Saturday, 31 March 2007
It is near impossible to see how anyone could beat Australia on present form and that is a credit to Australia, who just a month ago seemed in crisis. The team's success is built on wonderful fielding and superlative batting. These two facets rarely fail. The bowling is where Bangladesh have a chance. This Australian side has one of the least threatening bowling attacks for years. Glenn McGrath has visibly lost a bit of nip, the spearhead, Brett Lee, is absent and without Shane Warne their is not a world class spinner. Both Shaun Tait and Shane Watson are raw in bowling terms and Bangladesh should look to target them.
Prediction: Australia to avenge 2005 in style.
Players to watch: Ricky Ponting and Mushfiqur Rahim.
Friday, 30 March 2007
So England’s top-order problems are twofold. Save for Joyce against Kenya and Canada, they have recently been incapable of making substantial scores at the top of the order. To compound this, the few runs they have been making have been scored far too slowly. While other top nations are routinely 100-1 after 20 overs, England tend to be nearer 80-3.
Vaughan, given that he is captain and is doing little worse than Joyce and Bell, must be persevered with, and told to bat through the innings, rather than attempt to exploit the opening overs and succeed only in getting himself out. Joyce scored a fine hundred against Australia two months ago but, save for some runs against the minnows, still appears unsure of himself. Bell was England’s finest ODI batsman in 2006 but has regressed of late; as highlighted against Ireland, he can find it very difficult to consistently score singles.
Andrew Strauss was rightly dropped at the start of the World Cup but the time has come for his return. He has palpable class and pedigree and, though hardly explosive, probably utilises the fielding restrictions better than any other member of the top three. Hopefully, the break will have reinvigorated him.
Who should he replace? Probably Joyce, though it is a very marginal decision. What England really need, of course, is a Marcus Trescothick-like figure to attack from the off. At the risk of saying ‘I told you so’, the answer is Mal Loye. Thrown into tough circumstances in Australia, Loye fared reasonably well, giving England momentum with his audacious cameos and playing his finest innings in the second final; even when not making huge scores, his fearless stroke play was vital in giving the side momentum and the run rate an early boost.
Mike Selvey, writing on Shaun Tait’s World Cup impact to date, asked: “Would England select such a maverick in similar circumstances, one wonders, or would they concentrate on what a player cannot do - Monty Panesar, say, or Mal Loye - rather than what he can?” Alas, the answer is in the question; England will just have to hope Strauss is out to make for loss time and the top order can learn from Paul Collingwood’s risk-free accumulating.
Phenomenal batting line-up: Matthew Hayden has been reborn as a One Day International opener and along with the destructive Adam Gilchrist forms the most explosive opening partnership in world cricket. The best player in the world comes in next in the shape of Ricky Ponting, followed by an ever improving Michael Clarke at four. Andrew Symonds of course needs no introducing as one of the most dangerous hitters in the game. Then comes the dependable Michael Hussey, who will not remain runless for long and the powerful Shane Watson. This batting line up is the best in limited overs cricket and can win matches alone.
Awesome fielding: Symonds, Clarke, Ponting and Watson form the best inner ring in world cricket.
Bowling: Yes there is a visible weakness. Glenn McGrath can be taken apart by classy opposition and Shaun Tait and Watson can often prove expensive. Brad Hogg is an experienced campaigner, but he is not up there with the best spinners in world cricket. Currently, only Nathan Bracken is a reliable performer with the ball. They miss Brett Lee.
Star so far: Matthew Hayden.
One to four: In Upul Tharanga and Sanath Jayasuriya Sri Lanka have another of the world’s more explosive opening pairings and followed by Mahela Jayawardene at three and the world’s best wicket keeper batsman at four, Kumar Sangakkara, they offer a first rate top order.
Bowling variety: Chaminda Vaas is one of the best with a new white ball and everybody knows what the world’s best spinner can do. In Muttiah Muralitharan Sri Lanka have a bowler who can win matches single handedly. Lasith Malinga is brilliant at the death and possesses a deadly in-swinging yorker. Meanwhile, Sanath Jayasuriya’s slow left arm spin and Tillakaratne Dilshan’s offspin complete a well varied attack.
Fielding: Exceptional, likely the best going. Almost every player contributes in the field, even the 37 year old Jayasuriya!
Lower order batting power: For all the class of the top four, if you get them early, there is not much to come in terms of a blistering batsman down the order. Although Chamara Silva at five is capable of rapid scoring, as he proved recently against New Zealand, he, Dilshan and Russell Arnold can not be described as power players and they can struggle to take advantage of the last overs if one of the top four is not still around.
New ball partner and fifth bowler: For all of Vaas’ quality there is no obvious partner for him in the Sri Lankan side when he is bowling with the new ball. Furthermore, the fifth bowler can prove to be a problem for Sri Lanka with both Farveez Maharoof and Dilhara Fernando not quite up to standard. Prehaps Malinga Bandara’s leg spin could yet come in handy.
Star so far: Muttiah Muralitharan.
Batting depth: South Africa usually bat a long way down, with Shaun Pollock and Andrew Hall nestling at eight and nine respectively. Graeme Smith and AB de Villiers are deadly when they fire and with explosive players such as Herschelle Gibbs, Mark Boucher and Justin Kemp dotted between the rocks, Jaques Kallis and Ashwell Prince, they are capable of posting imposing totals.
Pace attack: Makaya Ntini, Pollock, Andrew Hall, Kallis and Charle Langevelt form a lethal pace attack for South Africa and that is without the aggressive Andre Nel. Given a helpful wicket, they will exploit it.
Opening combination: AB de Villiers has yet to really settle as an opener and this can lead to problems.
Missing Spinner: South Africa often go into games with no front line spinner, instead relying on Graeme Smith’s part time offies if they hit trouble. When they do play a spinner problems arise, firstly it weakens there batting line up as in the game against Sri Lanka and secondly the spinner in question, Robin Peterson, is not one of the game’s finest.
Star so far: Graeme Smith.
Batting depth: Another side that bats a long way down. With centuries to both of their names, Daniel Vettori and James Franklin can not be taken lightly and the sheer number of great allrounders in this Kiwi side allow them to bat to the bottom if they desire.
Bowling options: The pace of Shane Bond, the experience of Daniel Vettori, the left arm of James Franklin, the death ability of Mark Gillespie, the canniness of Jeetan Patel, the bounce of Jacob Oram and the accuracy of Scott Styris make this Kiwi side a very dangerous proposition when it comes to trying to score runs quickly against them.
Tactical nous: Stephen Fleming is the most intelligent captain in the world and his field placings demonstrate that.
Injuries: Having already lost Darryl Tuffey, Kyle Mills and Lou Vincent to injury, the Kiwis can not afford to suffer any more misfortune. There are though constant fitness worries over Oram and Bond and as the tournament progresses they may start to struggle.
An opening bowler and an opening batsman light perhaps: Running on from the injury problems, New Zealand do not seem to have a settled opening partnership with either bat or ball and if often shows.
Star so far: Scott Styris.
Middle order: With a line up from four to six of Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood and Andrew Flintoff, England have a middle order which most teams would die for. They need to come in with time to play with and runs on the board though.
Captaincy: A fit Michael Vaughan is second only to Fleming as a captain and he is as successful a captain as England have ever had in ODI’s.
Impetuous youth: England have a lot of young players and they are hungry for success, just listen to Ravi Bopara.
Top order batting: Much has been made of England’s woes at the top and rightfully so. Suffering from the reverse problem that Sri Lanka do, England have no power players up front. For all the skills that Michael Vaughan, Ed Joyce and Ian Bell have, exploiting the powerplays is not really one of them. Platform’s are good, but only if one of those top three players goes on until the end. They rarely do. It is crying out for Pietersen to move up to three.
