Australia v England, Twenty20 Legends

England beat Australia tonight in the Legends Twenty20 encounter at the WACA. Geoffrey Dean has posted a report to Patrick Kidd’s Line and Length:

The only disappointment for Gatting was that he made a second-ball duck, nicking an outswinger in the first over from who else but Dennis Lillee. Graham Thorpe then joined Robin Smith, however, to put on a match-winning 119 in 13 overs for the second wicket. Smith rolled back the years with a hard-hit 32-ball fifty while Thorpe, hitting the ball into gaps with all his old skill, finished with 72 off 49 deliveries. Nineteen were wanted off the last two overs, but then Ian Healy came on and Adam Hollioake settled the issue with three massive sixes.

KP the veteran

A year ago, almost to the day, Kevin Pietersen was selected over Graham Thorpe.

12 months on, and his is the most prized English wicket.

Graham Thorpe misses out to Kevin Pietersen

“Selection of Kevin Pietersen gives us a better chance [of beating Australia,” says David Graveney. That’ll be the end of a marvellous career of one of my favourite batsmen, Graham Thorpe.

England’s squad for 1st npower Ashes Test

1. Michael Vaughan (Yorkshire) (captain)
2. Ian Bell (Warwickshire)
3. Andrew Flintoff (Lancashire)
4. Ashley Giles (Warwickshire)
5. Stephen Harmison (Durham)
6. Matthew Hoggard (Yorkshire)
7. Geraint Jones (Kent)
8. Simon Jones (Glamorgan)
9. Kevin Pietersen (Hampshire)
10. Andrew Strauss (Middlesex)
11. Chris Tremlett (Hampshire)
12. Marcus Trescothick (Somerset)

D-day (or “A-Day!”) tomorrow for Pietersen

Tomorrow, the ECB will announce a selection of England’s finest players to take on the Australians in one of the oldest sporting contests in the world, The Ashes. It is D-Day – or should that be “A-Day!” (Ashes-Day for those unfamiliar with my sense of humour…)

Ah, The Ashes. Those two short words conjure so much for so many. But tomorrow, either one of Graham Thorpe or Kevin Pietersen will not wish to hear them uttered again. The squad can only include one of them – will it be the young talent, or the old war horse? Just before posting this, I was dead-set on backing Kevin Pietersen…but I’m still not sure. England’s batting capitulation in the NatWest Challenge matches could tempt Graveney into going back to Thorpe – with the emphasis on “back,” for it would certainly be a backward decision. And this is my, and the rest of England’s dilemma; Thorpe could provide reliable, stodgy runs and a hundred or two. But we all know he’s retiring come September. Pietersen, on the other hand, has the ability to hit a hundred in a session and, whilst he’s still young, he has the aggression and talent to succeed.

The announcement is due tomorrow morning at 11.30 – I’ll post more then, or soon after.

Pietersen more than just a marketable asset

I’m becoming more and more convinced Pietersen will play a part against Australia this summer. Apart from his marketability, especially his questionable hair-style (which Ian Botham refers to, constantly, as a “dead mongoose” – or as he said the other day, a “dead mongrat”), he has talent in spades.

Today, he was the face behind the ECB’s marketing campaign called “England’s Big Summer.” Not Michael Vaughan, the respected England captain. Not Andrew Flintoff, the nation’s favourite bat-wielder. Not, even, big Steve Harmison – Kevin Pietersen was chosen. He of zero Tests and a million words written about him fame.

I hadn’t heard any rumours about this marketing campaign, but was pretty impressed with it. As discussed many times here, cricket struggles for back-page coverage and vainly tries to compete with Football – a losing battle – so, to see Kevin Pietersen smash several balls 111 metres (apt, isn’t it?!) into the River Thames, with the London Eye and Big Ben as the backdrop, was exciting stuff.

The ECB chose Kevin Pietersen, and so will Fletcher and Vaughan – so long as he makes at least one score against the Old Enemy in the ODI funfare. Hell, even the Aussies are rating him – Warne thinks he’s a bigger, and more dangerous, hitter than Flintoff, and Simon Katich (another Hampshire colleague) keeps raving about him.

With Andrew Miller (Cricinfo) discussing Vaughan’s tough-git mentality, and Thorpe lacking the counter-attacking shots that once made him so dangerous, all signs are pointing towards “600” making his Test debut against the antipodeans. And, yes, I’m probably going back on my word…

Thorpe’s 100th Test

It’s a great achievement to play 100 Tests, and I think most fans of Graham Thorpe feel it’s especially pleasing to see him reach the milestone given his problems off the field in the past few years. But…it’s Bangladesh. I wonder how he feels about it, especially considering he made a 100 on debut, 12 years ago, against Australia. How perfect it would have been to play the first Ashes Test of the summer, and for it to have been his 100th. I’m sorry, but I can’t help feeling the way I do about Bangladesh. When the coach of the national team publicly admits it’s going to “get tougher,” after the humiliation of Lord’s, well…it’s just a lost cause.

Uber Scott is on a hiatus until The Real Stuff starts – and today, it’s under 50 days until D-Day. Or should that be A-Day? Seems so far off…

Thorpe to play for NSW

Didn’t see this coming – Graham Thorpe’s accepted an offer to play for New South Wales in Australia, as a precursor to getting a coaching qualification. So, it looks like he could well retire from International Cricket come September. He’ll make his 100th Test in the 2nd Test against Bangladesh.

Pietersen to replace Thorpe?

The decision to omit Kevin Pietersen in this Thursday’s Test against Bangladesh is still rippling its way through cricket’s news agencies and journalists and, today, Mark Nicholas makes a strong case for his inclusion…at the omission of Thorpe (I guess).

Despite shiny Mark’s uncomfortably-vain image as presenter of Channel 4′s cricket coverage, he is actually an excellent journalist and a very good reader of the game. Reading his articles is a relief, and makes a change from listening to his uber-smooth but cringe-making delivery on TV. And it ought to be noted that he too is a Hampshire man, so it’s perhaps not too suprising that he’s calling for Pietersen’s inclusion.

Cynicism aside, the case he makes is fascinating. Kevin Pietersen must play against Australia. Ian Bell must play against Australia. He mentions, or hints, at the much-talked about (by English and Australian media) need for England to have young, scarless players; those who haven’t been”scarred” by Australia’s hammerings over the years (too much is made of this, in my opinion). These 2 players, Bell and Key, are certainly part of England’s future – and Graham Thorpe is England’s past – but can England afford to drop someone of Thorpe’s experience, grit, class and success against the Australians?

My gut feeling is they won’t, unless his [Thorpe's] eyes, back or sanity fail him at the last minute. Most countries around the world are desperate to replicate Australia in as many areas as possible – for instance, if this were an Aussie decision, Thorpe would have been given the boot by now, as Lehmann was not long ago. But England is England, and although they are becoming more radical in their selections, caution is still the buzzword and I expect Thorpe to play as many Tests this summer as form and fitness permits.

Quite where this leaves Pietersen, I don’t know. I can’t see England winning The Ashes unless Pietersen and Flintoff can really mess up Australia’s lines and lengths, but where to fit the bloke in? As Big Brother says: you decide :)

England declare

Top knock from Thorpe again – 118 not out batting at number 5. Jones played a gem of 73 from 82, including 2 flat pulled sixes off Steyn. He really looks a fine fine player and ought to average over 40. England declare at 570-7 off 172 overs – South Africa need 378 to win.

Is there yet another twist to this game? (I think) South Africa have 12 overs to face – and another new ball tomorrow morning.