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Cricket News & Views

England are making too much noise

PROBABLY Michael Vaughan was right to point out that a batsman will never 'walk' again with the ICC's introduction of the Decision Review System. So diminished sportsmanship is part of the price for more accurate decisions, but the England management's snick fury at The Wanderers was misguided.

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Like Vaughan, most people felt that Hot Spot and even Snickometer should have been available for the South Africa series. Cost was the reason for the absence, and the ICC should consider sharing the expense. The South African authorities could not afford the whole range of gadgets, and Hawk Eye was apparently horrendously expensive at the top of the list.

But the fact remains that these snick detectors were not available to the third umpire. So that any fine edges the on-field official fails to notice will have to be adjudged by video eye if DRS is applied. The claims made by England that the third umpire Daryl Harper did not have his monitor volume switched up enough might not be correct, but even if the accusation proved to be true it makes not a blind bit of difference.

What seems to have been forgotten is that Tony Hill, the on-field umpire, was not satisfied that the snick was bat on ball or that there was a snick at all. If batsmen were given out every time the ear heard something, cricket would be in a mess. John Crawley once 'snicked' a ball while batting for England A in South Africa and everyone assumed he was out, but the sound was actually his St Christopher neck chain flipping up against his helmet grille. The umpire also heard a realistic snick noise but turned down the appeal on a gut feeling -- a brilliant decision.

Harper could not have overturned the 'not out' decision against Graeme Smith on sound alone in any case, because the evidence has to be compelling through technology. A sound through a stump mike is not enough. In fact, it is absurd to claim that it should be. However, infra-red Hot Spot could certainly have settled the issue.

But as Hot Spot was not available at The Wanderers, England should not have started whingeing. Instead they should sort out why they produced yet another pathetic batting display, which virtually handed South Africa a series-levelling victory on the first day of the fourth Test.

The ICC agreed to follow up the protest from the England camp. The ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat said: "We have received a letter of complaint from the ECB and we will launch a formal investigation into the exact circumstances surrounding the application of the decision review system after completion of the Johannesburg Test match.

"There is a large amount of controversy, speculation and potentially unfair criticism circulating at present so it is important to establish the exact facts before reaching any final conclusions. This is early days for the DRS, and so far we are pleased with its effectiveness and the value it can add to the game in support of umpires. However, we have always acknowledged there is room for further improvement in the available technology and this investigation will be conducted in that light so the system becomes even more reliable."

The ICC's initial reaction was to play down the importance of the alleged low-set volume control. Roshan Mahanama, the referee, said:

"The third umpire, when reviewing the decision, used a range of technologies that were made available to him by the host broadcaster, including the slow-motion replays, amplified stump microphone sound (at normal speed and slow motion), approved ball-tracking technology and pitch mat generated by the ball-tracking technology.

"During the review the TV umpire followed the correct protocol and as he did not hear any noise to indicate the ball hitting the bat, he recommended Mr Hill to uphold his earlier decision. It must be noted that umpire’s decision is final.

"There have also been suggestions in a section of the press that Mr Harper had turned down the feed volume. It is clarified that the volume on the third umpire’s feed, right throughout the series, had been configured to optimise the quality of the audio, by both an SABC head engineer and the ICC technical advisor.

"It is also worthwhile to mention here that at no stage I indicated to the England team management that the third umpire had forgotten to adjust the volume of the speakers. I had actually briefed the England team management of the protocols that were followed during this review.

"If the audio level had been increased above its optimum level, distortion on the audio feed would have occurred and the feed might not have given a clear indication of the true sound. It should be kept in mind that the TV umpires sometimes receive feeds which are at a different level to what others are receiving for the simple fact that various broadcasters at times use different technologies while televising a match and the Johannesburg Test is a case in point.

"In the end, it must be remembered that there needs to be conclusive evidence to over-turn the decision of the on-field umpire as the Decision Review System has been designed to eliminate the obvious umpiring errors."

CHARLIE ASKS: Where are the batsmen capable of challenging for an England place? Why is Kevin Pietersen (a fine batsman) still regarded as a crucial player when events of 2009 proved that no one is indispensible?

Posted by Charlie Randall
16/01/2010 23:17:33

England are wasting their luck

IT IS just as well England's attempt to lose the third Test in Cape Town was foiled by the obdurate batting of Ian Bell and Paul Collingwood. They go into the fourth and final match in Johannesburg on Jan 14 one up in the series after putting South Africa in to bat in two matches and nearly paying the full consequence.

