Category Archives: ODI

Why understated risk taker Eoin Morgan deserves more credit

Before you think about criticising Eoin Morgan for all of his apparent misgivings, have some perspective for what he’s done to make his career happen.

In Morgan, England have an understated risk taker, driven by his convictions, but of late, disliked for three main things.

These things are a lack of form, what appeared to be a lack of commitment to playing Tests, and an impression he demands special treatment.

Firstly, he’d scored just 328 runs at an average of under 30 in 2016. For many, he was first in line for the chopping block if the team didn’t do so well.

Secondly, before the West Indies, he said he has given up on ever playing Tests again, and he would be available for the IPL again.

This is despite having played his last First Class game in July 2015 for Middlesex (nearly two years ago).

For many this appears as if he’s picking and chosing when he wants to play for England, and it’s not fair It’s certainly not OK for him ti complain about non-selection in a format he isn’t playing.

Thirdly,  and most significantly, when England toured Bangladesh, he didn’t go. Out of the three elements to the undermining of his authority, this is probably the fairest criticism; that said – he did it without platitude-filled press conferences or sob stories. He made his position clear, and many didn’t like it, but at least he gave the side a chance to prepare.

These things slowly eroded some of Morgan’s authority, and it’s a bit unfair.  He isn’t perfect, but don’t he’s risked a lot to get where he is.

Firstly, appreciate how hard he has worked not only on his form, but also to build this team up.

In 2016, Morgan had a torrid time, but he’s made up for it in 2017, with 300 runs in six innings, including two centuries.

Secondly, realise that Morgan  has time and time again sacrificed his career for England.

He quit playing for his native Ireland to try and play for England. A tough thing to do, with no guarantees. He succeeded, but was then dropped.  Undeterred, he quit the IPL to re-stake a claim in the Test side, and when it was apparent he wouldn’t play in whites again, he refocused his career once more.

He didn’t sulk – he focussed on playing ODI cricket, and has succeeded.  As England’s ODI captain, he’s now fifth on the list of most matches as skipper, with a better win percentage than three of the four men ahead of him). Only Michael Vaughan is better, which is impressive company.

And, aside from the poor world cup performance, Morgan’s side is formidable. This England team has power hitting, genuine allrounders, spinners, quick bowlers, and dynamic fielding.

You can’t complain he won’t play Tests, and he wants to play in the IPL, but revel in his successes for England in ODI. It’s precisely because Morgan has specialised, that this young side has become so strong.

Eoin Morgan may not have fulfilled his potential in some areas of the game, but nobody should doubt his commitment to England.

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Politics of Pietersen

An England side with KP is undeniably a better side than one without him. However, it is important to look at how and why the events that have unfolded have placed him in his current ridiculous and almost entirely self made predicament. I will look at the timeline of events in the ‘Pietersen VS ECB’ fiasco to appreciate the lunacy of the situation and explain why after reading lots of articles and watching lots of interviews. It’s the only possible outcome to see him unfortunately dropped.

The debacle began on the 31st May when Pietersen out of the blue decided to announce he has retired from ODI cricket, citing the “intensity of the schedule”. Shortly after this KP says he will carry on playing T20, which was not an option as the ECB reject this due their  policy on selection. A player must be available for both ODI and T20I in order to play either. It is totally irrelevant that this is an arbitrary and pointless policy,the fact is, that is the policy and Pietersen  thought he could take the ECB on and failed .

The second installment in this soap opera came between the 13th -18th July  when Pietersen hit a brilliant double hundred in a rare appearance for Surrey. He used this as a platform to show his talent that could be missed, but after not being named in the ECB’s provisional 30-man squad for the Twenty20 World Cup in Sri Lanka he is devastated. He back-peddles and tries to get his foot back in the door but states he ‘would only play on the condition that scheduling issues are addressed.” He reasserts his desire to play “in all formats” and simultaneously says he wants scheduling changes which one can only assume are loaded with more retirement threats if not met. Utterly confusing and unstable for the team

Not only is this a not consistent with the ECB central contract regarding availability for all forms but is also completely incompatible. Either he wants to have a break from the schedule or he doesn’t. He can’t ask for a break and go to play more. What else could the ECB do other than say stop trying to dictate to us and assert their authority ?

Pietersen’s magnificent 200 for Surrey

Part three came between the 4th -6th August  with Pietersen’s most dynamic stunning and match saving knock of 149 on day three of the second Test match against South Africa at Headingley. Clearly still seen as stable enough to pick and comfortable enough to perform. Despite this, It was a very obvious nudge in the stomach to the selectors. ‘Pick me or you will will miss this’ kind of knock. The fact is the ECB could have already dropped him but didn’t. They were lenient and although Pietersen’ts antics were unsettling thus far, it’s clear that his talent was still more important than his silly comments and outrageous demands.

