August 2009
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Daniel Brigham: Come back KP, all is forgiven

August 20th, 2009 by Daniel Brigham in England, The Ashes


After Kevin Pietersen got out to a rash shot when on 69 in the first innings of the Ashes at Cardiff, former England captain Tony Greig said he should be dropped if he played like that again. Many agreed. After all, he’d done the same thing before: when on 97 against West Indies in Jamaica and 94 against South Africa at Edgbaston. People said he was detrimental to England for these horrible, selfish shots. Well, how England could have done with Pietersen getting out in the 60s or 90s to a stupid shot at Headingley and, quite possibly, in the next five days at Lord’s.

The debacle of England’s Nos. 3, 4 and 5 in the third and fourth Tests shows just how mightily, but depressingly, vital KP is to their batting. Without him the middle-order is the Sex Pistols minus Johnny Rotten: no star, no leader, no heartbeat and utterly unable to perform as a unit.

Ravi Bopara, who shows I know nothing after I tipped him as a perfect No. 3, will be back but not so high up the order. He’s currently playing across the line too much to be stable enough for No. 3.

Ian Bell looks so frightened of Mitchell Johnson’s embarrassing, meek and pouty Derek Zoolander stare that he’s single-handedly played the bowler into form. Replacing Bopara at three with Bell is like emptying your bin of rubbish and filling it with garbage.

If it wasn’t for Paul Collingwood England would have lost the series by now. Yet he seems to play well only when batting with Kevin Pietersen – their tempos seem to be in such perfect synchronicity that a pairing on Strictly Come Dancing appears inevitable. In the four Tests that Collingwood has played without Pietersen, his highest score is 36; that he hasn’t been invited to bat at No. 3 as the senior batsman speaks volumes of the management’s confidence in his technique.

The argument that the England batsmen don’t perform when Pietersen is in the side because they depend too much on him and would flourish without him doesn’t stack up after the evidence of the last two Tests. Simply, Pietersen is England’s only stand-out middle-order batsman. Bopara should come good one day and Jonathan Trott could well have KP’s South African self-belief to back up his talent, but, for now, Pietersen getting out to stupid shots is as good as it gets.

Daniel Brigham is assistant editor of The Wisden Cricketer

Posted in England, The Ashes | 3 Comments »

TWC Big Debate: Ticket Touts

August 20th, 2009 by Alan Tyers in Alan Tyers, England, The Ashes

With tickets for The Oval trading on websites for up to £300, the ECB has vowed to evict punters who have bought their ticket from touts. Here, then ECB Head Of Revenue Protection and a leading tout offer their differing viewpoints on the problem…

ECB Head Of Revenue Protection Darren Wonk

It’s very sad to hear that people are paying these huge sums for a ticket. It only goes to further my view that we are cutting our own throat by practically giving them away at £70 face value.

But touting is wrong for another reason: it encourages money laundering and who knows what other sorts of crime. It is a well-known fact that the major underworld players – The Mafia, The Triads, The Yardies, The ICL – have moved away from prostitution, drug dealing and protection rackets into the much more lucrative business of reselling tickets for the one or two cricket matches a year that are actually oversubscribed.

As with anything else, our first concern is with the supporters and ensuring that they enjoy the day, which is why we are moving security operatives away from the Beer Snake Prevention Unit and into a new Ticketholders With A Touted Ticket Ejection Division. Anyone found to have entered the ground with a touted ticket, suspected of having a touted ticket, suspected of having spoken to a tout, suspected of looking a bit like one of the ghastly oiks, or suspected of having used eBay (including non-ticket related trading up to and including trying to flog an unwanted Christmas jumper or second-hand lawnmower) will be ejected.

It is simply not fair on those fans who got tickets by the legitimate means (i.e. corporate complimentary tickets, knowing a chap at Sky, being one of the 185-man England performance squad, etc). (formerly Honest Dave of the Harleyford Road)

The thing that nobody can explain to me is why tickets should be any different to any other good. Let’s say I had a DVD player, right, just for the sake of argument, just a bit of fun. Now, I know what you’re thinking: you’re thinking, “Dave’s probably nicked that DVD player”, but you’d be wrong. There’s absolutely no money in nicking DVD players these days, and I’ll tell you why: buy a moody copy of Transformers II from Chinese Tony in the Red Lion, and he’ll chuck the DVD player in for free. How can you compete with that? The market’s dead.

