August 2009
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Lawrence Booth: Ramprakash, Trescothick or Carberry?

August 12th, 2009 by Lawrence Booth in England, Test cricket, The Ashes


An email arrived this week. “Slightly lazy journalism,” it tut-tutted. Now, this is an improvement on some of the accusations that find their way into the inbox: “Very lazy journalism” or “very lazy journalism indeed” are two favourites. (But it’s a perk of the job, so there’s no point grumbling.) Anyway, the charge of laziness stemmed from an article in which I’d suggested it might be time to give Ravi Bopara a breather – but failed to nail my colours firmly enough to another batsman’s mast. This was probably true. And so, in the name of energetic journalism, let’s consider the runners and riders…

1) Rob Key. According to a headline on Cricinfo, Key strengthened his England claims yesterday by taking 90 off Northamptonshire. This sounds dangerously like the bad old days when a bloke got picked for making a quick 50 in the Sunday League. Key’s advocates point to an average of 55 in this year’s championship. His detractors will say it drops to 35 if you take out the undefeated 270 he made against a poor Glamorgan side. And, heck, if he’s so good, why hasn’t he played Test cricket since 2004-05? Probability of being picked: 7/10

2) Mark Ramprakash. There’s no doubt a strong case can be made: The Oval is his home ground; he averages 42 against Australia; he’s got nothing to lose; he can’t do any worse than Bopara. These are all temptingly true, but what message would it send to Australia if, after England’s first batting collapse in a first innings since they made 203 against South Africa at Headingley last year, they call for a guy who hasn’t played for England since 2002? Ricky Ponting was even chuckling at the suggestion on Sunday afternoon… Probability: 5/10

3) Marcus Trescothick. Bear with me here. If Trescothick came in to open with Andrew Strauss, then Alastair Cook could slip down to No3 and England would have three openers to protect the middle order against the new ball – and how they need protecting! The word from Somerset seems ambivalent, but Geoff Miller said yesterday Trescothick would “not be a part of the selection process” – unless he hears “contrary to that”. The door is just about ajar. But who, precisely, is prepared to open it? Probability: 3/10

4) Michael Carberry. Duncan Fletcher is a fan, and even his critics must concede he has a decent track record of spotting good’uns. If Key’s supporters are going to use this season’s stats in evidence, then Carberry’s – chiselled out in the higher division – demand even closer inspection: 1,095 championship runs at 64 with four hundreds and six fifties (and don’t overlook his 10 sixes). He’s always been one of the best fielders in the land, which isn’t to be sniffed at in the gaping acres of The Oval, and he’s flexible. But will England risk him? Probability: 5/10

5) Jonathan Trott. Ridiculously, perhaps, the man deemed the spare batsman at Headingley appears not to be in the running. What this says about the much-touted consistency of selection is unclear. But then would you risk a man in an Ashes decider whose international experience amounts to 11 runs in two Twenty20 innings a couple of years ago? No, me neither. Probability: 5/10

6) Owais Shah. Remember him? It wasn’t so long ago he was hoping to bed in for a stint at No3. But the selectors seem to have taken a view after his struggles in the Caribbean. Probability: 3/10

7) Graeme Hick. Come on – the thought had occurred to you too, hadn’t it? Probability: 0/10

If Bopara makes 150 when he bats for Essex against Middlesex at Lord’s some time today, the debate may be academic. But, hey, the speculation is enjoyably lazy…

Lawrence Booth writes on cricket for The Guardian

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

Peter Siddle: Ramps? It's funny in a way

August 12th, 2009 by peter siddle in England, Test cricket, The Ashes


It’s been nice to have a couple of extra days off after the win at Headingley, we’ve stayed up in Leeds and have just been taking it easy before we head down to Kent for the Lions match, which has made a pleasant change. The mood around the camp is great at the moment. We had a few disappointments around the first few Tests, with a few players not playing quite as they would have liked, so to finally get the first win and level the series up is a great feeling. We just can’t wait for The Oval now.

I was a little bit surprised by how easily England folded in Leeds, but it was the best we’d bowled all tour, and probably the best all-round bowling performance I’ve been involved in since I came into the side. As a bowling group we had a lot of pressure on us going into the match to take 20 wickets, so it was very pleasing. We stuck to our plans and they came good, although we certainly weren’t expecting to roll them for 102 in the first dig.

I had felt under a little pressure personally leading up to the Test, with a lot of talk about Stuart Clark coming back into the side. I knew I hadn’t been quite at my best through the series, so it was a bit of a nervous wait, but luckily for me I got to stay in and Nathan Hauritz, who has been outstanding, was the one to miss out. To then go on and take a first Ashes five-for was a very proud moment for me. It was brought about by the way we bowled as a group, I had Stuart Clark bowling amazingly at the other end from me which helped me with my confidence and the better he bowled the better I seemed to bowl, we complimented each other well! Even though Stuart has only played 23 Tests, he’s been around for a long time, and it’s great to have his experience and knowledge to call upon – he puts the batters under so much pressure with his consistency. That haul has lifted me into the world’s top 20 for the first time, which is nice to see, but winning the Test match was far more important.

Ben Hilfenhaus and Mitchell Johnson also did great at Leeds, it’s real good to see Mitchell back taking wickets, relaxed and playing with a smile on his face. With Brett Lee almost back and Nathan Hauritz itching for another go on a pitch that should turn the selectors will have a tough selection meeting before The Oval, it promises to be another anxious wait!

The way the game is played now it seems that if you win the toss you bat first, as it’s the best way of setting up the game. That said, I’d heard a lot of talk about how Headingley swings a bit, so it wasn’t a bad one to lose, and we were lucky to put in such a good performance on the first morning. It was also a bonus for us that England had so many distractions on the morning of the game – Andrew Strauss must have been a bit nervous wondering if Matt Prior was going to be ok, and they had the Flintoff decision to deal with as well. I don’t know if that had anything to do with it, but we were obviously able to get among them early on.

Ravi Bopara seems to still be struggling. He’s an attacking player and likes to play his shots, but the pressure of coming in so early on a wicket that you needed to dig in a little bit on looked to be on his mind. It’ll be up to the England selectors to decide whether they want to stick with him, it’s harder on them too when it’s a young bloke that’s struggling, an older bloke will know his game a little better and be able to deal with the situation. Talking of older blokes, we’ve heard the rumours and seen the footage on the TV that Mark Ramprakash might be recalled for The Oval, and Marcus Trescothick’s name has been mentioned as well. It’s funny to look at in a way, but we’ll just prepare how we normally do. It doesn’t matter to us what side England put out, we’re still going out to try and beat them at The Oval.

I was also a little surprised by the way England bowled. I don’t know what it was but they went away from what they had been doing earlier in the series. James Anderson wasn’t quite on song and gave a few away early on that helped the boys get on top. They were scoring freely, and then the body language came into play, they looked a little bit down, and the boys got on top of that and made them pay. That’s what Test cricket is all about. England had a bit of fun at the end with Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann knocking us around the park, but I don’t think there’s too much to worry about there, we had set attacking fields and I don’t think they’d be batting like that if they were 100 for six.

Peter Siddle is blogging for throughout the Ashes

Posted in England, Test cricket, The Ashes | 6 Comments »

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