England v West Indies, 3rd Test, Old Trafford, 1st day

While the media is busy having a field day at the expense of Michael Vaughan, the man at least seems able to win a toss. England have chosen to bat first on a pitch that would have an in form Harmison licking his lips, so he’ll be hoping to stick his feet up until tomorrow. Follow the action at Cricinfo and leave your comments below.

Golden balls

Gutted about the latest no-show from the West Indies, although I guess that if England can’t win a Test match in early season freezing Headingley against a team of under-prepared novices from the Caribbean, then we never will. Hardly a level playing field.

Of course, it wasn’t just England handing out a thumping this weekend. India gained some sort of revenge for the ignominious defeat at the World Cup, by dismantling Bangladesh. At 408 for 0, has there ever been a worse decision to bowl first? (Well, yes, Nasser, probably…)

My sympathies go to Javed Omar. A first ball duck is never a good feeling, as I reminded myself in a 20-20 match last week. I’ve earned the Primary Club tie on my mantlepiece many times over (five, at least), but I’ll put another note in their online bucket (www.primaryclub.org) for good measure. I’ve also got two diamond ducks (first ball of the innings) on my CV, which is enough disappointment for one lifetime, I hope. Can anyone better that?

Poor old Javed can, I’m sure, as he bagged two in the match. Has that ever happened before? In fact, what do you call that? Is it a King Diamond Pair? Or a Sapphire Pair? Did anyone see the commentary – I suspect someone answered that at the time?

Slow but steady wins the race

Neither of the last two Tests has provided the kind of intrigue or tension to really kick-start this summer’s cricket. At least, such as it may be called summer when hail stops play. While the crowds may rue the decline of a once great Test nation, however, the England selectors have some cause to smile.

Kevin Pietersen may have sneaked the Man-of-the-Match award with his maiden international double hundred, but Headingley was Ryan Sidebottom’s Test. After the Durham pair of Plunkett and Harmison had comprehensively failed to look threatening at Lord’s, or even manage to find both line and length with any frequency, the prospect of a return for the equally unpredictable Anderson or Mahmood was not one of eager anticipation. Sidebottom’s selection, whilst somewhat left-field and seen by some as a backwards step, certainly served purpose. His experience and discipline was priceless to an attack whose two frontline ‘strike men’ seemed as unsure as the opposition batsmen as to where each of their deliveries was going to pitch. Michael Vaughan possibly summed it up the Aesopian predicament most accurately:

“If you’ve got someone bowling 90mph in the right area, it’s fantastic, but pace bowled on either side of the wicket is something that’s quite nice to face.”

Sidebottom, like Prior, had not had the most successful start to the cricketing calendar. Handed his second Test cap, he took his best haul in all competitions this season in the first innings, with his second innings figures costing a mere two runs extra. Prior’s two first-innings outings have both been far in excess of any of his scores for Sussex this year. Is Moores simply blessed with good fortune in his early selections, or does he have Fletcher’s Midas touch for the international performer? It is surely too soon to tell; but for the moment it seems likely that Nottinghamshire will have to wait a little longer to regain their curly-haired left-arm seamer.

Not all of the selection decisions have paid off. While Graveney et al cannot take blame for Harmison’s curious lack of consistency, Plunkett’s rather robotic action accounts for much of the troubles that went unhidden by his flattering figures at Headingley. Sidebottom has just highlighted the quality that can be found and developed in the county system that Duncan Fletcher had come to distrust. Unless Donald is able to make a swift and significant impact, a return to Durham for the young man may be the best way to improve his game.

England v West Indies, 2nd Test, Headingley, 3rd day

It seems unlikely that there’ll be much play today, if any. However, with England in such a strong position, they might not need many overs to wrap the game up. Follow the weather on cricinfo, and if I’ve got the HTML right, here’s Ceefax

Chat away

Changing of the West Indian guard

It was the third over of the day on a sprightly Headingley pitch. The clouds hung heavy, there was a stiff breeze hurrying across the ground, and England were facing a bearded West Indian at the end of his run-up. 10 or 15 years ago, those previous two sentences would have been code for an England collapse, several of them nursing serious injuries, but not now.

