December 2008


Something strange is happening in Australia. Following on from the un-Australian drubbing at the hands of the Indian’s (let’s face it, even we gave them a stiffer contest), the Canary Yellows have capitulated to a series defeat at the hands of South Africa and are staring down the barrel of being white-washed in their own back yards.

Granted, the Saffas have been very good, and have turned two situations that they would have certainly lost two years ago into victories. How were they able to do that though? How can any Autralian side – even without Warne and McGrath – concede 400+ runs in the last innings of a test at the WACCA? Since when have debutants been allowed to play the kind of nerveless innings JP Duminey did to help steer his side home, and then the kind of sensational innings JP Duminey did to set up the Melbourne win? Since when have the Aussies allowed tail-enders to build substantial innings of the sort Dale Steyn did?

We all knew the Canary Yellows would suffer once their big guns had gone, but no-one could have suggested they’d decline so rapidly. Without his bankers, Ponting’s captaincy looks ponderous and ineffective, and his bowlers have been unable to drive home crucial adantages they have created. Add to that the fact that Punter would kill to have a spinner even as good as Paul Harris in his side, not to mention the problems at the top of the order, and you have a side in serious decline.

The 2005 Ashes were contested by the first and second best test sides in the world. It is entirely likely that the 2009 Ashes will be contested by third and fourth.

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An appeal from The Village Cricketer: In June 2009, The Village Cricketer’s English All Stars will play the Cricket with Balls Aussie Code of Conduct XI in a charity cricket match to raise runds for the Everyman Male Cancer Campaign. So, if you enjoy this post, please support the cause by donating £2 or anything you can spare via our Justgiving page. 1 in 3 of us will get cancer at some time in our lives, please show your support!

Urrr, umm, yes, hmm, oh dear, bother. Read about it somewhere else:

Cricinfo: Tendulkar century sets up famous win
The Independent: Tendulkar hails special performance
Telegraph:
Sachin Tendulkar steers India to famous win over England
Times Online:
India defeat will be psychologically damaging for England, says Mike Atherton

Monty looked short of he best and the use of technology would have seen off Gambhir and Youvraj. KP says no excuses, so bugger! We should have won this one.

What a day. Seemingly underachieved with the bat this morning, but England’s bowlers, inspired by the debutant Graeme Swann – who took two big wickets the last over before lunch, his first in test cricket, have fought back magnificently. This is shaping up to be a magnificent contest. There is a lot of cricket to be played, but England are ahead. If they can roll over the Indian’s early tomorrow England will have a crucial first innings lead, and the opportunity to set India a daunting run chase in the last day and a half. This is cricket at its best.

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An appeal from The Village Cricketer: In June 2009, The Village Cricketer’s English All Stars will play the Cricket with Balls Aussie Code of Conduct XI in a charity cricket match to raise runds for the Everyman Male Cancer Campaign. So, if you enjoy this post, please support the cause by donating £2 or anything you can spare via our Justgiving page. 1 in 3 of us will get cancer at some time in our lives, please show your support!

Arrgggghhh, how very Australian. England grafted and ground, and Andrew Strauss was marvellous in compiling an excellent ton, but failures from pretty much England’s entire middle-order, means that the good foundations he and Alistair Cook built in the first session and beyond could yet be wasted. The pitch is good and will become increasingly spin friendly. England need to stop the rot and build another 150 – 200 runs tomorrow to put the pressue on India. This was the toss we hoped for, but Flintoff and Prior need to dig in and build a commanding first innings total.

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An appeal from The Village Cricketer: In June 2009, The Village Cricketer’s English All Stars will play the Cricket with Balls Code of Conduct XI in a charity cricket match to raise runds for the Everyman Male Cancer Campaign. So, if you enjoy this post, please support the cause by donating £2 or anything you can spare via our Justgiving page. 1 in 3 of us will get cancer at some time in our lives, please show your support!

Mike Atherton couldn’t fathom Chris Lewis (it says so here). In addition, Patrick Kidd has been “pratling” on about the recently arrested former England player. If Chris Lewis gets sent down, it could be that he becomes known as the English version of OJ. Oh, except that Chris Lewis didn’t kill his wife, oh yes, sorry, and neither did OJ.

