England name squad for Sri Lanka tour

England have named their squad for the tour of Sri Lanka, and it’s pretty much as predicted:

Vaughan, Cook, Bell, Pietersen, Collingwood, Shah, Bopara, Mustard, Prior, Broad, Hoggard, Anderson, Sidebottom, Swann, Panesar.

Some initial thoughts:

1) It’s pretty harsh on Chris Tremlett, who hasn’t really put a foot wrong yet for England. Unless – gasp! – they’re punishing him unfairly for his indifferent one-day form.

2) If the selectors were going to drop Strauss they should have replaced him with another opener, rather than naming three number sixes and promoting Vaughan, who doesn’t even want to open.

3) If both of Harmison’s practice games get rained off, where does that leave him?

4) Either Broad or Swann has to bat at number eight. Which means that, cruelly, one of Anderson or Sidebottom has to sit out. Or both, if Harmison waltzes back into the team. In other words, all three pacemen from the India series could be left out in favour of someone who wasn’t even good enough to make the side at the time. Hmmm.

5) The fact that Mustard has been named in the full squad, rather than placed on standby in Chennai, is hardly a resounding vote of confidence in Prior. Is Mustard, in fact, the reserve opening batsman?

What are everyone else’s thoughts?

Live: England v India, 1st Test, Lord’s

So, England are batting first and they’ve chosen Chris Tremlett over Stuart Broad. I’d have opted for Broad and Tremlett, not James Anderson – but that’s just me. Here’s Ceefax, just for laughs, and offer your thoughts below.

Summer’s nearly here

I’ve got the BBC’s old bink-bink-bink theme tune tinkering in my head. Again. I don’t care what state the world is in, or indeed how England are faring. The start of the season is something to celebrate, and it’s with great pleasure that I tell you the rain is thundering down in London as I write. Ah, marvellous. Summer’s here.

The first Test is just 12 hours away, or thereabouts, but earlier today I was a bit puzzled by Peter Moores’ decision to call up James Anderson. He was to play the first session of Lancashire’s latest Championship match before driving down to London, acting as cover for the bowlers. That’s fine – but what exactly does Lancashire (or anyone else for that matter) gain by paying for Anderson’s services for one measly session? As it was, Old Trafford was deluged in rain (what’s new?), but presumably Jimmy A is down in London waiting to hear if he’ll be needed (which he won’t; if Andrew Flintoff isn’t fit, England say Owais Shah will be picked).

And if he’s not? He’s sent back up to Old Trafford to continue playing. I understand England’s predicament in a) having cover for their bowlers while b) pacifying the counties, but this current method doesn’t appear to help anyone. Least of all the bowler.

Anyhow. Moving on.

Is this really the best England can do?

It never fails to amaze me reading the contrasting opinions from our feedbackers at Cricinfo while covering these one-dayers, especially with England in such limp form. Of the 1000 or so emails, a fair chunk criticised us for our anti-England stance, accusing us of racism, bias toward Ireland and whatever else. What game were they watching? The one we were watching was between a feisty, energetic team full of lively promise and intent. The other was England at their timid best.
Contine reading

A grotesque mismatch masked as an ODI

Coming into Friday’s game between Australia and England, for what surely must be the final time this summer, the contrast between the two squads could hardly be greater.

The Australians are happy, confident, and feel that everything is on track going towards the winning of the series and into the World Cup. England look patently miserable, tired, out of ideas, and with no appetitite for the battle. The contrast between this side and the one that won the Ashes eighteen months ago is so stark it can barely be believed.

England fans have every right to be furious with their team and especially their administration for allowing such a state of affairs.

They go into Friday’s game against Australia without Michael Vaughan, and also without James Anderson, who is flying home after a back strain. All of England’s bowling hopes will therefore rest with Flintoff and the redoubtable Monty Panesar, who looks like he’s the only Englishman with both the ability and the desire to play at this level at this point in time.

Meanwhile, Australia are feeling confident enough to introduce Shaun Tait to their one-day side, who is replacing Brett Lee. It is very much a ‘like for like’ substitution. Tait is perhaps even faster then Lee these days, and similarly erratic in performance. England faced him in the last two Tests of 2005, and also in the first game of this tour where he played in the Prime Minister’s XI. He did so well in that game that there was speculation that he would be the third seamer in the Test lineup, but Stuart Clark got the nod, and did so well that Tait’s hopes subsided.

Ricky Ponting has a slight hip strain and is in some doubt, but if he fails a fitness test, he’ll be replaced by the in-form Brad Hodge, who scored 115 off 100 balls for Victoria against South Australa on Wednesday.

A quick check of the bookies has some amazing prices. Not many betting houses are offering better then 10 to 1 on for Australia, whereas you can get odds of 13/2 on England. Remarkable, in a two horse race.

A nice night out at Adelaide Oval

So I wandered along to the Adelaide Oval yesterday after all, and took up my seat in the Chappell Stands with New Zealand struggling at 3 for 60 after about 20 overs. England were right on top, and as I’d found myself next to a rather chatty fellow, we discussed the match, and also the possibility that we’d be going home early. As it was, we DID end up going home early, but that was because New Zealand had won the game.

