Thanks, Fred, and goodnight

So that’s probably it for Freddie, then. Whatever drivel the ECB can try and spin about his ankle needing time “to settle and recover before the process of further strengthening and assessment is intensified” – medico-speak for “he’s done it in again” – it’s probably safe to assume that a man on the wrong side of 30 who has played just one of his team’s last four Test series isn’t really one for the future. It’s time to look beyond.

Flintoff

Probably most likely to step into the breach in the short-term is Ravi Bopara. But he’s untried at Test level and despite knocking Mike Hussey over on his ODI debut, it’s hard to imagine him knocking over Test sides with his gentle trundlers off a short run. Similarly Paul Collingwood, who encouragingly hasn’t let snaffling Sourav Ganguly on a lucky LBW shout go to his head.

So let’s look to the current crop of youngsters. There’s Adil Rashid, who scored his first Championship century this season, and team-mate Tim Bresnan, who has fought back well from being Jayasuriya’s bitch last summer. Younger still, there’s Alex Wakely at Northants and James Harris at Glamorgan. For some of these it looks like the next Ashes in 2009 will come a bit soon (Harris was born in 1990, for heaven’s sake), while none of them really looks like a potential Test number six. But then again, nor does Freddie at the moment.

Who does everyone think will end up filling Fred’s specially-modified boots? A batsman? A bowler? Or is it time David Graveney got Mark Ealham back on the phone?

Collingwood’s £1000 lap dance

Excellent news. Of course, the £1000 fine has probably levelled his mood just a little, but I’m all for “professional sportsmen”, – as they insist they are called – getting caught having fun. It makes our jobs so much more fun.

PS: and tonight, Andrew Flintoff is being interviewed by Piers Morgan (I think) on Pedalo Gate. A nice irony.

Twenty20 short-sightedness

I see Sir Viv has called for England to pick a team of 20-20 specialists for the World Cup later this year. It shouldn’t take a genius to point this out to the ECB. We have players capable of winning the thing, so why not give them a run out now against the Windies, rather than using this as a warm-up for the ODIs?

Colly, who seems to have graduated from the Alec Stewart academy of interviewing, says that these are the best ODI players in the country and that they’ll adapt. Wrong! 50-50 is a different game from 20-20, so pick a different team! The only concession they made in team selection was to drop Monty, presumably because he doesn’t bat or field. Have they learned nothing from Fletcher’s mistakes?! Spin is vital in 20-20 and he’s our best spinner. Play him! How long before they wheel Gilo out again? Sheesh.

Strauss dropped as Collingwood picks up captaincy

The one-day squad has just been announced, and features a couple of surprising new faces:

1. Paul Collingwood (Durham) (Captain)
2. James Anderson (Lancashire)
3. Ian Bell (Warwickshire)
4. Stuart Broad (Leicestershire)
5. Alastair Cook (Essex)
6. Dimitri Mascarenhas (Hampshire)
7. Monty Panesar (Northamptonshire)
8. Kevin Pietersen (Hampshire)
9. Liam Plunkett (Durham)
10. Matt Prior (Sussex)
11. Owais Shah (Middlesex)
12. Ryan Sidebottom (Nottinghamshire)
13. Jonathan Trott (Warwickshire)
14. Michael Yardy (Sussex)

Andrew McGlashan over at cricinfo predicted the potential place for Dimitri Mascarenhas, but what no one will have expected was the selection of Trott. A positive upper-order bat, he has followed Pietersen’s route from South Africa to English qualification, however his present season form ranges from successive ducks to unbeaten centuries. Both of these players are added to England’s Performance Squad, as is Ryan Sidebottom after his impressive performance since Headingley.

Cook’s recall, whilst predicted, poses questions – with no place for Loye, is there really any member of this squad who can force the pace at the beginning of the innings? Who, indeed, is likely to open? The only opener to have survived the World Cup is Bell, who is more naturally a number 3. If Cook make the final XI, he will almost certainly take his place at the top of the order, but is there an opening for Prior to repeat his attempt as a pinch-hitter?

As always, leave your thoughts below.

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?

What did West Indies have for lunch?