Part four  – After opening the batting in a short attempted run chase in the aftermath of his breath taking century, Pietersen gave a inexplicable interview to TMS. He hinted that he could retire from Test cricket  and ‘he could not confirm whether that innings would be his ‘last test innings’’. He voiced his anger that details of his meetings with the ECB have been leaked to the media and said issues within the dressing room need resolving. KP being abrasive and aggressive selfish and egotistical were completely centered around his own interest. He is clearly now harming the balance of the side by personalizing the fiasco, talking about the dressing room outside of the game. His hundred is one thing but his comments are another

Between the 8th-16th  August, after his ton and comments he had a rant about a parody Twitter account – @kevpietersen24. This humorous mocking incident was overshadowed by the subsequent revelation.  Texts   to members of the South African team during the Leeds Test by Pietersen had purportedly spoken ill of captain Strauss and coach Flower. Despite his talent with the bat and form he was in, it would be inexcusable to keep him in the side until the exact details of the messages were revealed and there was clarity over his England future.

KP clawed back dignity when he published a video on YouTube on the 11th of August  in which he reiterates commitment to the England team. He once more changes his mind and claims that he is now available to play for England in all three forms of the game. He also apologized for his behavior and says he must reign himself in.

Between the 12th -14th August  the apology and confirmation of commitment (which was not cleared by the ECB) still led to him being  dropped from the England squad for the third Test at Lord’s.

I know a lot of people such as Piers Morgan looked past his antics and said pick him anyway but The ECB were clear and justified with their dropping of KP. They say he was ‘unable to clarify that the text messages he sent to South African players were not disparaging about his team-mates or the ECB management’. This is a fair reason both due to upsetting other members of the dressing room and the chemistry of the side. Furthermore when the captain says he feels ‘let down’ and  the ECB say there is a ‘trust issue between Pietersen and other players’ the day before a test there is no way he can play. Regardless of his obvious natural class, Pietersen cannot find a way back.

Pietersen walking off at Headingley unknowing of the drama to unfold

Pietersen called a press conference in whcih he apologizes but essentially he had still put himself in an awful situation. The conference was largely saying how he would reveal more after the 3rd test. Little did he know by that point that  the only real option the ECB have was to drop him. He had done just about everything that a player should be dropped for. He has retired and unretired on the basis of personal gain, Slagged off players and coaches in addition to being dis loyal to England wanting to quit international cricket to play IPL.

He has said he will reign himself in. If he does then fine. Get him back. Until that he needs to cool down. I’m sure sooner or later England will need him again and this could be short lived anyway

Australia’s batting woes come into focus

Before the first ODI at Lords between England and Australia, Shane Watson, Australia’s opening batsmen and allrounder, had said England didn’t have enough batting depth and that their line-up with five specialist bowlers (including Stuart Broad, Tim Bresnan and Graeme Swann who can all bat) was too bowler heavy. The comment seemed a little out of place because it is clearly the Australian batting line-up that has some serious issues relating to depth.

Watson and Warner get them off to a solid start, but besides them, only Michael Clarke offers any substantial resistance. In the absence of Michael Hussey, who skipped the tour due to personal reasons, Australia sent Steven Smith, a leg-spinning allrounder who led Sydney Sixers to the Big Bash League title last season, at No. 6,. He can bat in an unorthodox fashion at that position, but having not bowled, he is essentially reduced to a batsman, who has performed poorly with the bat.

Australia need some more batsmen. With the likes of Michael Hussey, now 37, David Hussey (not picked for Test matches anyway) and Ponting getting old, Australia team is losing players who scored in bulk. They have inexperienced batsmen who are not yet ready to fill their predecessors’ shoes. Even Watson and Warner, the supposedly more solid players, are not doing well. Watson has a large number of half-centuries (28) in 154 ODIs, but only six hundreds. In Tests, he has scored only two centuries.

I think it would be more valuable to score a fifty at No. 5 or No. 6 instead of one at the top of the batting order. Watson bragging about depth should drop down the order to give his side some depth. Phil Hughes should come in. Clarke has 52 fifties and just seven tons in 217 games. Despite this he is now ranked eighth in the ODIs and as the leading batsman he is the only genuine solid option. I feel he should be at No. 3, but he is not converting enough starts to hundreds.

Michael Clarke dominating Aussie cricket

Let’s look at some other domestic cricketers. Phil Hughes has been dominant in England. On the other hand he failed to make a century during the last Australian domestic season and seemed to have been worked out. Although, he wasn’t incredible in the Ashes but his domestic first-class record is too good to ignore. The amount of runs he has scored is simply staggering. At just 23, he has 17 hundreds and 5810 runs and ovr 300 runs in the English domestic T20 tournament in which he top scored b y a county mile by the quarter final stage. How can Australia possibly ignore this run machine? Get him in the side, straighten out his flaws and make him a master of his art.

