balls before holing out to long-on off the bowling of Gayle. Eoin Morgan launched an incredible attack as he smashed 71* off 36 balls but it was always going to be a bridge too far for the defending champions and they lost by 15 runs.

There will be an inquest into why and how England managed to fall short of the West Indies, but in truth, they were out-manoeuvred in every area of the game. Their fielding was not bad, but not up to the standard of Darren Sammy's team. The athleticism of the likes of Pollard and Russell was nothing short of remarkable. Pollard took a stunning catch to get rid of Bairstow and Andre Russell produced one magnificent stop to deny Morgan a six. 

The only positive for Flower and co. will be the way that Eoin Morgan batted as he took apart the West Indies attack. England's bowlers were not poor, but collectively were not great, although to be fair it was a very flat surface. Stuart Broad bowled well, as did Steven Finn, but the rest were all expensive. It is starting to become confusing for an England fan as to why Samit Patel is in the team as his left-arm spin is clearly not good enough and he hardly ever gets a chance to bat. 

Even though this has been said so many times before it has to be said again: England really miss Kevin Pietersen. The first six overs of their innings lost England the game as they scored just 29 runs. Alex Hales played very well but at no point did he look as though he was going to do something extraordinary as he cruised to a solid 68 from 51 balls. His problem was that he lost his fluency when he started to try to hit the big shots.

Hales should come good but the world number one team's top order does look very vulnerable without Pietersen. Morgan could fill the role if pushed up to number four in the order, although that is by no means the main problem that England face. They really miss a power hitter and Jonny Bairstow looks to be the nearest thing to that, although today he really struggled under the pressure. 

England will need to up their game significantly in the next two matches as they will most likely have to win both to progress to the semi-finals. Sri Lanka are an excellent team, especially on home soil, while New Zealand looked very good today, despite the super over defeat. In the following games England need their big players to step up to the plate; the likes of Luke Wright, Graeme Swann and Jade Dernbach. 

29 August 2012

England Can Move On Without Skipper Strauss

After a hugely disappointing Test series with South Africa England captain Andrew Strauss has retired from all forms of cricket. A culmination of different problems have led to the retirement, with the main reason being the opening batsman's lack of form against quality bowling attacks. He struggled in the sub-continent over the winter after not scoring many runs in the home Tests against India, but two centuries earlier this summer against the West Indies suggested a return to his best. The pace attack of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander proved to be a bridge too far for Strauss as he scored just 107 runs in six innings with a measly average of 17.83. The biggest problem was his failure to convert starts into anything meaningful with four scores of 20+ and a highest effort of only 37. 

It was not just his form that forced him out of the England set-up. An apparent rift with star-batsman Kevin Pietersen involving derogatory texts sent by the 32-year-old about Strauss to the South Africa team resulted in Pietersen being dropped for the crucial third and final Test. England subsequently lost the match and the world number one ranking by a mere 51-run margin. The Surrey player was sorely missed and the fall-out may have been the last straw for captain Strauss. Former England captain Michael Vaughan said: "He said it was his form and that was also my main concern when I was thinking about whether to retire. Then there was the Kevin Pietersen situation. I don't think it had a massive impact but I think it adds to it. It was probably the tipping point for Andrew to make the decision to leave the game." 

Despite his gloomy exit from the sport, Strauss has been one of England's best servants over the last decade. He finished his career only one hundred off the all-time England Test record with 21 tons, as well an impressive tally of 7037 runs. His average of 40.91 was tainted somewhat by his recent form but he produced many match-turning innings for his side over the years. Overall his captaincy was excellent for English cricket and he formed a magnificent partnership with Zimbabwean coach Andy Flower. In his first match in permanent charge back in spring 2009 his men slumped to 51 all out in the West Indies and went on to lose the series 1-0. 

Since then he has helped transform a floundering outfit into one of the top squads in the world with highlights including consecutive Ashes wins and the 4-0 whitewash of India a year ago to take the world number one ranking. Although he might not be needed any longer his contribution to English cricket should never be underestimated. 