So this DVD player of mine. Now, if I want to sell you this DVD player for five times what I paid for it (assuming, just for argument’s sake, that I’d paid the full retail price for it LIKE A TOTAL MUG), who is the ECB or the ICC or the Serious Fraud Office to tell me that I can’t? It’s a matter of basic human rights.
And don’t say to me, “But Dave, you haven’t actually added any value to that DVD player, or performed any service, you’re just leeching off regular people and contributing nothing.”

First: peace of mind. If you buy a DVD player from me and it says ‘Sony’ on it, you can be bloody well sure that it is a Sony, or at least an equivalent brand, and it will definitely work. Well, it did when I tested it this morning. Which brings me on to point two: customer service.

Should the DVD player not work, you are more than welcome to come and find me at our customer support centre on the Harleyford Road, where I will be happy to process your complaint in the traditional manner: i.e. by pretending never to have spoken to you before and offering to beat you up.

Enjoy those tickets!

Alan Tyers will buy or sell pairs, but look at you like you’ve just soiled yourself if you’ve got a single going spare

Posted in Alan Tyers, England, The Ashes | No Comments »

John Stern: Can Flintoff factor carry England home?

August 19th, 2009 by John Stern in England, Test cricket, The Ashes


So after a fortnight of post-Headingley hair shirts and self-flagellation, how about a dose of pre-Test optimism?

The toss would seem to be all-important but if England do win it then surely they have a legitimate and plausible chance to set the game up and put Australia under pressure.

Australia have bowled first three times out of four in this series and on the two occasions when conditions were unequivocally good for batting, England made their attack look ordinary.

At Lord’s they looked worse than that. History and local knowledge would indicate that conditions at The Oval will be good for batting.

In batting terms, England have been their own worst enemy, caught between the desire to attack and the need to impose themselves on their greatest rivals but seemingly unable to be equally positive and decisive in defence.

Indecision should not be a problem for England at The Oval. They know they have to win, they know they must be bold. In that context the selection of Jonathan Trott, a Pietersen clone in attitude if not technique, fits the bill.

My first inclination about the Oval Test was a draw. But, on reflection, that seems unlikely unless the weather intervenes. Neither side is that well-equipped for a war of attrition and England need to force the pace anyway.

Australia’s bowling, especially if they were to risk Brett Lee, has a boom or bust feel to it as does England’s, more so if Flintoff and Harmison both play. For England the key is how much pace and bounce there is in the pitch.

There have been four County Championship matches at The Oval this season, all of which have been drawn. The first, in April, was badly rain-affected; the second, in May, produced a belting finish with spinners in the ascendancy in the second half of the match; the other two, in July and August, were both run-fests in which only four innings were completed and only once was a side bowled out. The total scores in those two matches were 2,400 runs for 19 wickets.

Now, that is the second division of the Championship versus a decisive Ashes Test on a pitch that hasn’t been used before this summer. I’d be disappointed and surprised if there wasn’t some pace and bounce in it. The question is whether England’s bowlers can use it to their advantage.

It should turn later on and, again, the question is whether Graeme Swann can be effective. He has had one good performance in this series, at Lord’s. At other times, at Cardiff and Edgbaston, he has bowled poorly. He has at times been like an over-revved car: his natural ebullience and enthusiasm has tipped unhealthily into the red zone and resulted in an assortment of full tosses and other filth.

England need controlled, sustained aggression this week not gung-ho, hot and cold cavalry charges but I suspect we’ll get more of the latter. That doesn’t mean they can’t win but it does mean the odds are longer than we’d like.

Then there is the Freddie Factor. It was at The Oval, 23 years ago to the week, that Ian Botham, with his first ball after a drugs ban, had Bruce Edgar caught by Graham Gooch. “Who writes your scripts?” Gooch asked him. The same bloke who does Flintoff’s we can now reply.

