Notes from the pavilion

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?

Vaughan all mouth and no trousers

What a winner. Michael Vaughan loses his trousers, and could there anyone better than David Lloyd to commentate on it?

Who should be England’s new one-day captain?

I think we all saw this coming, and it’s a timely decision for England’s one-day team.

“Since our disappointing performances in the World Cup, I have been giving careful consideration as to what is the best way forward for the England one-day team and my own role within the side,” said Vaughan in an ECB statement. “I reached this decision some time ago, but I did not want to announce it until after the end of this Test series to avoid it becoming a distraction to the team.

“However, due to intense speculation in the media about my future, I feel it is important to make my intentions clear now. Our priority is to build a one-day squad able to compete strongly at the next World Cup, and I firmly believe that the interests of the team will be best served if I step down and allow another player to gain additional experience of captaincy in the one-day international arena.

But who should replace him? Paul Collingwood is favourite. Who is your choice?

Honestly, Michael

Just read the piece on Cricinfo about Michael Vaughan implying that the Fredalo incident ruined England’s chances at the World Cup and it got me thinking. There has been plenty written in the last few months that Vaughan should not be skipper; his ego hurts the team; he’s not worth his place etc etc. While his classy hundred against the Windies at Headingley may have bought a little respite from the nay-sayers, it wouldn’t take much for them to get tetchy again.

What this article tells me is that he is still the right man for the job. Vaughan is basically saying that Fred was a bloody idiot and messed it up for everyone by attracting every tabloid paper to the hotel lobby. Fair enough, he did. He also went on to criticise himself and admit that his ODI record sucks. It does. But given how guarded interviews tend to be nowadays until the sportsman has retired, this was pretty candid. A new skipper might not have been so forthright, but Vaughan is about the only one who can say boo to a goose like Freddy or his buddy Harmy for that matter. And we need those two loons back to full throttle if we’re going to threaten the Aussies next time round. Which, if I’m really really honest with myself, is all that matters in the longterm. Vaughan, 32, is still the man to do that.

As for ODIs, I would let him continue as skipper. I’ll admit I am a big fan of his (the Michael Vaughan extra cover drive marks the start of my summer), so this is subjective as ever, but given nobody else is nailing down a place in the top three, what harm is he doing….?

Overshadowing The Ego


© Getty Images
Kevin Pietersen whacked his fastest Test hundred today and yet was overshadowed by someone who was once described by Ian Chappell [1] as the most unlikely of Test batsman. More of an accountant – a bookish, slightly nerdy character. It was Michael Vaughan, then storming Australia during his epic series.

And at last today, he returned. The old cover-drive was there, complete with swashbuckling follow-through. It was a slick innings against some of the most inept, friendly bowling imaginable, on a friendly Headingley pitch under clear skies. The conditions and situation were tailor-made for him and he took full advantage. Even his favoured pull stroke was there…though he timed one of them rather too well, falling straight down Morton’s throat.

It just reminded me of what an audacious, brilliantly talented batsman he once was, but also what he could still be capable of. He said before this Test that he felt as though he was making his debut today and, that being the case, let’s hope he’ll be just as successful as England’s other recent debutants – Alastair Cook and Matt Prior to name two. If the knees survive – and let’s be honest, if they don’t, it’ll probably end his career in a hurry – there’s no reason why he can’t dominate bowling like he did four years ago.

Meanwhile Andrew Strauss, the Middlesex legend, is under a wee bit of pressure. Needs big runs, quickly.

[1] I think it was Chappell.

Jones! Bowden!

Where were you for the Edgbaston climax in 2005? I was driving home in a car that only had FM, so I had to get updates from Michael Parkinson on Radio Two. Happily, the old cove would regularly interrupt his guests to give details, but all the same I missed the Jones!! Bowden!! Kasprowicz!! finale.

Harmison, Jones, Kasprowicz

I mention it because I now know what it must have felt like to be Michael Vaughan that day. OK, so the stakes were a little lower in our South Cotswolds Division Three clash last Saturday, but the match situation was very similar. They were chasing 230-odd and we had them 190 for 9 with six overs left. Numbers nine and eleven at the crease. A formality or so we thought. But somehow, the ball kept missing the stumps and fielders, and we began to panic. Before we realised what had happened, they needed 11 to win off the last over. Still ours to lose, right?

A couple of good balls and a decent stop on the third man boundary brought it to eight needed off three, with the better batsman on strike. ‘Give him the single, lads!’ So we drop back five paces and he duly clips it to mid off. ‘Hold the ball!’ We now have the rabbit on strike and he needs seven off two. Game over.

But no! Wait! Mid-off has not held the ball, but instead he has slung it at the non-striker’s end. It misses by a yard and I fluff backing it up (it bobbled, honest!). They run a second. Six off two, with the better batsman on strike.

The next ball goes over cover’s head for four. Two to win, last ball. What do you do? Stop the single and win; or give them one and take the tie? Mostly we did neither. Some came in, some drifted, others minced about. Our heads were scrambled. How Harmison was even able to grip the ball, let alone bowl it, I have no idea! How Jones could have felt his legs, let alone move them!

I dropped in to a short-ish mid-wicket and the ball was chipped over my head for the winning two runs. Had I stayed where I was, it would have been an easy catch, with Richie Benaud crying out my name (in my head). Time will tell if I’m picked for next week’s match….

Nicholas goes into bat for Strauss

Mark Nicholas has come out in favour of giving the English captaincy to Andrew Strauss. Before the Ashes series, and how long ago did that seem, there was a clear choice to make for the English selectors- Strauss or Flintoff. They chose the latter and everything went downhill for England from there. This didn’t entirely surprise me- my spies in England had already told me that Flintoff was no great shakes as a leader. But for Strauss, leading this newly minnowed side is going to be a different proposition then the England of late 2006.

If there is to be a change of captain, Strauss does seem the logical candidate. But without a change of coach, it is a job half done.

So. What did you make of England’s performance today?

Michael Vaughan was booed and jeered at the post-match presentation. South Africa were at the top of their game today, and deserve plaudits, but England struck me as woeful. What changes would be at the top of your list?

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.
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