Bowling depth: James Anderson, Monty Panesar and Andrew Flintoff are brilliant bowlers and wicket takers. Without back up though, opposition players can afford to see them off. England are undecided on who to bowl with them and both Liam Plunkett and Sajid Mahmood have been expensive, whilst Collingwood is not always suited to the conditions. Jamie Dalrymple was tried and failed abysmally, whilst Bopara is still very raw, though a talent. A settled bowling line up that can take wickets throughout the innings is a must and England must find it soon.
Star so far: James Anderson.
Individual brilliance: In Brian Lara, Chris Gayle, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Dwayne Bravo and Shivnarine Chanderpaul the Windies have the individual class to knock over the best of sides.
Home soil and support: Should the Windies get on a roll, the support will drop in behind them. They have to get rolling first though.
Too many weak links: For the all the individual brilliance, the West Indies are not a brilliant team. Marlon Samuels batting at four is an obvious sign of the deterioration in West Indian cricketing brilliance. Why Lara bats so low at five is a mystery, but it simply encourages collapses. Dwayne Smith appears to be a very limited batsman, despite his excellent fielding and doubts remain over the abilities of Dinesh Ramdin and Lendl Simmons. In the bowling department, a spinner is obviously lacking and the pace men are just too inconsistent and nothing like the stars of yesteryear.
Reliance on bits and pieces: The Windies rely on using the bowling of the likes of Gayle, Smith and Samuels to regularly get them through their fifty overs. There just simply is not enough of a threat there to disturb the best international opposition. They must play the promising Jerome Taylor, but do not ultimately have the pace attack to compensate for their lack of spin options, unlike South Africa.
Star so far: Brian Lara.
Youthful exuberance and spin options.
Inexperience and over-zealousness with the bat.
Star so far: Mashrafe Mortaza.
Passion and ability to exploit bowler’s wickets.
Lack of quality batting depth.
Star so far: Jeremy Bray.
Prediction: England comfortably.
Players to watch: Kevin Pietersen and Jeremy Bray.
Thursday, 29 March 2007
New Zealand meanwhile are going into the match with a much changed batting line-up. Peter Fulton has been promoted to opener following star fielder Lou Vincent's injury and Hamish Marshall is likely to come into the side at three for the recovering Ross Taylor. The bowling is uneffected, with Shane Bond, James Franklin, Daniel Vettori, Jacob Oram, Scott Styris and possibly Jeetan Patel, the main candidates. A lot will likely depend on the start for New Zealand. Fulton and Stephen Fleming are not known for their blistering strike rates and with Marshall not having played much cricket of late, a slow start could lead to mistakes and an increasing reliance on the middle order. This match should be keenly contested. A lot is riding on it, especially for the home side.
Prediction: Hard to call, New Zealand's injuries have opened the door for the Windies and they need the win more at this stage. Therefore, I'm going for the West Indies, by a narrow margin.
Players to watch: Ramnaresh Sarwan and Jacob Oram.
Wednesday, 28 March 2007
His quatrick was quite extraordinary. First to go was Pollock - bowled by a clever slower ball. He was followed by Hall, who skied another excellent slower ball. After waiting for Vaas to complete his over Malinga then got the crucial scalp of Kallis, who was caught behind trying to win the match with one shot. Ntini, clean bowled by an inswinging yorker, completed the quartet.
What followed was an extremely nervous time for South Africa, with Vaas and Malinga threatening to snatch an unbelievable win. The ball flew past the outside edge and one Malinga delivery missed the off stump by a whisker. In the end Langeveldt and Peterson held firm, with the latter edging the winning runs.
It was an amazing end to a fascinating match and both sides can take plenty from it as they continue through the super eights. Let's just hope that there are many more matches like this to come over the next few weeks.
Surrey’s chief objective in 2006 was to return to Division One of the County Championship. In that, they succeeded magnificently. Led by the Butcher father-son coaching side, Surrey were a united side once more and, in Mark Ramprakash, had a fantastic batsman in the form of his life. Though Surrey’s first-class form was peerless, their one-day side showed few signs of improvement, subsiding meekly on Twenty20 finals day and doing little of note in the other two competitions. Overall, 2006 was a big step in the right direction.
See the Surrey 2006 Season Review
Surrey have perhaps the finest first-class batting unit in county cricket; although the bowling in Division One will be more challenging this campaign, they should regularly post scores in excess of 400 in the first innings.
Scott Newman is a fine, burly left-handed stroke maker, but has rather trodden water in the last few campaigns. Last season, he hit 10 Championship scores of 50 but reached only one century. Opening alongside him will be the ever-dependable Jon Batty, mentioned in dispatches as the next England wicket keeper. Surrey’s real strength, though, is at numbers three and four; where former England batsmen Ramprakash and Mark Butcher hit 13 first-class hundreds last campaign. Ramprakash, with his unerring professionalism, exemplary technique and aesthetically pleasing stroke-play, remains the most sought-after wicket on the circuit.
Alistair Brown will continue to attack tiring bowling line-ups in his fearless style, while his heir apparent James Benning will seek to transfer his exhilarating one-day form into the Championship arena, though opportunities will be limited. Rikki Clarke is becoming a very fine batsman, particularly in the four-day game – he averaged 64 last season – while Azhar Mahmood can transform games from number seven. Also look out for the exciting young batting all-rounder Stewart Walters, particularly in the shorter versions of the game. Stolid opener Richard Clinton may feature in first-class cricket.
Spin emerged unexpectedly to the fore last campaign, with Surrey even fielding three spinners at times. Ian Salisbury and Nayan Doshi, bowling leg-spin and left-arm spin, both took at least 50 Championship wickets at 28, benefiting from the spin- conducive Oval rack. Chris Schofield was also awarded a late-season contract and, though his leg-spin remains inconsistent, he did enough to secure a new deal, aided by his useful, if idiosyncratic, batting.
However, seam bowling remains a huge worry, especially with the brilliant Martin Bicknell having retired. Much depends on the returning James Ormond, injured for almost all of last season. He is joined by the Australian Matt Nicholson, who has much experience but averaged only 32 for Northants last season. Surrey fans would have hoped for a more penetrating opening bowler. Pakistani duo Mohammad Akram and all-rounder Mahmood remain horribly unreliable, while Rikki Clarke’s bowling has potential – he can hit 85mph – but only accounted for 18 Championship wickets last campaign. Unless he can improve his bowling significantly, it is hard to envisage him returning to the England side; and, at 25, the time has come for performance to replace potential. With young quick Neil Saker also yet to convince, the fast bowling is patently a major Surrey weakness; if the spinners are unable to match their exploits of ’06, Surrey may have real difficulty collecting 20 wickets.
Probable Championship side:
which leaves Clinton, Benning, Schofield and Akram - who may replace one of the spinners in seaming conditions - in reserve. Benning will replace Newman, or one of the senior batsmen, in the shorter versions of the game.
Overall the side looks good enough to achieve a comfortable Championship position. It perhaps lacks the necessary penetration to mount a genuine title push, unless Ormond, Nicholson and one of the spinners really catch fire, but the batting looks sufficiently strong and deep to allay relegation concerns.
Runs from Ramps are rather taken as a given so, with Surrey’s seam attack such a worry, the onus will fall on the returning Jimmy Ormond. Ormond has had near-constant injury worries of late but he is a tall swing bowler of proven class with over 400 first-class wickets, and two Test caps, to his name. At 29, he is far from over the hill; a reinvigorated Ormond would provide the fast bowling attack with much-needed penetration.
Alistair Brown’s career is coming to an end but, in 23-year-old James Benning, Surrey have a ready-made replacement. As England’s one-day side stumbled from one humiliation to the next last summer, Benning, on the back of his exhilarating 189* in the C & G Trophy, was mentioned as a potential opener. In the shorter versions of the game, he is rapidly gaining in consistency and reputation. Despite an average of 37, however, he has yet to become a regular in the first-class game.
