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.

A grotesque mismatch masked as an ODI

Coming into Friday’s game between Australia and England, for what surely must be the final time this summer, the contrast between the two squads could hardly be greater.

The Australians are happy, confident, and feel that everything is on track going towards the winning of the series and into the World Cup. England look patently miserable, tired, out of ideas, and with no appetitite for the battle. The contrast between this side and the one that won the Ashes eighteen months ago is so stark it can barely be believed.

England fans have every right to be furious with their team and especially their administration for allowing such a state of affairs.

They go into Friday’s game against Australia without Michael Vaughan, and also without James Anderson, who is flying home after a back strain. All of England’s bowling hopes will therefore rest with Flintoff and the redoubtable Monty Panesar, who looks like he’s the only Englishman with both the ability and the desire to play at this level at this point in time.

Meanwhile, Australia are feeling confident enough to introduce Shaun Tait to their one-day side, who is replacing Brett Lee. It is very much a ‘like for like’ substitution. Tait is perhaps even faster then Lee these days, and similarly erratic in performance. England faced him in the last two Tests of 2005, and also in the first game of this tour where he played in the Prime Minister’s XI. He did so well in that game that there was speculation that he would be the third seamer in the Test lineup, but Stuart Clark got the nod, and did so well that Tait’s hopes subsided.

Ricky Ponting has a slight hip strain and is in some doubt, but if he fails a fitness test, he’ll be replaced by the in-form Brad Hodge, who scored 115 off 100 balls for Victoria against South Australa on Wednesday.

A quick check of the bookies has some amazing prices. Not many betting houses are offering better then 10 to 1 on for Australia, whereas you can get odds of 13/2 on England. Remarkable, in a two horse race.

South Australia v England, Adelaide

It’s the final warm-up match to Brisbane. England are Trescothickless and could do with a good run-out here to stretch their legs for next week. They ought to get it with Darren Lehmann, Shaun Tait, Dan Cullen and Mark Cosgrove among them. Their resolve will be seriously tested.

Chat away.

Shaun Tait will play on Thursday

So says The Age:

A blistering spell of bowling to Justin Langer in the nets confirmed to Australia Shaun Tait is ready for Test cricket…Soon after, captain Ricky Ponting told Tait he had beaten Michael Kasprowicz for the right to take Gillespie’s spot.

He does sound bloody quick and nasty – could be very interesting

Shaun Tait: raw but menacing

Today, we’ll get a better idea of Shaun Tait’s chances of playing the fourth Test at Trent Bridge. He has contributed two wickets, in Australia’s dismantling of Northamptonshire who, at lunch, are 8 down. Tait hit Tim Roberts on the head, causing lots of blood and cuts and although his two wickets were expensive, his obvious menace might be just the tonic Australia need. Thoughts?

Shaun Tait and Tim Roberts

Tait ready to replace Gillespie?

Poor old diz. He’s had a shocker so far this summer, with the combined figures of 5 for 317 at 63.4 per wicket. Against England on Thursday, which incidentally was “the biggest wickets margin achieved by either side in 83 limited-overs matches dating back 35 years” [via]. Gillespie went wicketless, conceding 66 in 10 overs.

Cricinfo has an interesting piece on him – and his potential successor, Tait, who could well play at Lord’s. It’s sad to see a great fast bowler reduced to this state – on his day, he could be impossible to bat against. We might well have seen the last of him if Tait replaces him – after all, many think Tait is the best fast bowling prospect to come out of Australia in a decade. Much rests on his young shoulders.