World Cup 2007


Congrats to the Canary Yellows who won the World Cup without even needing to break sweat. Big shame that the final wasn’t played in good weather over 100 overs, but getting to watch Gilchrist go mental was some compensation. Interestingly, the Sri Lankan bowlers, who had looked incredibly good against everyone else, looked ordinary when faced with the Gilchrist onslaught. I would suggest reading the Australian perspective on this, and also some analysis of his squash-ball innovation.

At least Glen McGrath can no longer darken our doors. The grump in (baggy) green has retired, disgracefully with 20+ wickets from this World Cup alone, and will go back into the bush. Batsmen around the world can breath a sigh of relief, the fans will get to see him sitting in a convertible being wheeled around the MCG when Cricket Australia celebrate their legends, and the rest of us can look forward to a more cheery replacement. See below for a picture of Glen looking grumpy.

Oh, and I have just watched the BBC’s Panaroma show looking into the murder of Bob Woolmer. 30 minutes of speculation rehashed from stories on the internet, with the major scoop being an interview with an illicit Indian bookmaker. Everything on the show had been revealed before. “Woolmer poisoned and then strangled…” we knew that weeks ago. Must be a cushy number working reworking online stories at the Beeb!

P.S. Made two not out at the weekend, batting at seven, we lost.

Grumpy Glen

There are those in life that watch and moan, and there are those in life that watch, moan then do something about it. The Village Cricketer has lamented the pitiful performance of the England team in this current World Cup and has selected a 15-man squad that has the potential (because when it comes to English cricket, potential is a popular word) to win the next one. The squad selected is full of exciting young cricketers that have show enough signs of talent and temperament required to win a tournament. It may be a little batsmen heavy, however those listed score quickly and make big runs, the bowlers ooze class. Those cricketers listed below need to be given an extended run in international cricket over the next four years to hone their skills and gain the experience they need. Crucially, this side already has the core of a successful England team. As always, I welcome your thoughts.

James Benning: Born 1983, James Benning is a classy opening batsman at Surrey with a career Twenty20 strike rate of 147, a List A one day average of 35.13 and top score of 189* against Gloucestershire. These provide enough evidence to suggest he is prepared to get on with it and the ability to score big once in. This is the man that could do the job Mal Loye should have been selected for in the Windies.

Andrew Flintoff: Despite his lack of form with the bat, big Fred is still one of the world’s best players and still the right side of 30. Provided he can find some form (and joie de vivre) in time for the next World Cup Fred could be a match winner with bat or ball. Could possibly open the batting.

Kevin Pietersen: England’s best batsman by a mile, but gosh – don’t he know it. Perhaps, marriage and another four years maturity will mellow KP and improve his batting even more. Big ego, but a bigger cog in the English wheel.

Ian Bell: One of the few positives in this tournament. Bell showed class, was consistent and has still yet to reach his prime. Aged just 25 now, he can be the ideal foil in the middle order to the likes of Pietersen, Flintoff and Benning.

Ravi Bopara: Only got in the side because Fred fell out of his pedalo, but is likely to remain there for some time. Is 22 this May but demonstrates maturity beyond his years with the bat. Already averaging 36.50 at a strike rate in excess of 80 in ODI cricket and is a handy bowler too.

Paul Collingwood *: Give him the captaincy and ink his name on the team sheet. Has scored 100s against the best ODI side in the world, is the best fielder in the world and can bowl a bit too. Great temperament, has worked hard to get where he is and will not give it away easily. Will be 34 the next time the World Cup comes along and will make a good mentor to the younger members of the side.

Matt Prior +: Still just 25, the Sussex keeper/batsman has already had a pop at ODI cricket. He batted at the top of the order and pitched in with a few 30s and a 40-odd in tough series in Pakistan and India. More than 500 Twenty20 runs at a strike rate of 138.97 puts him up with the best in county cricket.

Ian Blackwell: With the next World Cup in Asia we will need two spinners and the Somerset allrounder had a regular place in the England team before missing pretty much all of the 2006 season through injury. With the ball he has a tidy ODI economy rate of 4.27 and was bowling consistently tight spells against good oppositions. Although he hasn’t shown his true batting ability on a regular basis for England, he has made good runs in county cricket, gives the ball a smack and regularly clears the boundary. Worth a recall.

Stuart Broad: Pace, bounce, good fielder and can hold a bat too. Has performed well in the few ODI matches he has played already and is likely to have a long and successful England career.

Monty Panesar: A world cup on the subcontinent needs a quality spinner – and Monty is quality. Had a more than useful test tour in India last year and has performed credibly in the ODI games he has already played.

Jimmy Anderson: King of the swingers, Jimmy A is already a potential matchwinner in the England side. Had a decent enough World Cup and has already won matches on the subcontinent.

Billy Godleman: You’ll have to take my word on this that I had picked young Billy in this side before he made a hundred against Somerset on his championship debut. This kid has class, and showed many with a quickfire 71 in a televised Twenty20 match last season. A former Australian cricket academy attendee who played alongside him at Brondesbury once told me he was as good at 15 as Damien Martyn.

Mark Pettini: This Essex lad is an opening batsman, talented strokeplayer, a sharp fielder and a potential reserve wicketkeeper. Pettini established himself in the Essex team in 2006 hitting a career-best 208 not out in a Championship victory over Derbyshire. He was also part of the Pro40 Division One title-winning side. Has a good strike rate in both List A and Twenty20 cricket.

Rikki Clarke: Would have played more for England already but for the ever presence of Flintoff. Good batsman and pacey bowler. Topped Surrey’s batting averages for the totesport league in 2005 and has already taken international wickets. Squad player for the next World Cup.

