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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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A medium paced wobbler that transformed into an off spinner when he couldn’t be arsed to run up in later life will always earn great respect from any seasoned cricketer.  But twin that with a batting style that looked like Babe Ruth crossed with a particularly violent lumberjack, and you have the stuff of legend.

Astonishingly, Lance Klusener began his first class career as a slippery fast bowler who batted at number 11.  By 1996 he was in the South African one day side, and was drafted into the Test squad for the tour of India later that year.  Having been boshed aroundCalcuttaon Test debut in the first innings, he then responded with a career best 8/64 in the second innings.  He will never be remembered for his bowling or his Test match performances though.

In one day cricket Klusener was an absolute beast.  His bowling may have drifted more and more into the Chris Harris category as his career wore on, but that mattered little.  Over 171 internationals, “Zulu” averaged more than 40 with the bat at a strike rate of near-on 90 and less than 30 with the ball at an economy of 4.7.  Of course, it was for the 1999 World Cup that he will be remembered.  Firstly, for his utter disdain for anyone clutching a white ball in the latter stages of the innings.  Averaging a scarcely credible 134 at considerably better than a run a ball, he also found time to chip in with 14 wickets at 20. 

He even managed to save his best for the Australians, slamming a violent 36 off of 21 balls in the super 6’s.  He wouldn’t have had to play them again had Herschelle Gibbs not thrown the ball on the floor to reprieve Steve Waugh later in the game, but in the resultant semi final he was even better.  Already on 23 from 12 balls, he was left to score 9 off of the last over with only Allan Donald for company, and promptly slapped two fours off of the first two balls.  Of course, what came next was to become the second reason the 1999 World Cup is synonymous with Lance Klusener….

His career coughed and spluttered from then on, but the legend had been made.  T20 came just too late for him, which in itself is a tragedy.  But for one tournament at least, there was no more thrilling or destructive sight than Lance Klusener in full flow.

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Date: 10th July 1976

Venue: Old Trafford,Manchester, 3rd Test match

Backstory: Faced with one of the most formidable pace attacks in Test history,England recall 45-year old Brian Close. England gain credible draws in the first two Tests, but the gulf between the sides opens up at Old Trafford as England crumble to 72 all out in the first dig, then are left to “chase” 552 to win.

The Story: With a cracked, variable track, Close and Edrich have 80 minutes to play out until the end of Day 3.  The West Indies attack have a point to prove after being kept at bay for so long in the series.  As the light closes in Holding, in every sense of the word, goes for the jugular.  It is enough to give Andy McNab 

What follows is trademark Close.  He ducks and swerves at the last possible moment from a barrage a short-pitched bowling.  When the ball does strike him, it is met with his typical Yorkshire glare – and nothing else.  No grimacing, no worried looks an above all else no fear, Close could be behind a desk pondering his latest businees lunch.  It is a red rag to the seething Holding.

England, of course, lose heavily, but only after a defiant 108-ball 20 from Close and an equally impressive 24 from Edrich see them well into the 4th Day.  Holding goes so far with his attack that he is warned, and even his captain admits that he went too far.

That innings proves to be the last for Close in England colours.  It is unlikely he would have wanted to go out any other way than with a cluster of bruises and an angry fast bowler cursing his name.

Quote – “”Our fellows got carried away. They knew they had only eighty minutes that night to make an impression and they went flat-out, sacrificing accuracy for speed. They knew afterwards they had bowled badly.” – Clive Lloyd.

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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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Previous Performances: 2007 –  Super 8’s               2009 – Super 8’s

Group – D with West Indies and Ireland

Form (recent first) LWLWNNLWLW.  Which quite neatly sums up England in this format.  They have neither lost or won more than one game in a row since the start of the last World Cup.

Odds – 12/1

Captain – Paul Collingwood

Key player – Man of the moment Graeme Swann just keeps going.  With spin expected to play a major part in the tournament, England will be looking to him as an attacking threat rather than someone who will keep an end tight.  Also offers some handy lower order hitting, and England would do well to nudge him up the order a couple of places.

Strength – Everything finally appears to be coming together.  The bowling attack is showing promise of devloping into a good unit, and they probably have the deepest batting line up in the tournament.  England also now have an athletic fielding outfit which will be the envy of most sides, and have somehow ended up in far and away the easiest group.

Weakness – After 16 goes, they are yet to find anything like a decent opening partnership.   So much relies on Collingwood, Pietersen and Morgan finding the boundary that if any of those three have a poor tournament England will struggle to post the really imposing totals.

Can they win it?

Prediction – Super 8’s.  England are better, but still not quite good enough.

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