Captain and Coach:
Having moved away from the disastrous Steve Rixon era, Surrey entrusted their fortunes in the Butchers. They have succeeded in lifting spirits at The Oval, establishing an atmosphere more conducive to success. Thoughts now turn to Championship consolidation, a renewed tilt at the Twenty20 and some sort of improvement in their one-day fortunes.
2007 county previews home
The South African's are a very aggressive side and this is personified in the way they bat and bowl. Herein lies the problem for South Africa. They have too many pace bowlers looking to get in the face of their opponents. The guile and majesty of a top spinner is an obvious miss in the South African team and it proved their undoing against Australia, when they were unable to stem the flow of runs. Sometimes they can be just two one dimensional. Until they find that top quality spinner it will always be hard to pick them as favourites. Make no mistake though, they have all of the other components and are a massive threat.
Prediction: Sri Lanka to march on.
Players to watch: Muttiah Muarlitharan and Mark Boucher.
Tuesday, 27 March 2007
Coming off the back of their recent demolition of World Number One side South Africa, Aussie confidence will be sky high. All of their batsman seem to now be coming into form and Matty Hayden looks back to his brilliant best in ODI cricket, after a long lean spell. With Andrew Symonds restored to the side and Shane Watson performing well with the bat at seven, Australia look like a side full of runs, despite Michael Hussey's lack of form thus far.
The bowling needs some work though, with Watson, Shaun Tait and even Glenn McGrath looking like they could go for a few. Still, the West Indies just don't appear to have the same wicket taking threat in their bowling department, aside from Jerome Taylor and their lack of a premier spinner is a problem. Expect runs, entertainment and an Australian victory.
Prediction: Australia to repeat their ICC Champions Trophy success.
Players to Watch: Chris Gayle and Michael Clarke.
Monday, 26 March 2007
All are deserving recipients, clearly. It is pleasing that a county player, Mark Ramprakash, is included after none were last year. Ramprakash batted extraordinarily, single-mindedly hitting 2000 runs at an average of over 100. Even allowing for this being in the Second Division, this is surely deserving of recognition.
However, given that the award is based predominantly on exploits during the English season, it appears a little unfair that Ian Bell, scorer of three consecutive Test hundreds against Pakistan, has been ignored, while Paul Collingwood is included. Ultimately, Editor Matthew Engel felt Collingwood, succeeding in Test cricket after finally getting a chance, had to be recognised while, in all probability, Bell's time will come again. Bell, however, should be outraged at not being included in 'The Wisden Forty'; he scored three hundreds and four fifties in 10 Tests in 2006, while also establishing himself in the ODI side. But it is nice to see Darren Lehmann included in the aforementioned list.
The Leading Cricketer in the Year award goes not to Yousuf, who scored more runs in a calendar year than anyone has ever done, but to Muttiah Muralitharan. Murali took 74 wickets (excluding Bangladesh) from nine Tests at 16, including a phenonemal 8-70 to tie the Test series in England. Yousuf scored 1788 runs at 99, scoring no fewer than nine hundreds. Which is the greater? In a batsmen-dominated world, perhaps Murali, by a whisker.
Wisden, needless to say, is fantastic as always, with the backlog of Leading Cricketers in the World particularly intriguing. While the almanac has invariably tempted readers to waste many an hour with its vast swathes of statistics, the writing - both the quality and quantity of it - has risen markedly in the past decade.
It’s the start of the 2006 season, and Yorkshire are fresh from their promotion of 2005 and ready to start the new season in League 1. However, rumours of unrest abound at the club and one of those leaving is former England pace bowler, Chris Silverwood, to Middlesex. His departure, following the loss of Ryan Sidebottom (to Notts), Darren Gough (to Essex) and Steve Kirby (to Gloucestershire) leaves the club low on pace bowlers. Jason Gillespie is in as an overseas player, and it is hoped that he can replicate his old form, rather than that which we saw in the 2005 Ashes series.
The season starts inauspiciously, with a rain affected draw at Trent Bridge. However, the Notts total of over 400 for 8 is an indication of the struggle to bowl teams out. The frailties in the bowling are matched by those at the top of the order, where Joe Sayers, Matt Wood and Michael Lumb are in appalling form together. The team is thus heavily reliant on Anthony McGrath and Darren Lehmann for runs. The situation is perfectly summed up by the Hants game, where on the back of a McGrath century and a great all round performance by Tim Bresnan in the first innings, we set them over 400 to win, which they never look like not getting, losing only five wickets in the process.
Chris Silverwood then inspires a Middlesex victory, we lose by an innings to Sussex and we’re at the 20:20 stage of the season, rock bottom and we still haven’t taken twenty wickets in a match. All of a sudden, some form is found. We qualify for the 20:20 quarter finals and some confidence is taken from some strong performances. Of particular note is Gerard Brophy, our wicket-keeping pinch hitter, scoring 57 from 18 balls (13 fours) on TV against Derbyshire. Sadly the rain won that one.
The second half of the season begins with Lehmann injured but our first win (at Durham) with Gillespie (finally) and Bresnan both in the wickets and McGrath holding the batting together. Then we see the introduction of possibly the most promising spinner to come out of Yorkshire since Hedley Verity – Adil Rashid. Completely overshadowing Andrew Gale’s maiden century, Rashid ran through the Warwickshire second innings, taking a 6-fer as we won by an innings. Missing the next game, at Hampshire, (on England U19 duty taking an 8-fer and scoring a hundred in the process), his place is taken by another leggie, Mark Lawson, who also obliges with a 6-fer. However, despite Lumb’s ton, Hampshire win comfortably.
Two rain affected draws follow and we’re into the last three games of the season. Still in the relegation zone, we’ve got the three teams who are down there with us to play – Middlesex, Notts and Durham. Silverwood again inspires Middlesex, but Rashid and Lawson take all ten in their second innings, leaving Yorkshire needing 235 on the last day to win with all wickets standing – and it promptly rains all day. However, this result is more of a blow to Middlesex as they end up being relegated.
The game against Notts is the turning point. A White century and Rashid and Lawson getting 14 wickets in the match a win takes us out of the relegation zone and means we only need 10 points against Durham to survive. This is achieved largely through Darren Lehman’s amazing 339 in a total of 677 and then reducing Durham to 191 for 6. The job is done, the foot comes off the gas and Blenkenstein and Gibson put on over 300 for the next wicket, saving Durham and condemning Notts.
Just when we thought the season itself was traumatic, the winter begins very badly. Player of the season by a country mile, Darren Lehmann has already announced that he is leaving, and he is followed by the underachieving Michael Lumb (to Hampshire) Also Craig White announces that he doesn’t want to captain the team any more.
Chris Adams is then unveiled as the new Director of Cricket, Coach and Captain, leaving previous coach David Byas to wonder what he is doing there. Byas eventually leaves, but so does Adams, when he realises that Yorkshire is a bit colder than Sussex (or something). Anthony McGrath then announces that he has no intention of ever playing for Yorkshire again. Yorkshire remind him that he’s under contract and the whole thing gets messy.
Into the breach rides the new Chief Executive, Stewart Regan. Not being a huge cricket fan when he started the job, he decided to talk to someone who does know a bit about Yorkshire cricket, and Geoffrey Boycott persuades Younus Khan to come over as the overseas player. His next coup was even greater as Jacques Rudolph decided to give up on South Africa for the next three years and signed as a Kolpak player. Darren Gough was then persuaded back as captain and Anthony McGrath decided that this is a team he can play in again. The final pieces in the jigsaw were the return of Martyn Moxon from Durham as coach and the promotion of Ian Dews from developing the best group of young players we’ve had for quite some time to Head of Cricket Operations.
Prospects for 2007
When I first wrote this in January, I was worried whether we’d get a team out and we were dertainties for relegation. Now it looks like we could be challenging for honours. The team for the first match will be along the lines of:
Younus Khan – now they’re out of the World Cup
which leaves Deon Kruis, Mark Lawson, Andy Gale, Matthew Wood and Simon Guy as cover. Plus some bloke called Vaughan, should he ever get the chance to play for us again.