Today was a microcosm of the problems facing West Indies. They dominated the first session, bowling superbly and at last making England scrap for every run. England went to lunch with Paul Collingwood and Matt Prior at the crease…but not a lot else to come.

Then what happened? What on earth were they fed at lunch? After the interval, everything fell apart with the bowlers losing their lines and the captain, Daren Ganga, for some inexplicable reason choosing to bowl Marlon Samuels. It was a session of such diabolical cricket that they fully deserve to lose this Test tomorrow. It was utterly depressing.

Matt Prior flicks one fine

England did very well to rub their noses in it, though – and Matt Prior continues to impress. But, still…it’s pretty painful watching West Indies at the moment and I don’t see how they can recover, either. The selection of Austin Richards to their one-day team is a case in point. Just why he was chosen in place of Wavell Hinds, Ryan Hinds, A.N. Other is anyone’s guess. I tried to write a profile for him at Cricinfo and didn’t get on very well at all. The cynic in me thinks there is something more sinister afoot other than simply being a “random selection”.

England’s Commonwealth Bank Series win completes my misery

I have a toothache from hell. It set in on Friday night, and my dentist can’t fit me in until Wednesday morning. So between that, and England totally outplaying Australia in the one day finals, I have not been a happy little camper. At the moment, I’m taking refuge in alcohol for pain relief. Meanwhile I wonder if Andrew Flintoff is taking pain relief from alcohol. The last time Flintoff was involved in winning a trophy off Australia, his alcohol intake was spectacular. I’m partial to a drop myself, but I have to admit I don’t think I could keep up with Freddy when he’s up for a drink.

Anyway, enough of vices. I asked in my previous post if Duncan Fletcher would have anything to do with the resurrection of English fortunes, and it turns out he did have a bit to say.

Whereas a matter of weeks ago England’s planning for the World Cup almost revolved around picking random names out of a hat, Fletcher now says there is a clear plan heading into the tournament.

“We’ve got a side that have won here and done very, very well and yet we are still missing people of the calibre of [Michael] Vaughan and [Kevin] Pietersen who are two very important players for us, so it’s still going to be very difficult for us [to narrow down the squad].”

“But we’re a lot clearer than we were at the start of this series. We really believe in the side now, four in a row is a great achievement and we’ve just got to continue with that momentum.”

Fletcher, himself, received a special mention as Andrew Flintoff relished his first success as captain. “The one person I really want to thank is Duncan Fletcher,” said Flintoff, “throughout the trip he has kept taking the knocks for us but he has kept backing us.”

While most of the plaudits will go to Paul Collingwood, and rightly so, I think that the emergence of Liam Plunkett also has a lot to do with the turnaround in England’s fortunes. And Monty Panesar has had a role to play too. He hasn’t taken a hatful of wickets, but he’s always kept things tight, and a good spinner is worth a fortune in any form of cricket.

Australia have got some thinking to do. They are in danger of losing their ranking as the best ODI side in the world to South Africa. To me the two issues are that Michael Hussey has lost his magic touch, as well as Symonds’ injury. Michael Clarke could do with some more runs as well. My own view was that White should have replaced Symonds as the batting allrounder. Instead, they’ve chosen Watson as a bowling allrounder, which is fine except that he’s barely had any cricket since the Champions trophy. Bringing him back for the finals smacked of hubris, and hubris gets punished.

My understanding is that Will will be returning from Kenya in the next few days, with plenty of photographs and hopefully some insider gossip about his adventures. For an Englishman’s perspective, be sure to read the Reverse Swing Manifesto (and speaking of which, why hasn’t Troy Cooley done us any good in the ODI’s?) In the meantime, I leave you with one final question before I drown my sorrows. What exactly is the Duckworth/Lewis algorithim? I once heard it described as being so complex as to make Einstein look like a bit of fun with an abacas, but even still!

Collingwood takes England to a famous victory

A brilliant century by Paul Collingwood has powered England to a four wicket win over Australia at the MCG, chasing down Australia’s 252. Given that England were 3 for 15 when he came in, his coolness and poise is worthy of the highest praise.

England have won three ODI games in a row. If a week is a long time in politics, it might be an even longer time on tour.

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.

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.