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December 2008
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The TWC Summit - All change for Mohali?

December 17th, 2008 by Sam Collins in England, England in India, Test cricket and tagged , , , ,

John Stern’s blog yesterday highlighted the questions that remain for England despite near three and a half days of dominance in Chennai. Can Monty Panesar influence a Test when England need him to? Are James Anderson and Steve Harmison consistent enough to play together in the same England side? Is the balance right in England’s go-slow top-five?

With these issues in mind, we asked our panel: Should England make any changes in Mohali?

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in England, England in India, Test cricket | 8 Comments »

Lawrence Booth: Timid Bell must embrace Colly philosophy

December 17th, 2008 by Lawrence Booth in England, England in India, Test cricket

Not a lot separates Ian Bell’s numbers (44 Tests, 2947 runs, average 41.50, eight hundreds) from Paul Collingwood’s (40 Tests, 2806 runs, average 42.51, seven hundreds). But in practice they are a world apart – and Chennai was faithful to the rule. Bell failed twice under pressure (sure, he got two good balls: this is Test cricket), while Collingwood scored a hundred that ought to have paved the way for an England win. As distillations of the two men’s careers go, this seemed perfect.

Bell will be 27 by the time the new English summer starts. It is more than four years since he began his Test career with an assured 70 against West Indies at The Oval. Yet he still seems determined to fulfil Stuart Law’s assessment of him as “that timid little creature”. Since apparently coming of age as a Test batsman with 199 against South Africa at Lord’s, he has made one fifty in eight innings. He is in danger of wasting the investment England have placed in him. Whisper it, but he is in danger of becoming a 21st-century Graeme Hick: always gifted, occasionally glorious, maddeningly frail.

When it comes to pure batsmanship, Bell’s gilded cover-driving and defensive solidity leaves Collingwood’s leg-side nudges and concrete foot movement for dead. But cricket, we are always reminded, is played as much in the mind as it in the middle, and not enough of Bell’s big runs have come when England really needed them. The list looks something like this: three good innings in Pakistan in late 2005; 87 at Perth in 2006; 97 against West Indies at Old Trafford in 2007; 110 at Napier in 2008; and that 199 (even then, you wondered why he didn’t just nudge Paul Harris round the corner for that extra single). It is not exactly exhaustive.

Collingwood, by contrast, is England’s mini-Steve Waugh, a player at his best when there is a hole in a dyke to plug. His 135 against South Africa at Edgbaston when he was just one failure away from being dropped was a masterpiece of self-preservation. His 108 at Chennai was sheer guts, if a touch slow towards the end. Yet the lack of aestheticism in his play means he never seems to be far from the chop.

Put simply, if Bell wants to play for England well into his 30s, he needs to sit down with Collingwood and discuss the art of making ugly runs. If he doesn’t, Owais Shah will get his chance sooner rather than later – possibly as soon as Friday morning in Mohali. Many chats with Bell last year revealed a desire to turn himself into England’s Ricky Ponting: the classy linchpin at No. 3 who dictates the course of matches. But Ponting is a unique talent, perhaps an inimitable one. Surely a better role model is Mahela Jayawardene, who barely got out of second gear while taking England for 195 and 213 not out in Colombo and Galle a year ago. Bell needs remorseless 150s, not glittering 70s.

He also needs to stop worrying about appearances. In the first game of that Sri Lanka series, he very nearly cracked it. But the end felt all too familiar. In the first innings his beautiful 83 was ruined when he decided to go down the track to Muttiah Muralitharan and was caught at short midwicket with Sri Lanka’s bowlers at his mercy. In the second he all but saved the game with Matt Prior before missing a ball delivered from round the wicket from Murali that he probably should have kept out. So very agonising. So very Bell.

We all want Bell to succeed. England need his experience when Australia visit next summer. But where is the line drawn? If Collingwood can get into his head, we might, finally, be able to stop asking the question.

Lawrence Booth writes on cricket for the Guardian. His third book, Cricket, Lovely Cricket? An Addict’s Guide to the World’s Most Exasperating Game is out now published by Yellow Jersey

Posted in England, England in India, Test cricket | 2 Comments »

The Wisden Cricketer - January 2009 - In shops on Friday

December 17th, 2008 by Sam Collins in Miscellaneous

Attention fans of TWC, Christmas and perhaps even both.

The January 2009 edition of The Wisden Cricketer is in the shops on Friday, December 19 and at just £3.75 makes the perfect cut-price Xmas gift for loved ones young, old and even in-between.

Why what do we have here? It’s an exclusive interview with the ECB’s very own Father Christmas, Giles Clarke, enough to warm the cockles of even the scroogiest TWC reader.

“The game has to decide what the ICC does, what is its role. It has to determine its calendar over a lengthy period. Four years is not practical. At the same time we have to respect quality. Test cricket is the summit of the game and it must be played by the best countries. There is no doubt that when Test cricket is good, it is wonderful,” ho ho ho’s Clarke when asked where he sees cricket in five years time. Buy the mag to feel the full force of his Christmas cheer.

And who could be more welcome at a TWC Xmas party than Uncle Viv Richards – the star of our second Heroes of Cricket supplement? He might be a little late, for as supplement editor Paul Coupar observes, “Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards hurried for no man”, but we’ll forgive him that. Viv’s achievements are well documented, but archived tributes from Alan Gibson, CM-J and Matthew Engel among others give a new perspective on one of cricket’s most powerful characters.

“Is that all?” you chirrup. As if.

There’s our review of the year, craftily put together by Patrick Kidd (who may or may not have been wearing an Elf’s outfit at the time) – was it really only June that Sir Allen Stanford landed his helicopter on the Lord’s outfield?

Come to think of it, if you’re in an inquisitive mood, why not take Steve Pittard’s Xmas quiz? It’s exceedingly tricky, but who knows, if you’re any good you might even win some Ashes tickets in the bargain …

“Is that all?” you chirrup, bordering on the repetitive. NO. Not by a long way.

Why there’s Mike Hussey on batting, Alec Stewart on why he should have made more Test hundreds and… hang on a minute…. Why don’t you buy the mag and find out for yourselves?

The Wisden Cricketer – Buy it, you might like it.

In shops on Friday, December 19, or subscribe here.

Sam Collins is website editor of

Posted in Miscellaneous | 4 Comments »

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