To my mind, that should be a batting line up to match any in the division, and a bowling attack that has over 700 test wickets between them.
Younus and Rudolph have big shoes to fill in replacing the 1700 runs that Lehmann scored. However, the key man is likely to be Tim Bresnan. He tasted the international scene last season, in the chastening series defeat to Sri Lanka, where he did no worse than most. If he wants to maintain that presence in the build up to the next World Cup, he needs a big season with bat and ball. Despite only being 22, he’s been around for years and now needs to kick on.
Jason Gillespie gave an interview saying that it would be wrong to put any pressure on him, but Adil Rashid is the best young cricketer in England. No pressure then!
Rashid is probably the most promising leggie onto the England scene for some time, and his performances with the bat show that he is a genuine all-rounder. However, he needs to be carefully handled to make sure he doesn’t go the same way as Chris Schofield. He toured with England A, but with the success of Monty Panesar in the England team as a genuine attacking spinner, there shouldn’t be the need to rush him further. A season of consolidation will do nicely.
Captain and Coach
Two true Yorkshire legends. Barnsley boys and old friends, Moxon and Gough have already turned the mood of the club round just by turning up. Moxon has a great track record with Durham. Gough should help us to be more competitive in the One Day game and should also be an inspiration to the raft of young fast bowlers who are looking to make the breakthrough. Strangely, and I didn't think I'd be writing this at the start of the year, the future looks bright.
Imran Nazir – Pakistan – An awful World Cup for Pakistan, but the final innings for this young man in the highly emotional game against Zimbabwe was a masterpiece of hitting. 160 off just 121 balls with 8 sixes. It’s a shame he couldn’t do it earlier when it really mattered.
John Davison – Canada – Now no longer the scorer of the fastest World Cup hundred but still a force to be reckoned with, as New Zealand found out with a blistering 52 off 31 balls. Bizarrely not used at the top of the innings against Kenya, that decision could have made a big difference. Also successful with the ball, if somewhat expensive.
Steve Tikolo – Kenya – Another easy pick as Tikolo showed his class with bat and ball. A match winning 72 against Canada was followed by a rare failure against the Kiwis and 76 against England to keep the nerves jangling. Wickets as well although the bowling has gone from medium pace to slow.
Ravi Shah – Kenya – Where Tikolo failed, Shah succeeded with a classy knock against New Zealand.
Ryan ten Doeschate – Netherlands – Started with a fifty against South Africa, finished with 70 against Scotland, oozing class all the way through. It is easy to see why Essex rate him so highly. A big county season surely must follow. Also successful, if expensive, with the ball.
Sean Williams – Zimbabwe – Another batsman who bowls a bit, his 70 against the West Indies made the game competitive. A young player with a big future, Zimbabwean politics permitting.
Colin Smith(WK) - Scotland– In a disappointing World Cup for Scotland, Smith’s 51 against Australia was a big highlight. Stumping Mike Hussey in the same game will probably live long in the memory too!
Saleem Mukudden – Bermuda - Will have had Bangladesh in a state of shock after his early wickets left them at 37 for 3. Two wickets also against Sri Lanka, but, strangely, left out against India.
Elton Chigumbura – Zimbabwe – Just edges out teammate Gary Brent on the promise of things to come. Both were tidy. Both took wickets. Both did well in a group that was a lot tighter than was originally expected.
Billy Stelling – Netherlands – Not fit, but the captain dropped himself and he returns figures of 3 for 12 in 8 overs, ripping Scotland’s top order to pieces. This was a game that Scotland expected to win comfortably. Stelling ensured is was a low target for the Dutch to chase.
Mohammed Sami – Pakistan – Left out in favour of Rana Naved for the first match, he kept the Irish honest in that crucial game, removing Bray and Morgan early on.
Twelfth Man – Virender Sehwag - India – Looked like he was beginning to find some form, although a hundred against Bermuda for a man of his talent is scant consolation for what might have been had India qualified for the Super Eights. It was still more than his illustrious colleagues managed though.
Sunday, 25 March 2007
Prediction: Bangladesh comfortably.
Players to watch: Shariar Nafees and David Hemp.
Saturday, 24 March 2007
The other match is of course a Super Eight tie and encounters between the top two teams in world one day cricket are rarely spectacles to be missed. Playing on a good pitch with small boundaries, I wouldn't rule out the mighty 400 marker being reached again. However, the bowling in both sides is better than during the last series these two played. The toss, as per usual, will be crucial, as will Andrew Symonds' return from injury. The key question though is, will he be at his best? If he is then the difference which he can make to the Australian team will probably be sufficient to see them triumph, if not, then South Africa may be able to get on top of the Aussie middle order. South Africa are the form team going into this match.
England vs Kenya:
Prediction: I can say nothing other than an England victory, because the alternative result would be devastating for English cricket.
Players to watch: Kevin Pietersen and Steve Tikolo.
South Africa vs Australia:
Prediction: South Africa are the side who have looked stronger so far, but they may have hit form too early.
Players to watch: Herschelle Gibbs and Andrew Symonds.
Friday, 23 March 2007
India’s performances against the two other Test-playing nations in their group have been woeful – especially from their much-feted batsmen. All the batsmen have been guilty of severe lapses of concentration; they fundamentally seemed incapable of playing a more patient game on less facile batting tracks. The honourable exception against Sri Lanka, until desperation overtook him, was skipper Rahul Dravid, who displayed the adaptability and nous to amass a fine 60.
Headlines, inevitably, will fall on Sachin Tendulkar. As he came out to bat, with his side teetering at 43/2, Cricinfo asked: “Is this going to be the defining moment?” Three balls later, we knew the answer: he was bowled by the impressive Dilhara Fernando for nought. Whatever Tendulkar does in the remainder of his extraordinary career, he is destined to be remembered as a player who too seldom produced his majestic batting when his country most needed it.
The contrast between the two sides in the field was unavoidable. Sri Lanka were vibrant and hungry; India cumbersome, and their bowlers guilty of conceding 16 wides and no balls. The fielding should have been no surprise, though, given this has long been a source of concern for an ageing Indian side. In ODIs, they cannot continue to play all three of Tendulkar, Dravid and Ganguly; they are 33, 34 and 34 and it is unlikely even one will feature in the next World Cup.
If batting was expected to be India’s chief strength, spin bowling was not far behind. As it transpired, Harbhajan Singh was ineffectual, as he has been in one-day cricket for some time now, and offered very little wicket-taking threat in the middle of the innings. It was hard to understand why the wily Anil Kumble had been left out, especially given Singh’s poor showing against Bangladesh.
India’s seam bowling was better than some had feared, although no one emerged with their figures unscathed from the latter stages of the innings. In the rehabilitated Zaheer Zhan, India have a solid left-arm seamer; if both Munaf Patel and Sri Sreesanth can confirm their initial promise, pace bowling will emerge as an unlikely strength.
Most frustrating of all for Indian fans is the knowledge that they succeeded in repeating all their mistakes in getting thrashed 4-1 in the West Indies less than a year ago. In ODI cricket at least, India will soon have to let go of their golden generation – Tendulkar, Dravid, Ganguly and Kumble. As they look to the future, they must focus on reinvigorating Virender Sehwag and Harbhajan Singh, as they appear to have done successfully with Khan. These men, along with Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Yuvrag Singh, Patel and Sreesanth, ought to form the core of the 2011 World Cup side. But that is little solace to Indian fans now.
While the 2006 season at the Rose Bowl can not be described as a failure, the dream which all at the club share, winning the County Championship, was not realised. However, a top three finish and an immediate return to the top division of domestic one day cricket were achievements which the club’s faifthful could be rightly proud of. There was though disappointment in the Twenty20 Cup for the second year running, with Hampshire seemingly failing to take the competition seriously, omitting key players from the side. Meanwhile, partly due to the questionable restructuring of the C&G Trophy and murky skies, Hampshire failed to defend their 2005 C&G title. The main failing at Hampshire in 2006 was the batting, as in 2005 and the club have again sort to improve the batting line-up for 2007. Without Chris Tremlett, who has been hampered by injury for the past two seasons, the bowling also lacked fire power, but the addition of Stuart Clark will undoubtedly have county batsman throughout the land quaking in their boots.
