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Cricket News & Views

Yardy honest about depression

THE Sussex captain Michael Yardy has disclosed he has been suffering from depression, a condition that led to his withdrawal from England's World Cup campaign before the quarter-final against Sri Lanka in Colombo.

======STOP SUMMARY=====

There were two interesting aspects to the ECB announcement. Firstly Yardy was referred to as an all-rounder, a description patently wide of the mark, and secondly it was unusual that such detail of his illness was mentioned.

Yardy himself went out of his way to ensure there was no need for speculation, as his depression illness was clearly cited. "Leaving at this stage of a World Cup campaign was a very difficult decision to make, but I felt that it was the only sensible option for me, and I wanted to be honest about the reason behind that decision," he said.

The word 'honest' seemed pointed, and Yardy will avoid becoming the subject of wild rumours that blighted the departure of poor Marcus Trescothick from England's tour of India in 2006. The ECB's decision to wrap the Trescothick news with the mystery of "personal reasons" probably made his mental breakdown worse. His recovery was short-lived and led to a hasty break from the 2007 Ashes tour.

As for Yardy the ECB said that, after close consultation with their medical officers, after it was agreed that he should return home to Sussex immediately to receive the best possible advice and support. The statement added that he had been managing the condition for a "prolonged period of time".

One of the reasons for England's weak performances in the World Cup had been the use of Yardy as a bowler, something he rarely did at county level. His left-arm darts, a useful variation on occasions, fell well short of 'full-time' pedigree, and his batting in the middle order suffered as well. One can only imagine the stress on Yardy, a whole-hearted cricketer with many admirers. He would not regard himself as an all-rounder. The introduction into the side of James Tredwell, the specialist Kent off-spinner, made an immediate impact -- he was man of the match against the West Indies.

Yady said after his return to England: "I would appreciate some privacy over the coming weeks while I spend time with family and close friends ahead of what I hope will be a successful season for Sussex."

Posted by Author Name
24/03/2011 10:02:23

Ponting rants for subdued Australia

THE futility of Ricky Ponting's argument with the umpires on the second day of the fourth Test in Melbourne was clear. Australia's captain did not seem to know that the burden of proof rested with the referring party for the third umpire to overturn an on-field decison.

======STOP SUMMARY=====

Only wicketkeeper Brad Haddin seemed to think there had been a nick off Kevin Pietersen's inside edge. The slips suspected nothing and the bowler Ryan Harris did not appeal. Yet when Hot Spot and the other electronic gadgetry detected nothing, as expected, Ponting claimed there had been a mistake.

England were taking a grip on the game, and the foul-mouthers were exposed as piss and wind. Peter Siddle escaped Cricket Australia censure for his cowardly 'send-off' abuse of Matt Prior after his dismissal in Perth, where Mitchell Johnson's sledging antics went close to unacceptable. So what were the bully boy posers saying while England built up a huge first-innings lead in Melbourne? They were quieter.

Siddle, the only Aussie success in the match at this stage, decided to project his personality to the umpires after the Pietersen decision before Ponting argued long and hard and later copped a heavy fine from the ICC after umpires Aleem Dar and Tony Hill reported him for breaching the Code of Conduct forbidding players from "arguing or entering into a prolonged discussion with the umpire about his decision".

The ICC said in a statement: "Ponting pleaded guilty to the charge, and as such under the provisions of the code the matter was determined by Ranjan Madugalle of the Emirates Elite Panel of ICC match referee without the need for a full hearing. The match referee imposed a fine equivalent to 40 per cent of the player’s match fee."

Explaining his decision, Madugalle said: "Ricky’s actions as captain of his country were unacceptable. A captain is expected to set the example and not get involved in a prolonged discussion with the on-field umpires and question their decision.

"While pleading guilty to the charge, Ricky understood that the discussion went far too long. He apologised for his action and stated that he has nothing but respect for the umpires and that his on-field actions were not intended to show disrespect to Aleem Dar or Tony Hill."

Australian cricket, post Warne and McGrath, is in a dreadful state -- there is little pedigree among the upper order batsmen apart from Ponting and no decent spinner in the country. The pace bowling looked no better than workmanlike on Melbourne's flat pitch. Nevertheless a drawn series remained possible with the final Test at Sydney to play, an outcome against this shower that would reflect poorly on English cricket, Ashes or not.

Posted by Charlie Randall
27/12/2010 14:53:42

England must drop jaded Finn

THE difference between the two Ashes sides was never as wide as the chasm suggested by Australia's trouncing at Adelaide. In the Pom euphoria it was forgotten that England's suspect batting had flopped in the opening Test at Brisbane in the crucial first innings.

======STOP SUMMARY=====

The batting failed again in the third Test at Perth, though this time in my view the bowlers let England down. The seam attack could not summon up the inspiration and consistency that Mitchell Johnson and his colleagues showed. And poor Steve Finn endured a nightmare, looking every bit the rookie.

These were near-perfect conditions for pace bowling at Perth, and yet Finn produced figures of 15-1-86-2 and 21-4-97-3 -- simply not good enough. In fact he looked jaded and his form was disastrous -- pitching consistently too short. That is a tough call on a young bowler with great potential, but it has to be said. The more accurate Tim Bresnan would almost certainly have been have been more effective, with the benefit of hindsight.

If England insist on picking only three seam bowlers for the fourth Test at Melbourne, the selectors should replace Finn with Bresnan to ease the pressure on James Anderson and Chris Tremlett. Not surprisingly Adelaide proved not to be the apocalypse that the Aussie media seemed to think. Selection and match strategy at Perth was spot-nn.

Finn appeared in the provisional 30 players announced by England this weekend for the World Cup on the subcontinent. He will not be included in the final reduced squad of 15 names by January 19, and there seems little room for new blood. Samit Patel has been brought back into the reckoning after his humilating exclusion from the one-day squad in 2009 for being 'too fat' -- the ECB used physiology language that avoided the word 'fat'.

The England Lions have eight players on the list in their squad set to tour the West Indies in January, February and March, but one or two at most are likely to make the World Cup. Ravi Bopara would be a choice, though I would regard Chris Woakes as a realistic candidate.

