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.

Liam Plunkett’s chance

Liam Plunkett has been called up as back-up for the injured Chris Tremlett. I remain unconvinced about Tremlett; his main weapon is his height, but his action doesn’t make the most of it. He falls away, with a bent knee – and his approach to the crease, and follow-through, all need a lot of work (this is all in my very dodgy opinion, you understand).

And – he’s injured, again. So Liam Plunkett has a great chance to impress. Well regarded young fast bowler – big, big opportunity for him to outgun Tremlett and maybe others…

Replacing the Welsh swinger

My article on Cricinfo about Simon Jones’s replacement is up:

Replacing the Welsh swinger

The things the modern cricketer has to endure. Twenty years ago, prominent England players would have winced at the thought of sitting in an Oxygen chamber, no doubt scoffing at its supposed benefits. Simon Jones has little choice: after he injured his ankle in the last Test, England have been doing everything they can to patch him up for the final fling. He has been a key, reverse-swinging cog in England’s success this summer, and if he fails a fitness test, his replacement could hold the key to wrestling the urn from Australia’s 18-year-long grasp. Or not…

Who could replace him? His long-term understudy, James Anderson, is finally playing cricket regularly. For Lancashire this season, he has taken 48 wickets but averages over 30: this is not what England, or Anderson, wants. He’d played just three games for Lancashire in 2002, before England called him into the one-day squad against Australia the following winter, and his success was instant. But his confidence was fragile, and attempts by England’s coaches to modify his bowling action sapped it further still. He remains promising and, importantly, is still only 23, but England can’t afford to risk his selection in what is the biggest match of England’s recent history.

Chris Tremlett, 24 tomorrow, has usurped Anderson as the young, English fast-bowling hope but is yet to play a Test. He played three one-day matches earlier in the season, and performed reasonably well, picking up 4 for 32 on debut against Bangladesh, and the useful wicket of Adam Gilchrist in the following match against Australia. Importantly, he has remained in the England “bubble”, Duncan Fletcher’s protective cushion, throughout this series which signifies he is very well regarded. Indeed, his extreme height has excited many observers: he is 6′ 7″ and generates bounce from a natural short-of-a-length, something Michael Vaughan can testify to as Tremlett smashed a ball into his elbow at Edgbaston. For Hampshire this season, he has taken 45 wickets at 26 – a good performance, if not a spectacular one – but he doesn’t move the ball a la Jones. Worryingly, in Hampshire’s latest match against Warwickshire, his two wickets cost 98 runs and included six-no balls.

Paul Collingwood is desperate to play Test cricket again, to add to his two matches played against Sri Lanka in 2003. While he is primarily a batsman, his bowling has improved steadily this season with 19 wickets for Durham. He remains very much a wobbling medium-pacer, though and it is a front-line bowler England needs to win at The Oval. His inclusion would strengthen the home side’s batting considerably, and this could yet win the selectors over. England, after all, only need to draw the fifth Test to regain the Ashes. But the remaining England bowlers’ workloads would be become even heavier. He is in excellent batting form, though, and his catching and fielding abilities are almost without peer. His bowling won’t win England the Test, but his batting and fielding could.

England’s former pace bowlers Andrew Caddick and Darren Gough are both a year either side of 35, but each would give their eye-teeth to be a part of a successful England side, and especially one which has, at long last, dominated an Ashes series. Caddick, 36, last played for England in Sydney in 2002-03, a Test England won, but injuries have since forced him out of the side. Despite his age, he is still the leading English-qualified wicket-taker this season with 54 at 27.79. Meanwhile it has been rumoured, rather cheekily, that Gough was asked to attend a training session by England. Mind you, Gough is the closest like-for-like replacement for Jones: he was England’s best exponent of reverse-swing throughout the 1990s, but with age comes medium-pace. England’s consistency in selection has arguably been a key factor in their successes spanning two years, and it remains unlikely Gough or Caddick will buck that trend.

Whoever is chosen – and other names in the mix include Kabir Ali and Jon Lewis – it is unlikely they will match the skill Simon Jones has shown this summer. His rare and surprising ability to move the new and the old ball is almost irreplaceable. Britain will be praying the German doctors can work their oxygen-chamber magic on him; and for Jones himself, it would be devastating to miss the finale of a series he has played such an integral part in swinging England’s way.

Chris Tremlett – he be tall, he be quick

After Ashraful’s magnificent innings yesterday – what a great, positive result he is for Bangladeshi Cricket – I didn’t mention how excellent Chris Tremlett’s debut was, and my thoughts on him.