An area which has drastically improved over the past few seasons, Hampshire now have one of the finest batting line ups in England. The addition of Michael Lumb (who averaged 41.9 last season in the LVCC1) from Yorkshire has improved the middle order no end and he will come in for the outgoing Dominic Thornely, who failed to impress in the County Championship in 2006, with a meagre average of just 34.5. Last year saw the emergence of Jimmy Adams as a good first class opener and his opening partner, Michael Carberry, recently scored a hundred for England A in Bangladesh. John Crawley was the clubs’ stand-out player in 2006 and continues to be dependable at number three. With Kevin Pietersen a rare sight at the Rose Bowl these days, there is a real opportunity for Chris Benham to cement a place in the side. The youngster improved as 2006 progressed, coming to prominence during the club’s 20Twenty campaign and he was particuarly instrumental in the club’s promotion to Division One of the Pro40 competition.
Nic Pothas is always a man for a crisis and along with Crawley he is a key run-getter in the Hampshire side. He will though be looking to improve his one day form and his keeping consistancy in 2007. Sean Ervine was a huge disappointment in 2006, failing to live up to the huge promise that we had witnessed the previous year. A serious knee reconstruction in the close season did not help him, but his failure to score a century in either form all season was a real let down. Hawks’ fans will be hoping that he can rediscover his best form in the coming year. Dimi Mascarenhas was also somewhat of a disappointment in 2006 with the bat in first class cricket, though he picked up his form in the shorter format of the game. Other players who may get a look in this season include the enterprising young Mitchell Stokes and the very promising England U19 youngster, Kevin Latouf.
Hampshire finished last season with the highest number of bowling bonus points out of the 18 first class county sides. However, they did sometimes struggle to finish sides off and missing James Bruce and particularly Chris Tremlett for large chunks of the season, the seam attack often looked gentle and there was a heavy reliance placed upon the allrounders and spinners. The capture of Stuart Clark is a major coup for the club and prospect of Australia’s two finest bowlers during the Ashes bowling in tandom for the Hawks is a mouthwatering one to say the least. Clark impressed in 2005 during a short stint at Middlesex and the club will be hoping that with both he and Warne available for the whole season, the club will be able to capture the County Championship crown, which it so badly yearns for. When the bounce of Chris Tremlett, movement of James Bruce and wiley canniness of Shaun Udal is added in, the bowling looks well equipped to deal with most challenges in all forms of the game. Mascarenhas and Ervine will also play key roles, especially at the Rose Bowl and there will no doubt be a handful of appearances for local tree surgeon Billy Taylor and the emerging left armer, James Tomlinson.
Probable County Championship Team:
N Pothas (wk)
S Warne (c)
Hampshire have a great shot at winning the County Championship and do have the squad power to challenge on all fronts. The focus is clearly on the longer version of the game though.
So many to choose from! It has to be Stuart Clark though. The bowling star of the Ashes will be relied upon by former team mate Shane Warne to lead this Hawks side to the County Championship title and I can not see any other result.
Chris Benham. He exploded on to the scene with a fine series of displays during the clubs traditionally brief 20Twenty Cup challenge. After that he broke into both the one day and first class sides and looked right at home. A naturally aggressive player, Benham is also capable of playing situations and has a solid technique. He has a superb pair of hands in the field and has already drawn high praise from his club captain after a winning knock against Glamorgan at the end of last season, which secured promotion back to Pro40 League One. He has the potential to go far.
Captain & Coach:
What more is there to say about the legend that is Shane Warne. His contract with Hampshire runs for a further two years and he intends to honour it, which is fantastic news for Hawks fans everywhere and the county game in general. Warne has a superb tactical nous and really lifts the other players’ performances through his mere presence. Now retired from the international game, Warne will be able to focus solely on Hampshire and his main ambition, which is to win the County Championship.
Coach Paul Terry shares a good camaraderie with the lads and he likes his side to go out and play aggressive and enterprising cricket, as displayed during the fabulous run chase at Headingly, when over four hundred runs were chased down on the final day to beat Yorkshire.
An exciting season lays ahead.
The latter match is now effectively a Super Eight confrontation and it should be a good contest between two spirited sides. West Indies should have too much for Ireland in front of their home support, but who would have predicted what has taken place to date in this group?!
India vs Sri Lanka:
Prediction: Sri Lanka to effectively dump India out of the tournament.
Players to watch: Rahul Dravid will fight tooth and nail, but so will Mahela Jayawardene. Anil Kumble vs Murali could also be a good battle!
Ireland vs West Indies:
Prediction: West Indies to end the run of the Irish.
Players to watch: Eion Morgan and Dwayne Bravo
What kind of cruel and callous World do we live in, where an honourable man can be killed over the simple game of cricket, which lives and breathes as a form of entertainment and enjoyment. It is a sad day for the sport and an even sadder one for the World. One can only hope that some good will come of this, but in reality what good can ever come from something as evil, senseless and wasteful as murder. We can only pray that Bob did not suffer too much and be comforted by the thought that he now is at rest. Taken from the World early, one of cricket's finest will certainly never be forgotten.
You are sadly missed Bob. Let justice now be done.
Thursday, 22 March 2007
Hopefully we will complete a full set, which will make for a fascinating read.
Please do any reviews in the following format, and email them to email@example.com
2006 in a nutshell
A brief summary of last season
Assesment of the club's squad and expectations in all forms of the game. Please divide this into 'Battting', 'Bowling' and 'Team' (givinbg the probable Championship side).
A few words on the man man.
A few words on the young hopeful.
Captain & Coach
A few words on the club's management team.
If unsure, do have a look at the pieces already up:
Essex 2007 Preview
Hampshire 2007 Preview
Northants 2007 Preview
Surrey 2007 Preview
Yorkshire 2007 Preview
(For full county coverage, including reviews from last campaign, go to the county cricket section)
Any previews would be much appreciated, and they should attract much interest amongst fans. And of course feel free to email us if you are interested in contributing pieces on other cricketing topics.
The other match is the battle of the minnows and Scottish and Dutch fans alike will be relishing this encounter. It still could be slightly one sided though, with the Scots favourites. However, with the toss often playing such an important role in this tournament, when the matches are close, it still could be anyone's game and the Ducth do have the skills of Ryan ten Doeschate at their disposal.
New Zealand vs Canada:
Prediction: New Zealand no trouble.
Players to watch: Jacob Oram and Sunil Dhaniram.
Scotland vs Netherlands:
Prediction: The toss could be vital, but the Scots to earn a narrow victory if they win it.
Players to watch: Dougie Brown and Ryan ten Doeschate.
Wednesday, 21 March 2007
Sri Lanka know that they face a good game against Bangladesh tomorrow and they should be prepared for it. Bangladesh meanwhile must be careful that they do not get carried away and start playing too many shots. If they play as they did against India then they will run Sri Lanka close. Young wicket keeper Mushfiqur Rahim looks a splendid addition to the side and he is a situation player, who has a remarkably cool head for such a tender age. Meanwhile, the bowling looks reasonably strong with Mashrafe Mortaza, Syed Rasel, Rafique and Abdur Razzaq and Sri Lanka will need to play the middle overs well. In Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and Marvan Atappatu though, they have one of the best, if not the best, middle orders in international cricket.
Bangladesh vs Sri Lanka:
Prediction: Sri Lanka to show their title credentials.
Players to watch: Mahela Jayawardene and Mushfiqur Rahim.
Pakistan vs Zimbabwe:
Prediction: Pakistan to sign off with a victory, for Bob and for Inzy.
Players to watch: Inzamam-ul-Haq and Sean Williams.