England have been drawn in a group with Bangladesh, India, Ireland, Holland, South Africa and West Indies. They are due to play two warm-up games against Canada and Pakistan before beginning their World Cup campaign in India on February 22 against Holland at Nagpur.

Provisional England World Cup squad

1. Andrew Strauss (Middlesex, captain)

2. James Adams (Hampshire)

3. James Anderson (Lancashire)

4. Ian Bell (Warwickshire)

5. Ravi Bopara (Essex)

6. Tim Bresnan (Yorkshire)

7. Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire)

8. Paul Collingwood (Durham)

9. Alastair Cook (Essex)

10. Steven Davies (Surrey)

11. Jade Dernbach (Surrey)

12. Steven Finn (Middlesex)

13. James Hildreth (Somerset)

14. Craig Kieswetter (Somerset)

15. Michael Lumb (Hampshire)

16. Eoin Morgan (Middlesex)

17. Samit Patel (Nottinghamshire)

18. Kevin Pietersen (Surrey)

19. Liam Plunkett (Durham)

20. Matt Prior (Sussex)

21. Adil Rashid (Yorkshire)

22. Ajmal Shahzad (Yorkshire)

23. Darren Stevens (Kent)

24. Graeme Swann (Nottinghamshire)

25. James Tredwell (Kent)

26. Chris Tremlett (Surrey)

27. Jonathan Trott (Warwickshire)

28. Chris Woakes (Warwickshire)

29. Luke Wright (Sussex)

30. Michael Yardy (Sussex)

Posted by Charlie Randall
19/12/2010 01:14:25

Lions can look back to Moores era

ENGLAND have announced a Lions party to tour the West Indies for two months as part of the first class championship after a gap of exactly 10 years, when Peter Moores was the coach.

======STOP SUMMARY=====

James Hildreth has been made captain of a group of players rich in promise, with the coach still to be confirmed. They leave on January 24 and are due to play all the Caribbean first class regions. In 2001 England A experienced a testing programme of four-day cricket under Mark Alleyne, a revolutionary idea designed to heighten interest in West Indian cricket as much as to educate England players.

The only drawback was that England A lacked form in the batting, and most of the players on that tour only flirted with the international fringes. In fact a knee ligament injury during beach volleyball virtually ended David Sales's hopes of playing Test cricket.

James Foster and Chris Read were two top-rate wicketkeepers, perhaps the highlight of the tour. Ian Ward's long occupation of the crease -- hastening brief Test elevation -- and Graeme Swann's attempt to catch the eye were interesting features. Moores was outstanding as coach, putting himself on the ladder to the top job. The ECB should appoint a person they consider could guide Test cricketers in the future because this Caribbean schedule is very demanding. 

in 2001 Swann paraded a remodelled action that set his career back until he reverted to his 'windmill' style after this tour. He finished as second-best spinner behind Chris Schofield... John Crawley's attempt to break back into Test cricket through heavy scoring did not succeed. Crowds did not flock to the matches, though 8,000 turned up on the first day at the Bourda, where England lost to Guyana.

The 2010 tourists seem to have more players with better prospects, most notably Steve Finn, James Harris, Ben Stokes, Adil Rashid, Ravi Bopara and Chris Woakes (replacing Finn for the second half of the trip). Hildreth might possibly have missed the boat for Test recognition, but this Caribbean challenge should provide a measure of character. As captain he does not have to worry about whether he gets an innings or not. Batting, as in 2001, could be the main headache.

The itinerary is due to be announced later.


England Lions

James Hildreth (Somerset, captain)

Jimmy Adams (Hampshire)

Adam Lyth (Yorkshire)

James Taylor (Leicestershire)

Ravi Bopara (Essex)

Andrew Gale (Yorkshire)

Jonny Bairstow (Yorkshire)

Adil Rashid (Yorkshire)

Ben Stokes (Durham)

Chris Woakes (Warwickshire) (second half of tour only)

Craig Kieswetter (Somerset)

Liam Plunkett (Durham)

Maurice Chambers (Essex)

Danny Briggs (Hampshire)

Steve Finn (Middlesex) (first half of tour only)

James Harris (Glamorgan)

Jade Dernbach (Surrey)

Posted by Charlie Randall
15/12/2010 17:45:16

England's day of The Pylons

THE selection of the 6ft 7in Chris Tremlett for the tour of Australia is a sound move, and England could field the tallest seam-bowling attack yet to hit Down Under if James Anderson were to be injured in the Ashes series.

======STOP SUMMARY=====

Tremlett could be drafted in to join Stuart Broad, only an inch shorter, and the lofty Steve Finn casting shadows in the evening with the floodlight pylons. Since his move from Hampshire to Surrey, Tremlett has confirmed much of his promise as a very good cricketer and he deserves a proper chance.

One alternative would have been to take the youthful Yorkshire fast-bowler Ajmal Shahzad, but this would have been too risky in view of Finn's inexperience. With Tremlett on board as back-up, England's bowling looks especially potent, and when Graeme Swann's world class off-spin is added into the mix, a first series win in Australia since 1986/87 looks very much on the cards.

Ladbrokes actually make Australia slight favourites at 4/6 on to win the series, with England 9/4 against. Swann is evens to be England’s top wicket-taker ahead of Anderson, at 3/1. Andrew Strauss, the captain, is 7/2 to be the top run scorer ahead of Kevin Pietersen and Jonathan Trott at 4/1. David Williams, of Ladbrokes, commented: "It’s 24 years since the last England series victory against the Aussies on home soil, so it’s no surprise they’re slight favourites. England are in great form, though, and it’s likely the Barmy Army will heavily back the boys in the coming weeks as they fully expect England to right the wrongs of 2006/7."

The England selectors named a 16-man tour party at the Brit Oval, recalling Tremlett and the Sussex left-arm spinner Monty Panesar. The Yorkshire leg-spin all-rounder Adil Rashid, 22, has been give a rest from all international duty, though he is a high-quality player who will feature in due course.

Tremlett, 29, won the last of his three Test caps against India in 2007, though he did tour of New Zealand in 2008. His sheer size has made him injury-prone in the past, and his apparent 'softness' has been distorted a little in the media. Panesar will probably have few opportunities for those cavorting celebrations at taking a wicket until Sydney, when two spinners might well be chosen, but he had a successful season for Sussex with 52 first class wickets and nips in ahead of James Tredwell.