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Andrew Strauss had luck with the coin, inserted the South Africans at Centurion and nearly lost. Then he repeated his folly at Newlands, and once again England had to eke out a draw with the last pair at the crease, making Graham Onions twice the jack hero. Whatever the reason officially ventured for gambling away the advantage of a won toss, taking the risk of bowling first was simply not justified -- at the time and in retrospect.

England look a stronger all-round side than South Africa and they gave themselves a diminished chance of proving it. Perhaps it was professional funk, like Hussain at Brisbane in 2002 when he gave the Australians the Ashes initiative before a ball was even bowled. Naturally he did not see it that way; there was a good 'reason' for bowling first.

One reason why Strauss was reluctant to bat first might be found in the ICC Reliance World Rankings, where England's thin resources were underlined. After the Newlands draw the off-form Kevin Pietersen slipped down to 19th and Strauss himself was 16th, the highest-rated England player. The bowling remained relatively strong, with the admirable Graeme Swann at fifth, James Anderson at seventh, Stuart Broad 12th and Ryan Sidebottom 18th. The world's leading bowler and South Africa's potential trump card was Dale Steyn. without forgetting that Paul Harris, their left-arm spinner, was ranked at 13th. This is one place higher than Daniel Vettori, suggesting that the pompous and constant derision heaped on Harris by Geoff Boycott on Test Match Special has been misplaced.

There is a chance that South Africa will win the toss and bat first at The Wanderers. If that happens Anderson will have to be at his best with the new ball, because batting out the final day for a draw on this more bouncy pitch will be much harder. South Africa called up leg-spinner Imran Tahir into a 15-man squad before realising his eligibility had not been confirmed.

Tahir is a tenacious much-travelled wrist-spinner. He propped up Hampshire with rare brilliance in 2008 and, at 30, he has signed for Warwickshire for 2010. His first international experience was for Pakistan A, and this dangerous customer might well have made his debut for South Africa. The uncapped Wayne Parnell could deputise for Friedel de Wet if he fails to recover from a sore back, which reduced his effectiveness at Newlands. He did not bowl on the final day, a crucial factor in England's survival.

England depart Johannesburg on Jan 19 and are then due in Dubai on Feb 14 for two day-night Twenty20 matches against Pakistan, announced today by the ECB, before Strauss's squad fly on to start their tour of Bangladesh. Pakistan won the World Twenty20 in London last summer, so a good interest in the emirates seems guaranteed for the fixtures on Feb 19 and Feb 20 at the 25,000 seat Dubai International Cricket Stadium. England will be playing in The Gulf for the first time in 12 years since Adam Hollioake led them to victory in the Sharjah Tournament in December 1997.

England Lions are due to play in a Twenty20 tournament against Pakistan A and the United Arab Emirates in February, followed by a 50-over one-day series against the Pakistanis, still unable to play international cricket at home due to security fears.

England itinerary

ARAB EMIRATES

Feb 17: England Lions (20/20 Abu Dhabi)

Feb 19: Pakistan (20/20, Dubai International Stadium)

Feb 20: Pakistan (20/20, Dubai International Stadium)

BANGLADESH

Feb 21: Arrive in Bangladesh

Feb 23: Warm-up v BCB XI (NOS Dhaka)

Feb 25-March 1: Warm-up v BCB XI (NOS Dhaka).

Feb 28: 1st ODI v Bangladesh (SBNCS)

March 2: 2nd ODI v Bangladesh (SBNS)

England Lions itinerary

ARAB EMIRATES

Feb 9: UAE v Pakistan A (20/20 Sharjah)

Feb 10: UAE v England Lions (20/20 Sharjah)

Feb 12: England Lions v Pakistan A (20/20 Sharjah)

Feb 14: England Lions v Pakistan A (20/20 Sharjah)

Feb 16: England Lions v Pakistan A (20/20 Abu Dhabi)

Feb 17: England Lions v England (20/20 Abu Dhabi); Pakistan A v Pakistan (20/20 Abu Dhabi).

Feb 22: England Lions v Pakistan A (50-over, Dubai)

Feb 24: England Lions v Pakistan A (50-over, Dubai)

Feb 26: England Lions v Pakistan A (50-over, Dubai).

Posted by Charlie Randall
08/01/2010 19:38:04

Old Trafford is coming alive

LANCASHIRE have launched a campaign to guarantee Ashes cricket on the back of their proposed £47 million development of Old Trafford, urging the public to give their support via a new website called www.oldtraffordashes.co.uk.

