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May 2009
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Straussy: Why I'm backing Colly for T20 glory

May 28th, 2009 by Alan Tyers in Alan Tyers, England, Twenty20


One of the key skills of leadership is delegation, as I remarked to Owais while he freshened up my G and T the other evening. Marvellous chap Owais, terribly keen, and he certainly used his spell as England Twelfthy to good use: there is no finer drink mixer on the county circuit.

“I think that West Indies series went rather well,” I said, half to myself, forgetting that the merest hint of a suggestion of Test cricket can send the poor chap a little jittery. Shortly afterwards, as he was mopping up the broken glass and giving the old drinks tray a bit of a wipe down, I let him into my thinking.

“This Twenty20 World Cup beano that’s coming up,” I said. “Do you think it might be a good opportunity to give one of the chaps a turn in the spotlight? Let one of the other ranks enjoy a spell with the old pips on the shoulder?”

Owais became very excited, and dropped a box of really quite reasonable cigars in his agitation.

“Me Straussy? Skipper? Really?” he said.

Slightly awkward, wouldn’t you say? I thought of what matron used to say before ripping off a plaster: grit the teeth and get it over with in one quick go, and then go and give your little ticket a rub to cheer yourself up.

“Not you, Owais, you clot,” I said as kindly as I could. “One of the regular chaps. This World Twenty20 shindig has all the hallmarks of being an absolute ruddy disaster.”

“It’s true,” said Owais. “Old Shaun Udal was saying that he thinks it’s overkill, all the Twenty20, and he says that when he started out it was all timeless Tests and we were much happier in the old days and you could leave the dressing room door open.”

“That may be the case,” I said. “And more to the point, I’m pretty certain that England are going to get totally whacked by all and sundry. Let someone else get grilled by bloody Nasser for a change.”

“Are you coming up with a plan, Boss?” said Owais. “Cos in the IPL we came up with clever plans all the time.”

“Nobody’s interested in your tales of the IPL, Owais,” I said gently. “We all saw you sitting on the sidelines with the speckies and the fatsos and the kids with off-games notes. You hardly ever got picked. But you are right in this instance: I do indeed have a plan. Pass me the electronic telephone, there’s a good chap.”

I dialled.

“Colly! How are you old chap?” I said. “Now I hope I haven’t torn you away from your whippets or your coal or whatnot.”

I hadn’t.

“Now then, Collly,” I said. “How do you fancy a spell back in the England driving seat? The usual fee? Splendid. You’ll be brilliant; and I’m absolutely sure we’ll win. Ta-ta”

Owais looked expectant.

“Arrange for a crate of brown ale to be sent round to chez Colly, Owais, there’s a chap,” I said. “I think this summer is coming along splendidly.”

By Alan Tyers

Posted in Alan Tyers, England, Twenty20 | 2 Comments »

Lawrence Booth: What have England learned?

May 28th, 2009 by Lawrence Booth in England, The Ashes


One down, one to go. West Indies have been beaten; now for Australia. But what have England learned in the first part of the summer, and what concerns remain? Here’s a rough and ready stab…

Reasons for Poms to smile

  1. England have learned how to win again. Not since 2000, home or away, have they had the better of opponents other than Zimbabwe and Bangladesh in both the Test and one-day series. Yes, West Indies were a dismal side dismally led. But England cannot be choosers. And it wasn’t as if they snuck home either.
  2. Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad could be a new-ball pairing to be reckoned with. Anderson has learned how to swing it both ways – at pace and with control. Broad has the best set of variations in the team and loves getting top batsmen out. They feed off and advise each other. And they have more bowling nous than either of their elders and supposed betters, Andrew Flintoff and Steve Harmison.
  3. Ravi Bopara looks the part. It’s not just the runs he has scored – it’s his insouciance, a quality which will be crucial in winding the Aussies up. One word of caution: his one-day innings of 43 and 49 both ended with casual shots. The same thing used to happen to Rob Key. Bopara is better than that.
  4. Graeme Swann has turned into that rarest of English breeds: a genuine spinner who doesn’t weaken the tail. His potential against the left-handers is well-documented. But it’s his line to the right-handers which is refreshingly unEnglish too: outside off and turning in, rather than middle and off and cramping up. And don’t forget that Ricky Ponting doesn’t like starting against spin…
  5. The coach and the captain appear to have unearthed everyone’s favourite document: a hymn sheet they can both sing off. Some wondered whether Andrew Strauss and Peter Moores were too similar, as if consistency of thought were a bad thing. But England craved stability after the Kevin Pietersen-Peter Moores debacle, and they seem to have found it.
  6. Pietersen is due a few runs. This generally means only one thing.

