Tag Archives: kevin pietersen

England’s Superiority Complex

England have some outstanding cricketers, but they have a superiority complex. They blot out their failings with the record of excellence and are beginning to take the process of winning for granted.

Since the 8th July 2009 (1st day of the Ashes in 2009) until the last Ashes series 2013, England have played in 54 Tests and have won 28, with 11 series wins out of 16 [excluding the Ashes 2013/14].

They have a strong overall record under the reigns of Andy Flower, but of late, this dominance has smothered their failings. As their success has tailed off since the series against Pakistan in 2012, the failure has been amalgamated into this period of dominance. It has blended into one when, it is two very distinct periods of success and failure. They need to get over themselves. England proudly present their excellence, but as they do, fans and opponents are realising that is a a mechanism to hide a more sinister insecurity and chronic lack of substance. 

There is little doubt that performances have been disappointing in the last year and a half to two years, particularly due to frailties with the bat. Within a more concise time frame, we can see that it has not been as simple as 11 series victories out of 16, but it has in fact been a curve of success, and a dramatic fall from grace. It has given a deceptive and undeserving confidence to England.

Splitting Flower’s England into two periods highlights this curve of success, with England versus Pakistan in the U.A.E. as the mid-way point.

Between the Ashes of 2009 until the India series in England in 2011, almost exclusively, England experienced victory and dominance. After that four-nil drubbing of India, came the series of Pakistan in the U.A.E. in 2012, which England lost 3-0, up until the Ashes in England in 2013, England looked insecure and struggled. Yet when talking about England in recent years, the situation is presented as a monolithic block of success. 

The record is 15/17 series won or drawn. All hail Andy Flower. 

In the first half of this period eight series’ were contested, with seven victories and one draw. It was an exceptional time to be an England fan, and indeed a cricket fan, as some very high quality cricket was offered. England were victorious in 19 out of 29 Tests (a win percentage of 61.51%), and it took them to the dreamy heights of number one ranked Test nation, including two magical Ashes victories in 2009, and 2010/11, and whitewashing then number one Indian side.

Conversely, and rather worryingly, the next eight series (between Pakistan in the U.A.E. in 2012 and the previous Ashes in 2013), have been much less fruitful.

England have won three of these last eight series’, with just 10 Test victories out of 25 Tests (a win percentage of just 40%). There have been seven lost Tests, compared to just four in the previous block (despite the previous period having four more Tests), and England lost their number one ranking. 

It is adequately clear that the current England side is a long shot from that England side between 2009-2011, yet the myth that is perpetuated is that it is the same. The reliance on this fabulous record or having only two lost series in the last 16 is deceptive, because it glosses over their failings. This myth gives England a certain security, and a certain feeling of superiority, as they basque in their own glory, and draw upon that for inspiration.

This side confident, compact and strong unit, or so we think. It’s built on a record of proven success after all, isn’t it? Yet, when they are skittled out for 136 and 179 in the first Ashes Test of 2013/14 people are surprised, as if England should be doing better based on their talent. This is the side that was number one. Why is this happening?

If one is to go on record, the performances given in Brisbane are a mere continuation of lacklustre and dismal form. Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell have all averaged between 39-42, with just 17 centuries in 178 innings. The top four are scoring a century in only 9.5% of England innings. The simple facts are that England need more centuries, partnerships and scores of over 400, 500, 600 and beyond. It isn’t happening.

Overall figures – 17th Jan 2012- Ashes 2013
Player   Matches Innings N.O. Runs HS Ave   100 50      
AN Cook   25 48 3 1933 190 42.95     6 6      
IJL Trott 25 47 2 1779 143 39.53     3 11      
KP Pietersen 21 38 1 1526 186 41.24   4 8      
IR Bell 24 44 7 1460 116* 39.45     4 9      
MJ Prior 25 40 7 1264 110* 38.30     1 8      
JE Root 11 21 2 763 180 40.15     2 3      

The continued struggle to replace the runs of both Paul Collingwood and Andrew Strauss has really hit England hard in creating a base for the innings, and consolidating that base later on. This is shown very clearly with relative high scores in the two periods outlined.