Tuesday, 20 March 2007
The other match could prove to be quite intriguing and England will be watching with interest, attempting to gauge just how much of a threat Kenya are with their three pronged spin attack. If they are able to run New Zealand close then England will face a real challenge in overcoming the Kenyans come Saturday. It is interesting to note that Bangladesh brought about India's demise through the use of three spinners. The word is that New Zealand are contemplating squad rotation, playing with fire springs to mind...
New Zealand vs Kenya:
Prediction: Close one prehaps, New Zealand just, but if they are going to rotate the team, then Kenya will really fancy their chances if they win the toss.
Players to watch: Ross Taylor and Steve Tikolo.
South Africa vs Scotland:
Prediction: South Africa, though not with as much ease as against the dutch.
Players to watch: Jaques Kallis again, he loves to cash in and Ryan Watson.
I did pick out Bangladesh as the most likely of the minnows to cause an upset, and predicted a close run thing between Ireland and Zimbabwe. However, I really couldn’t see the Pakistan upset coming out of Ireland. That result, though, vindicates the presence of the ICC five in the tournament.
Unfortunately, most of the other games featuring the minnows have been as one-sided as initially predicted. However, if, as seems likely, at least two of them progress to the Super 8, that will be a good return and two more than most were predicting. And the reason for saying “at least two” is that the Kenya – England shoot out for the Super 8s could be a lot closer than England would like.
I wrote in the article about India “Like Pakistan, there are too many weaknesses and too many other good teams for India to progress to the semi-final stages, and with Bangladesh in their group (with Sri Lanka and Bermuda), it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that they may not even make the Super 8 stage.” Which puts me well above Glenn McGrath in the prediction stakes.
The third member of the possibles, the West Indies, started well with their win against Pakistan. However, it will be difficult to know how good they are until the Super 8 stages
Both have reverted to type, with Australia smashing the Dutch and the Scots all over the place, while England struggled against New Zealand and looked less than convincing against Canada.
Australia’s next game, against South Africa, should be a bit more of a test of their credentials and having suffered the losses to England and new Zealand, it will be interesting to see how they perform once the pressure is back on.
In England’s defence, they had the worst of the batting conditions against New Zealand. Also, with the recent problems with team discipline and the very public dressing down of Flintoff, team spirit could be at an all time low, or the whole thing could have drawn them together. They will be confident of improving as the tournament goes on. However, the winner takes all game against Kenya is by no means a walkover.
Probably far to early to say yet, as they’ve only played one game each. However, New Zealand’s comprehensive defeat of England, and in particular the bowling of Shane Bond, is the biggest marker set down during the first week.
Sri Lanka and South Africa enjoyed comfortable wins over the weakest two teams in the tournament.
Having stuck my neck out a bit at the start of the tournament, I’m glad to see that Bangladesh in particular haven’t let me down. All of a sudden the rest of the group phase looks much more interesting than it would have first seemed, with only the South Africa – Australia group looking comfortable for the big boys.
Monday, 19 March 2007
India will surely reignite their campaign with victory over the minnows. For all the entertainment that Ireland and Bangladesh have brought to this World Cup, the likes of Bermuda really are well out of their depth. Sreesanth and Irfan Pathan may come back into the India line-up while Virender Sehwag seems to be the popular choice for the axe.
The other game will be a tad closer, but the West Indies appear energised in front of their home support and following recent shocks they are unlikely to take Zimbabwe too lightly. The Windies showed against Pakistan that they know how to play on this pitch and it is hard to see past the hosts qualifying tomorrow.
India vs Bermuda:
Prediction: India to canter to victory.
Players to watch: Shanthakumaran Sreesanth (In his absence now, Yuvraj Singh) and Dwayne Leverock.
West Indies vs Zimbabwe:
Prediction: The West Indies to make it two out of two.
Players to watch: Chris Gayle and Sean Williams.
They have plenty of options for the opening overs - incumbents Anderson and Plunkett or the introduction of Lewis and/or Mahmood - and at the death Flintoff and Anderson are very good.
Panesar provides top quality spin and will take wickets in the middle overs, but he has no support. Dalrymple has successfully proved the suspicion that he is simply not good enough at this level, with either bat or ball. His ineffective spin is leaving Vaughan with a serious headache and Bopara, who showed promise yesterday, should surely take Dalrymple's place.
The question is still where are those wickets coming from when the opposition are established and the ball is getting old and soft. Surely, a gamble is called for? Though he is profligate and wayward, Mahmood has an excellent slower ball and should be selected purely as a strike bowler, either with new or old ball. He may not bowl his full ten overs, but he would give Vaughan a vital option when other bowlers are struggling to take wickets.
With Collingwood, Pietersen and even Vaughan himself to make up a few overs, surely England can accommodate a potential match-winner such as Mahmood?
With this in mind my team for the next match would be:
Bell is omitted to make way for the extra bowler because he has scored few runs and frankly England need to bowl sides out or restrict them if they are going anywhere in this tournament. It's a risk, yes, but Plunkett is good enough for number eight in the shorter game, especially as Mahmood is certainly capable enough to bat at number nine.
Sunday, 18 March 2007
Hopefully, some good will come off this tragedy. Indian and Pakistani fans must realise they are guilty of taking the game far too seriously, routinely burning effigies of players after defeats. Just this morning, angry mobs were reported to be attacking Mahendra Singh Dhoni's house in India.
Tributes to Bob - the fine Test batsman and coaching innovator who gave his life to cricket and was a thoroughly decent man to boot, invariably generous with his time and happy to engage in contact with fans - are more than welcome. He'll certainly be missed.
(See Dileep Premachandran's 'The Price of Passion')
England vs Canada:
Prediction: England, but probably with the odd hiccup!
Players to watch: Michael Vaughan (surely 100 up?!) and John Davison.
Australia vs Netherlands:
Prediction: Aussies to coast it.
Players to watch: Ricky Ponting and Ryan ten Doeschate, who else?!
Saturday, 17 March 2007
England play Canada tomorrow and Kenya six days later, and face a number of fundamental questions regarding the make-up of their side.
Joyce or Strauss?
Ed Joyce looked to have solved England’s top-order worries in making his superb century against Australia in the CB Series but, in six appearances for England since, has not passed 25, appearing tentative and inhibited when the memory of that innings should still be fresh in his mind.
His Middlesex team-mate Andrew Strauss endured an awful winter, failing to pass 55 in 20 international innings. He has only averaged 26 in his last 23 games, but does offer class and experience at the top of the order. The decision is certainly a tough one but, given that Strauss averaged 43 in the last ODI series England played in the Caribbean, my gut instinct would be to return to him.
Whoever plays, however, the problem of England’s inability to exploit the Powerplay overs remains, along with the nagging feeling they will regret the non-selection of the idiosyncratic and explosive Mal Loye.
Jamie Dalrymple: good enough?
Jamie Dalrymple had a fine summer for England, but his performances in the CB Series were mediocre: he is the sole bits-and-pieces player in their one-day side. Against New Zealand, he failed with both bat (making 3) and ball (bowling four overs for 29), highlighting the lunacy of Duncan Fletcher calling him the first choice one-day spinner.
England surely look a better side replacing him with an extra batsman – especially given Flintoff’s dire one-day batting in the last 18 months - but, if they want a player similar in style, the vivacious Ravi Bopara would surely be a better option than Dalrymple.
Plunkett, Lewis or Mahmood?
England also face a huge dilemma over who opens the bowling with James Anderson; do they go for one of the mercurial young quicks, or the less glamarous qualities of Jon Lewis?
Liam Plunkett bowled devastatingly, if too expensively, in the CB Series. He also batted enterprisingly in the final overs. Though he scored a fine 29* against New Zealand, his bowling was wayward and seemed somewhat nullified by the St Lucia track.
Sajid Mahmood got five wickets in England’s three consecutive wins against Australia and has a fine slower ball, but his inconsistency always makes him liable to be smashed.