How did they escape? Well, Jacob Oram batted well. England made it easy though for him, because he came out to bat and was facing the fire and brimstone of Paul Collingwood. My own view that Flintoff should have brought Anderson back into the attack eventually filtered through to the England captain four overs after I had said it, by which time Oram had settled in.

He’s a big lad, is Oram. After a spell from the game, his footwork was understandably rusty but once he found his range, he was able to power the New Zealand innings onwards. He found an ally in Brendon McCullum, who looked totally out of form, but was still able to contribute by running like a whippet.

A late flurry by Franklin took New Zealand to 210. I wandered off for chips, a hot-dog, and a chocolate ice-cream, all the ingredients needed for a balanced diet. I think the Black Caps might have had something a little more healthy because they came out on all cylinders.

Franklin took the first over from the Cathederal End because of the considerable breeze coming from the south. He took three wickets in his opening spell, though he was helped by a withering blast from the River End by Shane Bond.

Bond bowls with the pace of a Brett Lee and the accuracy of.. well he’s not quite in the McGrath mould, but he’s certainly pretty accurate. He pinned down the English upper order, and Mal Loye was in no mood to try his sweep shot this time around.

Franklin and Bond bowled the first fourteen overs, before being relieved. It was the introduction of Daniel Vettori that proved England’s undoing. He bowled a lovely spell; with the breeze to bowl into, he obtained drift and flight, and England’s batsmen did not have the footwork to cope with him. What particularly struck me was the way that England’s batsmen were stuck in two minds about whether or not to come forward, or to play back. Quite often they were caught in no-man’s land.

This certainly didn’t help England’s scoring rate. Ed Joyce was the only batsman to get past twenty. New Zealand fielded much better then they did in Sydney with Gillespie’s catch the highlight. Bond came back to finish the game, taking his 100th wicket in just his 55th match, and New Zealand’s large contingent of fans in the outer celebrated in style.

Speaking as a spectator, it was a nice evening out. I rather enjoy going to these ‘neutral’ games because since my team is not playing, I’m not that emotionally invested in the outcome, and therefore I can enjoy the cricket as it happens. But I have to say it- England were indeed woeful.

Shivering Sri Lankans

Why is it Sri Lankans, more than Indians or Pakistanis – or any other nation for that matter – are so pitied when they arrive on this island? These poor, suffering, shivering, six-sweater Sri Lankans unable to cope with the “bitter” conditions which most Britons regard as “really quite pleasant”. And yet when England tour the subcontinent, while there is a mild degree of sympathy for the sweltering humidity they endure, there is more ridicule than empathy at our pasty-faced, blistering, sunburned, dehydrated bodies. “Look at the silly colonialists! They can’t even stand a bit of heat! Watch and laugh as the batsmen call for wet towels and plead for shade!”

The first Test starts on May 11, the earliest England has ever hosted one. But it’s not early enough. Don’t the ECB understand? While everyone else has to endure gas mark 9 conditions in India, we allow touring countries an idyllic 20c. I say: bring on the real cold weather. Let’s start hosting matches in mid January when it’s so cold that Briton’s faces are forever frozen in a “I think I’m going to die” expression, and teenage chavettess go clubbing in a belt, wondering why they wake up with gout (the disease, not the local chav. Although I’m sure some chavs are called Gout).

Let’s see how they like a north-easterly turning our grey sun-deprived skin to a hypothermic blue. Let’s see Muralitharan try and spin it on an ice-wicket. For acclimatisation, they could spend a T-shirtless afternoon down a freezer aisle in the local supermarket, catching packets of frozen peas. We’re too soft over here.

Meanwhile, James Anderson has broken his back or leg or something. Bugger.

England’s squad to tour India

I’m sure you’re aware of the squad, but thought I’d make up for my lack of blogging by repeating it. James Anderson has lost his place, and Simon Jones returns:

England Test squad Michael Vaughan* (capt), Marcus Trescothick*, Andrew Strauss*, Ian Bell*, Kevin Pietersen*, Andrew Flintoff*, Paul Collingwood*, Geraint Jones*, Matt Prior, Ashley Giles*, Shaun Udal, Liam Plunkett, Matthew Hoggard*, Simon Jones*, Steve Harmison*. *denotes 12-month central contract

One-day squad Michael Vaughan (capt), Marcus Trescothick, Andrew Strauss, Kevin Pietersen, Andrew Flintoff, Paul Collingwood, Ian Bell, Geraint Jones, Matt Prior, Ashley Giles, Ian Blackwell, Kabir Ali, Liam Plunkett, Simon Jones, Steve Harmison, James Anderson.

Plunkett, Anderson – or both?

Just put this up on the Surfer, and it got me pondering. So I’m pondering over here, like the blogging whore that I am. Liam Plunkett or Jimmy A – who to pick? My doubts about Jimmy A continue, and my optimism surrounding Plunkett’s potential continue to increase – so I’ll opt for Plunkett, especially given his batting prowess.

Thoughts? England are due to announce their squad on Friday (this is for their tour to India, in case you were wondering).

England Warm up with a narrow loss

England have had a narrow loss to Pakistan A in their warm up game for the ODI series. Good features for England were contributions from Matt Prior, Paul Collingwood, and Jimmy Anderson.

Telegraph report.