Between the Ashes 2009 and Pakistan 2012, England had one score of 700 plus, two of 600 plus, seven scores of 500 plus, and eight scores of 400 plus. Between Pakistan in the U.A.E. 2012 and the Ashes in 2013, England passed 400 in Test cricket seven times, with only one score of 500, and none of 600 or 700. The runs dried up. Runs win matches against high quality opposition. With the last recorded score of 400 plus all the way back in March 2013 versus the West Indies, England defeated Australia in the Ashes, despite not once going past 400.

They were able to win the Ashes in what Andy Zaltzman accurately called a ‘narrow thrashing’, which is essentially an emphasis on winning despite not actually playing particularly well. They were not exposed for their frailties, so the myth of being this compact and successful team, stuck. Their superiority complex covered up their insecurities. 

Who can criticise a team that won the Ashes, when so many grew up in an era in which England were battered time and time again. To reduce success to the opposition being poor, would seem unfair. Nevertheless, it is apparent that England scraped their way past Australia, because they were not called out for their failings, as they were against the South Africans.

It is about time they stopped pretending they are a side that they are not. They are not a superior outfit. They need to begin to look at their performances independent of the previous record of Flower up until 2011.

This is not a winning England side. This side has a mentality that it can overcome others without necessarily playing well, because this side is special, with Kevin Pietersen and Alastair Cook, Jimmy Anderson and Graeme Swann. All we need to do is turn up. This side was the number one, this side held the Ashes, this side is now losing. 

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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

Another Angle Before The 3rd Test

I am going to look at a few things that have caught my eye. Some obvious some less so. All important issues. I want to look at Pietersen.. obviously, Strauss, Bresnan, South Africa’s extra’s problem AB De Villiers and Prior

Politics of Pietersen

Pietersen has gone from the much loved and brilliant talented innovative master batsmen smashing Morkel around the ground to a universally confusing and even disliked figure. His clear brilliance and talent is being used as a bargaining chip one feels. He knows England ideally want him in the side so his outrageous and selfish demands are being used to get his way hoping the ECB will fold

No man is bigger than the side. He has said he wants to play all forms? Then fine. But if his constantly scattered and changing views are getting in the way of the interests of the side irrelevant of the talent he has, then he should go. Obviously we are all dazzled by his sheer talent, but if he is not going to be a force for good, what other choice does the ECB have? I’m Pietersen’s biggest fan when on the field. He needs to learn some respect and manners to his colleagues but more importantly to the game, Texting opposition players and bitching about your captain and coach is not ‘banter’ as he so amiably put it, it is really rude and uncalled for.

South Africa giving ‘EXTRA’ help

At the Oval South Africa conceded 43 extras in the first innings (b 2, lb 24, w 3, nb 14) and 39 in the second innings (b 11, lb 15, w 1, nb 12). This is compared to England who conceded 13 extras in 189 painful overs (b 5, lb 4, w 2, nb 2).  A stark difference and a clear problem for the Proteas.

At Headingley South Africa conceded 49 extras  (b 7, lb 17, w 14, nb 11) in the first innings, and even in 33 overs of England’s shortish 2nd innings there were 10  extras (lb 8, w 1, nb 1).  England conceded 11 extras in the first innings, all byes or leg byes and just three in the second innings.

Perhaps in the context of the series this isn’t so important, but i feel it is something really annoying that simply shouldn’t happen in International cricket. If South Africa are going to get to the top of the world, they must start to improve.

England have bowled a lot more overs than South Africa yet conceded less so these Extras are not from fatigue, they are from a mixture of indiscipline and poor fielding to an extent. Tahir bowled 8 no balls in England’s first innings of the second test, which is ludicrous for a spinner. There is not a settled keeper and slip cordon. Too many are passing through, too much hesitation and indecision between the keeper and the slips.