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Details of the sports-led regeneration scheme can be accessed, and county are looking for messages of encouragement as the stakes in the contest to host international cricket continue to rise. Jim Cumbes, the chief executive, said the next few months from November would be "critical" to the future of the famous ground. "Lancashire County Cricket Club really needs cricket and sports fans throughout the North West and further afield to pledge their support for this redevelopment," he said. "Letters of support could make all the difference, so we urge everyone to visit this website today."

Old Trafford was omitted from the Test rosta against Australia in 2009 for only the third time in 150 years. Lancashire announced this week that plans had been submitted plans to Trafford Council for the re-development of the cricket ground and surrounds, an area covering 50 acres.

Warming to their task, Lancashire then anounced that pop singer and cricket fan Lily Allen had been made an Honorary Member in an interview before she went on stage in Manchester on Nov 17. This was in recognition of her promotion of the game nationally and internationally. She was presented with a bat signed by the Lancashire players, including Andrew Flintoff, one of her great admirers. Cumbes said: "Lily’s admission over summer that she loves her cricket, particularly Test cricket, certainly increased the profile of the sport and this will hopefully lead to more people becoming involved in cricket."

The MCC have already announced ambitious plans for a £400 million redevelopment of Lord's which will take capacity up to 36,990 and include a vast underground facility below the Nursery Ground.

The proposals, titled the Vision for Lord's, would be the largest redevelopment in the ground's 195-year history, and would be funded partly by selling flats around the periphery. The MCC strenuously deny that they will be selling ground-naming rights. The new design is being overseen by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron, whose works include the Tate Modern art gallery and the 'Bird's Nest' Olympic stadium in Beijing. If Westminster City Council and MCC members approve the plans work could begin in 2011, and take 10 years to complete.

The most striking aspect of the scheme is the new underground facility, extending from disused railway tunnels, will include a new academy featuring 10 pitches that will simulate conditions overseas through use of different types of synthetic grass.

The Old Trafford proposals have been brought forward by a partnership between the club, Trafford Council, Ask Developments and Tesco with the intention of transforming the historic venue into one of the country’s premier sporting destinations.

The plans include a Tesco store, with approximately 100,000 sq ft retail sales floor space providing over 500 jobs, half of which would be guaranteed for the local long-term unemployed. The store has been earmarked for land on nearby Chester Road. The development, it was claimed, will bring investment of at least £70 million into parts of Trafford which suffer from low levels of economic activity and employment. It will generate an estimated 71,000 additional visitors to Old Trafford each year, creating a further £1 million per year additional spend in the local economy. It will include new facilities offering a host of educational and training opportunities for the local community.

Phase One of the development is already under way, with a new conference and events suite, called The Point, under construction and due for completion in July 2010. Lancashire say that the striking new designs for Phase Two by architects BDP aim to retain the heritage and history of the famous ground by enhancing the existing pavilion, as well as adding stunning new player and media facilities, conferencing, hotel facilities and an extension to the highly successful indoor Cricket School. Two new grandstands will ensure a capacity of 15,000 capable of rising to 25,000 with temporary seating. There will also be floodlights and a screen showing action replays.

Posted by Charlie Randall
18/11/2009 17:42:28

Stodgy England Under-19 beaten

ENGLAND Under-19 were beaten by Bangladesh in a four-day Test in Chittagong in accordance with the pattern at this level on the subcontinent.

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Though the margin was only two wickets in a hard-fought match, the result hinted at the reason why England struggle so frequently at senior Test level. Players in the UK take longer to mature and probably go into full-time cricket too early. There can be no high hopes of success in the junior world cup in New Zealand in January after consistent failure in past decade.

England collapsed to 107 against Bangladesh after achieving a first-innings lead of 49 at the Jahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium. Their batting had been undistiguished from the start as they took 119 overs to compile a total of 221. James Goodman, at No 3, lingered 73 balls for his eight runs, and captain Azeem Rafiq top-scored with 59. Coyne did not bat in the second innings, presumably through illness, when England crawled along for 69 overs against a tight spin attack.

Danny Briggs, the Hampshire left-armer, took 5-50 in the second innings, but he could not prevent the Bangladeshis squeezing home, with wicketkeeper Anamul Haque hitting a crucial 59 not out to add to his 46 in the first innings. England beat these opponents by 10 wickets in their four-dayer at Scarborough in July, but the subcontinent provided a completely different challenge.

