Title defenders must look for a fresh approach ahead of New Zealand tie

Posted: Saturday, September 29, 2012 by Sanya Michelangelo in Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

England is no stranger to failures, but there is something different this time. They have the memories of lifting the trophy in the Caribbean a couple years ago. So, what if the captain has changed? So, what if Man of the Tournament Kevin Pietersen is nowhere to be seen, except for the studio of ESPN? So, what if Yardy has succumbed to depression? They still got Stuart Broad, this time as captain. Swann, Morgan & Kieswetter too. Finn, if not Sidebottom.

Johny Bairstow looks like a mythical mystical character, like he could beat anyone for the role of prince charming in the TV series Once Upon a Time. Wait, is there something wrong in talking about the looks of a cricketer? Not in the first year, but definitely in a World Cup. When both strike together, you know there is something wrong.

Standing tall: Captain Broad never hides his face.

It's obvious there are too many new players in the English side. Bairstow is merely 23, 4 Tests, 7 ODIs and 13 Twenty20s old. Jos Buttler is 22, has played only one ODI and 14 Twenty20s. Alex Hales is 23, 10 Twenty20s old. And although Kieswetter and Wright have played far more matches than these, they are not reliable or regular. Am not saying fresh energy is bad, it's just that it needs to be balanced out with consistency. England have dug themselves a hole by not taking any experienced batsman like Trott, Bell, KP or Cook with them. But, all is not lost. Winning both of their warm-ups didn't help, but losing to India and West Indies should be enough to provide a wake-up call. A change in tactics and mindset can still take them to the semi-finals. Lumb, in place of Kieswetter and Morgan at No.3 can definitely give the batting line-up a boost. Throw the gloves to Bairstow, Butler or Hales. They are all wicketkeepers for their counties, the latter only an occasional one though.

Jade Dernbach is proving to be too expensive. And England have kept Briggs out in favour of Samit Patel. It would be better to give all 3 spinners a shot. England is a team who is known for it's lack of spinners. But, times have changed. Like other teams are doing, England could make spin a weapon in Asia.

England are next up against New Zealand on September 29 at 10:00 GMT (15:30 local). This game will be played at Pallekele and not Colombo (where England were bowled out for 80 by India) so they should be able to walk past this. A tougher challenge will be posed by home team Sri Lanka, though still at Pallekele. History tells us home teams have not gone beyond quarters in the Twenty20 World Cup, but Sri Lanka is a stronger contender at home. England's run in this Cup was always going to be unpredictable with promising but inexperienced players, so I'll be disappointed if they don't throw any more surprises our way.

One-man Urgency not Enough for Stuttering England

Posted: Friday, September 28, 2012 by Celia in Labels: , , , , , , ,

England are on the brink of World T20 elimination, after falling to West Indies in the first game of the Super Eights round. The uninspiring performance is unlikely to please their captain, Stuart Broad, as his side battle to defend the title they won two years ago.

On a turning pitch in Pallekele, England struggled to put their fast bowlers to any use as Johnson Charles and Chris Gayle put on a staggering 103-run opening partnership to hand West Indies a decisive advantage.

Despite Broad’s best efforts to expel the middle order, his side faced a mountainous 180 to win against an opposition buoyed by their group stage success.

Indeed, in sticky Pallekele conditions, England came undone early in their reply and, after Craig Kieswetter and Luke Wright both fell for weak ducks, England’s comeback was over before it even began, the side falling 15 runs short of their target.

What was most disappointing about the game for fans, however, was not the loss itself, but instead the manner of England’s run chase. For Broad’s side looked incapable of playing against spin, with Chris Gayle and Samuel Badree superlative with the ball in hand.

While Badree stunted England’s fightback with a magnificent 20 runs lost from four overs, Gayle picked off a crucial Jonny Bairstow wicket to ruin all chances of a late flourish from the 2010 champions.

Indeed, the only source of inspiration in the England side was Alex Hales, whose staggering 68 off 51 deliveries gave Broad hope before he was stumped late on.

With a complete inability to play against spin, England lost an early chance to top their Super Eights group and secure safe passage to the semi-finals. Broad and co. have it all to do now, and the top order must learn from Hales’ superb innings if they are to avoid catching an early flight home next week.

Apprentice Bairstow quickly becomes master

Posted: Wednesday, September 26, 2012 by Celia in Labels: , , ,

Just six months after his first inclusion in an England Test side Jonny Bairstow is now recognised as a stalwart member of the team after youngster Joe Root claimed he would learn from his team-mate’s experiences ahead of their tour of India.