Reasons for Poms to frown

  1. Mitchell Johnson has quickly become the most dangerous bowler in the world. The steady platforms laid regularly by Strauss and Alastair Cook could be blown away if Johnson’s new-found inswinger to the right-handers (outswinger to the lefties) continues to develop. And he can bat too.
  2. Who will bat at No6? It should be Matt Prior, although ideally your keeper bats at No7, no matter how proficient he is in front of the stumps. But it could be Flintoff, who finally admitted in a TV interview recently that his persistent description of himself as a batsman who bowls is based on “pride”. Better, on balance, to give Flintoff licence at No7.
  3. We don’t yet know whether Graham Onions will be exposed by better batsmen on less helpful pitches. Assuming Flintoff replaces Tim Bresnan and England resist the temptation to pick two spinners at least until later in the series, Onions will be the fourth seamer. That was Simon Jones’s role four years ago…
  4. As he himself pointed out, Ponting is yet to captain an Ashes-winning team in England. These Australians love their history, you know.

Lawrence Booth writes on cricket for the Guardian

Posted in England, The Ashes | 1 Comment »

Telford Vice: A fond farewell to the IPL

May 26th, 2009 by telford vice in IPL, South Africa

And so the 2009 edition of the Incredible Pyrotechnic Loudness (IPL) has boomed and banged its last. Like some fabulously bejeweled courtesan, it waved its goodbye with a shimmer and a twinkle at the Wanderers on Sunday.

It went not at all quietly into that good night after the Deccan Chargers beat the Bangalore Royal Challengers in a final which ended in a close finish that was typical of the close finishes we had seen for much of the tournament. Fireworks leapt many metres into the black, black sky, and painted rainbows the like of which we shall be lucky to see again. Down on the field, fire dancers made their fantastic flames fly in formation. One of them was a man who had been arrested for streaking at the very same ground not long ago. Heath (not his real name) is a good bloke, actually.

Akon mimed gormlessly to some of the canned noise his producers try to disguise as music, and Eddy Grant belted out some of the real stuff with gusto. “Gimme Hope Jo’anna” – the anti-Apartheid anthem that enthralled white South Africans in the 1980s until they worked out what it was about – roared into the night like a volley of audio fireworks.

After 59 matches, most of them much more watchable than not, a whirl of marketing and Lalit Modi, bless him, beaming from every available vantage point, the IPL was finally over and the South African off-season could finally start. There had been so much to absorb, enjoy and learn in the ensuing five weeks, and for players, administrators, spectators and the media alike.

We know, for instance, that the IPL is not the wholly Indian tournament it was previously considered to be. It has an international future, and any cricket-minded country out there should try it at least once. We also know that not all Australians are arrogant bastards, especially when they are not packed together in their national team. And we know that there can be no future for that species of sporting dinosaur we call the one-day international.

South African cricket is a different, better place for the IPL’s coming. Some may feel it is an even better place for its going. It’s hard not to suggest they should leave, too.