The selectors listed 11 players to be awarded 12-month England central contracts, with Jonathan Trott and Finn winning a central contract for the first time. A further five players have been awarded incremental contracts.

England also announced the 16-man England Performance Programme squad, who will be based in Australia in the lead up to the first Test in Brisbane through until the start of the third Test in Perth. Michael Carberry, Craig Kieswetter, Shahzad and Tredwell, all with senior England exerience over the past 12 months, are among those included. New faces include all-rounder Ben Stokes and left-arm spinner Danny Briggs, successes in the Under-19 World Cup in New Zealand early this year.

Commenting on the selections, ECB national selector, Geoff Miller, said: "We believe we’ve selected an outstanding Test squad for what will be a fiercely contested Ashes series in Australia. In order to retain the Ashes we will need to play to a very high level and we believe we’ve selected a squad to do just that.

"Clearly there are always difficult decisions to make when selecting an England squad and this Ashes squad was no different. We feel that Chris Tremlett’s inclusion will add a real threat of pace and bounce to our bowling attack given the conditions in Australia. Chris will be vying for a place in the final team amongst a confident attack including James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Tim Bresnan and Steven Finn."

The England Performance Programme will be based in Brisbane from Nov 13 where they will play a four-day match against a Queensland XI (Nov 25-28) before relocating to Perth on Nov 29 to play a Western Australia XI (Dec 7-10). The party will remain in Perth for the lead-up to the third Test before departing for the UK on Dec 16.

David Parsons, ECB Performance Director, said: "The time spent at the National Cricket Performance Centre in Loughborough and Australia allows our national lead coaches to work intensively with the players and assess their readiness to graduate to the full England side when the opportunity arises. It has been very pleasing to see the likes of Jonathan Trott, Eoin Morgan, Steven Finn and Steven Davies who have all spent time on the programme in recent years, go on to play important roles for England."

England Test squad in Australia

Andrew Strauss (Middlesex, capt)

Alastair Cook (Essex)

James Anderson (Lancashire)

Ian Bell (Warwickshire)

Tim Bresnan (Yorkshire)

Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire)

Paul Collingwood (Durham)

Steven Davies (Surrey,wkt)

Steven Finn (Middlesex)

Eoin Morgan (Middlesex)

Monty Panesar (Sussex)

Kevin Pietersen (Hampshire)

Matt Prior (Sussex, wkt)

Graeme Swann (Nottinghamshire)

Chris Tremlett (Surrey)

Jonathan Trott (Warwickshire)

Tour Itinerary 2010-11

Nov 5-7: v Western Australia, WACA, Perth

Nov 11-13: v South Australia, Adelaide Oval, Adelaide

Nov 17-20: v Australia A, Bellerive Oval, Hobart

Nov 25-29: 1st Ashes Test v Australia, Gabba, Brisbane

Dec 3-7: 2nd Ashes Test v Australia, Adelaide

Dec 10-12: v Victoria, Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne

Dec 16-20: 3rd Ashes Test v Australia, Perth

Dec 26-30: 4th Ashes Test v Australia, Melbourne

Jan 3-7: 5th Ashes Test v Australia, Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney

Jan 10: v Prime Minister’s XI, Manuka Oval, Canberra

Jan 12: 1st T20 v Australia, Adelaide

Jan 14: 2nd T20 v Australia, Melbourne

Jan 16: 1st ODI v Australia, Melbourne

Jan 21: 2nd ODI v Australia, Hobart

Jan 23: 3rd ODI v Australia, Sydney

Jan 26: 4th ODI v Australia, Adelaide

Jan 30: 5th ODI v Australia, Brisbane

Feb 2: 6th ODI v Australia, Sydney

Feb 6: 7th ODI v Australia, Perth

England Performance Programme squad

Jimmy Adams (Hampshire)

Jonny Bairstow (Yorkshire)

Danny Briggs (Hampshire)

Michael Carberry (Hampshire)

Maurice Chambers (Essex)

Jade Dernbach (Surrey)

Andrew Gale (Yorkshire)

James Hildreth (Somerset)

Craig Kieswetter (Somerset)

Adam Lyth (Yorkshire)

Liam Plunkett (Durham)

Ajmal Shahzad (Yorkshire)

Ben Stokes (Durham)

James Taylor (Leicestershire)

James Tredwell (Kent)

Chris Woakes (Warwickshire)

England Central Contracts

Andrew Strauss (Middlesex)

James Anderson (Lancashire)

Ian Bell (Warwickshire)

Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire)

Paul Collingwood (Durham)

Alastair Cook (Essex)

Steven Finn (Middlesex)

Kevin Pietersen (Hampshire)

Matt Prior (Sussex)

Graeme Swann (Nottinghamshire)

Jonathan Trott (Warwickshire)

Incremental Contracts

Ravi Bopara (Essex)

Tim Bresnan (Yorkshire)

Eoin Morgan (Middlesex)

Luke Wright (Sussex)

Michael Yardy (Sussex)

Ladbrokes odds

Ashes outright

Australia 4/6

England 9/4

Drawn series 9/2

Australia  to win by:   England

20/1        5-0           100/1

16/1        4-0             66/1

12/1        4-1             40/1

16/1        3-0             50/1

6/1          3-1             12/1

10/1        3-2             12/1

25/1        2-0             66/1

8/1          2-1             10/1

50/1        1-0              66/1

Drawn series

0-0 125/1

1-1 20/1

2-2 6/1

Top England series run scorer

A Strauss 7/2

K Pietersen 4/1

J Trott 4/1

A Cook 5/1

P Collingwood 7/1

I Bell 7/1

E Morgan 12/1

M Prior 16/1

S Davies 33/1

S Broad 100/1

G Swann 200/1

T Bresnan 200/1

Top England series wicket-taker

G Swann Evens

J Anderson 3/1

S Broad 4/1

S Finn 4/1

C Tremlett 16/1

T Bresnan 16/1

M Panesar 20/1

P Collingwood 50/1

======STOP SUMMARY=====

Tremlett could be drafted in to join Stuart Broad, only an inch shorter, and the lofty Steve Finn casting shadows in the evening with the floodlight pylons. Since his move from Hampshire to Surrey, Tremlett has confirmed much of his promise as a very good cricketer and he deserves a proper chance.