Root, selected for his first ever Test tour by new captain Alastair Cook last week, has worked well with Bairstow at county level for two years and this season’s exploits at the top of Yorkshire’s order has earned him a deserved role in the national side.

Speaking to BBC Radio Leeds, Root revealed that the experience Bairstow gained from his debut baptism of fire against West Indies in May will come in handy when the two head to India this winter.

“I’ll definitely learn from what he went through,” Root confirmed. “It was great to see him come back so strongly and become a better player.”

Indeed, Root is right to take heed of Bairstow’s Test exploits this summer as the 21-year-old prepares for a whole new world of cricket. He may have helped Yorkshire to promotion back to the County Championship Division One this season but that is nothing compared with the pressure of standing at the England crease.

With former captain Andrew Strauss now retired, Cook is searching for an opener to fill the void and if Root does well out in India he may well cement a place in the side for next summer’s Ashes series.

Using Bairstow’s experience as a benchmark for aiding his own performances will put Root in good stead for a tricky tour of India. The Yorkshireman must be ready to pick up the bat and meet England’s high standards and with Bairstow in the dressing room Root has a guide to ease him through this rigorous test.

England succumb to old failings

Posted: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 by Celia in Labels: , , , ,

Stuart Broad’s refusal to admit that England cannot play spin after they were bowled out for their lowest ever Twenty20 total by India’s Harbhajan Singh and Piyush Chawla, is laughable.

Forums were once again lamenting familiar failings in Sunday evening after Singh and Chawla took 6-25 from 8 overs combined as England slumped to a pathetic 80 all out in Colombo, needing 171 to win.

England will have no chance of winning at this tournament if a side decides to bowl and all spin attack at them.

It has been no secret that in Test, ODIs and T20 cricket, England cannot handle a turning ball, especially on the subcontinent. Pakistan’s Saeed Ajmal ripped through England during the winter in the UAE, as an insistence to play the sweep shot saw Andrew Strauss’s Test side lose 3-0 in that series.

England are lucky that they do not have to face Pakistan in the Super Eights of the competition, but no doubt Sunil Narine, George Dockrell and Ajantha Mendis will be licking their lips.

Things are never simple with England, and their preparations were looking all so good for the ICC World T20. Two good warm-up victories and a thrashing of Afghanistan were papering over the cracks of fragile and young batting order. The latest T20 cricket betting odds suggest punters doubt whether England can make it through to the semi-final stage.

Dare we say it, but a certain Kevin Pieteresen can whack any spinner out of the ground in T20 cricket, but his feud with Broad and others in the England dressing room has left cricket lovers worldwide bereft of their deserved entertainment.

You can always get over a defeat, but the thrashing that India handed out to England in a game that was a dead rubber will have knocked confidence whatever ‘spin’ the skipper tries to put on it for the media. Broad’s most ridiculous defence is that the players looked good in the nets. Well in case you didn’t notice Stuart, cricket is played out in the middle – and looking ‘good’ in the nets is about as useful as a chocolate fireguard.

An innings that changed life

Posted: Wednesday, September 19, 2012 by Sanya Michelangelo in Labels: , , , , , ,

All eyes will be on Jos Butler during England's World Twenty 20 campaign. His name might have been anonymous a week ago, but today he is regarded as the man to watch out for. In a perfect end to English summer, Jos Butler smashed 32 off Wayne Parnell to make people gleam in amusement at England's latest finding. His fireworks couldn't come at a better time. England left for Sri Lanka with security, excitement and a belief in themselves. They are eager to see more of Butler and feel he could be the new star in rising.

But, this is English cricket we are talking about and the drama doesn't end on the field. The ECB and Kevin Pietersen have kept the media pretty busy over the last few months. In latest news, KP rejected a four-month contract from the ECB hours before he was omitted from the squad of India tour. I reckon, the reason Pietersen and ECB have not been able to resolve their conflicts is Pietersen's changing mind. He has been unsure over whether he wants to play for England or do something which is more convenient for him. All players who aspire to play for England want to stay in the team for as long as they perform. Pietersen however, is a little less patriotic and cares more about his personal needs. The IPL, the Big Bash, even the studio of ESPN are more convenient to be in than England cricket team. It's obvious how. Being a part of Twenty20 leagues or a commentary team doesn't require you to deal with an egotistic, cash hungry board. Rather, you can better take care of your cash needs. They don't make you feel like an employee but rather like a freelancer. They are not played every month so that also gives you time to be with your family. I'm with KP on this, who would chose to deal with ECB and also ignore all these benefits?