Luke Wright: A blonde medium-fast bowling allrounder, Mr Wright could be the English equivalent of Shane Watson (well, hopefully the good bits anyway). Can score quickly, scored a century on his first-class debut for Sussex. Once took a hat-trick for England Under-19s against South Africa.

One of my abiding memories of the last World Cup gets played every now and again on Sky. England, having been beaten and knocked out of the tournament, are boarding the team bus, and a beered up supporter shouts “disgraceful Nasser, disgraceful son” at Mr Hussain. Marcus Trescothick stands at the steps of the bus and gives the heckler a mournful glare.

The reason I mention this is that I – like the vocal supporter at the last tournament – feel a little let down by England in this World Cup. Having just been hammered by South Africa and booed off the pitch, England have been shown up as the very average one day side it is. The end of the Commonwealth Bank series showed some promise – albeit with a makeshift side – and we were promised more in this tournament. All tournament, as England have started badly, shown promise, and then thrown winning positions away, we have been promised that England will click – we haven’t and we are out of the tournament.

I think the world of Michael Vaughan and would be the first to highlight the improvements the English test side has made under Duncan Fletcher, however for all their good work we still play one day cricket like county sides did in the eighties and nineties.

So, England have – to date – in this tournament, beaten one test playing side… Bangladesh. Ireland have beaten two – Pakistan and Bangladesh – and tied a game with a team (Zimbabwe) that would still be playing test cricket if it were not for massive mismanagement of its cricket in the name of politics. Time for the England team to show its true colours and put in a performance of note. South Africa don’t have any unorthodox pace bowlers like Malinga or Tait or mysterious wrist-spinners like Hogg or Murali to confuse England during the power plays. Come on lads, time for Vaughan to show his class, time for Strauss to make big runs against the same side he dominated on their own soil, time for Kevin Pietersen to let his batting do the chatting when it comes to his former chums and time for Fred to find some horn. CricInfo has called the match the “Last Chance Saloon”, Graham Smith reckons it will be “a very explosive game”, The Village Cricketer calls it “MUST WIN”.

OK England fans, hands up. Would you prefer England to play well and lose (like they did against Sri Lanka), or play badly and win (like they did against Bangladesh)?

Despite the far-from-clinical nature of England’s victory, England have another two points and remain in the competition. In football parlance, they snuck through with a one-niller and every remaining game is like a cup final. The great Lancastrian Saj Mahmood put in a stirling performance up front, Monty Panesar was the anchor man in midfield, and Michael Vaughan – well, he is returning from injury and is yet to regain full match fitness, however he was in the right place at the right time and did make 30 – more than any of the other batsmen.

England won, which is the most important thing, without going above second gear. Plenty left in the tank, however we really could do with a Man Utd-esque seven goaler to put some fear into the oppo. If Big Ron was a cricket pundit, he would probably say that “there’s a snap about England that just isn’t there, someone in the England team will have to grab the ball (sic) by the horns.”

Paul Coupar, great cricket journalist, good lad and fellow old-Brookfieldian, writes in CricInfo that England are searching “for back-door entry”. As Han Solo said in Return of the Jedi: “Back door, eh? Good idea.”

Surprises:

England batted first, swapped Joyce for Strauss, opened with Bell, Pietersen scores England’s first World Cup hundred since Graeme Hick in 1745 against Holland, Glen McGrath gets smashed around.

Not a surprise: 

England won the toss, lost early wickets, didn’t capitalise on good positions, lost quick wickets at the end, Flintoff bowling well, Flintoff batting badly, umpires unwilling to give out Australian batsman when plumb LBW, Ponting scores big runs to win the game, England show promise but lose.

Suggestions for next match from TVC:

Strauss to open instead of Vaughan, Vaughan to four, Pietersen to three, Bopara to six, Flintoff to seven.

I don’t have the desire to go into this game in any more detail. I will refer you to CricInfo.

I once played against Ravi Bopara in an Evening Standard cup game at Barnes. He was at that stage breaking through Essex CC’s 2nd XI. He made a low score, caught down the leg side, but Hainault & Clayhall Cricket Club still racked up nearly 300 (short boundaries at Barnes) and we replied with 180ish. I, like Ravi, made a low score 😉

Last night, Ravi – obviously much the better player after his trip to SW13 – was the star turn in a World Cup match against Sri Lanka that England should have won. England bowled well and fielded well, but we did not bat well enough as a unit. KP was excellent before becoming overly ambitious against Murali. Bopara and Nixon (what a reverse sweep by the way!) were top drawer, and almost rescued what had become a lost cause.

It is difficult to know whether to blame anyone. Vaughan was unlucky, Bell perhaps even more so, and I am not qualified to comment on the dismissals of Flintoff, Collingwood and Joyce. I am desperate for England to perform well, however the top order has to start scoring big runs, and not leave all the runs (and extra pressure) to the likes of Pietersen and Collingwood, who will not rescue England every time. Mind you, it would have been interesting to see what a great finisher like Michael Bevan would have done in Pietersen’s shoes though. One would assume he would have seen Murali off and not sought to finish the game quite so quickly.

I will be intrigued to see whether Strauss gets drafted in – he performed well in the Windies last time, although not quite so well in Australia. He may be an option for Joyce – who needs to regain the aggression he displayed in against the top sides in Australia – however it is Vaughan’s form with the bat that is a major worry. Vaughan has not passed 50 in ODIs since 7 July 2005.

Finally, here’s a thing. StatsGuru from Cricinfo reveals that in the 18 ODI games in which Vaughan has opened the batting, he averages 16.11 and has passed fifty only once. Batting at three (44 times), he averages 32.66 and has passed 50 on 11 occasions. Oh for Mal Loye.

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