Captain unreliable

Strauss once more showed his clear inability to play against a genuinely quality attack. He may have over 650 runs at an average of 43 in 2012 but this included two hundreds vs a lackluster West Indies side. He is becoming a little bit of a bunny for most teams. An easy top order scalp. Whereas De Villiers, the 3rd best ranked batsmen in the world has so far scored 47 and 44 in the series and therefore failed to kick on, he has the quality to recover. On the other hand, Strauss this series has 0, 27 , 37 and 22. He is incapable of getting through a start against a solid team and kicking on to get a fifty or a hundred against a side that has worked him out. Many of the England players have flaws but they can work through them. Strauss doesn’t seem to be able to.

May i just remind everyone that the last two South African tours have resulted in captains resigning. Strauss has become so unimaginative and defensive not to mention slightly dried up with the runs, that there is some serious pressure on him for the first time in a long time. Perhaps not since his career saving knock down in New Zealand has he been under such pressure.

Strauss departs cheaply again

Bresnan’s Test match credential’s up for debate

It is time to re think this ‘allrounder’ status we give to Bresnan. So far in 2012 he has scored 81 runs in 6 innings with a strike rate of just over 30 runs per hundred balls. If he is picked as some kind of all rounder that can dash it around, he isn’t succeeding. He certainly isn’t impressing with the ball either and that is his main trade.  In 6 Tests he has 16 wickets at 46.56. He is behind even Monty Panesar in the wickets column. Hugely unimpressive ‘all-rounder’ stats. I would take Graeme Swann on a flat wicket over Tim Bresnan on a helpful wicket any day.

Prior’s reliable brilliance, aggression and complete selflessness

At the Oval Prior scored 60 and 40 and in this Headingley game got 68. He is by far the most talented and skillful batsmen keeper in the world averaging 42. He has been pretty faultless behind the stumps despite a few minor blips with England’s fielding including some terrible dropped catches from Cook and Anderson. Prior at 7 is in that Gilchrist mold of reliable but aggressive. The last thing you want to see walking out when a team is in a strong position.

Prior will become even more invaluable to the side now that KP has been booted out for a bit, and Taylor and Bairstow (if they both play) are the middle order. His runs will be like gold dust.

 

2nd Test Review

The second Test match between England and South Africa went down to the final session of the final day, which in modern Test cricket is not hugely common. It clearly began with a questionable team and toss selection from England but rapidly became a match heading towards all 3 result being possible. Most cricket fans and writers i read on Twitter and in the media were saying it would end up a dead rubber, as tt ended up, but come the last session with wickets tumbling i wasn’t so sure.

South Africa and England were able to match each other more or less with England picking up a lead of just 6 in the first innings. Alviro Petersen’s 182 and Kevin Pietersen’s exhillerating 149 set up the possibility of a hard fought finale. The pitch being flat yet giving a little bit of seam movement and with clouds a permenant fixture for most the Test meant there was hope for bowlers, reinforced by the fact England went with an all seam attack therefore someone having an inkling that pace could be the key. Rain however effected playing time, the game seemed to be heading towards a draw.

The game meandered along on the fifth day but the tide turned before lunch as Pietersen got a wicket; that of South Africa’s skipper who fell on 123  with fifty two to his name. As a result of a few minor injuries, the slightly disrupted order proved to be something that limited fluency and acceleration.The Proteas never got going really. They fell from 123-1 to 182-3 after Kevin Pietersen followed up a thrilling first innings 149 with the bat, with 3 wickets with the ball.

Graeme Swann must have been bashing his head on the table watching the ball rip around Rudolph, Smith and Amla’s bats, wondering why he wasn’t playing. By the 51’st over Pietersen had bowled his way to 3-41 off eight overs. A fine display from a part time bowler.

Stuart Broad ripped the heart out of South Africa as he removed De Villiers LBW followed by Duminy the very next ball. Shortly after Kallis was bounced out with a brutal short ball and Phillander also LBW. This single spell left South Africa reeling, from 182-3  in the 51st over to 230-7 in the 61st over. He ended the innings getting Morkel caught which gifted him figures of 16.4 overs  2 Maidens 5- 69. A return to form indeed.