Doubts remain over Jon Lewis’ ability to bowl away from home, but he bowled well in Australia and in the Champions Trophy, and dserves a chance in the World Cup. Unlike Mahmood and Plunkett, he can always be relied upon to bowl accurately; though he lacks pace, this could make him hugely difficult to get away on slow wickets. Lewis’ new-ball pedigree is outstanding: since being recalled to the side against Pakistan last summer he has taken 11 wickets at 18 in the first opening overs. And his economy rate during that time is almost the antithesis to Messrs Mahmood and Plunkett – 2.95.
The other match may not prove to be quite so close, but given the moment, St Patrick's day and the injuries to some key Pakistani players, there could well be the biggest shock of the tournament on the cards. One thing is certain though, with Younis Khan, Mohammad Youssef and Inzy lining up for Pakistan, Ireland will need more than one big innings from Jeremy Bray to succeed on this occasion. The likes of Eion Morgan, Andre Botha and Niall O'Brien will all need to fire as well and be well backed up by the likes of Trent Johnston late on.
Johnston meanwhile will know that Ireland's best chance lies in winning the toss and bowling first on a moist and slightly green surface and will be counting on the bounce of Boyd Rankin to upset the Pakistani batsmen. Although the bowling was Pakistan's stronger suit against the West Indies, it does look slightly weak, with no Aktar, Asif, Razzaq, or Afridi. Umar Gul though is a very threatening prospect and Naved is an expert at exploiting any movement from a responsive pitch, as he has often shown in country cricket, but he may not retain his place. It will be impossible for Ireland if they lose the toss, but if they win it, all results will be possible and the luck of the Irish may well come into play again.
Bangladesh vs India:
Prediction: India may have just too much for Bangladesh this time around, but it will not be easy. The batting looks strong and capable of dealing with Bangladesh's spin threat, whilst the bowling, though minus Sreesanth, should still contain enough variety to deal with Bangladesh's exuberant young guns, if the runs are on the board.
Players to Watch: Mashrafe Mortaza and Rahul Dravid.
Ireland vs Pakistan:
Prediction: Again, I am going to favour the team who wins the toss on this pitch. If it is Pakistan I really can see no chance for Ireland as Gul and co may well prove to be too much to handle first up. Win the toss though and Ireland are in with a shout.
Players to Watch: Eion Morgan and Younis Khan.
Thursday, 15 March 2007
It would seem to be a case of who will and who will not play tomorrow, with fitness doubts surrounding Vaughan, Anderson, McMillan, Gillespie, McCullum, Fulton and Oram. However, most are expected to play and whoever takes to the field we are guaranteed a splendid spectacle, between two flambouyant sides, captained by possibly the two best captains in World Cricket.
To the other match and one can see no other result than a victory for South Africa, one can only hope that it is a closer run thing than todays' mismatch between Bermuda and Sri Lanka, in which the minnows were defeated by the second largest margin in World Cup history. The match will though provide an interesting glance of how close Ryan ten Doeschate is to a South African call up.
England vs New Zealand:
Prediction: The patriot in me says England, the realist playing by the odds, New Zealand. It really is tough to call. With Pietersen coming into a recently successful side though, I must say England, by a whisker.
Players to Watch: It is tempting to mention the big guns, but I'm plumping for the battle between Panesar and Vettori, which could be key to deciding the outcome of the match on a slow track.
South Africa vs Netherlands:
Prediction: South Africa with ease eventually, though there may be the odd failure.
Players to Watch: Jaques Kallis rarely misses a chance to enhance his average and Ryan ten Doeschate will be looking to impress.
Wednesday, 14 March 2007
2006 in a nutshell:
A solid season for the Eagles saw them maintain their ascendancy in one day competitions, but lose out in the end-of-season dust down for promotion from Div 2. Despite a muscular challenge right up until the final game (including a particularly satisfying obliteration of Derbyshire in the season’s penultimate fixture, winning by an inns and 178 runs, losing only three wickets in the process), in the end it was our lack of penetration with the ball – a problem that has limited the club’s Championship aspirations in recent years – that undid us, leaving Worcestershire to claim second spot. Semi-finalists in the Twenty20 and winners of the revised Pro40 one day league, holding onto the National League title won the year before in the old format, allowed for plenty of smiles around the County Ground, and even led to Essex tyro Ravi Bopara snatching a berth in England’s World Cup squad.
The main problems encountered by Essex in 2006 stemmed from an inability to consistently bowl teams out, and despite losing Darren Gough back to
Some of our batting was of the serene variety last season, with 22 centuries racked up between 11 different players. Mark Pettini was a revelation after moving to the top of the order, and his success led to the displacement and subsequent departure of the once England-touted Will Jefferson. Pettini’s 1,218 Championship runs came at 46, and included a magnificent knock of 208* in the aforementioned thrashing of Derbyshire.
Two other players, the evergreen Andy Flower and trusty ol’ Ronnie Irani, topped a thousand runs, while Ally Cook managed to find the time to cream more than four hundred, including two centuries, in only three matches, when not turning out for England. The only disappointment can be that James Foster’s seven hundred runs at 42 were not enough to force him back into contention as
In the short form, Irani and Flower again scored heavily, while Bopara’s 424 runs at 38 included a sparkling 101* from 97 balls against
As I’ve alluded to, this was the Eagles’ achilles heel. Only Goughie managed to take more than ten wickets at less than thirty runs apiece, and with his fitness restricting him to a mere seven games, we relied heavily on bit-part contributions. The spinners, Tim Phillips and Jamie Middlebrook, both persevered admirably for their figures of 34 @ 45 and 32 @ 49 respectively, while Andy Bichel’s haul of 32 wickets @ 30.96 over the second half of the season almost dragged us across the finishing line; but sadly an inability to dismiss more than 5 Leicestershire batsmen (and one of them a run out) when chasing 300 on the final day of the Championship (thus forfeiting second place) summed up the state of our attack.
As for encouraging sidelines, well, Mervyn Westfield made his First Class debut, picking up 6 wickets @ 30 in his three appearances, while Tony Palladino produced an impressive analysis of 24.4-6-68-6 against Leicestershire early on in the season, despite us losing the game. In the one day arena, Bopara’s 18 @ 26 must have amplified his shout for an
Probable Championship side:
Chopra (Cookie when not on
Tim Phillips will hopefully get the nod if the wickets are turning, probably in place of Ten Doeschate (one to look out for at the World Cup, playing for the
Kaneria. I’m going for the Pakistani leggy because Essex have come to rely on the guile of their spinners more and more in recent seasons, and if the wickets are low and flat, he may be the key to bowling sides out twice, match-after-match-after-match. If he can form something of a partnership with either Jamie Middlebrook or Tim Phillips, and repeat the trick of 2004, when he took 63 wickets @ 25 (the best season’s return by an Essex bowler in the 21st Century), we might be back in the big time again.
Well, if Bopara’s star hasn’t already peaked, another season of assured batting should see him really make the grade. If he can collect a thousand runs, regulars to the
Captain and Coach:
Ronnie has shown his nous for several seasons now, and I’m happy that he’ll continue to lead from the front (as long as he’s not crocked!) Mighty Graham Gooch, last seen leading
To the second match and there is a feeling building that Ireland have a sniff in this encounter. Ireland's impressive performance against South Africa and demolition of Canada, in their earlier warm up matches, has done enough to suggest that a mini upset may well be on the cards. However, Zimbabwe's fresh batch of youngsters will be looking to impress, given the negative publicity surrounding Zimbabwean cricket and whether or not this group of players merit their places in the squad, given the continued absence of the best Zimbabwean cricketers. The prize for the winner is a real chance at reaching the Super Eight Stage of the tournament, given Pakistan's injury woes and the sometimes inconsistant form of the West Indies.
Sri Lanka vs Bermuda:
Prediction: Sri Lanka to brush Bermuda aside, but only after Leverock has entertained the crowd with his "jiggling, jogging" celebration.
