Jones, Read or Davies?

Low but audible mumblings of praise have been heard across the cricket world, or at least in England, for Stephen Davies. 19 and from Worcester, his coach – former England wicketkeeper Steve ‘Bumpy’ Rhodes – has said that he’s really rather excellent. No pressure, then. More on this at The Times, but it’s high time we had another poll I reckon. Geraint Jones will, I feel, play in the Ashes and possibly in the World Cup. But Chris Read, the best gloveman in the country, is many people’s first choice – and could yet be a real force in one-day cricket.

So who do you think should play in the Ashes, or even against Pakistan? Stick with Jones, go with Read – or take a punt on the teenager? Place your votes, leave your comments and generally make a nuisance of yourselves. (If you’re reading this via RSS, click here to vote)

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Jones under fire again

Poor old Geraint Jones. Throughout England’s resurgance in the past three years, he more than any other player has attracted criticism over his place. And unfortunately, there is no sign of the media or public stopping – until he starts scoring. In his last ten matches, he’s scored just 353 runs at 23.53, well below his poor career average of 27.42. What to do? Today, two former wicketkeepers have offered their opinions:

Jack Richards, an Ashes winner in Australia in 1986-7, strongly believes Jones should be dropped.

“Is he there as a batsman or keeper? He doesn’t appear to be there as a keeper because he’s spilling too many chances,” Richards told BBC Sport.

But Paul Downton said: “His keeping has improved noticeably. He needs to score more runs but is clearly talented.”

Over to you. What should England do? Is it time for Chris Read again? Leave your comments and place your votes; it’d be interesting to see what the public feel.

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Jones: ‘You’ll see a vast improvement’

Dear oh dear, what have you done, Geraint? In an interview with the BBC, he promises a better England fielding performance. Now then, arguably an improvement on Lord’s wouldn’t be too difficult – but it’s rather stupid to make such bold claims, isn’t it?

“This Test will be a lot different. We’ll still practice the same amount and we’ll be looking to take everything and you’ll see a vast improvement.”

Sixa! (Video of Geraint Jones hitting a six)


Have some of that

Trescothick- Shoaib was the difference

England opening batsman Marcus Trescothick conceded that England had been outplayed in Pakistan, and pinpoints Shoaib Akhtar as the difference:

There’s no point making excuses: we were outplayed, simple as that. They had qualities that we didn’t. Most critically, they had Shoaib Akhtar, who bowled better than I have ever seen him bowl before. Sure, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Danish Kaneria had big series, too, but it was Shoaib who kept putting us under pressure early on in our innings. Without him, Pakistan would have been a much less fearsome unit.

Shoaib is a huge figure in world cricket; a volatile, dynamic, and emotional man who has a huge role to play in Pakistani cricket, and I wrote about him at length the other day.

Trescothick also muses about the lessons England need to take from their defeat:

But the lesson here is that we have to learn to adapt. You can still be positive by scoring at two runs an over. We have to become flexible enough to control any situation.

The best example of this was our run-chase at Multan, which ended in failure and so set the tone for the series. We had two half-decent partnerships – first Andrew Strauss and Ian Bell, and then Geraint Jones and Shaun Udal – which relied on playing patiently and seeing off the bowlers. While it would have been nice to dash to a quick win – and the pitch wasn’t getting any younger – hindsight certainly suggests we were too eager that day.

You don’t get many opportunities to win games in Pakistan, so it really hurt to let that opportunity slip. We had outplayed them for most of the match, and if we had won it, I’m sure the whole tour would have been a completely different story.

In a three Test series, it is so hard to come back after you’ve dropped the First Test. Mismanaging the runchase as they did, England will have to learn if they want to do better in the sub-continent in future.

Pakistan v England, 1st Test, 1st day thoughts

A gripping day in which to start the winter series against Pakistan – and an excellent, fighting day by England, one which they must surely be delighted with.

The pitch was always expected to be flat, but not as lifeless as it turned out to be, so Inzamam’s decision to bat first was predictable and justified. Both openers got off to reasonably comfortable starts, with few alarms, until Flintoff trapped Shoaib Malik on the crease. Plumb. Malik had been playing sensibly, but his partner – with a surname to make Sun editors salivate with glee – Salman Butt showed exactly how to bat on this pitch. I’m sure the selectors must have been pleased with the manner of his innings; it was well crafted, or grafted as Geoffrey would say, the only blemish being his departure for a solid (and, perhaps, career-enhancing) 74.