Broad’s 5-69 tore through South Africa and Gave England a chance

Smith pulled the plug and set England 253 runs to win in 39 possible overs. This target of 253 in 39 may seem do-able in a CB40 game, but with Test matches these so called ‘dead rubbers’, are so, because unlike limited overs cricket fielding restrictions do not exist and therefore there are more boundary riders. South Africa have a high quality pace attack which is difficult to hit anyway so If England went all out guns blazing, like South Africa tried near the end of their innings i think the only possible result would be lots of wickets.  With the exception of Pietersen the England players are aggressive by Test match standard but not much else, so i doubt they could have attacked for as long.

Strauss is a defensive captain arguably  but  I was pleasantly surprised despite being partially really unsure about how his next move would pay off.  Pietersen was promoted to open in a Test innings , which is not an everyday occurrence. However this was a sign England were going to ‘have a go’ at chasing over 6 an over even if only for a small period.

Initially KP  was double the rate smashing 12 off a wayward Morkel over. Once KP selflessly gave it away in the interests of the team, It became a bit of an self fulfilling prophecy for most England fans that this game would be a draw. The faint hopes Pietersen laid were short lived. England would not be going to hard at this total with Alistair Cook, Strauss, Trott and a debutant in the top 6. For the second match in a row Cook hit a six ( i hope this is not a sign of the apocalypse) in the process of hitting a lovely 46 off 70. Bell and Trott were both solid and Prior incredibly unlucky to be run out.

It was a good debut for James Taylor, who helped to maintain a solid partnership with Pietersen in a difficult period. He occupied the crease for nearly two hours and spent invaluable time with KP.

Eng v SA – 1st test – match review

Suntanned and satisfied after a beautiful summers day at the Oval on day five, as a cricket fan i am delighted with what i have seen. Unfortunately along with the other one hundred thousand that went to the Oval over the course of the five days, i am bitterly disappointed with England’s loss. From a Day one end with Cook rollicking along past his 20th century, it looked as if the Proteas had not turned up. It is clear however that the only players that didn’t turn up were England’s.

The fact is that as Michael Vaughan correctly asserts ‘England have been hammered and it is not often they get hammered at gome.’ England were a frail and disjointed mess. The first day was marred by rain delays and lackluster bowling from all the South African quicks which meant it was also sprinkled with class of Cook and endurance of Trott. Unfortunately  once Cook had compiled his fantastic ton, over the course of day two,  England capitulated. They  made 118 runs and lost 7 wickets. After Cook had come and gone, the score shockingly was transformed from a respectable and steady base position of 251-3 to 313-7 which is essentially England throwing away their entire middle order.  They had a severe batting collapse and the torment began.

Cook’s magnificent 115 was painstakingly slowly compiled but hard fought. Essentially in vain

I’ve heard a lot of ‘reasons’ .. or some would say excuses why this collapse has happened. The pitch,  The conditions, the quality of the bowlers all factors. But i cannot but think that perhaps these wickets were due to indiscipline as well as the good bowling. Cook chopped on to his stumps instead of just defending or driving straight. Trott played a drive ball on the up and got caught behind. Pietersen kept pulling and was brilliantly set up by Kallis caught down the leg side. Bopara completely gave it away trying to turn into a helicopter i can only presume and Bell of course was bowled by Kallis. There was a lot of laziness and indecision and not enough patience to get in, especially with Pietersen.

The fact is that first innings runs are absolutely crucial. England got 385 of 125.5 overs. This is a poor run rate. Even though South Africa on the first day didn’t take many wickets, they had control. it was not a run fest. Come day two, there was not a huge base and the collapse occurred meaning a far below par score. Looking at England’s score relative to South Africa it is clear just how out of depth England are, not just in terms of not scoring enough but in relation to getting bowled out twice.

I think despite Cook’s ton, the most successful innings was Prior as he was able to score some much needed runs, which is of course the best way of making the bowler change their plans and put them off. Regardless, England’s failure with the bat meant they were all out by the start middle of day two, with South Africa batting solidly for 3 days more or less.

The careful, deliberate and highly skillful compiling of an agonizing 637 for two off 189 horribly exposed the fact that England were missing a cutting edge, a Partnership breaker and a bowler to hold pressure. Baring in mind Petersen fell for zero, there were two main partnerships Smith and Amla from 1-1 to 260-2 and Amla and Kallis from 260-2 to 637-2 dec. It couldn’t possibly be clearer that the difference between the two sides 1st innings is that the South African batsmen were determined to get in and compile a huge score through partnerships whereas England were a bit of a freeforall.