It seemed likely that KP won't be a part of the England team. Remember that his retirement from the shorter forms of the game started it all. For whatever reason, his desire to play for England had decreased back then. And his interest in touring Sri Lanka as a presenter rather than a player further confirmed his lack of desire. An apology, a video expressing his 100% commitment to England, appealing for an inquiry against teammates, turning down a contract left heads spinning. This tells us KP isn't too easy to deal with either.

The funny part now though, is whether we'll see Kevin Pietersen interviewing Stuart Broad at the end of a lost battle, asking, "Did you miss Kevin Pietersen in your team today?".

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Broad hails Buttler contribution

Posted: Monday, September 17, 2012 by Celia in Labels: , , ,

Stuart Broad hailed Jos Buttler as the Somerset batsman rounded off England's preparations for their World Twenty20 title defence with a match-winning performance against South Africa.

Broad's side went into the final international of the summer at Edgbaston 1-0 down in a rain-affected three-match series. In a match shortened to 11 overs per side by bad weather, England posted 118-5, thanks in the main to Craig Kieswetter's half-century and Buttler's stunning unbeaten 32 from only 10 balls. England restricted the Proteas to 90-5 in reply, ensuring they drew the series and departed for Sri Lanka on the back of a morale-boosting victory.

Broad reserved special praise for Buttler, who finally announced himself on the international stage with a mixture of lusty blows and deft touches. "Jos changed the momentum of the game and that's what he's in the side for," said the England skipper. "You look for guys like that in Twenty20 cricket to change the game with bat and ball."

Buttler made his T20 international debut last August but had managed only 36 runs in six innings before his thrilling knock in Birmingham. The 22-year-old arrived at the crease with only 16 balls of the innings remaining but helped England add a further 54, with Wayne Parnell going for 32 in his final over.

Buttler was pleased to make his mark and help England register a much-needed win, though fans still doubt their chances in Sri Lanka. "I swung hard and it came off. International cricket hasn't gone as well as I would have hoped so far and now I'm just glad to contribute to a winning side," he said. "It's good preparation and I'm looking forward to Sri Lanka."

England will face Afghanistan and India in the group stage of the World T20. The tournament begins on September 18 and runs until October 7.

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Clarke backs T20 comrades

Posted: by Celia in Labels: , , ,

Australian Test skipper Michael Clarke believes the country’s Twenty20 squad have the ability to win the upcoming World Cup in Sri Lanka which all gets underway on September 18.

Clarke will not feature in the tournament later this month, having decided back in January that he would focus on playing for the Australian Test and one-day teams.

The Aussies are considered outsiders according to the T20 world cup betting odds and sit in ninth place in the Twenty20 world rankings. However, the Test captain believes there is enough talent in the squad to win the upcoming tournament.

Clarke said: "I think we can win the Twenty20 World Cup for sure. "We've got the talent, I think we showed that in the last game against Pakistan in the UAE. "We've showed it in patches over the last couple of years and we made the final last time around and I hope we can go one better."

There is no doubting there has been a steady decline in Australian cricket as the dominant force of the game over recent years but there have also been recent signs the side are improving in all forms of the sport. With the loss of the likes of Shane Warne, Glen McGrath, Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist in a relatively short space of time, it would be hard for any team to maintain the high standards that we have come to expect from the Aussies.

However with young players coming through and a strong willed captain in the in the form of George Bailey, they certainly have the potential to go far in the upcoming World Cup and even challenge for the title in the subcontinent.


Jayawardene hoping for home advantage

Posted: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 by Sanya Michelangelo in Labels: , , , , ,

By Thomas Rooney

Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene has admitted that the conditions and crowd could play a big part in the Twenty20 World Cup later in the month and is hopeful that home advantage will help his side lift the trophy. The Sri Lankans have been the nearly men in big tournaments over recent years – losing in the 50-over World Cup semi-final in 2007 and then the final in 2009. This was followed up by finishing as runners-up in the T20 World Cup in 2009. Now though, Jayawardene believes that the team are good enough to go all the way and thinks that being on home soil is sure to play a massive part in delivering success.