England have not suddenly become a bad side overnight, it was just that South Africa were on the top of their game for the whole of the series while England were off-colour. The new world number one cricketing nation boast an excellent team, however Strauss's former charges should never be written off. Fellow opening batsman and ODI skipper Alastair Cook has already been named as the new captain as the ECB look to him to lead the new generation. 22-year-old Jonny Bairstow hit 95 and 54 in the final Test while James Taylor has also found his way into the batting line-up. Both of these players look set to keep their positions now, even if Kevin Pietersen is recalled. 

England and Wales Cricket Board chairman Giles Clarke has said that the ECB will hold 'behind closed doors' talks with the batsman over a return to the side. The South-African born player has looked in excellent shape recently with scores of 234*, 42, 149, 12 and 163 in his last five first-class outings. A return to Tests does not look far away and Clarke said: "The talks are going to take place behind closed doors because there has been too much in the public domain. These matters need to be dealt with by the captain, head coach and national selector."

Having Pietersen back in the top-order will make a massive difference to England and Cook should fit into the calm, assured role that Strauss once assumed with relative ease. It has been a difficult couple of weeks for England that was topped off as they surrendered their world number one ODI ranking to the Proteas yesterday after an 80-run defeat. They still have three matches to bounce back in that series and have a busy winter ahead of them. It is still unknown whether KP will play in England's World T20 defence while Captain Cook's first assessment is as tough as it can come; four Tests in India. 

Flower's men do have plenty of potential to add to their already strong squad and proudly boast one of the best bowling attacks in the world. The top order of Cook, Trott and Pietersen is one that will be feared by many while the young talent of Taylor and Bairstow should compliment the experience of Ian Bell in the middle order. There are still more great times to come for England after a recent sticky patch, but the job that Andrew Strauss did will never be forgotten. 

23 July 2012

Disappointing England Surrender To Limp Defeat In First Test

The home side went into this series with high expectations and plenty of support. With this series deciding the world number spot, like England's 4-0 win over India last summer, there was always going to be a lot of hype surrounding The Oval over the past few days. The home fans left happy on Thursday after an imperious hundred from opener Alastair Cook put England in an excellent position on 267-3. However since then there was not much to cheer about as South Africa completely crushed the hosts to win by an innings and 12 runs. 

There were signs of a home fight-back today when Ian Bell and Matt Prior put on 86 for the sixth wicket only for the wicket-keeper to give his wicket away with a daft sweep-shot that he gloved to a gleeful Kallis at slip. As leg-spinner Imran Tahir went off on his customary celebratory sprint the writing was on the wall. Once Bell had half-heartedly dangled his bat at a Dale Steyn delivery to edge behind the game was well and truly over. 

The first day had seen a completely different England side as they put the screw on the South African attack as Cook and Trott dominated. They let their hold on the match slide away early on Friday though as the centurion played a loose drive at Steyn and played on. From there Andy Flower's men could only manage a slightly below-par 385 but would have felt well in the game, especially when James Anderson trapped Alviro Petersen for a duck  in the second over. Little did they know that they would only take one more wicket for 636 runs. Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis left England groping in the dust as they declared at tea on Sunday with a 252-run lead, Amla's 311 not out the first ever Test triple-hundred by a South African.

In that final session the England top order was blown away as wickets fell as much due to poor shot selection as good South African bowling. The pattern continued into the last day as hopes of an unlikely draw slowly faded. Ravi Bopara played a needless waft outside the off-stump to play on and attract more criticism for his controversial inclusion. Bell and Prior built a good partnership but after the latter's non-recommended shot the final few wickets tumbled as world number one bowler Steyn finished with 5-56.

Captain Andrew Strauss still holds high hopes for the remaining two Tests and backed his bowling attack to bounce back:  "I still think we have a great bowling attack and I back them to take wickets in any condition. However we have to give the South African batsmen credit, they played exceptionally well and we have to bounce back. We need to win the next two Tests and we will not make the same mistakes again."

The number one team in the world now have two more chances to prove their worth while the Proteas will be confident of taking that title from them after an excellent display. Onwards to Headingley where this intriguing battle will continue. 

11 July 2012

England Better Than Ever But The Proteas Will Provide A Tough Test

England came within one day of good Birmingham weather from possibly being the first ever nation to be world number one in the Test match, One Day International and Twenty-twenty international rankings simultaneously. However their performances in the recent ODI series against Australia were excellent as they brushed aside their great rivals 4-0.