England were without the Somerset batsman Jos Buttler, with Somerset in the Champions League Twenty20 tournament in India.

England Under-19 squad: B Stokes (Durham), C Dent (Gloucs), D Payne (Gloucs), M Bates (Hampshire), D Briggs (Hampshire), J Vince (Hampshire), J Goodman (Kent), N Buck (Leicestershire), C Haggett (Somerset), J Buttler (Somerset), M Dunn (Surrey), A Javid (Warwicks), P Best (Warwicks), A Rafiq (Yorkshire), J Root (Yorkshire), C Roebuck (Yorkshire).

Coach: Mick Newell

Posted by Charlie Randall
21/10/2009 17:33:52

Davies and Moore move higher

MARK DAVIES AND STEVE MOORE NEXT IN LINE

QUESTION MARKS LINGER OVER LANCASHIRE SYSTEM

ALASTAIR COOK NEXT ENGLAND CAPTAIN

ENGLAND'S cricket authorities have announced 14 players outside the senior squad with a good chance of playing Test cricket within the next three years, and a total of 41 names have been listed as potential candidates. This is a laudable attempt to improve selection transparency and instil motivation.

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For the enhanced England Performance Programme, beginning in November, players have been divided into three categories according to their differing stages of development. England Under-19 internationals feature strongly in the youthful 'C' list, though one hopes that not too much credence will be put on this, because few from the younger age groups tend to move through to the elite for various reasons.

The ECB said that four ‘A’ graded players were those perceived to be closest to graduating into the England team, and the names of Mark Davies, the Durham seamer, and Stephen Moore, Lancashire's former Worcestershire opener, might seem a surprise to followers of the game, but not to anyone who watched them, as I did, on the England Lions tour of New Zealand in March. Davies was absolutely outstanding, and Moore, despite a quiet 2009 summer and moderate success on that tour, stood out as a strong competitor and a batsman with character.

The other two 'A' players are Amjad Khan, the talented if injury-prone Kent paceman, and Michael Carberry, the Hampshire batsman that no one seems sure about. All four are to receive individualised support programmes.

The ‘B’ players are those with experience of first class cricket and perceived to be one to three years away from the England team, according to the ECB. I am a little surprised that Chris Woakes, the Warwickshire all-rounder, was not listed as 'A' after his great strides last summer, whereas Joe Sayers, the Yorkshire blocker, might need more encouragement than most. The 'B' men are to undertake training camp at the National Cricket Performance Centre at Loughborough in November, and the 'C' group visit the CSA High Performance Centre in Pretoria, South Africa, in December. Both camps will feature some competitive cricket opportunities.

The ECB said that players on the South Africa training camp before Christmas would have the opportunity to work alongside former international players Graham Gooch, Allan Donald and Saqlain Mushtaq, who will support the full-time coaching team of David Parsons, Kevin Shine, Dene Hills and Bruce French at various stages throughout the camp.

One interesting aspect from the announcement of the senior party to tour South Africa was the naming of Alastair Cook as vice-captain, a clear case of succession planning especially as he was deservedly added to the one-day squad for the first time. A really lamentable fact has emerged too. Of all the men listed, from top downwards -- 61 names in total -- there are only two Lancashire players from 2009. One was James Anderson, the leader of the attack, and the other was Sajid Mahmood, still a speculative choice as a one-day bowler. And that's it. There's no one else from Old Trafford. Perhaps swing bowler Tom Smith was unlucky to be excluded, but the small representation is a terrible indictment of Lancashire's development system.

England's senior fringe players Ian Bell, Steven Davies, Ryan Sidebottom and Liam Plunkett, all named in the Test squad against South Africa, will train in Pretoria with players on the Performance Programme before joining up with the England senior side on completion of the one-day series. A group of young fast bowlers are to spend time at a conditioning camp in Florida and at the MRF fast bowling camp in Madras under the guidance of the Australian legend Dennis Lillee.

As in previous winters, England Lions will undertake an overseas tour early in the new year and further details of the squad and opposition are still to be released.

Commenting on the winter programme, ECB performance director David Parsons said: "I am really excited about the depth of the programme we have put in place for our most talented young players this winter. We will be offering a greater range of training and support than before and have carefully tailored the programme to ensure that we can cater to the specific needs of individuals and their stages of development."