He said: “Obviously we have a slight advantage in little bit of the conditions as well as the crowd being behind us. We'll definitely enjoy some fanatic fans behind us.” Kumar Sangakkara has been an injury doubt for the tournament, along with seam bowler Nuwan Kulasekara, but Jayawardene believes that they will both be taking part in the competition. "Kumar is getting along well. I think he's been batting day and night getting extra net sessions (as) he has lost a few in the past few weeks. Kumar is like that," Jayawardene said. "Nuwan has been bowling 80 to 90 per cent in the last week or so. Next week we'll push him a bit more with the fielding and all that. He should be OK with his groin injury."

Sangakkara is a key figure in the Sri Lankan side and Jayawardene will know that he will need him in the team if they are to go far in this competition as his experience is vital. He is also someone the captain can turn to when things are not going right as the prolific batsman has also has captained the team in the past.

The host-nation get the World Cup underway on 18th September with a game against Zimbabwe in game that will be seen as a must win if they are to make the Super Eight stages of the tournament.


England's absent match-winners

Posted: Monday, September 10, 2012 by Celia in Labels: , , , ,

England proved at the 2010 ICC World Twenty20 that they are happy to make late changes to selection plans for this format, if not others. Impressed by the power hitting of Michael Lumb and Craig Kieswetter in a warm-up match between England and their shadow team, the pair were installed as opening partners on the eve of an event they played a big part in England winning.

It is for this reason that plenty of county players would have been hopeful when the squad for Sri Lanka was announced last month. But in fact the squad contained no surprises, with the memory of the struggles experienced by domestic T20 specialists in the inaugural event in 2007 perhaps still fresh. Nonetheless, some men will be justifiably disappointed at being left out.

Kevin Pietersen is the most notable absentee, but there are others who have T20 records that demand respect. Only four men have scored more T20 runs than Owais Shah, with a fare bulk of this 3,952-run haul coming in the IPL. Such experience in conditions that will be similar in Sri Lanka should be hard to ignore and would have an impact on the T20 World cup betting, but the selectors see T20 as a young man's game and were never likely to go back to an unathletic player, dropped three years ago, who turns 34 next month.

This mindset is highlighted by the presence of Danny Briggs in the squad. The 21-year-old slow left-armer is uncapped at T20 level, but did make a favourable impression in his sole One Day International appearance, against Pakistan in February and undoubtedly has a bright international future ahead of him.

However, he has been no more than a solid performer in Hampshire's successful T20 team this year and is perhaps fortunate to get the nod ahead of the more experienced Gareth Batty and James Tredwell, who also have superior batting in their favour. Fellow stalwarts Chris Nash and Dimitri Mascarenhas have again impressed this year, but the selectors are largely loyal to the players who have served Stuart Broad pretty well in recent months.

Cook’s Opener Dilemma

Posted: Tuesday, September 4, 2012 by Celia in Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

With the retirement of Andrew Strauss comes a great opportunity for new England captain, Alastair Cook.

The left-hander now rules both Test and one-day squads and is set for a gruelling next couple of years, as England restructure their squads after a period of world dominance.

Cook’s first job is to prepare England for a tough tour of India, where he will walk out to the crease with a new partner. Until November, the captain will have a serious problem reeling through the back of his mind: who will replace Strauss at the top of the Test order?

With Strauss now gone from the Test squad, England suddenly look quite lightweight at the crease.

Cook was magnificent against Australia in the last Ashes series and has proven himself as a reliable starter, yet he has been gifted the chance to learn the art of opening a Test innings alongside one of England’s greatest ever captains.

Now, without Strauss, Cook must lead the line and bring in a partner up top. Calls for Ian Bell or Jonathan Trott to ascend the batting order have been voiced by many people, but these two have cemented good form lower down, and it would be unwise to dislodge them from a position they feel comfortable in.

Cook may therefore look to one of Yorkshire’s two lighting batters, Jonny Bairstow or Joe Root. Bairstow has proven hit mettle in one-dayers and hit a magnificent 95 in the first Test innings against South Africa at Lord’s, but was playing at a comfortable sixth man.

A step up could unsettle the Yorkshireman, however, and therefore Cook may opt for Root, who has a 40.57 first class average.

Root has done well at Headingley this season and continues to show good form with the bat. Although India would be a baptism of fire for the 21-year-old to make his Test debut, Cook’s experienced presence may well see him develop into another great England opener.