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?

Video of Bopara and Broad’s match-winning partnership

What a performance from Ravi Bopara and Stuart Broad last night. I missed it, naturally, but have found a video of their brilliant partnership courtesy of crickethighlights.info – do give it a watch. They are the future, and are ridiculously level-headed for their age.

Incidentally, apparently you might need Firefox to watch it.

Bopara and Broad enthrall Manchester

Why am I writing a piece for The Corridor when I’ve got a site of my own? Because I’m still ridiculously overexcited about England’s run-chase yesterday, that’s why.

I went to the fourth one-day international at Old Trafford yesterday and having been pretty comprehensively wowed by Stuart Broad’s and Ravi Bopara’s fightback, I made a point of watching the highlights on Channel 5. As is so often the case, the truncated version didn’t give the full effect. England were down and out. Wickets had fallen fairly regularly all day and with even more haste during England’s run chase. England had scored 114 when the seventh wicket fell, but that seventh wicket had been Paul Collingwood who’d scored the bulk of England’s total. The crowd knew that the game was up, so they did what they always do at times like this: Mexican waves, beer snakes and general merriment. In short, anything but watching the cricket.

So having lost seven wickets inside 24 overs, England then lost none in the next 24. The performance of Broad and Bopara was so impressive that drunk England fans, at the end of the day, when they’d been drinking for the longest, actually put down their beer snakes and watched the cricket in near-silence.

I’ve never seen a crowd do that before.

England’s forgotten man

In times past, England selectors could generally be relied on to make at least one howler a summer. Alan Wells, Aftab Habib and Alan Igglesden are all examples of county makeweights plunged without warning into the limelight and shunted mercilessly and remorselessly back out of it soon after.

 

Since the central contract era, however, we like to think that the more erratic selectorial decisions have rather been purged; there’s been the odd hunch that’s gone wrong (step to the front of the class, Anthony McGrath), but by and large the new slim-line committee has unearthed some cracking talent. Vaughan, Trescothick and Sidebottom certainly wouldn’t have got a look in had they been around a decade earlier. None of this, however, will be much comfort to Ed Joyce.

 

Joyce’s performances during the CB Series in Australia were solid, excellent in places, and he was by no means the most culpable of England’s World Cup donkeys. But he fell victim to the general call for cull after the Caribbean debacle and hasn’t been mentioned in the same breath as the England team since. Joyce wasn’t even selected for the England Lions teams to face Pakistan and India, a privilege granted to such stellar young talent as Alex Gidman. He appears to have fallen silently but ruthlessly from view, like the myriad Mike Smiths and Warren Heggs before him.

 

Fair enough, you might say. Ed Joyce is no PowerPlay demon, still less middle-overs innovator. But a man who scored two fifties on the biggest one-day stage really deserved better than to be lumped in with the likes of Andrew Strauss (who really did have a stinker in the West Indies, by the way). And besides, Joyce has always been more of a five-day cricketer. He was selected as Marcus Trescothick’s replacement on the Ashes tour, but didn’t get a chance. Now, incomprehensibly, he has been leapfrogged by Owais Shah, Ravi Bopara and, very possibly, Rob Key. Perhaps Joyce might soon be lugging his kit bag back to Dublin in search of an international game.

 

Joyce hasn’t exactly helped his case with some ho-hum county performances this summer. But his anonymity speaks of a more worrying trend – the tendency to judge Test potential on the basis of one-day form. It happened to Chris Read, Kabir Ali and even Jonathan Trott, who may never be seen in England colours again. Joyce deserves a better fate than these, for on his day he can be one of the most effective batsmen in the country. A bumper start for Middlesex next season might swing him back into contention; on the other hand, perhaps he’d be better off perfecting his reverse sweep this winter instead.

‘I want to be England’s Tendulkar’

Not my words, but those of Ravi Bopara, the Essex and England batsman (oh alright: he’s an allrounder. Just). My miniature magazine colleague, Daniel Brigham, did an excellent interview with the future Tendulkar in a recent issue of The Wisden Cricketer, and Bopara’s claims are nothing if not ambitious.

“Sachin’s my ultimate hero. He’s the one who I learnt all my batting off, just watching him constantly. I always tried to copy his batting and put it in my own style. I want to be a top-four Test batter – similar to Tendulkar. I don’t think anyone’s going to score as many runs as him but I want to have a career close to his – do everything he did but do it for England.”

He’s got drive, I’ll give him that. But has he got Tendulkar’s drive? Patrick Kidd, who has championed Bopara’s talents since the lad was about 10, will hopefully tell us more…

Strauss off Key?

Sorry about the contrived headline, but it is fairly self-explanatory. Has Andrew Strauss failed to deliver for too long? It’s been forever since he last scored a Test hundred, while his one good knock this summer was gifted by Dinesh Karthik’s appalling drop. All the other batsmen have scored tons, while he has struggled to convert, despite getting a few starts.

There’s no doubting his class, but is it time to try someone else? Robert Key would jump at the chance, as would Ravi Bopara. Or does Andrew Flintoff bat six when he returns, with Ian Bell going to three? Perhaps Strauss should get yet another chance, given he has managed to get to 30 regularly and is possibly one big score from finding top form.

For what it’s worth, I’d go with Rob Key.

World Cup squads announced

My tooth is out, and I’m all doped up. Who said drugs are bad?

The World Cup squads have been announced. For Australia, the main surprise was the inclusion of Shaun Tait who was preferred over Stuart Clark. As Tait is from my home town, I’m personally delighted, although I doubt he will play much, at least after the first group games. Scotland might be facing a new ball attack of Tait and Lee, which would be a rough initiation for them. Clark is not happy about being omitted but has vowed to come back next season as a better bowler.

Meanwhile, Australia’s cheif medical officer has come out to warn injured Andrew Symonds about rushing his come-back. The Australian dressing room is full of half-fit players, and given the lack of fitness and form of so many players, I do not think Australia can really be favourites for this tournament anymore. Even a player of Symonds ability can’t just be rushed back into the side and perform at top level.

England on the other hand have a fairly predictable World Cup squad, the only major changes are the return of Pieterson and the omission of Mal Loye. It’s tough on Loye given the job he has done in Australia, but the other alternative of dropping Bopara would not have made much sense, and would have left England’s squad top-heavy with openers.

I still can’t understand why Alastair Cook hasn’t appeared in the frame at all in coloured clothes though.

Meanwhile, as I write, Pakistan are in awful trouble against South Africa in the 5th ODI in Johannesburg. Pollock, South Africa’s ‘old man river’ has defied the years and ripped the Pakistani top order apart by taking 5 for 23.