"To see eight players who were part of the England Performance Programme last winter selected for England’s tour of South Africa next month is a good indication of the importance of the programme for a player’s development. With players like Eoin Morgan, Jonathan Trott and Graham Onions having made an immediate impact in the international arena this summer, having spent time with EPP and England Lions squads recently, we are keen to identify other players within county cricket who can make a difference to the full England side. "

England Test squad

Andrew Strauss         (capt, Middlesex)

Alastair Cook             (vice-capt, Essex)

James Anderson         (Lancashire)

Ian Bell                     (Warwickshire)

Stuart Broad              (Nottinghamshire)

Paul Collingwood         (Durham)

Steven Davies            (Surrey)

Graham Onions           (Durham)

Kevin Pietersen          (Hampshire)

Liam Plunkett             (Durham)

Matt Prior                  (Sussex)

Adil Rashid                 (Yorkshire)

Ryan Sidebottom        (Nottinghamshire)

Graeme Swann           (Nottinghamshire)

Jonathan Trott           (Warwickshire)

Luke Wright               (Sussex)

England one-day squad

Andrew Strauss          (capt, Middlesex)

James Anderson          (Lancashire)

Tim Bresnan               (Yorkshire)

Stuart Broad              (Nottinghamshire)

Paul Collingwood         (Durham)

Alastair Cook              (Essex)

Joe Denly                   (Kent)

Sajid Mahmood           (Lancashire)

Eoin Morgan               (Middlesex)

Graham Onions           (Durham)

Kevin Pietersen          (Hampshire)

Matt Prior                  (Sussex)

Adil Rashid                (Yorkshire)

Graeme Swann          (Nottinghamshire)

Jonathan Trott         (Warwickshire)

Luke Wright             (Sussex)

HIGH PERFORMANCE PROGRAMME

A group

Mark Davies (Durham)

Amjad Khan (Kent)

Stephen Moore (Lancashire)

Michael Carberry (Hampshire)

B group

Steven Finn (Middlesex)

Andrew Gale (Yorkshire)

Rory Hamilton-Brown (Sussex)

Chris Jordan (Surrey)

Chris Nash (Sussex)

Joe Sayers (Yorkshire)

Ajmal Shahzad (Yorkshire)

James Taylor (Leicestershire)

David Wainwright (Yorkshire)

Chris Woakes (Warwickshire)

C group

Jonathan Bairstow (Yorkshire)

Vikram Banerjee (Gloucestershire)

Keith Barker (Warwickshire)

William Beer (Sussex)

Alex Blake (Kent)

Andy Carter (Nottinghamshire)

Liam Dawson (Hampshire)

Luke Fletcher (Nottinghamshire)

Billy Godleman (Essex)

Alex Hales (Nottinghamshire)

Richard Johnson (Warwickshire)

Richard Jones (Worcestershire)

Adam Lyth (Yorkshire)

Jake Mickleburgh (Essex)

Sam Northeast (Kent)

Ollie Rayner (Sussex)

Ian Saxelby (Gloucestershire)

John Simpson (Middlesex)

Tom Smith (Sussex)

Max Waller (Somerset)

Adam Wheater (Essex)

David Willey (Northamptonshire)

Fast bowling programme

Jade Dernbach (Surrey)

David Griffiths (Hampshire)

James Harris (Glamorgan)

Stuart Meaker (Surrey)

Boyd Rankin (Warwickshire)

ENGLAND'S SOUTH AFRICA DATES

Nov 1: England squad arrive in South Africa

Nov 6: President's X1 (50-over,  Bloemfontein)

Nov 8: President's X1 (50-over, De Beers Diamond Oval, Kimberley)

Nov 10: South Africa A (20-over, Bloemfontein d/n)

Nov 13: 1st Standard Bank Pro20 International (Wanderers, Johannesburg d/n)

Nov 15: 2nd Standard Bank Pro20 International (SuperSport Park, Centurion)

Nov 17: South Africa A (50-over, Potchefstroom d/n)

Nov 20: 1st MTN one-day international (Wanderers, Johannesburg d/n)

Nov 22: 2nd MTN one-day international (SuperSport Park, Centurion)

Nov 27: 3rd MTN one-day international (Sahara Park, Newlands, Cape Town d/n)

Nov 29: 4th MTN one-day international (Sahara Oval, St. George’s, Port Elizabeth)

Dec 4: 5th MTN one-day international (Sahara Stadium, Kingsmead, Durban d/n)

