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Archive for the ‘England Cricket’ Category

2011 sentence – England beat Sri Lanka by an innings, having bowled them out on the last afternoon for 82.  Already down to  two seamers, their remaining seamers bowled with pace and venom, their spinner took 7 wickets in the match and there were two hundreds and double ton from the top 5.

Pre 2009 sentence – England beat Sri Lanka by an innings, having bowled them out on the last afternoon for 82.  Already down to  two seamers, their remaining seamers bowled with pace and venom, THEIR SPINNER TOOK 7 WICKETS IN THE MATCH and there were two hundreds and double ton from the top 5.

England have always had players capable of scoring runs and seamers who could run through a side every now and then, even in the late 90’s.  

But Graeme Swann has changed our perception of what is expected of an England spinner ever so slightly.

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Everyone gives up on England winning, and laughs at their attempts to do so.  England win.

What do you do now?

The running theme seems to be to point out that Australia would not have done what England did.  “Sure, England bowled out Sri Lanka in less than a session, but would Steve Waugh have let Ian Bell get his hundred?  Not a chance!”

No, he probably wouldn’t have.  Australia would have won two overs earlier, and Steve Waugh would be lauded for his steely captaincy which undoubtedly won his side the unwinnable.

Only Andrew Strauss let his player get a hundred AND won the game.

Why is Steve Waugh’s way better?

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When you are 40/5 chasing 350, it’s OK.  You were probably going to lose anyway.

When you are 40/5 chasing 110, it’s horrible.  You should not be losing.  At 40/5, you should probably still be OK.  But you know you won’t. 

 A quiet washes over the whole team, fuelled by the feeling that ice-cold water is suddenly coursing through your veins.  All of a sudden, you forget how the hell it was you scored that hundred a couple of weeks ago.  The gap between each fielder seems too small to fit the ball through. 

After finding the fielder for 3 overs, there is only one option – go over the top.  And that is where it all falls down.  Try to defend, and you are caught behind.  Try to attack, and the ball goes straight up in the air. 

You are a deep-sea diver, and someone has cut your air line. 

As an England fan, yesterday was a wonderful day, possibly the day when England went from being “decent” to “bloody hell….”.  I enjoyed it immensely.  But as a cricket fan and player, every time I saw that Sri Lankan dressing room something in my stomach lurched a little. 

We have all been there.

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In the news – 39-year-old Essex man Grant Flower returns to a Zimbabwe for the first time in 5 years.  Misbah-Ul-Haq, 36, goes from not even being in the Pakistan squad to captaining them.  The first is a heart-warming tale which illustrates just how far Zimbabwe have come over the past 18 months in particular.  The second shows just how far Pakistan have gone the other way in that time, but there is one clear message – after all the talk of cricket becoming a young mans game thanks to T20, good old-fashioned experience is back.

Unfortunately, nobody told Kevin Pietersen.  “It is time to start giving back and to realise that there are a lot of young players that do look up to senior players” said KP.  “I am 30 years old now. I have probably got to the top of the fence and am on the way down now. It is nice if you can help somebody else.”

He may want to have a word about that with super-freak Sachin Tendulkar about that, who appears to be getting younger again Benjamin Button style.

And who is his batting mentor, the man who has filled his head with this rubbish?  Graham Gooch of course, who was so rubbish after he passed 30 that he scratched around for 6360 runs at 46 and only made 16 hundreds.  interestingly, Pietersen currently has……16 Test tons.

Get your head down son.

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This is a bit odd.  England seem to have actually picked a half decent squad for a major tournament.  I genuinely don’t remember the last time this happened, and it certainly hasn’t in T20 cricket.  Damn it, who is going to be our Schofield/Maddy/Kirtley/Key/Napier this time?  A team like;

Lumb

Kiesswetter

Pietersen

Collingwood

Bopara/Yardy

Morgan

Wright

Swann

Broad

Bresnan

Anderson

actually looks more than reasonable. Especially when you consider the thus-far impressive Tredwell is in the mix as well.  Even Sidebottom could jut prove to be wily selection – if he stays fit, his left arm yorkers and slow bouncers are a handy variation.

Of course, the selectors picking the right squad for a change might actually prove to create an even bigger problem.  If England go out in the first couple of rounds, then it is going to be inescapable that it is because they are just plain rubbish.  This is where they need to learn a bit from their mentors, Pakistan.  If you drop half the team, you can at least pretend you would be good if you had a full side.

Another small issue is that Michael Lumb seems to have been born in a familiar country.  The link to the land of biltong may be tenuous in his case, but an alarming number of current England players seem to have strange combinations of “I”s, “E”s and “A”s in their place of birth.  It’s hard to escape the fact that this one is going to run and run.

Let’s be positive though.  At  10/1, England actually look like decent value for an each way punt.  Big hitters at the top, canny accumulators with the odd slogger in the middle order and a varied bowling line up – are England finally getting the idea?

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A rather unexpected realisation dawned on me at the end of last week.  I actually quite like Kevin Pietersen.

I know this is a quite uncool thing for a fully grown adult to say.  Adults who love KP are generally wallies who bat with a Woodworm in village cricket and still think Nasser Hussain is England captain.  He is full of traits uncommon to international cricketers – he is brash, he is cocky,he is media savvy – and generally I am suspicious of that.  To cap it off, he is good friends with Piers Morgan.   I should hate Kevin Pietersen.