Fingers crossed for a far-fetched farewell.

John Stern is editor of The Wisden Cricketer

Posted in England, Test cricket, The Ashes | No Comments »

Peter Siddle: Oval biggest game of my career

August 19th, 2009 by peter siddle in England, Test cricket, The Ashes


This Oval Test is without doubt the biggest game of my career. Every Test match is important but there is so much riding on this. Being an Aussie it compares to an AFL grand final – a huge occasion with a big build up. Everyone will be watching back home and we’re desperate to do well for them and ourselves. We’ve had good preparation, enjoying the hype, and above all it’s exciting – we’ve got a great group of guys, who have been working hard together all tour and now it comes down to this match.

We know we only need a draw to retain the Ashes, but we will be going all out for the win. If you go in with the attitude that a draw is enough you are moving away from your natural game – that would be the worst thing we could do and would play into England’s hands. If you look through our side we are full of aggressive cricketers, even at Lord’s when we were chasing a massive total Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin still tried to win five wickets down. We love to go hard at the opposition and hopefully that will pay off.

I can’t wait for the game to start. I’ve played four Ashes Tests now and am used to the hype – this series is bigger than anything I’ve played and I was nervous coming into the early games, but I’ve relaxed now and it’s helped. The pressure will be there but it’s why you play the game. The pitch looks like a beautiful cricket wicket – people have said it can become a batter’s paradise but if you bowl well there’s good bounce and pace, which suits my game. I had success at Headingley where the wicket was offering a bit but I’ve done better on the wickets with pace where I can charge through and get at the batsman.

There’s definitely the potential for reverse swing here – the wicket is rock hard, and the square and the outfield the same, so the ball will rough up. Provided it stays dry the reverse swing could be a real factor. A combination of things have meant that it hasn’t really come into the series so far – the balls have stayed in good condition, the grounds haven’t helped it and the wet weather has played a part so the ball has been swinging in an orthodox way up to the 80th over. If the selectors decide that is the way to go then Brett Lee could have a big part to play. He’s done a great job exploiting conditions like this for Australia in the past on the dryer wickets in the subcontinent or back home. But it will depend on the weather, the state of the wicket and what the selectors think.

It’ll be another tough call for them this match, with a fully fit squad and everyone desperate to play a part in the decider. I wish we could all play but there are only so many spots and it’ll be desperately tough on those who miss out. Stuart Clark and Brett haven’t played as much as they’d have liked but they have been brilliant all tour – always there with advice and they know what to say and how to relax you when perhaps things aren’t going so well.

As for England, they’ll have the Freddie factor, which will give them a big lift, and they’ve also brought in Jonathan Trott who will be keen to show why they have selected him ahead of Ravi Bopara. Some of the boys have played county cricket against him and he’s scored a few runs this year so there hasn’t been any shortage of highlights watch. He’s a new guy in a pressure game, so we’re not going to worry too much about him and his strengths, we’re just going to go about our game and let him come to us. People talk about comparisons to Kevin Pietersen. It’s always exciting playing against guys who play like KP. I’m looking forward to it.

Peter Siddle is blogging for throughout the Ashes

Posted in England, Test cricket, The Ashes | No Comments »

Lawrence Booth: Would a draw be so bad?

August 19th, 2009 by Lawrence Booth in England, Test cricket, The Ashes


I’ll probably get blogged to within a pixel of my cyber-life for saying this, but would 1-1 really be such a bad result for England? I realise this rings semi-treasonous on the eve of the Most Important Game Ever, but it was only a few months ago that England were losing a Test series in the Caribbean of all places. Before that, they lost in Sri Lanka and at home to South Africa. Australia, for all their frailties, remain No1 in the world. Last time out, they beat England 5-0. So I’ll ask it again: would 1-1 really be so bad?

Ashes rules leave room for only one answer: in the case of a draw, the urn – or at least its metaphorical cousin: the real urn remains imperiously in the Lord’s museum – stays with the team in possession. In the column in Wisden that uses an upper-case E or A to denote which side has ownership, a draw at The Oval would make it 10 As out of 11. I’ll grant you, it wouldn’t look good (an England win, by contrast, would make it two Es out of three: all the English want is for Australia to give them a decent game!).