Dec 9-10: SA Airways XI (Buffalo Park, East London)

Dec 11-12: SA Airways XI (Buffalo Park, East London)

Dec 16-20: 1st Castle Test (SuperSport Park, Centurion)

Dec 26-30: 2nd Castle Test (Sahara Stadium, Kingsmead, Durban)

Jan 3-7, 2010: 3rd Castle Test (Sahara Park, Newlands, Cape Town)

Jan 14-18: 4th Castle Test (Wanderers, Johannesburg)

Jan 19: England squad depart

Posted by Charlie Randall
13/10/2009 15:12:59

Counties right to trim the overs

SURELY the ECB and Geoff Miller cannot really believe that the rejection of 50-overs cricket by the counties in favour of 40 overs will make a scrap of difference to England's limited-overs aspirations.

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Miller, the national selector, was dead against the trimming and said it would be a "hindrance" for England's players if there was no domestic 50-overs competiton, still the favoured length in international competition -- though favoured not for long, one suspects. There is not a scrap of evidence to support his view.

The maximum length of an innings has made no difference in the past. Counties have been playing limited-overs cricket since 1963, giving all professionals more ingrained experience for a longer period than in any other country. Yet international success has been virtually non-existent, and England lie near the bottom of the international one-day ratings. The fact that a game might be 65 overs -- when the concept was first started -- 60, 55, 50, 40 or 20 probably makes no difference, because players should adapt quite easily.

South Africa do not play 50 overs domestically and yet perform very well internationally, especially against England. There really is very little difference between 40 and 50 overs. As John Emburey once said, all it means is that the openers block for 10 overs longer or he could have said that the often tedious middle innings consolidation did not last so long in 40 overs.

Miller said: "My job as national selector is to win cricket matches and if we do that, it makes money along the line, as will happen with the Ashes. We have always said we want county cricket to mirror international cricket. It's as simple as that.

"No matter what we are playing it is important they get all the experience before they enter the international stage - about how to play in certain situations. If you're not playing the 50-over format of the game it is going to be a little bit of a hindrance coming in."

The counties rightly see 40 overs as more attractive to the paying public. Fewer spectators want to spend an entire day at a cricket ground and prefer to eat lunch at home. That is fair enough.

Possibly 50 overs suited a knockout match as an 'event' for the public, worth taking a day off work to experience, but league games do not have that allure.

Posted by Charlie Randall
28/08/2009 13:47:38

Ashes joy -- but not quite 2005

THE odds against Andrew Flintoff receiving a knighthood in the new year's Honours List have been noted at only 10/1 by Ladbrokes, a witty extension of the 2005 'gong' confetti that rained on the winning Ashes squad.

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Flintoff might well become a knight in the future for good works but not for simply being a good egg in this Ashes series. In any case the cricket this time did not reach high standards of 2005, a series boasting the two best bowlers in the history of cricket -- Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath -- and several players at their peak, including Flintoff.

Nationwide rejoicing broke out at the Ashes success, and an open-top bus journey might well be on the cards, but let us hope there will not be a spray of honours to emulate the MBE-for-all-the-lads in 2005. OBEs for Strauss and Flintoff should suffice.... please. There must be debate whether a drawn series would have been a more equitable outcome, especially as England proved inferior in the individual statistics. For example, at least three batsmen were badly out of form -- Alastair Cook, Ravi Bopara and Paul Collingwood -- and there was heavy reliance on the captain Andrew Strauss for consistent runs.

Strauss and newcomer Jonathan Trott were England's only century-makers, whereas no fewer than six Australians did this -- Katich, Ponting, North, Haddin, Clarke and Hussey. What killed the Aussies were two disastrous sessions in London when too many first-innings wickets fell too quickly at Lord's and the Brit Oval, on the second day in each case. That cost them two Tests, and their landslide success in Leeds was not enough.

After Leeds, England could be backed at 7/2 to win the final Test at the Oval, and to their credit they did the business, fully deserving their 197-run victory. The selectors picked the right team, at last giving Trott his chance and handing all the spin resonsibility to Graeme Swann, probably the best off-spinner since Jim Laker in my view, knowing that Fred Titmus and John Emburey were very good indeed.

Trott looked so capable one wondered why on earth Bopara and Ian Bell had been preferred in the first place at No 3. Generally the England selectors had a poor series, and they do not really know yet who the best back-up batsmen and bowlers could be.