Yet, when he played that putrid shot on 99, I could not help feeling sorry for him.  In fact, it was more than that.  He was so near, and yet so far from banishing his demons.  The poor bloke looked like he was going to cry.  I have not felt that devastated for an England cricketer since Paul Collingwood missed out on what I was sure would be his only chance of a test hundred in Pakistan in 2005.  Incidently, Colly notched up his 10th century in the same innings that Pietersen fell so agonizingly short, which doesn’t say much for my predicting skills. 

Pietersen must be the most misunderstood cricketer of his generation.  Yes, he was pushed from the captaincy, and yes, what he did was wrong, but people tend to forget that he was trying to encourage some much-needed improvement in English cricket.  Far a time, England were a bit of a rabble.  You half expected them to come out in twos and threes after tea, a couple of them stubbing out their post-feed cigarettes on the outfield.  Pietersen wanted to shake that up, and events since he was dismissed have proved him to be pretty much bang on the money. 

Whatever he does, he cannot win.  He is the hardest trainer in the side, and this seems to be yet more proof that he is aloof.  He is one of the few men to actually successfully create their own shot, and we label him a showpony.  I have never heard a single word from an England teammate criticising him, yet he is labelled a bad influence on team unity.

It is easy to call Pietersen a big head, and assume that he thinks himself the best player in the world.  For me, there is a subtle difference – he wants to be the best player in the world.  When he needs, it he asks for help – just witness him picking the brains of Rahul Dravid and Andy Flower last week.  In the days of player burnout, and certain individuals choosing the easier more lucrative T20 format, Pietersen openly admits to “enjoying” training and fitness work.  Now, isn’t that in the least bit refreshing?  Yes, it gives him the appearance of the school swot, but what is wrong with that?  After all, the school swots become the brain surgeons and the nuclear scientists. 

He has also been very quiet since his injury, which is very unusual.  Normally, he is the first to line up for the cameras, metaphorically flexing his muscles.  And I have even missed that.   When he finally spoke out last week, blasting “Cricket is a game for men.  It’s not for girls!”, I couldn’t help but giggle.   In an age where cricketers, particularly English ones it must be said, are “hitting the right areas”, “doing the hard yards” and “coming to the party”, Pietersen ruthlessly cutting down anyone who rubs him up the wrong way always cheers me up, although Samit Patel may disagree.  He is like a roaming, cricketing version of Charlie Brooker.

Ask anyone for a great role model for kids, and it is highly unlikely that Pietersen would be top of the list.  Hell, he probably wouldn’t be near the top of mine.  But I have to ask – why not?

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October 8th

The missus takes a phone call in the morning, she says it is a man named Geoff for me.  A call up to the England side!  Finally, the hard work over the past couple of years has paid off.  I only manage to make the Test squad, which seems a bit odd as apparently Saj Mahmood is in the ODI squad.  Oh well, can’t complain.

November 18th 

Arrive in South Africa early due to injuries, just in time to see old horse face get smashed all round the park in the one dayers.  Nobody else does much better.  Heh heh heh.  I am bound to have climbed up the pecking order now.

December 15th 

Andy sits me down, and says I have just missed out on selection for the first test.  Oh well, I can’t be too far off a return now.  He encourages me to keep working at my game, so I buy a stump, head to the nets and work on hitting the top of it.

 January 3rd

Still no game.  I have managed to keep busy for the past few weeks by bowling at one stump a lot and dicking about with walkie-talkies whenever the camera is on me.  Jimmy has a bad knee and Stuart keeps swearing at umpires, so it feels like I will be getting a game soon.

 January 13th

Rumour has it that Onions is tired, and will be missing out on the last test.  Brilliant, this has to be my chance!

 January 17th

They picked Sidebottom.  Jesus wept.  England bowl a load of old tripe and lose.  Obviously.  All the while, my line and length at one stump is quite fantastic.  I must be getting close to a game now.

 January 18th

The selectors have obviously seen the error of their ways, and have picked me for all three squads to go to Bangladesh.  Excellent, all this extra work over the winter is paying off!  Colly is moaning about the golf courses on the sub-continent, but I won’t have time for that with all the cricket I will be playing.

February 20th 

The final Twenty20 was today, but still no game.  Someone called Amjal opened the bowling in the last game.  I don’t know who he is.  Andy and Cookie haven’t spoken to me for a few days now.  They must be saving me for the one dayers.

 February 28th

The one dayers started today, but my name wasn’t on the list.  Sidebottom seems to be playing again though.  I go and get my stump.

 March 2nd

Finally pluck up the courage to ask Andy why I’m not playing.  He seems surprised to see me, but promises me a game if we win the second ODI, which we do!  My chance to shine!  Slightly worried that my name is down as “Lee” on the teamsheet though – must be a printing mistake.

 March 5th

2 overs!  2 ****ING OVERS!  Amjal comes in, opens the bowling, goes at 6.11 an over and gets 9 overs.  Having traipsed around carrying KP’s bag all winter, I go at 6 and get 2 overs.  Not only that, they put me down to bat at 11!  And Pietersen bowls my other 8 overs!

 March 7th

Everyone is injured, so I am guaranteed a start in the test matches.  We even have to draft in some tall guy called Steven to make up the numbers for the tour game!  I bowl pretty well, and feel confident that my international career will begin again on Friday.

 March 11th

People keep interviewing Steven.  I don’t know what this means.

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