Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Players who take your breath away

Over on the Silly Point donthaveaclue has written about the 10 players who in his opinion annihilate attacks or rip through opposition batting line-ups. I started thinking about who would be in my top 10 and here's the list. Positions 2-10 are rather fluid and players move up and down depending on what mood I'm in.

10. Lance Klusener
In the one day game there have been few people who have been able to finish innings as well as Klusener. He particularly excelled when it came to performing in World Cups and dragged South Africa over the line on several occasions when they seemed down and out.

9. Kevin Pietersen
Switch hits for six, flamingo flicks through midwicket and the Red Bull single to get off the mark. The man is so special they have had to invent names forsome of his shots. He can score quickly in all forms of the game and has a habit of scoring big hundreds. His performances in his debut one day series against South Africa and in the 2005 Ashes are perfect examples of his ability to smash the ball around the ground no matter who is bowling.

8. Herschelle Gibbs
There are few players who would bat well enough for their team to be able to chase 434 in a one day game but Gibbs made 175 from 111 balls and South Africa beat Australia. He has played many innings in a similar fashion no matter what form of the game and the match situation but none better than that.

7. Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose
The ultimate double act. Opening bowlers for the West Indies and the last world class examples (for now) of their feted fast bowlers. 421 wickets between them in the 49 tests they played together shows how they were vital for the West Indies and their ability to continually pick up wickets. Both were genuinely quick and fantastic to watch.

6. Andrew Flintoff
He makes this list thanks to performances with the bat and ball. Highlights of his batting include the 2005 Ashes while his spell to Jacques Kallis at Edgbaston this year was breath-taking to watch.

5. Virender Sehwag
He has become hit and miss recently but still scores at a rate of 99 in one day cricket and 77 in test cricket. His triple hundred off 278 balls against South Africa in Chennai (2008) as well as his 309 against Pakistan in 2004 were wonderful examples of the shots he is capable of playing when in good form.

4. Shane Warne
There are too many unbelievable performances for me to go through. His spell in the 1999 World Cup against South Africa and 40 wickets in the 2005 Ashes are the two that stand out immediately. He made leg spin and cricket cool.

3. Allan Donald
There are few better sights in the game than watching stumps go flying and Donald did that a lot. He would always run in as fast as he could even when the game seemed lost and more often than not made something happen.

2. Sachin Tendulkar
Probably the greatest batsman since Bradman. He can hit balls for boundaries or sixes that lesser mortals would tap for a single or leave alone. 'Nuff said.

1. Adam Gilchrist
In case you hadn't worked it out yet, Gilchrist is my cricketing idol. I would get up at 2 or 3 or 4 in the morning just to watch him bat. Sometimes it would be worth it and other times he’d get out in about five mins after I’d stayed up for 3 hours waiting for him and I’d feel like crying (the only thing I love more than cricket is sleep lol). He was one of the main reasons that Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting could demand his team to try and score at 4 an over to give the bowlers time to bowl sides out twice.

His innings of 201* against South Africa in 2002 was exceptional as was his maiden Test hundred in a game that everyone said Australia couldn’t win. Even when he wasn’t in the greatest form he could tear attacks apart - his 57 ball hundred against England at Perth in 2007 being a great example. As an opener in one day cricket he could win games for Australia almost by himself as his innings in the 2007 World Cup final showed.

I’m waiting to find a player who can make me feel that way about the game again. Others such as Tendulkar come close in my opinion but Gilchrist was one of a kind - the first and so far only player I really idolised.

So that's that. Anyone I've missed or shouldn't have included in your opinion then comment away.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Bowlers and batsmen

The choice of spinners is equally rubbish. Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann - neither have performed particularly well all summer but have been chosen because the selectors chose to play safe. They could have picked the kid Adil Rashid who finished the season with 62 wickets at 30 compared to Swann with 30 at 26. Why not take a risk and pick a kid who has the potential to become a very good spinner.