Smith scoring a 100 in his hundredth test was a typically gritty and dogged innings from the Saffers captain. He is not elegant or fluent but perhaps that is irrelevant when you average 50 and can claim to have never lost a game in which you have scored a ton.

Amla, Smith and Kallis all valued their wicket in a Steve Waugh type ‘over my dead body’ fashion. ‘ It was relentless for England’s shoddy and ineffective bowlers, especially the danger men, Anderson and Swann. There was not only no respite from the batsmen, but there was no desperation or urgency to stop the runs from the bowlers. The bowling was perpetually too wide outside off stump to make Smith play and too short to Amla at an un threatening pace. Both pounced on anything too straight, but the fact is that England should have been bowling a 4th stump line instead of a wide outside off stump line or shorter length.

Amla’s 311* was possibly one of the most elegant innings i have ever watched. I have seen plenty of Vaughan, Sangakarra, Tendulkar and Bell tons on the Telly etc.. but this was right up there. Extremely pleasing on the eye, and exactly what his team wanted and needed. Valuing his wicket like gold.

In 12 games in England  Kallis had an average of 29 with 1 ton and 3 fifties. He now has 2 tons and an average of 38 in England. A far cry from his career average of a wapping 57 but it is closer for sure. He is truly a sensational batsmen, and a hugely valuable one with bat, ball and in the field, not to mention helping Smith now Boucher is not in his ear. Lets not forget that few 36 year old batsmen are able to bounce out Kevin Pietersen.

I swear he didn’t have a beard when he started the innings !?

I am a Stuart Broad fan as in last 12 months he has been phenomenal due to being able to adapt through slightly lowering his pace and extracting from conditions. He was totally impotent and not sticking to his lines well enough. I don’t think he was test quality in the Oval test. Was very poor and i think should be in contention for replacement should England so wish to bring in Finn or Onions. Anderson was unlucky in the sense he bowled good lines and lengths for a lot of the time, but arguably did not have as much discipline when bowling with the new red cherry.

I wasn’t really sure what to think of Bresnan. In the one sense he took a wicket, but in the other sense, he was under bowled i think. Not trusted with the ball at crucial times. Maybe i’m in a minority, but i am still unconvinced of his supposed golden touch with the  team. He is a steady bowler but not an outstanding bowler in the way Anderson or Steyn is. As far as i’m concerned, Steven Finn would offer more pace, bounce and height. Bresnan can of course bat and field well, so there is a little dilemna still pending.

I went to day 5 to see England’s second innings. I tried a rain dance to encourage some clouds over Kennington. It clearly didn’t work as my arms got browner and browner in the mid July 28c heat

My view from my seat on day 5 – My rain dance did not work !

England’s second innings was utterly dreadful. Cook and Trott got a complete Jaffas, but apart from that i would say wickets were handed away.  Pietersen the obvious culprit being bowled by Morkel. Bell played well on the 5th day but it was arguably in a hopeless task with a South African win very likely. 

Strauss at the post match interview said something on the lines of ‘ It was a flat deck and not good for the bowlers.’ Thats undoubtedly true. BUT one has to ask does this say something about the England batsmen? Surely if it was a bad pitch for bowling the South Africans would have not been able to take twenty English wickets? It seems a bit of a lame excuse by Strauss.

Steyn gets 5 – A true master

Dale Steyn in the fourth innings bowled some of the best fast bowling i have seen in England for a very long time. His lines and lengths were exemplary. He got just enough movement to trouble the batsmen. The obvious difference between the quality of Steyn in this test and the Mediocracy of England in my opinion was pace and zip.

Maybe statistically most bowlers were around 81 or 82 consistently, Steyn always had that energy and bounce and the threat of a short ball or a swinging ball. he is the compete modern Fast Bowler and his number one ranking is fully deserved.