It was a series played in good spirit in front of energised crowds, one of the keys to England's success. The din urging England onwards was particularly noticeable at Cardiff and the Oval. Perhaps at Edgbaston attempts to get under the Australians' skins diverted their focus from supporting the home players. To boo or not to boo Ponting -- who cares?

James Sutherland, Cricket Australia's chief executive, responding to media wrath against Ponting back home commented that sacking him as leader would be completely unfair. "Ricky's had a very, very good series," he said. "He's been under incredible pressure. I thought the dignity and poise that he showed in defeat was something that all Australians should be very proud of."

The Australian management conceded they should have selected off-spinner Nathan Hauritz, but this admission obscured the fact that it was the batting that let the side down at the crucial time.

England were listed at 6/4 to retain the Ashes in Australia in 2010/11, and for this home series the bookmakers took a pounding. Ladbrokes spokesman Nick Weinberg said: "England have rewarded patriotic punters across the land. They attracted criticism in the aftermath of Headingley, but fans kept the faith and have been duly rewarded."

Posted by Charlie Randall
24/08/2009 12:49:01

ICC praise Australian bet action

THE ICC said today they were proud of their anti-corruption system and they praised an unnamed Australian player for disclosing an approach by a man with alleged bookmaking links during the current Ashes series.

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The ICC confirmed that, in accordance with media revelations, the Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU) had received a report from the Australia team management concerning an approach to one of its players by a man suspected of links with illegal bookmaking.

In a press statement from Dubai the ICC added: "There is no evidence of any illegal activity as a result of this approach, which took place following the second Test at Lord’s in July, and the ICC would like to place on record its praise for the player approached and the Australia team management for reporting the issue.

"Approaches to players do happen and it would be naïve to assume otherwise; if they did not then there would be no need for the continuing existence of the ACSU.

"However, the ICC is confident that all approaches are being reported, it is proud of systems and education processes in place which have created a widespread culture of integrity among the world’s top players and it is pleased those players have confidence in the ACSU to report such matters.

"Incidents such as the one reported in the media illustrate the need for constant and ongoing vigilance on the part of players, officials and administrators and there is no scope for complacency. However, thanks to the ACSU, cricket is regarded by other sports as a world leader in the area of anti-corruption and the ICC wants it to stay that way.

"There is no indication that any matches in the current Ashes series or the ICC World Twenty20 2009 have been affected by corruption in any way and the ICC is confident the issue is under control.

"The ICC does not intend to reveal specifics of any approaches to players because doing so would have the potential to be counter-productive to any investigations and also to relationships of trust the ACSU has developed."

The ICC general manager of cricket David Richardson added: "Cricket is more popular than ever before, and with that popularity comes the opportunities for growth but also challenges such as the one highlighted by the approach to an Australian player."

Posted by Charlie Randall
19/08/2009 14:56:25

Betting frenzy for Ashes finale

THE final Test at the Brit Oval to decide the Ashes series will be a betting bonanza, and it is estimated that an unprecedented £10 million will be wagered if current trends continue. There will be access to npower's giant screen in Regent's Park for days three and four this weekend.

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Ladbrokes claim interest in their betting markets is at an all-time high and, despite England's poor showing at Headingley, most of the money is going on Andrew Strauss's team as 7/2 outsiders, bolstered by the return of Andrew Flintoff.

Flintoff, in the final Test of his career, is 3/1 with Ladbrokes to be top England wicket-taker, 10/1 to be their top batsman and 8/1 favourite to be man of the match. He is 12/1 to take five wickets in either innings, 2/1 to hit a fifty and 10/1 to hit a hundred.

Ladbrokes spokesman Robin Hutchison said: "We thought interest was intense in 2005, but this has pushed out the boundaries even further. This time England have to win if they are to snatch back the urn, and we are laying bundles of them up and down the country. If England win and Flintoff is man of the match, we'll melt all our betting pens and carve a huge statue in fond remembrance of the man who burnt the bookies."

Australia are 6/4 to make it two victories in a row and retain the Ashes, with the draw priced at 6/4.

Cricket supporters and families can take a picnic and watch Saturday and Sunday on a giant screen at Regents Park, courtesy of npower as part of their "Cricket in the Park" promotion. There will be a host of activities for all the family.

Admission is free on first come first served basis, though places can be reserved through the ECB website www.ecb.co.uk

Cricket in the Park area is located on Marylebone Green. Entrance will be via the south end of the park, with the nearest entrances located on York Bridge and Park Square Way.