One alternative would have been to take the youthful Yorkshire fast-bowler Ajmal Shahzad, but this would have been too risky in view of Finn's inexperience. With Tremlett on board as back-up, England's bowling looks especially potent, and when Graeme Swann's world class off-spin is added into the mix, a first series win in Australia since 1986/87 looks very much on the cards.

Ladbrokes actually make Australia slight favourites at 4/6 on to win the series, with England 9/4 against. Swann is evens to be England’s top wicket-taker ahead of Anderson, at 3/1. Andrew Strauss, the captain, is 7/2 to be the top run scorer ahead of Kevin Pietersen and Jonathan Trott at 4/1. David Williams, of Ladbrokes, commented: "It’s 24 years since the last England series victory against the Aussies on home soil, so it’s no surprise they’re slight favourites. England are in great form, though, and it’s likely the Barmy Army will heavily back the boys in the coming weeks as they fully expect England to right the wrongs of 2006/7."

The England selectors named a 16-man tour party at the Brit Oval, recalling Tremlett and the Sussex left-arm spinner Monty Panesar. The Yorkshire leg-spin all-rounder Adil Rashid, 22, has been give a rest from all international duty, though he is a high-quality player who will feature in due course.

Tremlett, 29, won the last of his three Test caps against India in 2007, though he did tour of New Zealand in 2008. His sheer size has made him injury-prone in the past, and his apparent 'softness' has been distorted a little in the media. Panesar will probably have few opportunities for those cavorting celebrations at taking a wicket until Sydney, when two spinners might well be chosen, but he had a successful season for Sussex with 52 first class wickets and nips in ahead of James Tredwell.

The selectors listed 11 players to be awarded 12-month England central contracts, with Jonathan Trott and Finn winning a central contract for the first time. A further five players have been awarded incremental contracts.

England also announced the 16-man England Performance Programme squad, who will be based in Australia in the lead up to the first Test in Brisbane through until the start of the third Test in Perth. Michael Carberry, Craig Kieswetter, Shahzad and Tredwell, all with senior England exerience over the past 12 months, are among those included. New faces include all-rounder Ben Stokes and left-arm spinner Danny Briggs, successes in the Under-19 World Cup in New Zealand early this year.

Commenting on the selections, ECB national selector, Geoff Miller, said: "We believe we’ve selected an outstanding Test squad for what will be a fiercely contested Ashes series in Australia. In order to retain the Ashes we will need to play to a very high level and we believe we’ve selected a squad to do just that.

"Clearly there are always difficult decisions to make when selecting an England squad and this Ashes squad was no different. We feel that Chris Tremlett’s inclusion will add a real threat of pace and bounce to our bowling attack given the conditions in Australia. Chris will be vying for a place in the final team amongst a confident attack including James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Tim Bresnan and Steven Finn."

The England Performance Programme will be based in Brisbane from Nov 13 where they will play a four-day match against a Queensland XI (Nov 25-28) before relocating to Perth on Nov 29 to play a Western Australia XI (Dec 7-10). The party will remain in Perth for the lead-up to the third Test before departing for the UK on Dec 16.

David Parsons, ECB Performance Director, said: "The time spent at the National Cricket Performance Centre in Loughborough and Australia allows our national lead coaches to work intensively with the players and assess their readiness to graduate to the full England side when the opportunity arises. It has been very pleasing to see the likes of Jonathan Trott, Eoin Morgan, Steven Finn and Steven Davies who have all spent time on the programme in recent years, go on to play important roles for England."

England Test squad in Australia

Andrew Strauss (Middlesex, capt)

Alastair Cook (Essex)

James Anderson (Lancashire)

Ian Bell (Warwickshire)

Tim Bresnan (Yorkshire)

Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire)

Paul Collingwood (Durham)

Steven Davies (Surrey,wkt)

Steven Finn (Middlesex)

Eoin Morgan (Middlesex)

Monty Panesar (Sussex)

Kevin Pietersen (Hampshire)

Matt Prior (Sussex, wkt)

Graeme Swann (Nottinghamshire)

Chris Tremlett (Surrey)

Jonathan Trott (Warwickshire)

Tour Itinerary 2010-11

Nov 5-7: v Western Australia, WACA, Perth

Nov 11-13: v South Australia, Adelaide Oval, Adelaide

Nov 17-20: v Australia A, Bellerive Oval, Hobart

Nov 25-29: 1st Ashes Test v Australia, Gabba, Brisbane

Dec 3-7: 2nd Ashes Test v Australia, Adelaide

Dec 10-12: v Victoria, Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne

Dec 16-20: 3rd Ashes Test v Australia, Perth

Dec 26-30: 4th Ashes Test v Australia, Melbourne

Jan 3-7: 5th Ashes Test v Australia, Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney

Jan 10: v Prime Minister’s XI, Manuka Oval, Canberra

Jan 12: 1st T20 v Australia, Adelaide

Jan 14: 2nd T20 v Australia, Melbourne

Jan 16: 1st ODI v Australia, Melbourne

Jan 21: 2nd ODI v Australia, Hobart

Jan 23: 3rd ODI v Australia, Sydney

Jan 26: 4th ODI v Australia, Adelaide

Jan 30: 5th ODI v Australia, Brisbane

Feb 2: 6th ODI v Australia, Sydney

Feb 6: 7th ODI v Australia, Perth

England Performance Programme squad

Jimmy Adams (Hampshire)

Jonny Bairstow (Yorkshire)

Danny Briggs (Hampshire)

Michael Carberry (Hampshire)

Maurice Chambers (Essex)

Jade Dernbach (Surrey)

Andrew Gale (Yorkshire)

James Hildreth (Somerset)

Craig Kieswetter (Somerset)

Adam Lyth (Yorkshire)

Liam Plunkett (Durham)

Ajmal Shahzad (Yorkshire)

Ben Stokes (Durham)

James Taylor (Leicestershire)

James Tredwell (Kent)

Chris Woakes (Warwickshire)

England Central Contracts

Andrew Strauss (Middlesex)

James Anderson (Lancashire)

Ian Bell (Warwickshire)

Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire)