The most anticipated series – England Vs South Africa preview

We have been waiting for an England versus South Africa series with such anticipation, that one could be mistaken that it is an Ashes series. Six out of the worlds top 14 bowlers and 8 out of the worlds top 17 batsmen are on show in a mouthwatering heavyweight spectacle.

Notably the major head to head will be with the ball.  In English conditions with Steyn Phillander and Morkel against Anderson Broad and either most likely Finn or Bresnan with the newer ball and a world class spinner in Swann against Tahir who has still to prove his International credibility . Of course the batsmen will be the ones facing this barrage of world class bowlers. Pietersen against the incomparable Jacques Kallis for me will be the biggest standoff. It will also be interesting to see how the captains fair with Strauss back in nick and Smith with very fond early memories of England.

People are labeling South Africa as the better side with faster bowlers, higher ranked batsmen and better fielders. They apparently have the hunger to win which could be the edge.  I hugely respect the South Africans obvious class and professionalism and am looking forward to this contest but i simply don’t agree that in a three match series England at home are the underdogs at all.

An incredibly unfortunate incident  forced retirement of Mark Boucher. His 147 test match career over 15 year span made him the experienced wicket keeper and a gritty number seven. He is irreplaceable and has left a gaping hole in the South African side. He was a thorn in England’s side last time scoring a huge amount of runs including a 95. Most importantly however, South Africa have been majorly disrupted by this change because their batting lineup is now unsettled and filled with bith inconsistency and a lack of stability.

Boucher’s horrific and cruel moment

Many assumed before the series the two batting and bowling lineups would lock horns. After the retirement of Boucher, South Africa’s lineup doesn’t look as strong especially with Kallis’s abysmal record and England’s recent triumph against Australia both with bat and ball in the ODI series. Australia only managed to take 13 wickets in 4 games. England’s batmsne are in good form and there is a string of top quality bowlers to reel off if there are any injuries. Tremlett and Dernbach don’t even make the squad.

South Africa are having to give AB De Villiers the gloves and shift the order around slightly. Thami Tsolekile might fill in after the first test which means a batsmen will have to drop out.  It’s also fair to say he is a keeper not a keeper batsmen. I reckon AB may just carry on with the gloves. Currently in the first test it’s likely all of the three batsmen; Duminy Petersen  and Rudolph could play due to De Villiers now taking the gloves. This is very different to England’s situation with a solid top 5 and newbie Bopara in at 6. England do bat right down to 10 though so if South Africa really are as good as people think they are about to meet their match.

South Africa have a big problem in the sense that One top of the batsmen of all time,  Jacques Kallis has a dreadful record in England: In England, between 1998-2008 Kallis has played 12 games and had  20 innings. Despite his career average being just below 60 his average in England is 29.30. He has only scored one hundred and 3 fifties in his entire time in England  in which he has only accumulated 586 runs. Kallis’s form is so shocking in England that his bowling average of 27.51 (35 wickets) is only marginally different to his batting average which in the high twenties is very unusual baring in mind his career batting average is so brilliant. Kallis is obviously a world class batsmen and stats don’t lie. He now has over fourty test tons and will be an invaluable member of the side and i think most fans want this abysmal record to turn around so we can all watch some world class batting

Kallis has only ever scored 1 ton and 3 fifties in 20 matches in England. Any chance of a reversal of fortunes

England’s side more or less picks itself with only two minor selection issues, that of number 6 and number 8. One of these is now sorted as it’s now clear Ravi Bopara will play after having an unfortunate injury against the West Indies that opened the door for Johnny Bairstow, now back, and in serious nick he has a chance to prove himself.

The dynamic mix of attack and defense, orthodoxy and innovation that exists between both teams will be compelling to watch. The Settled settled and in form opening partnership of the assured Andrew Strauss and confident Alistair Cook is a far cry from South Africa who have an  under cooked and unpredictable opening pair who are fallible. England not only have most areas covered in the top seven but the depth of the batting is second to none. Bresnan Averages 40 with the bat at number 8 (3 fifties in 14 games), broad averages 27 with 9 fifties and a test 150 in 47 games. Even Graeme Swann averages 21 at number 10.