Steve Harmison opened the attack with Matthew Hoggard, but neither threatened greatly – affected, perhaps, by the thought of bowling all day, in intense heat on an ironing board. Harmison eventually woke up to his task, and bowled with great intelligence. After the disaster tour of South Africa, I’m sure I’m not the only one with a keen eye on how well Harmo performs this time round. Although initially tame, it was his first over after tea which sparked the fire within; Younis Khan was trapped in front with the first ball of the final session, followed by Hasan Raza in the sixth (having been unsettled by a bouncer two ball previously).

Shaun Udal outbowled Ashley Giles quite convincingly, by bowling to his limitations and using a lot of nous and clever changes of pace. Giles, on the other hand, was ineffectual at best – although latterly he did improve his length (which simply must be full on these pitches, for all bowlers – but not that full Gilo!). Udal’s first Test wicket was a fair slice of luck – Salman Butt flashed, ball rebounded off the forehead of a dumfounded and concussed Marcus Trescothick, and Geraint Jones reacted quickly to take a very good catch. I haven’t said that too often on this blog…

So to take six wickets, having lost the toss, on a benign pitch is testament to this tough, gritty and resiliant team. And, again, emphasis must be made on team; they work for eachother, as demonstrated by the sharing of wickets around.

A good start by England, who now need to turn the match into their own tomorrow and Monday. See you tomorrow – I’m off to bed.

Geraint Jones…again

He’s had a tough series has Geraint. But did you know his tally of 36 catches is the most for a ‘keeper this year? One of those odd facts that no one can explain! (well, I can try: it’s England’s continued excellent bowling attack which has given him so many to catch)

Review: England v Australia, Edgbaston, Day One

Day one of the Lord’s Test saw England bowl out Australia. A nation, and blogger, rejoices. “The Ashes are coming home” wasn’t quite the cry, but similar sentiments were uttered. The following three days saw the media crucify as many English players as possible: Jones, Giles and Vaughan were attacked scathingly, and English cricket was, apparently, back on the rocks. What a load of toddle.

I refused to be downbeat yesterday, and today I felt England proved to themselves, and us, that they are second in the world for a reason. The pitch was admittedly flat – much flatter than even Steve Rouse thought, and certainly flatter than Ricky Ponting realised it was. Would Australia have scored so freely had they batted? More than likely, but Ponting asked England to bat – perhaps laying down a challenge – and England responded with brute force and a care-free attitude to delight the partisan Edgbaston crowd.

It all started with Trescothick, who ought to receive the plaudits tomorrow morning but who might miss out to the Pietersen and Flintoff show. Trescothick was magnificent, timing the ball as well as he has since last summer and, combining with Strauss, quickly disregarded Ponting’s decision to field. With the news that Glenn McGrath, such a force against English cricket in the past decade, wouldn’t play, England’s attitude to batting was one of utter jubilation.

Yet, still, none of England’s top six went on to score a hundred - which is a definate sore point. Frankly, England should tonight only be six wickets in the red, not eleven. And don’t blame Pietersen for his mode of dismissal – what else could he do? Batting with eight, nine, ten and eleven, he had no other choice but to “go big” and to go early. His innings of 71 was, again, astonishing – his third fifty in as many international innings. The calibre of his shot-making was breathtaking, so much so that Lee and Gillespie both smiled and shook their heads in a manner which said “Well, if you’re gonna play stupid shots, what the hell am I supposed to do?” He is special.

So, onto day two – day TWO! Australia will, I don’t doubt, attack this target with great vigour and continue the same unabashed ferocity that England produced today. Rodney Hogg, talking to the BBC tonight, made the call for tomorrow: Hoggard is the key, and I agree wholeheartedly. Harmison and Flintoff are neck and throat bowlers, and this pitch could suit Hoggard perfectly. Sadly for his fans, we are never sure exactly how Hoggie will bowl; conditions can be perfect, and he can bowl like a drain at times. It is up to him to show Harmison, Flintoff and Jones the correct length to bowl tomorrow – and this is also a public call to Geraint Jones to a) get up closer so that you’re taking the ball at a decent level, and so it’s not dipping on you, b) bring your slips up too, so the balls don’t die on them and c) don’t drop any. No pressure, then.

Well done England. Well done for showing some guts, some fight, some talent and skill. Bravo, cheers, and good on you for keeping this series alive.

Keeping the passion

Tim left a very interesting and discussion-provoking comment on ‘keeping, which I had failed to read and respond to. It’s worth reading (related to the Geraint Jones debate). Thanks Tim.

Ashes debutants for Lord’s

Andrew Flintoff, Andrew Strauss, Ian Bell, Geraint Jones, Kevin Pietersen and Michael Clarke are all Ashes debutants on Thursday. Rather a lot.