Paul Collingwood (Durham)

Alastair Cook (Essex)

Steven Finn (Middlesex)

Kevin Pietersen (Hampshire)

Matt Prior (Sussex)

Graeme Swann (Nottinghamshire)

Jonathan Trott (Warwickshire)

Incremental Contracts

Ravi Bopara (Essex)

Tim Bresnan (Yorkshire)

Eoin Morgan (Middlesex)

Luke Wright (Sussex)

Michael Yardy (Sussex)

Ladbrokes odds

Ashes outright

Australia 4/6

England 9/4

Drawn series 9/2

Australia  to win by:   England

20/1        5-0           100/1

16/1        4-0             66/1

12/1        4-1             40/1

16/1        3-0             50/1

6/1          3-1             12/1

10/1        3-2             12/1

25/1        2-0             66/1

8/1          2-1             10/1

50/1        1-0              66/1

Drawn series

0-0 125/1

1-1 20/1

2-2 6/1

Top England series run scorer

A Strauss 7/2

K Pietersen 4/1

J Trott 4/1

A Cook 5/1

P Collingwood 7/1

I Bell 7/1

E Morgan 12/1

M Prior 16/1

S Davies 33/1

S Broad 100/1

G Swann 200/1

T Bresnan 200/1

Top England series wicket-taker

G Swann Evens

J Anderson 3/1

S Broad 4/1

S Finn 4/1

C Tremlett 16/1

T Bresnan 16/1

M Panesar 20/1

P Collingwood 50/1

Posted by Charlie Randall
23/09/2010 15:52:11

Pakistan alienation almost complete

THE alienation of Pakistan from world cricket continues -- partly with blame and partly without -- as the relationship with erstwhile friends, England, on and off the field dissolves into hostility. This week's ECB press release said it all.

======STOP SUMMARY=====

Terrorist activity left Pakistan unavoidably without a home base, attracting sympathy and help, but now there is corruption suspicion against three of their players -- with some apparent 'forecast' evidence published in The News of the World newspaper. Then comes the comments by Ijaz Butt, the Pakistan Board chairman, in a blatantly political attempt to tarnish England, and his words have left a sour taste.

The England players already detested playing against Pakistan in this one-day series, and hearing that Butt claimed there were rumours that England threw the match at the Brit Oval might have had them walking out. Andrew Strauss reacted with "surprise, dismay and outrage" at Butt's suggestion.

It was clear from a radio interview, repeated on the BBC, that Butt felt that the allegations against three Pakistan players were no more than insinuation and that he reckoned these individuals should not be suspended without being found guilty. Then he made a vague claim that there was talk among bookmakers that England threw the Oval match. He added that he could not name any bookmaker in the same way that no bookmakers could be identified in the English newspaper allegations. That was his thinking -- unfairness and conspiracy against Pakistan. 

On Monday the ECB circulated the following press release. Nothing like this has been issued probably since the Kerry Packer break-away circuit storm almost 40 years ago. While sympathising, one must pray that the ECB do not invest their hard-earned funds in libel action against an admittedly "wholly irresponsible" Butt. This would be a total waste of time and money. The law action involving Packer certainly was.

ECB press release (Sept 20, 2010):

"For Immediate Use

"ECB and England team to continue NatWest Series against Pakistan

"The ECB and the England team today announced that they were committed to continuing with the current NatWest Series against Pakistan. This decision was unanimously taken by the ECB Board following a meeting between the ECB chairman Giles Clarke, CEO David Collier, ECB managing director of England cricket, Hugh Morris, and the England captain and coach, Andrew Strauss and Andrew Flower, and a subsequent meeting with all of the England team.

"The ECB and the England players completely reject the remarks made by the PCB chairman Ijaz Butt yesterday about the England team's conduct in the third NatWest ODI at The Brit Insurance Oval. Mr Butt’s comments were wholly irresponsible and completely without foundation.

"The ECB expresses its gratitude for the outstanding conduct of the England team this summer and will take all legal and disciplinary action which may result from Mr Butt’s comments.

"The Board and the team, however, are of a view that it remains in the best interests of world cricket, the players and in particular of cricket supporters that the tour should continue and it would set a dangerous precedent to call off a tour based on the misguided and inaccurate remarks made by one individual.

"ECB will continue to offer ICC its full support in taking the strongest possible action against all areas of corruption and is pledged to offering the ACSU its full support at all times.

"Given the current sensitivities surrounding this issue, ECB believes it is imperative that any serious allegations made against another team or player should be presented through the proper channels to the ACSU. Both ECB and Team England view the comments made by Mr Butt as defamatory and not based in fact.

"Hugh Robertson, Minister for Sport and the Olympics, said: "I welcome the decision by England to play the last two games of this tour. It is a pragmatic decision that is in the best interests of world cricket."

"Media Statement issued on behalf of the England Cricket Team

"The England Cricket team has this morning issued a statement in conjunction with the Professional Cricketers Association (PCA), following allegations made yesterday by the chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board.

"The team deplores and rejects unreservedly the suggestion that any England cricketer was involved in manipulating the outcome, or any individual element, of the third NatWest Series ODI at the Brit Insurance Oval between England and Pakistan last week. The players fully understand their responsibilities as representatives of their country, and would not countenance giving less than 100 per cent in any match they play.

"Andrew Strauss, England captain, speaking on behalf of the team, said:

"We would like to express our surprise, dismay and outrage at the comments made by Mr Butt yesterday. We are deeply concerned and disappointed that our integrity as cricketers has been brought into question. We refute these allegations completely and will be working closely with the ECB to explore all legal options open to us.

"Under the circumstances, we have strong misgivings about continuing to play the last two games of the current series and urge the Pakistani team and management to distance themselves from Mr Butt's allegations. We do, however, recognise our responsibilities to the game of cricket, and in particular to the cricket-loving public in this country, and will therefore endeavour to fulfil these fixtures to the best of our ability."

"Angus Porter, chief executive of the PCA, added: "The players appreciate the difficult position the ECB finds itself in, and is fully supportive of the actions taken by the Board, along with the ICC, to ensure all allegations of wrong-doing are properly investigated and acted upon. We will continue to cooperate closely with the ECB, with the aim of ensuring that the work to root out corruption is not derailed by mischievous attempts to detract attention from the real issues."