Denesh Ramdin, the wicketkeeper, received the signal from Corey Collymore to stand up to the stumps. And still they refused to take the new ball. Enough said.

England v West Indies, 2nd Test, Headingley, 2nd day

A great opportunity for Kevin Pietersen to go berserk today, and likewise for Matt Prior. Rain is forecast, and it’s going to be torrential tomorrow…so quick runs are needed. Scorecard – and Ceefax is below:


Overshadowing The Ego

© Getty Images
Kevin Pietersen whacked his fastest Test hundred today and yet was overshadowed by someone who was once described by Ian Chappell [1] as the most unlikely of Test batsman. More of an accountant – a bookish, slightly nerdy character. It was Michael Vaughan, then storming Australia during his epic series.

And at last today, he returned. The old cover-drive was there, complete with swashbuckling follow-through. It was a slick innings against some of the most inept, friendly bowling imaginable, on a friendly Headingley pitch under clear skies. The conditions and situation were tailor-made for him and he took full advantage. Even his favoured pull stroke was there…though he timed one of them rather too well, falling straight down Morton’s throat.

It just reminded me of what an audacious, brilliantly talented batsman he once was, but also what he could still be capable of. He said before this Test that he felt as though he was making his debut today and, that being the case, let’s hope he’ll be just as successful as England’s other recent debutants – Alastair Cook and Matt Prior to name two. If the knees survive – and let’s be honest, if they don’t, it’ll probably end his career in a hurry – there’s no reason why he can’t dominate bowling like he did four years ago.

Meanwhile Andrew Strauss, the Middlesex legend, is under a wee bit of pressure. Needs big runs, quickly.

[1] I think it was Chappell.

England v West Indies, 2nd Test, Headingley, 1st day

Welcome back Michael Vaughan. 18 months since he last played a Test and Cricinfo’s headline – Vaughan returns to a changed world – rather says it all. Come on Michael, work your magic on this new England team. We’re on comms for Cricinfo so keep an eye on the scorecard, and leave your thoughts in the comments. And here’s a retro-view for you – Ceefax! Refresh to get the latest score.

Chat away!

Left arm over

Thanks to England’s decision to delay their squad announcement until 4pm yesterday afternoon, I was stuck on the A45 in rush hour by the time some vaguely pertinent details crackled over the radio. Jammed into a minibus with cricketers with various levels of interest in the national game, needless to say, the news of Ryan Sidebottom’s inclusion received a predominant chorus of ‘Who?’

It is a curious choice. It is certainly not one for the future – while 29 is by no means ancient, and Stuart Clark has shown it possible to found an international bowling career in your thirties, Graham Onions is fit and in form even if Stuart Broad is not. Nor is this a Shah incident, where a consistent county performer has filled an injury hole. In fact, Sidebottom does not presently rank as even Nottinghamshire’s top performer, being out-averaged by Ealham and out-wicketed by Shreck. The same occurred last season, and only last week, teammate Mark Wagh was talking up Shreck’s chances of an England cap. So what brings the potential of a second Test cap to top Sidebottom’s distinctive curly locks?

After Plunkett and Harmison dealt so poorly with an undercooked West Indian batting line-up, it is only natural that England look for variation – and thus, to the left arm seamer. The former Yorkshire stalwart may not be the most in form or reliable of options, but at least he is something different. True, Sidebottom is unlikely to play a part. However, it may just be that while Moores publicly backs his Durham seamers to come good, there is a feeling that something, indeed anything, different might be what is needed to take 11 wickets. Of course, it can’t hurt that a substantial part of the now Nottingham player’s game was developed at Headingley. Interestingly, Sidebottom’s only previous Test cap was due to an injury to Hoggard some 6 years ago. Might he be adding to his headwear in similar circumstances by the weekend?

England v West Indies, 1st Test, Lord’s, 5th day

So, both sides are going for the win apparently. West Indies need 401, England 10 wickets, but the weather’s not great. Murky, and rain is expected. Anyway, keep an eye on the scorecard and leave your thoughts in the comments.