Telford Vice is a freelance cricket writer in South Africa who writes regularly for The Wisden Cricketer

Posted in IPL, South Africa | 1 Comment »

RM-J: The New Gatting is learning quick

May 22nd, 2009 by Robin Martin-Jenkins in County cricket

Joe Gatting in action for Sussex

It can be difficult to be a ‘son of’. I don’t really count because my old man didn’t play the game professionally but I understand some of the pressures that are being heaped on the shoulders of my young Sussex colleague Joe Gatting at the moment.

Not since Liam Botham began his cricket career at Hampshire have the media had such a field day. Sadly for them Joe is trim and athletic, resembling his father, who played 76 times for Arsenal and over 300 matches for Brighton and Hove Albion, much more than his uncle. No ‘Fat Gatt’ headlines for them this time then.

But those who remember Mike Gatting’s batting style have commented on how similar it is to Joe’s. Slightly hunched at the crease, Joe waits for the ball to come under his eye line before punching it away with strong forearms and economical use of the feet. He is particularly strong off the front foot and square of the wicket. I was watching footage of Mike Gatting batting during the famous 1986-87 Ashes series recently and it was like watching a slightly more rotund Joe.

Of course if Joe goes on to be half the player Mike was, then Sussex have unearthed a gem but I believe he has the talent – and certainly the temperament – to emulate his uncle.

Joe’s calm disposition at the crease and in the dressing room marks him above many young players I have seen. Having played professional football for the last five years – he was taken on by Brighton and Hove Albion as a 17-year-old – he kept his cricket eye in playing Sussex League cricket. He has played far less than his contemporaries and yet despite, or perhaps because of, this he has a maturity and willingness to learn that is most impressive for a 21-year-old.

A recent net session at Hove saw bowlers dominate batsmen on a spicy surface with a swinging ball. I bowled my first couple of deliveries to Joe, the first of which swung out past his bat and the second of which swung back to take out his off stump as he shaped to leave the ball. But the notable thing was not that I managed to swing the ball both ways (extremely remarkable for me but also total fluke) but what happened next. Joe calmly asked for an off-stump guard before playing out the rest of the net serenely, leaving balls that swung away and presenting a broad straight bat to the deliveries that came back in to him. No one had told him to take an off-stump guard – he had worked it out for himself.

Last week in a one-day match against Yorkshire, Joe was tied down by some accurate fast bowling from Deon Kruis. He made 11 from 26 balls before being dismissed. Later I witnessed the coach, Mark Robinson, seek him out to offer some advice. He should perhaps try to use the crease some more to put the bowler off his rhythm. Even if it doesn’t, it will make the bowler think twice and he could serve up a loose ball or two.

And then in the following game I watch the young Joe Gatting walk down the wicket to both Pedro Collins and Andre Nel, two international fast bowlers, and put them both off their line and length. He was going strong until he tried to sweep Chris Schofield and got a top edge. I’ll wager he’ll learn from that mistake too.

All too often I see immensely talented young players who believe themselves better than they are and who don’t listen to advice. They inevitably do not train on. Perhaps it’s too early to predict great things from the ‘Nephew of’ but I wouldn’t bet against it.

Robin Martin-Jenkins is an allrounder with Sussex

Posted in County cricket | No Comments »

Tim Wigmore: England's Ashes ladder

May 22nd, 2009 by TWC in England, The Ashes

Think you know England’s side for Cardiff already? Well there’s still 48 days to go, plenty of time for some other mugs to make a case. Tim Wigmore has taken the time to pick and review England’s top 25-players  in his Ashes ladder. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in England, The Ashes | 1 Comment »

Richie Richardson: Gayle’s approach was not right

May 21st, 2009 by TWC in International, Test cricket, west indies

The confidence of the West Indies batsmen in the Durham Test was low but they didn’t apply themselves as they could have. Take Chris Gayle’s 54 from 43 balls on Sunday evening: I don’t like it when a batsman plays like that in that situation in a Test. If I was the opposition I would have been happy – it was just a matter of time before he got out.

Read the rest of Richie Richardson’s blog here .