South Africa on paper also have a very good batting lineup with Smith Kallis Amla and De Villiers but one feels there is a little frailty after the big guns are out. Petersen is not assured of his place in the side, especially knowing fullwell that once AB changes back to being a specialist batsmen someone will get dropped.  Duminy has never played in English conditions,  Pietersen although scoring a ton in his last test also, has not been in the best of form in English conditions for Essex and Rudolph.down at probably 6 or 7 or opening , has  been a little bit of a disaster in test matches upon return scoring just 1 ton and 2 fifties in 12 innings. His record previous to this was equally lackluster. There is no long wrong of form to speak of despite scoring runs in his last few games

The Bowl off between Steyn Morkel and Phillander and the England Bowlers is one of the most anticipated and long standing rivalries that we have been waiting to see unfold. Phillander has been brilliant coming into the side and being one the quickest to 50 wickets. He isn’t the same pace as Steyn and Morkel but has an impeccable line and length and regularly extracts something from the pitch or conditions. He has been very good also for Somerset taking 23 wickets in 5 games during a short stint. he knows England well.

England’s only minor issue is “who they pick as the third seamer ”  is a good one to have. Bresnan , Finn or Onions. Each offer something a little different. Each have had some success in test cricket before. It isn’t as if England have a choice between Darren Pattinson, Amjad Kahn and another horses for courses of bowler of yesteryear. These are high class bowlers that are keeping the likes of Chris Tremlett out the Squad let alone the side.

The big bowl off

England have had a little drama with Pietersen with his retirement but he is in very good form having smashed a double century for Surrey and being one of the players that ‘rises to the occasion’ he could be a vital player for England. Of course Steyn has already chirped away at KP and the series is hotting uo

This series is going to be a heavily dominated by the bowlers one thinks. Whereas there are a few kinks with both batting lineups, the bowling units on both sides are seriously strong and there is so much depth. Even the second string of bowlers for both sides are world class. England can call upon the likes of Tremlett, Onions, Dernbach and have the likes of Meaker waiting in the wings. South Africa although without Merchant De Lange have Tsotsebe abd  Albie Morkel to come in.

As long as the weather holds up it will be a cracking 3 game series.

Eng v Aus series preview

England are Test champions and number one as well as T20 champions and ranked number one. The Australians are perhaps still clinging on their World number one space in One day cricket but will be a big challenge as they always are.

We have learnt that at home England are formidable though and have now won six consecutive home one day series. On paper i think England are stronger in the bowling and the Aussies are in the batting , but we all know that we do not play on paper we play on grass. Anything can happen when it is England v Australia. England named an unchanged 14-man squad for the one-day series against world number one side Australia. A great mix of experience and youth. Well oiled, tried and tested. Successful. England squad: A Cook (capt), J Anderson, J Bairstow, I Bell, R Bopara, T Bresnan, S Broad, J Dernbach, S Finn, C Kieswetter, E Morgan, S Patel, G Swann, J Trott.

Australia named a squad with some experience but a lot of unknown names to many. There is uncertainty as to their first team lineup and they are not as well oiled as England. Australia squad: M. Clarke (capt), S. Watson (vice-capt), G. Bailey, P. Cummins, X. Doherty, B. Hilfenhaus, M. Hussey, D. Hussey, M. Johnson, B. Lee, C. McKay, J. Pattinson, S. Smith, M. Wade (wk), D. Warner

To open: Cook and Bell. Of late these two have been successful both in the test match series and more recently the One day series. Ian Bell is now a really fluent and stylish player in all forms and his lovely hundred in the first one dayer struck a spot among many England that he is the replacement for Pietersen at the top. Alastair Cook’s ODI career comparison  of his form after January 2010 shows a radical change. Averaging over 50 with a strike rate of 90 hitting 4 tons and 8 fifteis.