Chris Rogers, who has been in the form of his life playing for Middlesex in all forms of cricket, is a little older and is still waiting, like David Hussey, for a proper chance to play Tests. He has been churning out runs for a long time. In Sheffield Shield trophy this season, he hit 781 runs including three centuries to be among the top run-getters.

Likewise, there is Marcus North who despite already having had a shot at Test cricket was chucked for not being good enough. He is a stylish attacking batsman who can bowl.

Also, seasoned professionals like 32-year old Adam Voges, Michael Klinger and Phil Jacques have all been on the fringes for a long time. Klinger, who was the fourth-highest run scorer in the 2011-12 season, has not been able to break into the side. He scored one century in 19 innings, which isn’t breathtaking for one of the top scorers in the domestic league.

Phil Jacques has become so fed up with Australia selection that he has now said he wants to play for English counties. Rob Quiney and Liam Davis have both scored profusely and but have gone unnoticed. Perhaps Davis’s long-term record is not outstanding, but having scored three of his four centuries in the 2011-12 season including a triple-century, credit should be given where it is due. If a player is successful then he should get some acknowledgement, bearing in mind the alternatives – Smith, Forrest and George Bailey, and no one else really.

The top century makers in Australia’s domestic league were Ed Cowan, Quiney, David Hussey, Forrest, Bailey, Davis and Rogers with three centuries apiece.

Liam Davis 921 runs in 15 innings. Averaging over 60 but still overlooked over the likes of Steve smith

The likes of Usman Khawaja, Bailey and Forrest are all decent players or they wouldn’t get in the Test side, but they haven’t set the world alight and are clearly not ready for international cricket. Who are the fringe players pushing for a spot in the side?

I can’t see anyone who is scoring runs that doesn’t seem to have had a go in the Australian team on some level. Those in the Test, ODI and T20 side are simply not performing to a high standard. I hope Australia soon find a new Ponting or Michael Hussey because at the moment they are an inexperienced side. I am sure in three to four years there will be good players worthy of international cricket, but until then, Australia need some serious runs from some experienced batsmen.

Are England starting to crack One Day Cricket?

What we have seen from England in the last six to eight months displays what can only be seen as the final frontier of England’s cricketing ambitions finally being taken by the scruff of the neck and wrestled. That is One day cricket. England are improving and have had in them instilled some kind of method of playing One day cricket that has helped them to win. Big runs and quality bowlers. Not to mention the exceptional standards in fielding.

Last year when England played Sri Lanka with the tri captaincy formula we saw the dawning of a new light. Alistair Cook in one day cricket ? Surely not. Well it’s true. And it has worked a treat. He scored a hundred in the fourth one dayer and it was one of those tons for me that i watched and thought something feels a bit different. I think they key factor to why i thought this is that there was such a great balance of attack and defense. A good balance also between bat and ball in the side. England had depth but class, not depleting either bat or ball by playing a few all rounders which in the past have meant a team of Darren Sammy’s i.e. not good enough with either bat or ball really.

As of the last few months England are now on a five game winning streak. Within this thet have consistently had top order runs. When Alistair Cook brought up his fantastic hundred yesterday; it was the 6th consecutive occasion in which an english opener had scored a ton. Does that tell you something ? Yes. England have found a formular of attack (Pietersen previously but now bell, and defense, Cook and trott.)

Here are the 6 innings

19/6, – England v West Indies – Cook 112 off 120 ( 13 fours, 1 Six, SR 93 )

16/6 ,  England v West Indies – Bell 125 of 117 (12 fours 1 six, SR 107)

21/3- Pakistan v England, Pietersen  130 off 153 (12 fours 2 sixes, SR 84)

18/3 – Pakistan v England   Pietersen 111 off 98  (10 fours 2 6’s 113 SR 113) (also Cook 80 off 90 (9 fours 1 six SR 81) and)

15/2- Pakistan vs England Cook 102 off 121 (10 fours SR 84)

13/2 -Pakistan vs England Cook 137 off 142 (14 fours SR 95)

Captain Cook

I know Kevin Pietersen has now retired and will not be playing ODI cricket but it looks as if Ian Bell is a perfect replacement. His 125 at the rose bowl was a brilliant attacking fluent and stylish innings. It is exactly what England have been looking for at the top of the order. He is a technically brilliant batsmen and gives England a mix of stability and  slightly more attacking option than Cook yet slightly less than Pietersen.

Bell is a stylish and fluent attacking solution to top order problems

I am not claiming that after 6 good innings England have solved a problem they have always had. All i am saying is there is a renewed attitude towards the game. There is a deliberate sense of class and attacking intent. Sometimes aggression at the start. The Batsmen know the plan and there is a confidence in their techniques. Cook who was for a year or so very scratchy has had a phenomenal year or so and has reasserted himself once more as a quality player with his one day form.  Before 2011 the entire outlook was always a bit frantic and disorganized.