This is an amazing document from an organisation that prefers to understate and rarely deals in feelings. After the distasteful events that had Kevin Pietersen (who he?) getting Peter Moores sacked as coach early in the year, it has been a rough 2010 off the field for the ECB. Just as well the boys have won plenty of cricket games.

Posted by Charlie Randall
21/09/2010 11:02:39

DeFreitas has Ashes 'vibes' again

THE former England hero Phil DeFreitas has the same vibes about the Ashes that he had all those years ago when the coveted urn was last won in Australia.

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DeFreitas was only 20 when he was selected for his first England tour in 1986/87, joining a force that was written off as having no chance against the Australians. But contrary to expectations, Mike Gatting's side won the series 2-1, a success that has not been emulated since.

DeFreitas, now cricket coach at Oakham School, suffered with the rest of England's cricket followers when series after series in Australia went pear-shaped, but this year could be different, with Andy Flower playing an important part as coach. "I get the same vibes, the same feeling that we'll go over there with a fair chance of winning," DeFreitas said at Wormsley on Sunday. "It's easy to say that, and playing for the Ashes in Australia is totally different. I know that Ricky Ponting will be up for it, the Australians will be up for it and it certainly won't be easy. It'll be tough, but I do fancy England to win it."

DeFreitas chatted about the Ashes after playing in a new 'old' fixture as a member of a past and present professional side led by Rob Key against a team of under-19s representing Chance to Shine, the phenomenally successful cricket outreach scheme. The match was called Gentlemen versus Players, after the now defunct amateurs versus professionals contest that was laid to rest in 1962. The organisers hope that resurrecting such an evocative name -- the matches started in 1806 -- they could draw attention to the charity and assist fund-raising.

DeFreitas made his debut in the first Test of that Ashes upset, a seven-wicket victory at Brisbane, Ian Botham hitting a magnificent 138. No one had given England a chance, and the Australians, led by Allan Border, could have been forgiven for complacency.

DeFreitas recalled: "We were told we weren't the best side going out to Australia, but looking around the team at players with the experience of Gower, Botham, Lamb, Gatting, Emburey and Edmonds, as a youngster aged 20 looking around the room, I thought 'wow, there are my heroes -- this ia a great side'.

"When we first started the tour, there was a great bonding and friendship with everyone. We lost warm-up games early doors, but no one got really concerned. We felt we had a decent balanced side capable of winning the Ashes. The day before the first Test at a dinner David Gower and Botham stood up and said the real stuff starts now. You could feel there was something special about the group of guys we had out there, and I think that helped us in a big way. I was quite fortunate in that my first room-mate was Botham and then Lamby -- bit worrying, you might think, but it was OK. I escaped from that."

DeFreitas first came across Border a few months earlier during the 1986 English summer. The Australian helped Essex win the championship for the third time in four years, the first with Graham Gooch as captain, but they came a cropper against Leicestershire at Southend. DeFreitas took 6-42 and 7-44 in an attack containing the future BBC cricket commentator Jonathan Agnew, and he dismissed Border twice in a 10-wicket win. "There was a big piece in the press under his name when he said that if I played in the Ashes he would come and get me and that he was after me."

Border was probably so concerned about not losing his wicket to DeFreitas in the Ashes that he fell victim to left-arm spinner Phil Edmonds more often than not. But the Australian pundits were scornful about England's chances before the series. "All sorts had been written about us, but we took no notice of it," DeFreitas said. "Ian Botham's knock in Brisbane set the tone for the est of the tour. It was important to get the senior players firing, and his innings in that Test gave us so much confidence."

DeFreitas believes Flower has done a "fantastic job" as coach. "People sometimes say that you don't need international experience to coach at international level, but my personal view is that you do," he said. "You've got to have played at that standard and to have experienced those situations to pass on that information to the players.

"I think Andy Flower has brought that to the side. You can see the way the players are playing spinners. He's taught them how to play spin because he was a very good player of spin himself, and that's changed our batting as well. He's got the guys playing.

"From the outside looking in, I think the players are being themselves -- they're playing their natural game. There's no one playing and thinking 'I had better get some runs here or I'm out of the side', where we had that before. I always felt that every Test I played would be my last one unless I performed. I don't think they have that now. If you are in, you are given a fair chance, and you have the captain and coach believing in you. And I see that in the whole team and that's the advantage England have now."

DeFreitas shares the common view, accepted by the Australians themselves, that the retirements of Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath created a void. "England won't be frightened by this Australian attack," he said. "We used to be concerned about Warne and McGrath and what sort of damage they could do. It's different scenario now. In my book England have to favourites."

At Wormsley, DeFreitas still looked fit and threatening with the ball playing alongside Key and Darren Stevens -- both current Kent -- and former internationals Lou Vincent, Richie Richardson, Devon Malcolm, Ed Giddins, Dean Headley, Alex Tudor, Min Patel and Chris Harris. The 20-over match, while bearing little resemblance to the real Gents v Players, was a worthwhile way of giving young players experience against seasoned professionals and potentially raising money for Chance to Shine. The game at this beautiful rural ground preceded a Lord's Taverners match against the local club Aston Rowant.

Chance to Shine, supported by Brit Insurance, is one of the single biggest grass-roots sports development programmes ever undertaken in Britain. The campaign, run by independent registered charity The Cricket Foundation, aims to establish regular coaching and competitive cricket opportunities in a third of state schools by 2015. That means 5,200 primary and 1,500 secondary schools. A total of £25 million needs to be raised through private donors, which the Government has pledged to match-fund. The England and Wales Cricket Board and all the main cricketing bodies support Chance to Shine, both financially and logistically.

www.chancetoshine.org

Posted by Charlie Randall
16/08/2010 11:35:26

England make impressive strides

THE question that Shane Warne has raised after England's impressive success in the final of the ICC World Twenty20 in Barbados focuses on The Ashes next winter. The Australians might have to play very well to win that Test series, and one might add 'especially while Andy Flower is in charge'.

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The problem for England is that perhaps only four of Paul Collingwood's 20-over side are certainties for the Test team -- Collingwood, Kevin Pietersen, Graeme Swann and Stuart Broad. As Australia could only count on a couple more than that for the longer format, predicting the fate of The Ashes is difficult.