Richie Richardson is writing weekly for for the duration of the West Indies tour of England in association with the Antigua Tourist Board

Posted in International, Test cricket, west indies | 1 Comment »

Devon Malcolm: Lewis burdened by expectation

May 21st, 2009 by TWC in England

I am sad that my former England colleague Chris Lewis has been found guilty of smuggling cocaine. He could have been known as one of the most talented allrounders in the world. Expectations can get the better of anyone. He knew what he was capable of, but too much was expected of Chris.

To continue reading this blog click here.

Devon Malcolm is writing weekly for for the duration of the West Indies tour of England in association with the Antigua Tourist Board

Posted in England | 1 Comment »

Ricky Ponting: Aussies picking up the slack

May 21st, 2009 by Alan Tyers in Alan Tyers, The Ashes


It was a tough decision to leave out Symonds, but it’s an opportunity for some other blokes to take over his mantle: perhaps Marcus North can turn up to practice with a traffic cone on his head and a bit of last night’s kebab in his pocket; maybe Shane Watson can call Matt Prior a “total ****” on the radio.

With a bit of luck, there’s no reason to suppose Shane can’t get to that TV studio and back without picking up a niggle. Certainly his duels with Freddie Flintoff over who gets first shot on the MRI scanner down at Cardiff Royal Infirmary are going to be thrilling stuff.

Is it hard to replace the likes of Matty Hayden? Sure. But we’ve got young Phil Hughes up the top of the order working on his annoying cook books and constantly banging on about surfing. Simon Katich is getting religious and practising hissing swearwords out of one side of his mouth while chewing gum on the other. As a team, we can pick up the slack.

On a personal level, I was disappointed with my last trip here as Australia captain. I only had one really good public tantrum, when that bloke had the bloody cheek to run me out at Trent Bridge. I’ll be looking to improve on that, because I see myself as an ambassador for the whole nation, representing our country in England and taking advantage of the privilege of international travel. As such, I’ll be renting a two-bedroom flat in Shepherd’s Bush with 16 of my closest friends from home, drinking in the pub where we all work and moaning about how crap the weather is in London.

We need to remember that we have a duty to the game as a whole, and remember to play the game in the right spirit which, as long as we’re winning, we will be. In closing, I’d like to lead the team in a traditional Australian prayer: “Go on, you f***ing beauty.”

By Alan Tyers

Posted in Alan Tyers, The Ashes | 2 Comments »

The TWC interview: Darren Gough

May 20th, 2009 by Sam Collins in England, Interview, Test cricket


Darren Gough led England’s attack for close to a decade. He took 229 wickets in 58 Tests and 235 in 159 ODIs and captained Yorkshire before his retirement in 2008. Since then he has appeared on the cult BBC show Hole in the Wall, while doing media work for Setanta and TalkSport. He was talking to Sam Collins

Were you faster than Fred Trueman?
Without a doubt. I think everyone gets faster as days go on. But, it’s not all about pace. Fred Trueman was a tremendous bowler.

How did you teach yourself reverse swing?
By watching Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis and practising hard. I was still trying to master it at my peak, but you never do. You always think you’ve got it, but then the batsman learns a new technique to face it so you have to learn something else.

Is the Yorker underused in the modern game?
You have to be good to do it. There are three bowlers who use it a lot now – Dale Steyn, Brett Lee and Shoaib Akhtar – and they all take wickets with it. Flintoff doesn’t do so badly with it either. He doesn’t take so many wickets because he moves the ball in, and batsmen can get across their stumps to him. He’s a quality bowler, and when he doesn’t play England miss him big time, but the angle he bowls from he’s going to find it very hard to take it away from the bat. Most of his wickets are bowled or LBW and there aren’t many seaming away and caught at slip, apart from to left-handers. That’s one thing in his game he could develop and if he could just learn to hold the ball up a bit, he’d be so much better. But he’s not a natural bowler is he; we all consider him a batsman who bowls a bit.