Period Matches Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
Till Dec 2008 23 702 30.52 68.15 1/ 3
Jan 2010 onwards 24 1191 54.13 91.47 4/ 8
Career overall 47 1893 42.06 81.17 5/ 11

The Aussies will open up with Watson and Warner. This is possibly the strongest aspect of the entire side.  Warner has a great ODI record hitting two tons and 4 fifites in under 30 games. He can really hit it big bringing a flavor of T20 into ODI. I would say that Watson although a good player and a brilliant allrounder, has a conversion problem with 151 games but only scoring 6 tons. He can play astonishing cricket though with knocks such as his 151 against Bangladesh in april ’11 in which he hit a world record 15 SIXES. It is arguably honours even with the openers. England are more steady and reliable but Australia could be more explosive. However England have better opening bowlers than Australia. They will pose more of a problem and master the conditions better.

Trott at three with  Bopara at four have a blend of obdurate defense and swashbuckling attack. Bopara has been in and out and Trott has a question mark as to his place in the ODI side as he is a slow scorer. However Trott has 3 tons and 15 fifties, averaging nearly 50 and is in the top 10 in the world. Arguably it would be better to have a more attacking player at three to get on with it but no one can argue with Trott’s place in this team really. The likes of Morgan, Patel, Kieswetter and Bairstow  etc have barely batted due to success in the top 4 and there is a lack of assurance on their permanent position in the order.

Australia’s middle order in most of the West Indies one dayers back in March, was made up of Forrest and Bailey with a smattering of Wade. A few fifities here and and there.  Forrest does however have a ODI ton. He could be a surprise. Clarke was absent from that specific WI tour but it is likely that the Aussie skipper will be at three. Clarke is averaging 45  with  7 tons and 51 fifties. He is the player the openers can accelerate around without the team falling apart and also the player the likes of Hussey x2 can kick on later whilst he keeps a steady ship. Michael Hussey in particular has a  great record averaging a shade under fifty. He has shown he can anchor the innings or explode at the end. I don’t honestly think England have that kind of anchor in the middle like Clarke or Hussey.England’s only real performer with the bat consistently has been Cook with 435 at an average of 72 and 3 tons.

England in the past 6 one dayers  have had two incredible stats: Firstly that in all 6 of them an opening batsmen has hit a ton and secondly, that  there has not been a single 5 wicket hall.  There have been 4 wicket halls for Finn, Dernbach and Bresnan but the wickets have been very spread out. This in my view indicates they do not rely on anyone but there is a constant pressure on the batsmen from every bowler. When Anderson and Finn end their first spell, Broad comes on with Bresnan. When they have finished then the world class Swann comes on. England’s bowlers; Anderson, Bresnan, Broad, Dernbach and Finn are formidable. It is likely  Broad, Anderson, Finn and Bresnan will play first up with Dernbach in reserve or rotated. With England it is crystal clear and only one or two changes are possible. Even those have been regular changes of the last year. England may be lacking ever so slightly with the bat but the bowlers will win England the game more often than not if the batsmen do not perform. Especially in their own conditions. Even with injuries

The aussies have a hell of a lot of options with seam and they have picked both Doherty and smith in the spin department too. Australia have  Hilfenhaus, Johnson, Lee, McKay, Pattinson, Cummins  and ( Watson.) No one is sure who the Aussies will play for the simple reason that Hilfenhaus has only recently returned to form, Mitchell Johnson has been re selected after a period of being dropped  and the likes of Cummins, Pattinson and Mckay are all vying for one spot. CJ McKay (Aus) in 2012 has 13 matches 22 wickets at average of 22.90  and .   B Lee (Aus) 13 matches 22 wickets  at 26.22. Both solid and we expect Lee to play but not so certain about Mckay. If they go for Hilfenhaus it will benefit them in the swing and seam department. If they go for Pattinson they will get a bit of everything but little experience overall and none of English conditions. The outside chance is for Cummins who is apparently very quick but i would say lower in the pecking order, and Johnson depending on if Australia still trust him. Australia  are unsettled.

To sum up this series in my opinion will be a series of England’s top quality bowlers against Australia’s settled and experienced aggressive batsmen. Both sides have batsmen that have performed in the last year and diverse bowling attacks. It should be an absolute cracker of a series that will have the hype that surrounds any England v Australia series. Hopefully it will help to ignite the summer of English cricket and prepare us all for the ultimate test match series v the South Africans later on. My prediction 2-1 England