Ian Bell, famously coined ‘the Sherminator’ by Shane Warne during the 2006/7 Ashes series (after the ginger haired geek in the American Pie film Trilogy), approaches the beginning of 12 months that could make or break his reputation as a Test cricketer, writes Paul McDonald, exclusively for The Village Cricketer).

Ive been called worse Chuck Sherman (left) and Ian Bell (right)

"I've been called worse" Chuck Sherman (left) and Ian Bell (right)

I’ve always been a fan of Bell. He is technically correct, compact and equally adept off both the front and back foot. During his maiden test innings (an impressive 70 against the West Indies in 2004) he reminded me of Michael Atherton (albeit with more of a desire to play shots). Aside from a brief period on the sidelines in early 2006, he has been a near permanent fixture in the England Test side since the glorious Ashes summer of 2005 (filling his boots with 227 unbeaten runs in two tests against woeful Bangladesh certainly did his average no harm).

Bell averages 42, has 8 centuries in 43 tests (not far off Boycott’s oft-quoted 1 in 5 conversion requirement), so what’s the problem? Well, quite frankly, I expect more.

A batting average of over 40 no longer cuts the mustard, it is simply not enough. The last decade has brought with it substantial improvements in bat technology and pitch preparation. England are touring the sub-continent with increasing regularity where, new ball negotiation aside, batters are able to build centuries at will (TVC has already said that England are ‘better able and better inclined to build the slow, steady centuries required’ – I wholeheartedly agree).

Once described as ‘the best 16-year old I have ever seen’ by Dayle Hadlee (Brother to Sir Richard and respected coach), Bell has hardly set the test world alight. Having done just about enough to justify batting first wicket down for the upcoming series, I wonder how long it will be before media pressure pushes Kevin Pietersen up to number three?

There are positives I can draw upon. Bell’s series tally against Pakistan in 2005/6, 313 runs at 52 is an achievement not to be sniffed at. He also scored three centuries in three tests, again against the Pakistanis (in 2006). Recently, his 199 against the Saffers at Lords suggested Bell had finally come of age.

Alas, this was a thought that proved misplaced. Consolation dead rubber victory aside, England were soundly beaten by an impressive outfit and Bell contributed just 133 runs at 22 during the rest of the series (on another note, I too am very much looking forward to the upcoming Australia versus South Africa confrontations. Finally, in 20 innings, Bell has yet to make a century against the Aussies – hardly a record befitting a world class number three.

So what’s required over the next 12 months?

I want to see more of a combative attitude from Bell. Who can forget Owais Shah’s test debut, batting at number three, sledging the Indian Bowlers during his 88 at Mumbai in 2006 (I always enjoy seeing Harbhajan and Sreesanth getting smashed around)?. A Test number three should be dictating the pace of the game in all conditions and Bell needs to step up. At 26 years of age, the next 5 years could be a golden period. I want to see him averaging over 50 against India and the West Indies (both home and away), I want to see him compiling significant scores where the pitches are friendly (India) and when the bowling attacks lack quality and experience (the Windies). Bell should be approaching the 2009 Ashes at the peak of his powers, ready to demolish the Aussies without fearing the now retired McGrath/Warne combination. Let’s hope the Sherminator can deliver.

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An appeal from The Village Cricketer: In June 2009, The Village Cricketer’s English All Stars will play the Cricket with Balls Code of Conduct XI in a charity cricket match to raise runds for the Everyman Male Cancer Campaign. So, if you enjoy this post, please support the cause by donating £2 or anything you can spare via our Justgiving page. 1 in 3 of us will get cancer at some time in our lives, please show your support!

The former England cricketer Chris Lewis has been charged with attempted drug smuggling after the seizure of four kilos of cocaine at Gatwick airport, the UK Border Agency said today. The drugs had an estimated street value of £200,000.

Lewis, 40, an all-rounder who played 32 test matches and 53 one-day internationals for England in the 1990s, was arrested on Monday after arriving on a flight from the Caribbean,

The drugs were found hidden inside tins of fruit.

Sponsor’s message: In June 2009, The Village Cricketer’s English All Stars will play the Cricket with Balls Code of Conduct XI in a charity cricket match to raise runds for the Everyman Male Cancer Campaign. So, if you enjoy this post, please support the cause by donating £2 or anything you can spare via our Justgiving page. 1 in 3 of us will get cancer at some time in our lives, please show your support!

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