But for those who believe, controversially, that other cricket takes place outside the Ashes cycle (two series every four years), there may be more at stake. Not for the first time, England are slowly rebuilding, even if the injury to Kevin Pietersen is a reminder that for every two bricks mortared on, another can fall off. They improved in the Caribbean after 51 all out, then brushed West Indies aside at home. Hell, they even lead Australia into the fourth Test of an Ashes series for the first time in 23 years.

If they lose this series through playing more reckless cricket than they would in any other situation, they will have lost their last three main home series after going down to India in 2007 and South Africa last summer. For a side that lost only one home series in seven years under Duncan Fletcher – to Australia in 2001 – that would represent progress of the most perverse kind. And it would set England up for a miserable winter in South Africa.

The counter-argument has its merits: go all out for the win and cricket in this country will rise from the inside pages once more. But it does not totally convince. Did the face of cricket change for ever when England won a far more exciting and high-quality series in 2005? Briefly, yes. But the country quickly slipped back into football-worship. Our national tendency to draw grand conclusions should not be under-estimated.

The question of whether England are actually capable of beating Australia with a middle-order of Ian Bell (out of his comfort zone at No3), Jonathan Trott (has a debutant ever gone in beyond the deep end?) and Paul Collingwood (apparently neutered by Pietersen’s absence) seems almost incidental. Once more, the nation is placing its faith in a hobbling all-rounder and throwing itself on the mercy of the sporting gods. That, of course, is the British way (followed by tears and recriminations).

But we could spare ourselves the heartache. Be positive, sure, but don’t be reckless. And be content with a draw against a side containing more potential match-winners. This may not fit with the all-or-nothing spirit of the age, but it’s honourable enough in its own, quiet way. If, on Monday evening, Graham Onions comes in at No11 needing to hit the last ball for four to bring back the Ashes, cross your fingers for him. Go doolally if he succeeds. But don’t be too disappointed if he plays, misses, and survives.

Lawrence Booth writes on cricket for the Guardian

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

Jrod: The Thorpe dossier

August 17th, 2009 by Jrod in England, Test cricket, The Ashes

The papers may be rattling on about the Justin Langer Dossier, but here at TWC we have found another one, from Graham Thorpe (former assistant coach of New South Wales) to Andy Flower.


Below is an intelligence briefing by an ex-English player by the name of Graham Thorpe, he once lived in Sydney. He contacted me with some observations on the Australian team. Take a read, take notes, and try not to leave it in your local pub or twitter about it.

- The Australian team cannot handle swing bowling. Do whatever you can to make the ball swing. Borrow Atherton’s trousers, buy shares in a mint company, use Jimmy’s mousse, but get that ball swinging.

- The way Australians are brought up means they believe they are better than you. Usually they are, not that this time. Any squad with Andrew McDonald in it should be mocked, not feared.

- The team has signed some anti-sledging form. This will confuse them. You can use this to your advantage. For once we will be the team that can question their sexuality and talk about their family members in poor taste.

- Ricky Ponting is still a class batsman even if these days he struggles to score more than one hundred a series. Let him get the hundred out of the way early. His boys love him as a captain; they would follow them off a cliff. If you have access to a cliff, this is worth considering.

- Australia isn’t very good, but Mitchell Johnson is. The best way to get him in trouble is to send a hard sudoku book to his hotel room, the more he thinks, the worse he plays. I met his mother once, a lovely lady; she said he was a very sensitive boy. He also has a tongue ring, not sure if that helps, but I thought it was weird.

- Michael Clarke has a planet-sized ego. There are at least seven moons around it. There is nothing you can do to dent it, NOTHING. However you may want to mention that it is footy season back home and slip in the name Brendan Fevola.

- I have coached Phil Hughes over the years, and he has no weaknesses. The boy is pure batting perfection. Good luck getting him out.

- Shane Watson will get injured. You can disregard him.

- There has never been a player in worse form than Michael Hussey. Apparently it isn’t a technical thing, his pussy cat died.

