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Cricket News & Views

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.

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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.

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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

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.

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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

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'.

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

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

Clarke's standing hit by Bingle saga

APART from a possible court appearance as witnesses over the theft of an Aston Martin, Michael Clarke has managed to disengage with the Lara Bingle media circus and return to cricket to represent Australia against New Zealand in the first Test at Wellington, starting on Friday.

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

Clarke suddenly quit the tour on March 8 and missed three one-day internationals against New Zealand after flying to Sydney to comfort his then fiancee Lara... and then break off their engagement that had lasted two years. They became a celebrity couple when Clarke popped the question to bikina model Lara, 20, with a 4.7 carat diamond ring allegedly worth about £100,000 while on holiday together in New York.

This week before Clarke returned to cricket still as Australia's vice-captain, he spoke to Lara on the phone after it had been reported that her agent Max Markson had offered her exclusive 'story' to a television channel for about £500,000. This followed an earlier plea to the media by Markson to respect the couple's privacy with an oily hypocrisy that surprised even the Aussie newspapers.

Clarke returned to a media scrum at Wellington airport this week, and Australia's coach Tim Nielsen said he had the team's support while he dealt with the sort of personal issue that anyone might have. "It's just that we happen to do it in a public forum, pretty much," Nielsen said.

The theft of Bingle's Aston Martin, after a third party had illegally obtained the keys, resulted in a police charge and a likely court appearance for the two celebrities as witnesses. The Bingle saga continued to fizz when a report claimed that plumbers had been called in to rescue a precious item from the foul water drains at her Bondi apartment amid speculation that she had thrown her engagement ring away, though this was denied by her father and her agent. 

Clarke's original reason for leaving the tour was to support an upset Bingle after a magazine published an old topless photograph, a shower room picture that had been circulated by her previous boyfriend, an Australia Rules footballer not worth dignifying by reporting his name. His claim that he was not involved in the magazine access hardly let him off the hook as an outright cad.

Sportingly, one might think, the New Zealand fast bower Chris Martin said he and his team-mates would not be 'sledging' Clarke about the Bingle embarrassment. One of Clarke's team-mates, Mike Hussey, had appealed to his opponents not to attempt to upset the batsman in this way, a plea that drew angry response from members of the public in newspaper comment strings.

Bearing in mind that Australians had been the world's keenest sledgers since the foul-mouthed days of Ian Chappell in the 1970s, there was little sympathy for Clarke. There was a time when the Aussies had been accused of making 'choo choo' noises when Chris Cairns arrived at the crease after his sister had been killed in a railway crash, but this dreadful personal insult had almost certainly been barracking from the crowd and not from the players.

Nevertheless, that notion that choo choo from the Australian players was a credible possibility stood as the legacy of a dirty past that was not exorcised, as many hoped, by the revolting flare-up between Glenn McGrath and Ramnaresh Sarwan in Antigua in May 2003. Loutish Australian behaviour surfaced again at Sydney during their home series against India in January 2008. After Martin had given his informal non-sledging assurance in Wellington, he added: "The fans will probably have a ball, but that's nothing to do with us."

Clarke proposed on bended knee under a full moon at the Rockefeller Centre skating rink in March 2008, and within a year there were reports that Bingle was feeling lonely while her future husband was away playing cricket. Many would think she should have twigged this eventuality before accepting his romantic marriage proposal.

Clarke arguably should not have quit the tour, leaving the team hotel in Hamilton without warning on the eve of a one-day international, his absence reducing Australia to 12 fit men. Major family events such as illness, bereavement or birth have caused such disruption in the past -- and one could add personal mental state, as with Marcus Trescothick -- but an upset fiancee could hardly be deemed so serious, not for a man due to captain Australia at the World Twenty20 tournament in the West Indies in May.

Clarke's sudden departure was a mystery at the time, and it was assumed his father, a cancer sufferer, had been taken ill. Clarke had declined a slot in the Indian Premier League in 2008 to spend time with him.

CHARLIE SAYS: While Bingle deserved sympathy for the photo scandal, her hurt was a relatively minor matter. Such tumult should not have been set in motion to envelop Australia's likely successor to Ricky Ponting. Naturally Clarke was upset and could not have been in a good frame of mind for cricket. Nevertheless the show had to go on, for Clarke and for everyone else. Marriage must have already slipped off Lara's priorities by the time Clarke joined her from New Zealand. Clarke's standing has been reduced by his hapless action; Bingle's consolation will be publicity likely to earn her hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Posted by Charlie Randall
16/03/2010 14:24:34

Glamorgan joy and Kent gloom

THE loan of "several hundred thousand pounds" by Kent chairman George Kennedy to his county club after their horrendous loss in 2009 underlined that the gap between 'haves' and 'have nots' was widening in the recession.

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

This week Glamorgan, after their first season as a Test county, reported that an £822,000 profit from hosting Australia at Cardiff in 2009 had turned a loss into a healthy surplus. Their turnover rose by an incredible 71 per cent, though they were one of the counties who suffered from dwindling interest in the Twenty20 Cup.

The Kent Messenger newspaper disclosed that Kennedy decided to step in to ease the burden of bank charges afer Kent's  second successive loss, this time more than £800,000. "I hope that members and supporters see this as a sign of my absolute commitment to ensure the future success of the club," he said. The deficit was worsened by losses of £190,000 on two summer pop concerts at Canterbury  -- "a major blow" -- £150,000 paid out in staff settlements and £140,000 from earlier years, including bad debts and VAT payments.

Kennedy, in his second year as chairman, said: "The three are non-recurring debts and are unlikely to happen again, so would bring the loss down to around £300,000, which is half the previous year. So from a trading position going forward, I am actually quite bullish, and feel we are in reasonable shape."

Glamorgan reported a surplus of £338,000, the third consecutive year they had managed to stay in the black. But they would have lost money without the Ashes party in town for the first Test, and the turnover £11.6 million was four times greater than 2007, as a measure of how far the Sophia Gardens redevelopment had taken the county.

Alan Hamer, the chief executive, said: "The financial importance of staging an Ashes Test match, can be clearly seen. Despite the recession, we are delighted to have been able to report a record operating profit. We have every reason to look forward to the future with confidence. We are now an established Test match venue and have been awarded international matches through until 2016."

Nevertheless hospitality sales were badly affected by the recession, with take-up for the Test match much lower than expected. County match-day income was disappointing, especially from low attendances for Twenty20 Cup matches. That seemed to underline that cricket lovers limited their spending after the historic first Welsh Test match.

Posted by Charlie Randall
11/03/2010 11:09:17

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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
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