The quicks chosen - Harmison, Anderson, Flintoff, Sidebottom and Broad are the obvious choices. They've performed well enough over the past few months and I have no problems with any of them making the squad.

The main positive about this squad is the inclusion of Owais Shah. He's played well in the Tests he has been selected for and managed to score runs while being shuffled up and down the order in one-day games. He is a better batsman that Ravi Bopara and has been harshly treated by the England management in previous seasons. Here's hoping he plays and does well.

England Play It Safe

England's squad for the Test series against India this winter is boring. Fact.

By offering Matt Prior and Tim Ambrose incremental contracts (contracts for people that the selectors don't really know what to with) they both have to be taken to India. Thanks to this ridiculous system James Foster has been left out again.

Foster has proved that he is the best keeper in the country this season and finished with a batting average of 50. There's not a whole lot more he can do to show the selectors how good he is. To not even get a place in the Performance squad shows the selectors have some sort of vendetta going on or else they are losing their minds.

The selection of a strong batting line up means that England don't even need a keeper who can score lots of hundreds - Foster will get runs at Test level and a few hundreds. In addition he will save hundreds of runs behind the stumps by taking nearly every chance the bowlers (quicks and spinners) create. The whole keeper situation is mad and there are suggestions of a closed Team England yet again - both Prior and Ambrose were at Sussex with England coach Peter Moores. (This leads to another interesting point - he spent years with the two of them and still doesn't know who is better?!?)

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Vaughan left out

Michael Vaughan has been told by the selectors that he hasn't done enough in county cricket to be given a place on the tour to India. In my opinion this is the right decision. In terms of Vaughan's form he has averaged 23 for Yorkshire this year and hasn't played a significant or substantial innings since his resignation as England captain.

The decision to leave him out would make things easier for KP as well. India is a difficult place to tour at the best of times and having Vaughan there in the background provides the potential for conflict. Vaughan has recently said that he won't get in KP's way but I think that when things go wrong (which they are likely to do at some point) the press and maybe the players would find it easy to say that under Vaughan, things would have been different.

The last tour of Australia in 2006-07 showed that Vaughan can make things difficult when he wants to. He followed Flintoff's England around Australia supposedly working on his fitness but having plenty to say to the press about how the team was going. The conflict between Flintoff, Fletcher and Vaughan was distracting for the players and was part of the reason England imploded so spectacularly and were whitewashed.

As for Vaughan, going away to play in South Africa, New Zealand or Australia this winter could give him the chance to play a series of innings, spend time in the middle, get his feet moving in time again and pick up some form. If he scored runs this winter the selectors would be likely to pick him for the England tour to the West Indies in order to see if he would be ready for the Ashes later in 2009. Vaughan's presence as a player in the Ashes would be wonderful to see - when in form he is one of the best batsmen around to watch and scores at a quick rate as well.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Bombs vs Money

I was going to write a bit about how Australia are touring India despite all the bombs actually going off but refused to tour Pakistan where the bombs haven't gone off but are threatening to go off. The obvious reason being money - India have it, Pakistan don't.

I'm not going to say much more though because JRod over on CWB summarises the whole thing much better than I could.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Essex win Pro40 Division 2

Essex beat Kent yesterday to secure the Division 2 title. As an Essex fan this is pretty awesome news especially coming so soon after we beat Kent to win the 50 0ver Friends Provident Trophy.

The current team are pretty young and have recovered well from losing many of their senior players over the past few years - Ronnie Irani, Darren Gough, Alex Tudor and Andy Flower being some of the main examples. Essex went from winning the Pro40 Division 1 title two years in a row to being relegated the next season so this recovery by the younger players is impressive.

Pettini has started to get a feel for the captaincy, Napier has really developed as a one-day player this year, James Foster has been brilliant behind the stumps again and the younger bowlers such as Maurice Chambers and Chris Wright have gained experience in all forms of the game. With a few older players around such as Grant Flower, the team should do well next year.