Warne, writing in the Daily Telegraph , noted that the England mindset had changed from 'hoping' to win if they played their best. "Now they think 'we can beat this lot'. That feeling of being scared of playing Australia has disappeared," he said.

There is no guarantee that the winning psychology can transfer to Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook and company when they resume their stations in Test cricket, with Strauss as captain again. England's record in Australia for more than 20 years has been lamentable.

However, the look of fear and desperation on the Australian faces as England's batsmen faced them down in the Twenty20 final was intriguing. Craig Kieswetter and Kevin Pietersen were absolutely superb as they 'grafted' the hard yards to set up a comfortable finish. The Australian fast-bowling strategy, led by Shaun Tait, required intense concentration to combat.

Kieswetter and Pietersen picked them off with twos and singles and occasional boundaries until they felt comfortable enough to move through the gears towards a seven-wicket win with three overs to spare. It was a thrashing that exposed Australia's one-dimensional approach. They had no plan B.

Graeme Swann, praised by Warne as the world's No 1 spinner -- an accolade bestowed long ago by these pages -- gave England a distinct edge as Australia struggled with the bat. There is every reason for England to expect to win the World Cup on the subcontinent next year.

England's management has been guilty of not quashing the Pietersen stardom syndrome that the media like to feed on. In the past there has been too much 'serious blow to our hopes' talk when the South African has been unavailable. That would be my only mild criticism of Flower, the national coach, who is a refreshing influence in so many ways.

Flower's years of playing for Zimbabwe, where international players mingle with supporters in bars as a matter of course like normal cricketers, has equipped this articulate son of a schoolteacher with patience, honesty and an endearing humility. I noticed this when chatting to him in Harare Sports Club long before he became the world No 1 batsman. These qualities will almost certainly have rubbed off on to his England charges, even KP.

Though a top-notch batsman, Pietersen was barely missed during the 2009 Ashes victory in England. He was man of the series in the World Twenty20 in the Caribbean, but this format allows no individual to carry a team, because bowling is too important. England could cope without Pietersen if they had to, with Ravi Bopara waiting in the wings. And was Andrew Flintoff missed? Not at all, though he is a great bloke.

England: Michael Lumb, Craig Kieswetter, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Eoin Morgan, Luke Wright, Tim Bresnan, Michael Yardy, Graeme Swann, Stuart Broad, Ryan Sidebottom.

ICC World Twenty20 final (Barbados)

Australia 147-9 (20 overs; David Hussey 59, Graeme Swann 4-0-17-1)

England 148-3 (17 overs; Craig Kieswetter 63, Kevin Pietersen 47 off 31 balls).

England won by 7 wickets

Posted by Charlie Randall
18/05/2010 11:09:49

Napier no closer to just desserts

A CANTERBURY batsman who gave the touring England Lions a miserable time in North Island has been drafted into New Zealand's provisional squad for the ICC World Twenty20, but the mystery of Graham Napier, well respected on North Island, continues.

======STOP SUMMARY=====

Shanan Stewart lashed 88 not out off 39 balls against Rob Key's team at New Plymouth as New Zealand A piled up 227 for six off their 20 overs, a total never challenged. Stewart, from Christchurch, hit seven sixes that day and now appears among 30 names with newcomers Brent Arnel, a successful seamer against the Lions, Rob Nicol, Kieran Noema-Barnett and Bradley Scott.

Stewart's emergence at a relatively mature age of 27 puts the focus on England's strange insistence on omitting Napier, 30, from even their wider provisional twenty20 squad. He was in the main squad for the 2009 ICC World Twenty20 in England, but was never given a game. The promotion of former Essex team-mate Andy Flower to England coach has not worked in his favour.

The all-rounder was notably successful at Wellington in New Zealand during the 2008/09 winter and is still regarded as an exceptional short-form player in county cricket. Signed by Central Districts for 2009/10, he produced 73 not out off 29 balls to beat Northern Districts in a 50-over game against all odds at Palmerston North in December before returning to Mumbai Indians for the IPL's 2010 season.

Napier and the Essex club were very unhappy when England announced their selections. No one can hide from the fact he hit 152 off 58 balls against Sussex at Chelmsford in 2008, hitting 16 sixes over admittedly short boundaries. Will Luke, of cricinfo, aptly described the innings as "unabashed mayhem" in a focus on players 'born for twenty20'.

Napier said on grahamnapier.com: "I’m deeply disappointed not to be involved in the 30-man squad, having played well in Twenty20 cricket over the winter. I feel twenty20 is a form of the game that suits me well, and the more experience I’ve gained in it the more effective I have become."

It is a shame his form in the IPL will make no realistic difference to England's attitude. "There is an opportunity for me over the next few weeks – as one of only eight English players involved in the IPL – to show the England selectors what they are missing out on," Napier said.

"But my job now is to focus on being as good a player I can be for Mumbai Indians, Essex and Central Districts. I have always been told that if you work hard, you get your rewards. So I need to keep doing that." Unfortunately England might make an exception when it suits them.

www.grahamnapier.com

Provisional England Twenty20 squad: Paul Collingwood (capt), James Anderson, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Steven Davies, Joe Denly, Steven Finn, Craig Kieswetter, Michael Lumb, Sajid Mahmood, Dimitri Mascarenhas, Eoin Morgan, Graham Onions, Kevin Pietersen, Liam Plunkett, Matt Prior, Adil Rashid, Owais Shah, Ajmal Shahzad, Ryan Sidebottom, Graeme Swann, James Tredwell, Peter Trego, Jonathan Trott, David Wainwright, Chris Woakes, Luke Wright, Michael Yardy.

Posted by Charlie Randall
05/03/2010 11:24:19

Pont: Test pedigree isn't everything

ENGLAND are looking for a bowling coach, and Allan Donald, the former Warwickshire and South Africa paceman, has already been put in the frame to replace Ottis Gibson, but Ian Pont is an interesting candidate on what is likely to be a long list.

======STOP SUMMARY=====

While Donald was a renowned fast bowler in his time, he would certainly not have the coaching experience of Pont, who would see himself more along the Troy Cooley lines. Pont is an innovator, author, coach and student of the craft of bowling for 15 years, well known to the ECB and to the national coach Andy Flower in particular.