Underground warning: Engineering work means line closures on Jubilee, Metropolitan (no service Aldgate to Harrow-on-the-Hill), District (no service Whitechapel to Dagenham East, and no service Putney Bridge to Wimbledon), Hammersmith & City (no service Whitechapel to Barking).

The following bus routes stop within walking distance of Regents Park:

No 2: Marylebone Station - Crystal Palace

13: Aldwych - Golders Green

18: Euston - Sudbury

27: Chalk Farm - Turnham Green

30: Marble Arch - Hackney Wick

74: Baker St Station - Roehampton

82: Victoria - North Finchley

113: Oxford Circus - Edgware

139: Waterloo - West Hampstead

189: Oxford Circus - Brent Cross Shopping Centre

274: Angel Islington - Lancaster Gate

453: Marylebone Street - Deptford Broadway

C2: Oxford Circus - Parliament Hill Fields

Posted by Charlie Randall
19/08/2009 10:40:09

Denly in line for England debut

THE Kent opener Joe Denly has been drafted into the England squad for the one-day series against Australia. New faces are overdue and new batsmen need testing in view of the current side's lamentable Test showing.

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Denly, 23, is th only uncapped player in the three squads. He is a rangy athletic batsman who fares well in one-day cricket, well worth a go even though his form dipped during the England Lions tour of New Zealand last winter. The news that Kevin Pietersen will be out injured until after next month's Champions Trophy tournament in South Africa has underlined the need for urgency.

Andrew Strauss will captain the side in the seven-match NatWest Series against Australia and in The ICC Champions Trophy. He will rest while Paul Collingwood leads England against Ireland and in The NatWest International Twenty20 matches against Australia.

ECB national selector Geoff Miller said: "We have kept faith with the bulk of the squad which was successful in the NatWest Series against West Indies earlier this summer and also included two players, Luke Wright and Adil Rashid, who were part of our squad for the ICC World T20.

"Joe Denly has impressed the selectors for a while with some excellent performances in one-day cricket and, with Kevin Pietersen unavailable through injury, this is an excellent opportunity for Joe to step up to the next level and show what he is capable of.

"Andrew Strauss has led the side extremely well in both forms of cricket this summer, but the selectors felt it would be beneficial for him to have a short break from international cricket following the conclusion of the npower Ashes Test series."

England One-day squad

(NatWest Series against Australia and The ICC Champions Trophy)

Andrew Strauss (captain)               Middlesex

James Anderson                            Lancashire

Ravi Bopara                                  Essex

Tim Bresnan                                 Yorkshire

Stuart Broad                                Nottinghamshire

Paul Collingwood                           Durham

Joe Denly                                    Kent

Andrew Flintoff                             Lancashire

Eoin Morgan                                 Middlesex

Matt Prior                                    Sussex

Adil Rashid                                   Yorkshire

Owais Shah                                  Middlesex

Ryan Sidebottom                           Nottinghamshire

Graeme Swann                             Nottinghamshire

Luke Wright                                  Sussex

England squad  (One-day international v Ireland in Belfast on August 27

Paul Collingwood (captain)               Durham

James Anderson                            Lancashire  

Ravi Bopara                                  Essex

Tim Bresnan                                  Yorkshire

Stuart Broad                                 Nottinghamshire

Joe Denly                                     Kent

Andrew Flintoff                             Lancashire

Eoin Morgan                                 Middlesex

Matt Prior                                    Sussex

Adil Rashid                                   Yorkshire

Owais Shah                                 Middlesex

Ryan Sidebottom                          Nottinghamshire

Graeme Swann                             Nottinghamshire

Luke Wright                                 Sussex

England squad (NatWest T20 internationals v Australia at Old Trafford, August 30 and September 1)

Paul Collingwood (captain)             Durham

James Anderson                           Lancashire

Ravi Bopara                                Essex

Tim Bresnan                                Yorkshire

Stuart Broad                               Nottinghamshire

Joe Denly                                   Kent

Andrew Flintoff                            Lancashire

Eoin Morgan                                Middlesex

Matt Prior                                   Sussex

Adil Rashid                                  Yorkshire

Owais Shah                                 Middlesex

Ryan Sidebottom                         Nottinghamshire

Graeme Swann                            Nottinghamshire

Jonathan Trott                            Warwickshire

Luke Wright                                Sussex

Posted by Charlie Randall
17/08/2009 14:20:47
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