Englands top three have been firing and haven’t necessarily given the middle order a good run really. Trott has a few 40’s and Morgan and Bopara have a few fifties but essentially it has been all the top two or three. But England now also have a serious depth. With the openers getting a platform even if they do not get a hundred, the likes of Trott, Morgan, Bopara, Kieswetter, Bairstow Patel or whoever England decide to play will have enough of a springboard to accelerate. There are the likes of James Taylor, Bairstow, Buttler, Compton and Patel all vying for a spot also.

This could be the difference between mediocracy and the best in the world. Think about it. We used to get an England side with one or two fifties and a few 30’s and 25’s that led England to get 250 odd. Now we have some century makers  and some really attacking players that come in down the order. England bat down to 9 and 10 even with Swann, Bresnan and Broad being able to hit a long ball. We have a lot of people that can score up and down the order and people that could come into the side and fill a spot. England just need to decide once and for all who they are going to chose because indecision could create a lack of conviction.

England must carry on though. If they want to be the best they need more and bigger hundreds and to keep up the pressure with the ball

What is a good team though ? Just a strong batting unit ?? NO.

England have not just hit big totals and ground down the opposition but have blasted them away. At the Oval they were playing Broad, Bresnan, Anderson Finn and Swann. They rarely even use the 50 overs allocated because they have so many runs on the board and the bowlers are such high class they can get the opposition out before they have the chance to bat out 50 over. Not forgetting also that England have the likes of Dernbach, Onions, Tremlett, Woakes, Tredwell, Meaker etc waiting in the wings. They have serious depth on and off the pitch and all of them are mid 20’s with only Anderson and Swann over 30.

Hunting in a pack

Whilst the batsmen have been notching up tons, a strange phenomenon has occurred with the bowlers. In those six games above mentioned in which there have been 6 tons by openers, there has not been a single 5 wicket hall. In each occasion the wickets have been spread with bowlers like Bresnan getting 4 wicket halls at the Rose bowl the other day, Dernbach getting 4 in Dubai at the 4th One dayer, Finn four wickets in the second and first one dayers. When each bowler is getting wickets it means there is constant pressure. NO WEAK LINK. England don’t need a Brett Lee or Lasith Malinga as a strike bowler as they constantly take wickets.

Super Bresnan gets 4

Its apparent that England have a string of reliable top order batsmen i.e. Cook, Bell, Trott. They have a solid middle order capable of rebuilding or accelerating with the likes of Morgan, Bopara, Kieswetter, Bairstow, Bresnan etc.. and they have one of the best crops of fast bowlers in the world with the likes of Anderson, Broad, Finn, Dernbach, Bresnan, Onions etc.. and let us not forget that England have a highly ranked spinner also. Graeme Swann is a brilliant bowler to have to get the quality players out like Chris Gayle out. He often helps to build up some serious pressure whilst others feed off the lack of runs and get a share of the wickets.

Yesterday Chris Gayle hit 5 sixes within a period of 11 balls. Hitting Bresnan onto the roof and down the ground twice. It was Swann that eventually got him out for 50 odd. However, of late i think it would be fair to say England don’t lose track of the game as much as they used to. Even if someone like Gayle goes on a rampage, they will just get through it. Shortly after Gayle they were taking wickets but this is done through pressure of the likes of Swann and Broad. Regular wickets from every bowler means no weak links. England had Broad on in the middle overs. What team can have that amount of depth to bring on the 7th best bowler in the world to bowl in the middle overs ? England have never looked so good.

England’s spinner prizes out the stars. Gayle gone!

Whereas England have a brilliant spinner, arguably their one remaining real glaring issue is against spin. The likes of Ajmal, Vettori, Herath and other such quality spinners have always proved hard to play against. England need to learn to play a turning ball a lot better and hopefully having Swann in the side will help them do that. The fact in that if they are getting top order runs agaisnt the new ball the quality spinner in the side can only bowl 10 overs. Play that out.  This may however merely be England’s problems on the sub continent. If they can get over that it could be a lot easier.

England have a brilliant mix of top quality batting, aggressive intent, efficiency in the bowling and a taste for winning. I see this is as the start if a period of dominance and hope that England can build on success in Test and T20 to develop and prosper. The main problem i fear is that England’s middle order is not getting enough practice, and they are so dominated by success in English conditions that they may struggle in places like India or Sri Lanka. What we saw in Dubai and Abu Dabi reassured me a little but not hugely.

We need to try and win in India outright (not in a wc situation.) Losing 6-1 hurt. We need to beat them ozziesss as well.. that also really hurt.

Should be interesting !

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