It is difficult to guess the ECB's thinking on this. Donald has first-hand experience of Test cricket, best as a mentor, whereas Pont would be far ahead on technical expertise and perhaps better on psychology.

As author of The Fast Bowler's Bible his expertise has become widely respected. My own view is that his book is excellent, full of sensible and practical advice. There is technique theory, but not too much. The man behind Maverick Cricket, Pont has worked with Kent, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Essex and Northants as a consultant. He has coached in South Africa, mostly at the International Pro Camp in Potchefstroom, in India and the United States. In his prime as an Essex player he possessed a huge throw, and his baseball background in American major league gave him an unusually broad insight into cricket mechanics.

Pont revealed more than a hint of irritation at his image in the mainstream media when Kevin Shine and John Abrahams brought him into the national coaching programme at Loughborough to work with Gibson. "Everyone kept bloody mentioning I am 'maverick' -- due to to my business -- or that somehow I am left-field," he said. "I am in my eighth season of working with a county. I might be a visionary rather than a crackpot, not least as more and more parts of my book are being taught by ECB coaches around the country and in fast bowling camps in South Africa."

More controversially Pont added: "I am just fed up with other names getting the big 'up' when they are unlikely to even know how to construct a bowling action, let alone work out which parts might be failing. Look at how Harmy was never corrected... Everyone had a go with him and couldn't do anything."

Pont, passed over for international cricket, said he was happy with the Cooley parallel-- the Australian was similarly a journeyman in state cricket -- and he reckoned qualities on offer should mean more than how many Test matches played. But whether Pont could have made Steve Harmison a better bowler can never be proved. Even so the ECB should consider the value of someone with a wide knowledge outside 'the system'.

ENGLAND are looking for a bowling coach, and Allan Donald, the former Warwickshire and South Africa paceman, has already been put in the frame to replace Ottis Gibson, but Ian Pont is an interesting candidate on what is likely to be a long list.

======STOP SUMMARY=====

While Donald was a renowned fast bowler in his time, he would certainly not have the coaching experience of Pont, who would see himself more along the Troy Cooley lines. Pont is an innovator, author, coach and student of the craft of bowling for 15 years, well known to the ECB and to the national coach Andy Flower in particular.

It is difficult to guess the ECB's thinking on this. Donald has first-hand experience of Test cricket, best as a mentor, whereas Pont would be far ahead on technical expertise and perhaps better on psychology.

As author of The Fast Bowler's Bible his expertise has become widely respected. My own view is that his book is excellent, full of sensible and practical advice. There is technique theory, but not too much. The man behind Maverick Cricket, Pont has worked with Kent, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Essex and Northants as a consultant. He has coached in South Africa, mostly at the International Pro Camp in Potchefstroom, in India and the United States. In his prime as an Essex player he possessed a huge throw, and his baseball background in American major league gave him an unusually broad insight into cricket mechanics.

Pont revealed more than a hint of irritation at his image in the mainstream media when Kevin Shine and John Abrahams brought him into the national coaching programme at Loughborough to work with Gibson. "Everyone kept bloody mentioning I am 'maverick' -- due to to my business -- or that somehow I am left-field," he said. "I am in my eighth season of working with a county. I might be a visionary rather than a crackpot, not least as more and more parts of my book are being taught by ECB coaches around the country and in fast bowling camps in South Africa."

More controversially Pont added: "I am just fed up with other names getting the big 'up' when they are unlikely to even know how to construct a bowling action, let alone work out which parts might be failing. Look at how Harmy was never corrected... Everyone had a go with him and couldn't do anything."

Pont, passed over for international cricket, said he was happy with the Cooley parallel-- the Australian was similarly a journeyman in state cricket -- and he reckoned qualities on offer should mean more than how many Test matches played. But whether Pont could have made Steve Harmison a better bowler can never be proved. Even so the ECB should consider the value of someone with a wide knowledge outside 'the system'.

ENGLAND are looking for a bowling coach, and Allan Donald, the former Warwickshire and South Africa paceman, had already been put in the frame to replace Ottis Gibson, but Ian Pont is an interesting candidate on what is likely to be a long list.

======STOP SUMMARY=====

While Donald was a renowned fast bowler in his time, he would certainly not have the coaching experience of Pont, who would see himself more along the Troy Cooley lines. Pont is an innovator, author, coach and student of the craft of bowling for 15 years, well known to the ECB and to the national coach Andy Flower in particular.

It is difficult to guess the ECB's thinking on this. Donald has first-hand experience of Test cricket, best as a mentor, whereas Pont would be far ahead on technical expertise and perhaps better on psychology.

As author of The Fast Bowler's Bible his expertise has become widely respected. My own view is that his book is excellent, full of sensible and practical advice. There is technique theory, but not too much. The man behind Maverick Cricket, Pont has worked with Kent, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Essex and Northants as a consultant. He has coached in South Africa, mostly at the International Pro Camp in Potchefstroom, in India and the United States. In his prime as an Essex player he possessed a huge throw, and his baseball background in American major league gave him an unusually broad insight into cricket mechanics.

Pont revealed more than a hint of irritation at his image in the mainstream media when Kevin Shine and John Abrahams brought him into the national coaching programme at Loughborough to work with Gibson. "Everyone kept bloody mentioning I am 'maverick' -- due to to my business -- or that somehow I am left-field," he said. "I am in my eighth season of working with a county. I might be a visionary rather than a crackpot, not least as more and more parts of my book are being taught by ECB coaches around the country and in fast bowling camps in South Africa."

More controversially Pont added: "I am just fed up with other names getting the big 'up' when they are unlikely to even know how to construct a bowling action, let alone work out which parts might be failing. Look at how Harmy was never corrected... Everyone had a go with him and couldn't do anything."

Pont, passed over for international cricket, said he was happy with the Cooley parallel-- the Australian was similarly a journeyman in state cricket -- and he reckoned qualities on offer should mean more than how many Test matches played. But whether Pont could have made Steve Harmison a better bowler can never be proved. Even so the ECB should consider the value of someone with a wide knowledge outside 'the system'.

Posted by Charlie Randall
05/02/2010 10:34:01
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