Are conditions now too far in favour of the batsmen in international cricket?
I honestly believe that the pitches now are the same as when I played but there are not as many good bowlers around as in the past. There are lots more decent batsmen but if you are a good bowler in this day and age then you still take wickets. Take Dale Steyn, he keeps it simple, he runs in and bowls it as fast as he can and keeps the seam upright and he averages about 20 or something silly. If you are a good bowler you take wickets on any pitch.

Why are there so few top-quality bowlers around today?
No idea. I think it goes in spells, in another two or three years you might get a few youngsters coming on to the scene, there are so many of them, who become world-class performers. It can just happen, it might just be a bad year. Each team now has one good bowler. Australia have Mitchell Johnson, South Africa have Steyn, India have Zaheer Khan, so each country have one good bowler and not four like they used to.

Where is England’s next strike bowler coming from?
I would like to think Steve Harmison still has a lot to offer England. He’s had a disappointing time, but when he’s confident and bowling well he’s their best bowler after Flintoff. The one guy who’s had potential but tended to spray it a bit is Saj Mahmood. I really hope he gets it right, because if he does he can be a handful.

Which country had the best opening bowling attack when you were playing?
South Africa. They had everything. Shaun Pollock had bounce, variation of pace, a good bouncer and a deceptive slower ball. Allan Donald was just a pure athlete, who had amazing speed, and could go on forever. A great performer.

Why has the North traditionally produced so many good quick bowlers?
The league pitches probably suit the bowlers better, although Headingley is now very, very flat. It cost us so many times last year. This year I think you’ll find Yorkshire will try and produce result pitches, because it’s the only way a side can win the Championship now. Yorkshire’s problem in the last two years is that they didn’t get enough results at Headingley, and teams that have won the County Championship have always got results at home.

Can England win the Ashes?
Absolutely. I think they’ll do it. I can’t see where Australia are going to get 20 wickets from.

Have England got it right with Andy Flower?
Of the candidates that went for the job, I’m pleased Andy Flower got it. All I’m concerned about is the discipline side. Andy is a great guy, I played with him at Essex, a very good coach, a great talker and I don’t think that was going to be an issue. The issue is how he handles the big-time players, and those with strong personalities. If he can handle them, he will be the right man for the job, but I’d like to see him as a coach rather than a manager.

What are your memories of Duncan Fletcher’s arrival as coach?
You didn’t really see anything for the first four months. He just watched and observed, worked out the characters of the individuals and how to approach them. His approach worked for a long time.

Will you be doing another series of the BBC’s Hole in the Wall?
I don’t know. I think the first series went really well. It’s one of those shows that, when you first watch it you think “what is this”, how long can watching people fall in the water make me laugh for? But as you found it became more and more popular and they ended up having to repeat it. When I watched it I wasn’t at my fittest, sometimes I squirm at it a bit but it was good fun. I’d have another go at it if I was asked, but I haven’t heard anything.

Darren Gough is representing the MARS Balls Get Britain Playing 200,000 ball giveaway. As part of the campaign Darren will be playing against sporting greats Pat Cash, John Barnes and Austin Healey in the Bounce Off – a tournament where he’ll captain a team that takes on these other legends in their respective sports. See for details on how to win a ball and get involved.

Sam Collins is website editor of

Posted in England, Interview, Test cricket | No Comments »

The TWC Summit: So children, what have we learnt?

May 20th, 2009 by TWC in England, Test cricket, The Ashes

We asked for an England win against West Indies, and we got one. A 2-0 win in fact, as comfortable as you like, by margins of 10 wickets and an innings and 83 runs. But, with just 50 days until the Ashes, did thrashing a team lacking in preparation, desire to be playing cricket and handwarmers actually tell us anything about England’s chances in the main event?

Our panel have their say below. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in England, Test cricket, The Ashes | 12 Comments »

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