Players to Watch: Kumar Sangakkara and Dwayne Leverock.
Ireland vs Zimbabwe:
Prediction: With a tint of green on the wicket, the team who wins the toss and bowls should win. I'm going for the first shock of the competition and counting on the luck of the Irish to pull Ireland through in a tightly contested match.
Players to Watch: Trent Johnston and Sean Williams.
Tuesday, 13 March 2007
Prediction: Australia to cruise home.
Players to Watch: Ricky Ponting of course and Ryan Watson.
Kenya vs Canada:Prediction: Kenya by a fairly comfortable margin. They are the side capable of a shock in this group.
Players to Watch: The two captains and war horses, Steve Tikolo and John Davison.
Mitchell Johnson (Australia)
At 25, Johnson is perhaps not quite so young, but he is fresh to international cricket after finally overcoming years of injury problems. Possibly the most hyped Australian bowler of the last decade, his fast left arm bowling style is in contrast to that of team mate Nathan Bracken, who is more of a swing bowler. Johnson of course accounted for Kevin Pietersen at the recent ICC Champions Trophy with a splendid one two set-up and he has also taken the prized wickets of Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar. Yet to play a Test match, 2007 is surely his breakthrough year. With an ODI average of 27.88 and strike rate of 31.38 at an economy of 5.33, he is a very promising package indeed.
Shahriar Nafees (Bangladesh)
A left handed opening batsman who debuted at the tender age of 19, he has quickly established himself as an international class player. Now 21, he is a typically aggressive batsman who is renowned for his audacious sweep shots. Averaging 33.50 in Test matches and 40.40 in ODI’s, he has a very bright future ahead of him, as he displayed in making his maiden Test match century against none other than Australia. Yet to score a century in ODI’s against one of the big boys, he will be looking to do precisely that in the Caribbean.
Liam Plunkett (England)
A surprise call up for the post-Ashes winter tours of Pakistan and India after injury to Chris Tremlett, Plunkett has gone from strength to strength, especially since the latest Ashes series. He is a typical Duncan Fletcher player, capable of fifties with the bat, good work in the field and of course, match winning spells of seam and swing bowling, at lively medium-fast pace. His 3-43 against Australia in the deciding second final of the recent CB series may just earn him a starting birth ahead of Jon Lewis. His Test batting average is nothing special at a mere 8.62, but his ODI average of 23.45 is indicative of a player who can bat. A Test bowling average of 37.56 and strike rate of 62.75 is proof that Plunkett is still learning, but in ODIs his performances have improved markedly and he is better than his average of 35.82, at a strike rate of 36.89, with a declining economy rate of 5.82 suggest. He has the potential to match Irfan Pathan’s best performances.
Shanthakumaran Sreesanth (India)
At just 24, he seems to have established himself as India’s best pace bowler. A very aggressive “in your face” type of bowler, he enjoys bowling controlled outswing at a good fast-medium pace. His Test match bowling average of 25.97 and strike rate of 46.18 provide early evidence of his class. Though he can be expensive at times, with an ODI economy rate of 5.75, he is also a wicket taker and will be key to India’s challenge in the West Indies. He is still developing as an ODI bowler, but an average of 36.11 and strike rate of 37.62 is still nothing to ashamed of. Also capable of the odd heave ho with the bat.
Ross Taylor (New Zealand)
At 23 Taylor looks to have established himself in the Kiwi middle order for a long time to come. An athletic fielder and handy off spinner, this aggressive young right handed middle order batsman is highly reminiscent of Kevin Pietersen, with his preference for leg side shots, which can be his downfall when the ball strikes his pads. However, his timing is such that this is a rare event and he is a powerful batsman who adds impetus to New Zealand’s top order, with lusty blows over deep mid-wicket a favourite. Averaging 39.93 in ODIs, including fantastic hundreds against the Aussies and Sri Lankans, a Test call will surely follow later in the year.
AB de Villiers (South Africa)
A real team player, A.B. seems to have been around for ages. Still only just turned 23, he has yet to settle down into a regular batting position. He currently opens in the ODI side, though he has also batted throughout the rest of the order in both ODI and Test match cricket. A wicket keeper batsman, he unsurprisingly makes a superb outfielder with his customary acrobatics. Whilst not yet spectacular, his batting averages of 35.14 in Tests and 34.00 in ODI’s are indicative of a man still searching for the position which he can make his own. Watch out for his aggressive style of batting, which in conjunction with Graeme Smiths', can be a real pleasure to behold.
Lasith Malinga (Sri Lanka)
One of the “variety” bowlers within the varied Sri Lankan attack, his round-arm action can be extremely difficult for opposing batsmen to pick up, especially when the ball is spearing into their toes at 95mph. An exceptionally fast and aggressive bowler, a large number of his victims are bowled, because of his unique bowling style. He holds an ODI average of 26.97 and strike rate of 33.82, at a surprisingly low economy rate of 4.78 for a strike bowler. It is in Test cricket where his figures truly are remarkable for a 23 year old though. Possessing an average of 31.57, he has an outstanding strike rate of just 49.45. Quip “Malinga the slinger” at your peril.
Jerome Taylor (West Indies)
The spearhead of the West Indian attack at just 22, this genuinely fast bowler has a very bright future ahead of him. Though it took him two years to recover from being pushed into the Test team far too early, at just 18 years of age, he is now a much stronger character. His Test figures are recovering, with an average of 33.19 and strike rate of 57.61. He has though excelled in ODI’s, with a bowling average of 26.72 and strike rate of 32.83 at an economy of 4.88 and he already has an ODI hat-trick to his name against Australia in the recent ICC Champions Trophy. Possesses a deadly Yorker, which Darren Gough would be proud of.
Counteracting this though is of course the fact that the West Indies will be opening this eagerly anticipated tournament in front of their own fans on their own soil, a proud moment for any nation. Pakistan meanwhile are still all to aware that the recent losses of Shoaib Aktar, Mohammad Asif and Abdul Razzaq could destroy their World Cup challenge.
With many predicting the pitches to be slow and low though, Pakistan's Danish Kaneria will be looking for the chance to firmly establish himself as Shane Warne's successor on the World stage. With Shoaib Malik, Shahid Afridi and Mohammad Hafeez in the side though it remains to be seen whether he will be given that opportunity. Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels will be looking to match the Pakistani spinners in what could be a relatively low scoring affair.
This game appears to be almost too close to call. The West Indies have the upper hand in previous World Cup meetings between the two sides, winning five and losing just two. However, Pakistan will remember fondly their last meetings with the West Indies in the Caribbean, when they whitewashed them with a 3-0 series win in 2005.
Prediction: West Indies to get off to the start this tournament needs them to, with a narrow victory over their sub-continental opposition, in a reasonably low scoring encounter.
Players to Watch: Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Mohammad Youssef.
What do you think?
Monday, 12 March 2007
(Click on a player's name to read the piece written on them in compiling the side)
Ricky Ponting (captain)
Kumar Sangakkara (wicket-keeper)
All players unavailable for the tournament were not considered.
Update: Only four members of the side made our World Cup Dream Team.
Many of you asked why Adam Gilchrist was not selected: the reason is he has averaged just 25 in his last 20 ODIs. Sangakkara, meanwhile, was the leading ODI run-scorer in 2006.
The contrasting pair of Shaun Pollock and Shane Bond would open the bowling; Pollock would normally bowl with the new ball, while Bond would bowl around five overs, and would return for two bursts in the middle of the innings.
Andrew Flintoff would be used as first change, while spinners Murriah Muralitharan and Chis Gayle would bowl their overs between overs 20 and 50, with Sanath Jayasuriya bowling a few overs of spin if the pitch was particularly conducive to it. Flintoff, Gayle and Muralitharan would bowl the last 10 overs between them.
Feel free leave your comments on the final side. Are the selection panel in need of P45s?