The series had a strange feel to it as England and Australia met outside of an Ashes summer and it wasn't in an international tournament. Despite this there was a typical competitive edge to the series as England went into the first match knowing that they had to white-wash their opponents to take their world number one spot. They had the perfect start as they cruised through the opening two games in impressive fashion winning by 15 runs and 6 wickets respectively. The home side's top order was in great shape with 80s for Ravi Bopara and Eoin Morgan while Ian Bell, Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott were also in the runs. The four quick bowlers were in full flow with plenty of pace, precision and patience. With one of the world's best spinners in Graeme Swann also in the side everything seemed to be falling into place. 

With optimism of a 5-0 win rising those hopes were sent sinking when the rains came at Edgbaston. Nevertheless England did not let this disappointment slow them down in the last two matches and they produced two more ruthless displays to take a great 4-0 series victory. The last two wins were even more convincing as they won by eight and then seven wickets with more runs for the top order and wickets galore for the quick men, including 4-37 in the fourth ODI for Steven Finn. Journeyman Kent spinner James Tredwell filled in admirably for an injured Graeme Swann in the last match. 

The one thing that did let Captain Cook's men down was their catching as they put down six chances in the last two games. However this is a new, more ruthless England than we have seen for a long time and they will be sure to come back to their Test series against South Africa with their fielding right up to scratch. There will be one big difference to the one-day series England have just played, and that is the opposition. Three Test matches against the world number two South Africa is a completely different proposition to five ODIs against an Australia side in transition. 

England's Test team are also in great shape however, and will be looking forward to welcoming captain Andrew Strauss and inspiring batsman Kevin Pietersen back into the international scene. There will be a selection dilemma over who plays in the number six batting slot with Jonny Bairstow, Ravi Bopara and Eoin Morgan all holding realistic hopes of claiming the place. Bopara appears favourite after an impressive one-day series and is also a useful option with the ball. England also have a battalion of fast bowlers and the fact that players of the calibre of Steven Finn and Graham Onions are unlikely to feature shows how strong their attack is. 

South Africa may not have the strength in depth that Andy Flower's side do but there are so many world-class players that feature in their line-up. The likes of captain Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla, AB De Villiers and of course the legendary Jacques Kallis form a formidable top order. Alviro Peterson is also a decent player and will fight it out for a batting spot with JP Duminy and Jacques Rudolph. Add the world's best bowler in Dayle Steyn and tall fast man Morne Morkel and they have a fearsome line-up which is enhanced even further by the arrival of leg-spinner Imran Tahir. 

England have a massive task if they are to hold on to their title as the best Test team in the world and this will be a titanic battle. The Proteas will put up an excellent fight and are more than suited for English conditions. Vernon Philander has been a surprisingly successful addition to the side and his style of tight swing bowling should thrive on grounds like Lord's and Headingly. For all the positives there is a wicket-keeper sized hole in their side after Mark Boucher's alarming retirement. The 35-year-old was struck in the eye by a bail in a tour game against Somerset and suffered a career-ending injury. 

A freak accident but a frightening one that reminds everyone associated with the game how dangerous it can be, especially when playing without a helmet. Boucher finished with over 5,000 Test match runs and the record amount of dismissals in 147 matches. The only South African with more caps is the country's highest ever run-scorer, Jacques Kallis. The wicket-keeper said that he was 'as prepared for this series as any other' and that 'he had not anticipated retiring now'. A cruel blow for Gary Kirsten's side and 31-year-old Thami Tsolekile, a player with 144 less Test appearances than Boucher, will have big boots to fill. 

Despite the lack of the feisty South African legend this is sure to be a thrilling series as the world's best two sides go head-to-head. Maybe the worst aspect of this upcoming match-up is the fact that there will only be three Tests. The last time these two met was in South Africa in 2009 when England took a 1-1 draw thanks to the match-saving heroics of Onions, a man who will be waiting in the wings this time around. England will be quietly confident of an eighth successive home series win; their last defeat on home soil was to South Africa back in 2008. Two sides with plenty of history, but now on the top of their game, are hoping to give cricket fans all around the world a gripping end to the cricketing summer.