- Brad Haddin has fingers made of chalk; remember to squeeze hard every time you shake his hand.

- Never underestimate Simon Katich. I know it is hard.

Jrod is an Australian blogger, and now author. His book The Year Of The Balls 2008: A Disrespective is available now

Posted in England, Test cricket, The Ashes | 2 Comments »

King Cricket: Ramps the run spendthrift

August 14th, 2009 by Alex Bowden in England, Test cricket, The Ashes


Much as it might seem like a great idea to subject a batsman whose very name is synonymous with mental frailty to an Ashes decider, Mark Ramprakash’s supporters might like to consider the following: Mark Ramprakash is not due a big score.

Test batsmen, in particular England’s, will be quick to tell you that every batsman has a set number of runs at his disposal. How he distributes these runs is largely down to him, but he can’t in any way change how many he’s got to use. If he fritters them away on four successive double hundreds, that’s his own fault for not planning ahead. Following scores of one and nought at Headingley, Ravi Bopara is very much due a big score and should retain his place on that basis.

While Bopara’s been methodically putting runs aside for a rainy day (not literally a rainy day - that would be very poor planning), Mark Ramprakash has been positively spendthrift. He’s frittered away thousands of runs over the last few seasons and seems to have no awareness that this wilful disregard for the value of a run merely reinforces people’s negative opinions of him. It’s impossible to avoid the impression that here is a man who has no sense of how to pace a career.

If selected, Bopara will walk to the crease in the fifth Ashes Test brimming with confidence. He’ll know that a big score has been just round the corner for some time. He’ll make a point of rounding that corner. By contrast, Ramps will be a bag of nerves, knowing that same corner only presages failure.

On the other hand, who’s best prepared to deal with a hostile Australian pace attack? As a youngster, Ravi Bopara is obliged to respect his elders and will have to brave the abuse without offering backchat.

Mark Ramprakash is fortunate enough to be a bit older - so much older, in fact, that he can occupy the dad role. When Peter Siddle opens his mouth to lay into him, Ramps can quite simply bollock him. He can give him a good dressing down and threaten to inform Siddle’s parents as to how young Peter has been behaving.

King Cricket blogs at He is a cult figure in the world of cricket blogs and was TWC’s first Best-of-blogs winner in April 2008.

Posted in England, Test cricket, The Ashes | No Comments »

DeeAnne White: I want to be English. Or Australian.

August 13th, 2009 by TWC in England, Test cricket, The Ashes


As we’re almost at the end of the Ashes, I have a confession to make. I want to be English. Or Australian. I want to live this experience as only a citizen of the countries involved can. I want to feel the euphoria leading up to the first day of the first Test. I want to be desperate for the series to begin but so tortured about the outcome that I’m almost unable to watch. I want to be part of the love/hate relationship that is England versus Australia during the Ashes.

It doesn’t stop there. I want to be English to know that my country is the home of this gorgeous game called cricket. I want to be English to taunt my friends for looking like a “tourist”. I want to be English to know that, in the end, I will suffer any gut-wrenching defeat with a stiff-upper lip and a comment of “well played”, and then quietly plot my revenge. Conversely, I want to be Australian to be the brash rogues of the cricket world. I want to be Australian to taunt my English friends for being free from the evil British Empire. I want to be Australian to know that if a loss may come, I will grit my teeth, curse under my breath and vow to die before ever allowing it to happen again.

The Ashes is unlike anything I’ve seen in sport before. I’ve watched a great deal of all sorts of sport and have had my heart broken many times by the loss of my favourite team. I’m a Dallas Cowboys fan, perhaps most synonymous with modern Arsenal – endless potential, yet left at the altar time and again. Yet this agony still can’t compare to that involved in the Ashes.

The big difference between this sort of rivalry and the contests I’m familiar with is that the Ashes represent something on an altogether grander scale. In the US, the rivalries are between American teams only, think the Dallas Cowboys versus the San Francisco 49ers (American football), the Los Angeles Lakers versus the Boston Celtics (Basketball) or the New York Yankees versus the Boston Red Sox (Baseball). These are wonderful rivalries – akin to Manchester United versus Liverpool or Lancashire against Yorkshire – but it’s just not the same.