Jon Lewis made his debut against Australia – and, of course, helped rout them in That Twenty Twenty – but hasn’t looked a force, nor one who might become a force. I think it was David Lloyd who said of Lewis that he was “a good, honest worker” which, whilst doing him a little disservice, is probably quite accurate. Much has been made of Australia’s attack being samey, which it is, and also of its’ speed – or lack thereof. But Lewis doesn’t have the height of, say, McGrath or the consistency of, say, McGrath, or the menace of, say, McGrath.

Chris Tremlett

Tremlett though looked a different prospect altogether. I knew England had had their eye on him for a while – bowlers that tall are generally whispered about in hushed but excitable tones until they play for their country – and this season he’d put in some excellent performances for Hampshire. Or, as Scott says, for the Shane Warne Cricket Academyâ„¢:

Name                Mat    O      M     R   W    Ave  Best   5 10    SR  Econ Team

A Richardson          7  286.2   73   844   41  20.58  7-113  3  -  41.9  2.94 MIDDX
CT Tremlett           7  237     49   780   39  20.00  6-44   2  -  36.4  3.29 HANTS

Only the bizarre and unexpected rejuvination of Alan Richardson – and 3 wickets – stand in Tremlett’s way in becoming the leading wicket taker in England this season. [Aside: the next 2 on the list are Lewry and Harmison. When was the last time England had so many young English-qualified-players in the top 10 of Batting and Bowling stats? Noteworthy…]

My concerns in the past have been with his fitness and pace, so it was a great surprise yesterday to see him looking strong and bowling at 85mph. His action, though, concerns me a little. A bloke that size (6′ 7″ – same as the Scot William Wallace, and no, I don’t know why I know that, other than I go to a pub named after him) need to have as uncomplicated an action as possible, and Tremlett’s is nearly there but he appears to fall away at the point of delivery, and left knee isn’t quite bent. If he sorts it out – and it’s a great shame Troy Cooley’s left now – there’s no reason why, in a year or so, he could be touching 90mph.

Pace aside, his control and lines were impeccable – as were, I thought, his attitude. His reactions in getting those wickets were subdued and controlled – not bad for a 23 year old. If it were me, I’d have gone beserk, running around on Courtney Walsh-esque celebration! England are rolling out seamers like a conveyer belt these days.

Tremlett replacing Gough against Bangladesh

If Bangladesh thought Harmison was a bit tall, they’re in for a shock today – Chris Tremlett is replacing Darren Gough (resting), all 6 feet 7 of him. Quite tall, then. (but not very quick, if memory serves – RMF?). Terrific season so far, though.

Chris Tremlett replacing Simon Jones

Simon Jones isn’t yet fully fit, and is being replaced by Chris Tremlett of Hampshire. Jones’ injury isn’t considered “serious,” but…not the best of news, although good for Tremlett.

England’s 25 man development squad

Encouraging news today as England announced a 25-man development squad. This is an increase of 13, and, basically, gives Duncan Fletcher the power to reduce the amount of cricket played by any of these 25 if he deems it necessary (and it is, very, necessary). Ironic (and potentially confusing), isn’t it, that the top 25 players in the country are grouped together to play less cricket in order to play for their country. But such is the round-robin, hectic nature of county cricket that these measures have to be taken.

Since central contracts came in a few years ago, injuries have decreased and performance has improved – England have had (and now have 13 more) centrally contracted players, all of whom have had been very carefully managed. Increasing this pool to 25 is an excellent and encouraging move, and also shows how respect Duncan Fletcher has become. It is he, along with David Graveney, who pushed for central contracts in the first place.

Here are the players:

England development squad: Michael Vaughan, Kabir Ali, James Anderson, Gareth Batty, Ian Bell, Mark Butcher, Paul Collingwood, Andrew Flintoff, Ashley Giles, Darren Gough, Stephen Harmison, Matthew Hoggard, Geraint Jones, Simon Jones, Robert Key, Jon Lewis, Kevin Pietersen, Chris Read, Vikram Solanki, Andrew Strauss, Graeme Swann, Chris Tremlett, Graham Thorpe, Marcus Trescothick, Alex Wharf.

I was pleased to see Chris Tremlett included, along with Pietersen, Bell and Key who all three are fighting for just 2 places. Tremlett looks useful, but I do have concerns about his pace or lack thereof…

More at the Beeb and Cricinfo of course

Hampshire v Sussex highlights

To save you going to Sussex’s poorly designed, IE-only, popup-riddled website, right click here & choose Save As to see video highlights of today’s game (7MB), as mentioned yesterday. It’s worth downloading if only to see a stupendous C&B by Warne to dismiss Adams. Man, he’s got great hands! Great slipper, too.

I was also pleased to see Chris Tremlett in action. He’s the son of Tim Tremlett, ex Hampshire himself and I think was Hampshire’s coach (maybe still is). Chris is 6 foot 7″ – same as Curtly Ambrose – and is down on Cricinfo as RMF, but he looked nippier than that in the highlights. The English selectors do have their eye on him.