Paul Grayson has taken over as coach this year from Graham Gooch (who is still involved with the team) and in my opinion done brilliantly. The team have looked good in the field, have bowling plans which they stick to and the batsmen have played in partnerships. Long may it continue :)

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Smash and dash for cash

The England squad for Stanford tournament has been announced and there are no real surprises. The 15 lucky boys are: Kevin Pietersen (capt), James Anderson, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Stuart Broad, Paul Collingwood, Alastair Cook, Andrew Flintoff, Stephen Harmison, Samit Patel, Matt Prior (wk), Owais Shah, Graeme Swann, Ryan Sidebottom, Luke Wright.

The selectors appear to have decided to stick with the core of players that beat the South Africans pretty convincingly. While a logical thing to do it would have been nice to see a few fresh faces - Graham Napier being one of the most obvious choices and Rob Key and Joe Denly the others who may have been considered. Key and Denly have been a brilliant opening partnership for Kent and played a huge role in getting them to the Twenty20 cup final and almost winning it.

The problem with selecting "outsiders" is that the players who are currently in the team might throw a bit of a strop if denied the chance to win their $1 million. The rumours are already flying around that a promise of a place inthe squad was the reason for Harmison's sudden return to one-day cricket.

That's my main problem with this whole idea - money first, cricket second, which frankly is rubbish.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Round-up of stuff

I've been at a cousin's wedding for the past four days. For those of you who don't know about Hindu weddings that's not a typo - the whole wedding process takes days, involves hundreds of people including family members you have never met but know everything abut you, lots of food but no meat (which some would say is a bit oxymoronic) and dancing.

While I was away things have appeared to continue along the same patterns as before.

Australia beat Bangladesh again - surprise! you didn't see that coming did you?

Surrey have had a shocking season so far and are now so inept they couldn't even get Shoaib Akhtar the right visa. As an born-and-bred Essex fan I'm feeling a little smug :)

The ICC continues to be incompetant, leaderless and a waste of space - the most recent Orwellian style double-speak statement from them says that the spirit of the game hasn't worsened,bad behaviour is just more visible. Surely it's more visible because players are doing more things that are against the spirit of the game...

New Road at Wocester has flooded again - surely it's time to move now. Flooding every year for the last 2 0r 3 years has cost the club a small fortune. As counties are running out of money doing thing like paying wages, having to spend money on cleaning up the ground every year must be causing problems. They spent close to £1 million cleaning up last year and made a loss of almost £700,000.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Come on Tigers

Poor Bangladesh. Turn up in Australia and get given games in Darwin. Don't get me wrong - been there and it's quite a nice town but it's not exactly the same as playing at the SCG.

I was hoping for a repeat of Cardiff 2005 at least once in this series. Being a fan of England over the years means I'm a big supporter of the under-dogs. With Ponting, Lee, Symonds and Hayden absent for various reasons and the talent in the Bangladesh batting line-up (Ashraful and Iqbal) and their experienced bowlers (Kapali and Mortaza) it was a possibility that they could win one.

Unfortunately they have been hammered. The batsmen have looked confused by the Aussie pacemen and their bowlers were given no chance in the last game where they had to defend 117. On top of that they've made Michael Clarke look good as captain. While I don't find him quite as irritating as Miss Field does he's not my favourite person in world cricket. So come on Bangladesh!

Stupid weather and Cardiff

What a surprise. It's raining in Cardiff. The final one-day game looks like it's going to be a draw unless the weather improves rather quickly. If it is a draw then England move to 3rd in the rankings which is rather good for a team that couldn't play the game a few weeks ago.

Cardiff is also the ground which will host the first Ashes test next year. There are no understandable or logical reasons for this. Maybe the ECB is hoping the guaranteed rubbish weather - clouds, dew - will make the ball swing so we can tear through the Aussie batting line up again. Maybe they're hoping the Aussies will be so depressed at having to spend a week in Cardiff that they'll play like they did when they lost in 2005. Who knows? Wouldn't bet against England being 1-0 up after Cardiff though.