Americans only get the excitement and adrenaline of that type when the Ryder Cup or the Olympics come around. We love it, too. When you see how the US went wild at our women’s soccer success on home soil in the 1999 World Cup, it’s a mystery to me why we haven’t become more involved in the team sports that are played on a highly competitive level between nations. We’ve tried to fill the void by announcing ourselves as the “World Champions” in sports that only we play but it’s a hollow title.

Cricket, rugby, and soccer are all part of this wonderful club that we’ve isolated ourselves from. It’s well known that the first international cricket match was played between the US and Canada at Bloomingdale Park in New York in 1844. Why didn’t we continue to participate in international cricket? Did the oceans that separated us from the rest of the world make it cost prohibitive for too many years, or was it something else? Were we too hasty to distance ourselves from the countries of our origins and their sport, as we did with languages and other customs? What a terrible loss. I can only hope that as the economy becomes more global, the sporting world will become smaller too and that the United States will re-engage in world sports on a broader scale. Until then, I’ll have to live vicariously through the people I come across as I follow cricket.

I have close friends in England and Australia. I enjoy the similarities as much as the differences and I’m having great fun winding up both my English and my Australian pals about what’s going on. I’m mostly happy to be an American but just for today, or maybe the next two weeks, I want to be English. Or Australian.

DeeAnne White is the American girl at the cricket

Posted in England, Test cricket, The Ashes | 16 Comments »

Ian Bell reveals the full horror of being impostered on Twitter

August 13th, 2009 by Alan Tyers in Alan Tyers, England, The Ashes


I thought today couldn’t get any worse when I got bowled out for one by Ryan Sidebottom and then found that Jonathan Trott had stolen my Official Team England dinner plate and spoon set in order to eat one of his disgusting biltong and melktert sandwiches that he says his nana used to make all the time when they was growing up in Shipton-Under-Witwatersrand and which he says is actually as English as warm beer, red post boxes and a crushing sense of being trapped by soul-sucking mediocrity and I dunno about that but to be fair he’s here now and that’s the main thing, stolen plate notwithstanding.

I get out the iPhone and there’s like six missed calls from Colin Gibson, who is what’s called a Director Of Communications at the ECB which is not as the name might suggest someone you go to if you can’t get a signal on your phone or Andersony’s hogging the official team laptop and you want to play Murder Death Kill IV: Revenge Of The Third Umpire online against some bloke in Myanmar but is in fact a sort of Public Relations person.

Anyway this Gibson isn’t your usual Public Relations person in that he doesn’t have blonde hair and a kind reassuring smile and say “Hi I’m Kyla / Katie / Klare / Keithetta etc” and offer to get you a hot or cold beverage before they make you answer the questions from the Bad People with the notebooks but in fact this Gibson is a large, angry man and he’s already on the iPhone again and I have to say he’s using some industrial language and not quietly neither.

“What the bloody hell are you on Twitter for, making an arse of yourself?” asks this Gibson.

I says I don’t bother with the Twitter because frankly Ian Bell has more important things to do than spend his whole life telling people every last little thing he’s doing no matter how fascinating that would be to some fans and instead would rather concentrate on being the man to fill the problematic number three berth in England’s fragile middle-order, getting Nuneaton Borough promoted to the Premiership on Championship Manager, learning Esperanto, designing his range of volumising hair mousses for the recently deceased and generally being a decent bloke to have around the place.

So Gibson says it would appear that I have been a victim of Identity Theft which is one of the most serious crimes that can happen to a person in this day and age apart from obviously mugging, burglary or being murdered to death with like nunchucks by an irate ninja so I says oh and Gibson says well then and I says is this Twitter imposter going to groom me like I seen on Crimewatch and try to steal my soul and / or body for his own dastardly ends? and Gibson just says no don’t be a bloody idiot and stay off the computer for the foreseeable future so I says okay and so I guess this is Ian Bell logging off. KTHXBAI x

By Alan Tyers

Posted in Alan Tyers, England, The Ashes | 2 Comments »

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 »

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