World Cup squads announced

My tooth is out, and I’m all doped up. Who said drugs are bad?

The World Cup squads have been announced. For Australia, the main surprise was the inclusion of Shaun Tait who was preferred over Stuart Clark. As Tait is from my home town, I’m personally delighted, although I doubt he will play much, at least after the first group games. Scotland might be facing a new ball attack of Tait and Lee, which would be a rough initiation for them. Clark is not happy about being omitted but has vowed to come back next season as a better bowler.

Meanwhile, Australia’s cheif medical officer has come out to warn injured Andrew Symonds about rushing his come-back. The Australian dressing room is full of half-fit players, and given the lack of fitness and form of so many players, I do not think Australia can really be favourites for this tournament anymore. Even a player of Symonds ability can’t just be rushed back into the side and perform at top level.

England on the other hand have a fairly predictable World Cup squad, the only major changes are the return of Pieterson and the omission of Mal Loye. It’s tough on Loye given the job he has done in Australia, but the other alternative of dropping Bopara would not have made much sense, and would have left England’s squad top-heavy with openers.

I still can’t understand why Alastair Cook hasn’t appeared in the frame at all in coloured clothes though.

Meanwhile, as I write, Pakistan are in awful trouble against South Africa in the 5th ODI in Johannesburg. Pollock, South Africa’s ‘old man river’ has defied the years and ripped the Pakistani top order apart by taking 5 for 23.

Spin City

John Buchanan’s attempts to spin Australia’s bowling in the Second Test looked even more ineffective then Shane Warne’s leg-spinners.

Admittedly, the pitch offered nothing, and England batted superbly, but you can hardly say Australia have bowled well after taking only six wickets in nearly two full days.

McGrath spent time off the field fixing his boot in the opening session to ease a heel problem. Although he has not been complaining about the injury, his effectiveness was limited and his speed has dropped significantly on the flat surface. “He pounded down 20-plus overs,” Buchanan said, “so, so far so good.” He returned 0 for 103.

Warne gave up 167 runs for the wicket of Geraint Jones while Brett Lee also won praise from Buchanan for his 1 for 139. “I think Brett’s bowled exceptionally well,” he said. “He’s held his pace and bowled good lines. It’s encouraging for the second innings and the rest of the series.

“The measure of Shane’s bowling is how many bad balls there were. He bowled a couple late yesterday when he got tired and maybe a few today. His control has been excellent, he hasn’t got the rub of the green, a bit like Brett.”

Stuart Clark was the only bowler not to win compliments from Buchanan and he was the man who performed the best. Throughout the first two days he troubled England with short and full deliveries and added three victims to continue his strong series.

Excuse me while I roll my eyes at that one. McGrath was clearly not fully fit, and the Australian team heirarchy deserve censure for allowing him to play. Mitchell Johnson probably wouldn’t have fared any better but at least there wouldn’t have been a worry about him worsening an injury.

From an English point of view, the day belonged once again to Collingwood and Pieterson. They were, it has to be admitted, magnificent. They learned their lessons from Brisbane and gave England the whip hand. And it was good to see that Flintoff was prepared, late in the day, to lead aggressively from the front. Fancy declaring, and taking the new ball for himself. Full marks to Freddy on that one!

England can attack on day three. It will be interesting to see how Australia’s batsmen, and England’s bowlers, respond to the challenge.

The elephant in the room

I’ve just been watching Inside Cricket, an Australian television cricket show where former Test players Brenden Julian, Mark Waugh, Allan Border, and Damien Fleming, have been discussing the First Test, with an English contribution from Graham Thorpe.

They all failed to mention the really big story that came out of the First Test and that is that England were beaten by three bowlers.

Brett Lee is the elephant that none dare mention; his contribution, especially in England’s second dig, could politely be called ‘crap’. He got a wicket because Kevin Pieterson gifted him one in the first over this morning, but really, he was a very fierce bad rabbit; his bad record against England just got worse.

And the pundits on television did not mention his name once. After all, the less said the better.

I’m a huge fan of Lee in one day cricket- in that form of the game, he keeps on performing, and while he keeps on taking wickets, he should be taking the new ball. But his Test performances, especially against England, continue to be ordinary.

Someone on the radio said at some point that ‘you can’t argue with 200 Test wickets’. Well actually you can. Just ask Jason Gillespie. Lee’s inability to take wickets has been glossed over in the hype of a big victory, but I do wonder if he is a luxury that Australia can afford over the course of a five Test series.

England fight back, and some thoughts on coaches

To the audible relief of South Australian cricket administrators, England provided some much needed resistance on day four, and saved them the prospect of half-empty stands for the Second Test starting on Friday.

England were set an insane target, worked out by Ricky Ponting on the formula of multiplying my overdraft times the speed of light, or some such nonsense, and let his bowlers loose, while retiring to the massage table. He would have dined well as England lost two early wickets, and with Cook playing a range of loose shots, promise of more to come.

However, Pieterson and Collingwood provided stout resistance and some fiery entertainment for another large crowd, stated as being 37,000.

Yet England will surely lose, and they deserve to lose- while there was some magnificent batsmanship today, there was also some shameful episodes. Strauss, Cook, Collingwood, Flintoff and Pieterson were all guilty of some dreadful shot selection at various points in the day, treating an Ashes Test as little more then a knockabout in the park.

Pieterson’s innings was an instructive example. There was some lovely drives, all through the V, yet there were also some grotesque cross-bat swipes. None of these have cost him his wicket (as yet), but what happens if rain comes about three PM tomorrow and England have been bowled out at 2.35?

If England had batted with a slightly more applied approach, they might well have been three wickets down tonight, not five. That’s a big difference.

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What do readers think about Andrew Flintoff’s dismissal? Shane Warne gave him an ugly serve on his way, and Justin Langer was smiling in delight even before he took the catch; the arrogance of it will grate on English sensibilities.

But it is an arrogance reflective of an Australian team that knows the value of their wickets, and the absolute folly of Flintoff’s shot. I don’t recall Ricky Ponting playing such an agricultural heave during his defensive masterpiece at Old Trafford last year. Duncan Fletcher may or may not remind his charges of that innings between now and the morning.

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Speaking of coaches, I came across this article on my web-meanderings this evening, asking about the worth of overseas coaches. Given the kvetching about Duncan Fletcher that I’ve read in British media outlets the last few days, I wondered about the role of the coach.

It seems to me that for a coach to be a benefit, rather then a hindrance, there needs to be an absolute understanding between the coach and his captain. In many first class teams, it seems to be the increasing trend that the coach is the top banana and the captain merely his on-field lieutenant, rather in the way a football manager operates. That may work, but there does need to be a clear line driven, and both sides working in tandem.

It’s never been the Australian way. Would you fancy being the coach telling Steve Waugh how he was to arrange his batting order? John Buchanan always knew his place in Waugh’s order of things.

I’m not sure about the inner workings of England’s team, but Michael Vaughan and Duncan Fletcher certainly were working on the same wavelength. It may well be that the relationship between Fletcher and Andrew Flintoff isn’t quite so attune.

Weekends mean disorganised open threads

Englad race to 288 with Pieterson and Collingwood doing well; India chasing are 45/0 after 8 overs. Yes, it is the 7th England vs India ODI open thread.