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?

A statistical coincidence

Just a point England’s selectors might want to consider before they pencil in Matt Prior’s name for the squad to tour Sri Lanka tomorrow.

Here are Matt Prior’s Test figures:

7 matches, 397 runs, average 39.7, 1 century, strike rate 64.86, 20 catches.

And here are Geraint Jones’ Test figures at the same stage of his career:

7 matches, 337 runs, average 37.4, 1 century, strike rate 59.43, 21 catches.

I’m not sure what conclusions we can reliably draw from those figures, but it’s quite creepy nonetheless.

Understudy tourists

England will soon have to pick its squad for the winter tours and the three understudy roles up for grabs are those of top-three batsman, wicketkeeper and spinner. My calls for Bob Key were largely dismissed, so I’ll move on to the ‘keeper, who will start as Matt Prior’s back-up, but may get a crack if the Sussex man drops Sangakkara on 0 and becomes Murali’s latest bunny.

It seems England now have an embarrassment of riches at keeper with several stumpers scoring regular runs this season. Foster, Ambrose, Mustard, Read, Jones, Batty have all scored well. Read and Jones have likely had their turn, but Foster may be due another one? Ambrose has been excellent too. Tricky. Mustard must be in line for ODIs, because he’s brilliant at the top of the order for Durham. It’s a shame for Steven Davies that Worcestershire have hardly played this season.

Spinners are more of a quandary. I don’t agree that Pietersen and Vaughan can fill in the gaps. We need a genuine spinner to support Monty, especially in Sri Lanka. The problem is that, as ever, there are no English spinners topping the charts, although I can’t see what Graeme Swann has done to upset the selectors. He would do alright. Adil Rashid has great potential and can bat too. As can Alex Loudon. But would any of them bowl out Sri Lanka? I’m at a loss.

Bring back Shaggy?!

Should stump mics be turned off?

Peter Moores, the England coach, has responded to criticism of England’s behaviour in the 2nd Test against India by suggesting stump microphones are switched off.

“There must be some things that are left on the field to be fair to the players,” Moores said in response to criticism of England’s incessent chatter during the Trent Bridge Test. “They should be allowed to go out there and play the game without being worried that everything they actually say is going to be broadcast. It’s something we’ve discussed as a management team and we’ve spoken to the match referee about it.”

The International Cricket Council rules that stump microphones be turned on whenever a ball is live – that is, when a batsman takes guard, between a bowler’s run-up to the time the ball reaches or passes a batsman, and from the time a fielder throws the ball back to a team-mate or onto the stumps.

It’s a confident reaction from a coach so new to international cricket and I agree, in part. Players should be allowed, within the law, to go hell for leather out there and say whatever they wish. This isn’t Question Time or an audience with the Queen. This is professional sport played by well-paid, talent individuals (supposedly) at the top of their game – and sledging is part of their armoury.

But, as a viewer, only once or twice have I ever heard a “live” sledge (Dean Jones was caught out, remember). Sky always tend to turn it down for viewers – though Matt Prior is, admittedly, probably the loudest England wicketkeeper I’ve ever heard, so it’s entirely plausible his yelps break through. And so what if they do? So what if we hear Prior, for example, call a batsman a gimp – or Zaheer thinks Pietersen’s a hermaphrodite. This has been going on since WG Grace first threw away his razor. Is society so pathetically sensitive, or naive, that it can’t handle the odd bit of banter between players fighting tooth and nail?

And if so…just turn it off and let everyone get on with it. If anything goes too far, the match referee can slap them with a fine or whatever.

You? Should they be turned on or off? Vote below, then leave your comments. If you can’t see the poll below, click here.

{democracy:31}

First-class ducks

I’ve been accused by venerable Corridor readers of being something of a duck fetishist, although I suspect there are more specialist websites for that. However, for the sake of consistency, it would be wrong to overlook the misfortune of Thomas Poynton, the new Derbyshire gloveman, who this week got a pair on his first class debut. But at the age of 17 years old, he will have better days and do one heck of a lot more in his career than me. In fact, he already has.

Hopefully he will be smashing the ball about in an England shirt before long, although with the recent form of English keepers, he has a lot of frogs to leap. Foster, Ambrose, Mustard, Read, Nixon all in the runs, putting pressure on Prior. Good to see.

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”.

Cricket = action = art

An interesting new blog I’ve been reading run by a New Zealander, Marty, who is photoshopping cricket photos. The blog? “Cricket = action = art”. There are now a hell of a lot of cricket blogs out there, all doing pretty much the same thing, so it’s encouraging to see someone concentrate on a different topic and angle. Here’s one he did of Prior

Twit of a bat

Are we all correct in our sneaking suspicion that Matt Prior, despite a sterling display, is – how can i put this? – something of a twat? I see it as God’s perverse way of answering the prayers of the English cricket fan: “you said you wanted high achievers, didn’t you? You said you were sick of charming stylists, David Gowers and Mike Athertons, didn’t you? So what more could you want than Kevin Pietersen and Matt Prior?”

I suppose we’ll have to take what we’re given…

Will Davies.

Moores welcomes in The Clinic

The modern sportsman is not the sharp-tongued wordsmith he once was. The vast majority of players in most sports are given nicknames ending in “y”, more often than not preceded only by their surname. On Thursday, Straussy will captain; he will open with Cooky. Harmy will hopefully have woken up from his nightmare and, together with Hoggy, Freddie and Plunky, will form the basis of England’s attack for the summer. An attack whose every move will be monitored by, and every delivery collected by, Priory. Ah. That doesn’t quite work.

Matt Prior. The England management have plenty to ponder in the next 48 hours, not least a suitable nickname for their new wicketkeeper. Give it another 48 hours, and we too will probably have one for him, because right now there’s no way he will sustain an England career by sharing a nickname with celebrities’ rehab clinic of choice. In fact, that will be his nickname: The Clinic.

So is he the man for the job? Does his selection smack of Sussex favourism by Peter Moores, the new England coach who turned around the county’s fortunes? I was a little surprised, though not totally shocked; Prior had a decent A tour and is a firm favourite of many (if not Shane Warne who “humiliated” him a couple of years ago). Rumours are that Prior is bit of an aggressive so-and-so, not one to back down.

All this is meaningless of course. He will be judged on each Test by the runs he scores and catches he spills. If he has a poor two or three, it will force an early and fascinating test of Moores’s leadership and loyalty.

Prior and Shah included as Nixon misses out

Since Peter Moores took over the task of rebuilding England’s Test and ODI teams after what was undeniably a disappointing winter, speculation has been rife over which players the former Sussex coach wanted to take the field at Lord’s this Thursday. Though the role of coach as selector is set to diminish when the Schofield inquiry airs its views, there is no doubt that Moores has had his hand in choosing his first full international squad. Thus, it is not overly surprising that two of his Winter Academy squad have already taken two of the twelve places.

Squad:
Strauss(captain)
Bell
Cook
Collingwood
Flintoff
Harmison
Hoggard
Panesar
Pietersen
Plunkett
Prior (w/k)
Shah

So Nixon misses out to Moores’ former county teammate, though after a good winter at the Academy, Prior has so far failed to impress in the Championship. The other talking point, of course, is Owais Shah. Whilst Shah has been much tipped in the media, he has backed this up with decent batting performances this season, and deserves to build on his Indian experience. Plunkett’s selection is to be expected – with Flintoff’s batting having been proven to be in poor international form, then a bowler with pretensions to all-round capabilities must be included over the more one-dimensional Anderson.

So what are your thoughts? Has Nixon been robbed? Is Strauss the man for the job? Would you have preferred one of any number of alternatives? Let us know your views below.