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Stuart Broad would be England’s first Australian captain


Following the resignation of Alastair Cook, the possibility of Stuart Broad succeeding him has surfaced, which would inject a very Australian feeling into England.

Stuart Broad is hated by Australia so much, that one wonders if they’re just a bit jealous.

The Aussies can dish out hard talk and aggressive cricket, and Broad can take it, and give back the same.

They don’t like him because they see a bit of them in him.

Before even thinking about his performances, the single moment etched into the Old Enemy’s minds when it comes to Broad, will be an infamous incident at Trent Bridge in 2013.

Broad hit the ball to slip, but stood his ground as the Australians celebrated his wicket. The arrogance, watch the ball carry, but just stand there as if nothing had happened.

In many ways, a new love-hate relationship was sparked.

Australians have always mocked the English. Indeed, the Ashes was born after a mock-obituary of English cricket was published in a British paper, The Sporting Times.

Mocking the English been the cornerstone of the relationship, and when the Aussies are losing, they target those who don’t fit that mould of polite bumbling ‘Englishness’.

In 2005, they used to target Kevin Pietersen, with his ridiculous hairstyle and supposed playboy lifestyle. And it spurred him on. When he smashed Glenn McGrath onto the Lord’s pavilion, he gained respect. When he saved the Oval Test with 158, he gained respect, with Shane Warne walking him off the pitch.

In 2013/14 down under, they went for Broad.

The Courier Mail refused to print his name.

When ‘The 27-year old medium pace bowler’ as he (Broad) was referred to, had a good tour taking 21 wickets, amidst a crisis for England,  he won respect.

Broad won respect not only because he bowled well, but because he showed doesn’t get wound up by the opposition’s sledges, or the press.

Indeed, during that 2013/14 series’, he even walked into press conferences with a copy of the Courier Mail, to show that he could take the piss too.

With ball in hand, on number of occasions throughout his career, he has virtually single-handedly won games in a spell.

No more so was this show, than when he took 8-15 against Australia in Nottingham to win the game, or the 10-wicket hall in Durham, to win the game, or 5-37 at the Oval in 2009, to win the game.

Stuart Broad’s 8-15 at Nottingham:

Stuart Broad’s 5-37 at the Oval:

Whether it’s Broad ability to get under the opposition’s skin by being unflappable, or his knack of bowling out Australia on his own, he has shown he can both take it and dish it out.

Now of course, if he were to become Test captain, a lot of things would need to be worked on.

He’d need to manage his own bowling workload, which is always difficult for a bowling captain.

He’d certainly need to rethink his use of reviews and the frequency of his appeals.

But in general, a Broad captaincy would be a breath of fresh air from five years of robotic, grinding predictable Alastair Cook.

It would be a more Australian flavour of English captaincy.


England Lions tamed down under

A little chin music

A little chin music for the lions

England Lions, the England second string side, has crashed to a fourth successive defeat at the hands of their Australian counterparts Australia A. The tour has been an absolute disaster for England’s hopeful reserve stocks, having lost not just four times in a row to Australia A, but also in the tour games to Victoria.

There were major problems on the England Lions case that meant this catastrophic failure took place. Firstly, in all the tour games, only twice did they bat out the full 50 overs, and on the bowling side of things, only one out of the top five wicket takers. Although three of the top five run scorers were from the Lions, there was only one hundred and six fifties in the entire tour compared to Australia A who managed four hundreds (three in the unofficial ODI series) and 7 fifties in the tour.

The disparity in both departments is perfectly evident.

The lack of success with the ball is a major concern especially because currently the major issue with England’s national test side is the bowling depth that has fallen away. A number of the Lions bowlers have been tipped for England futures, most notably Chris Wright, Toby Roland Jones and Stuart Meaker. In fact, Meaker was selected for the tour of India after injuries to Broad and Bresnan, so he is literally on the cusp of the national side.

A year or two ago, arguably there was a rich stock of six or seven bowlers to chose from, and now many of the main bowlers have suffered from injury (Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, Chris Tremlett and Tim Bresnan), others were not being picked perhaps due to risk of injury or inexperience (Graham Onions, Stuart Meaker and Chris Woakes) and other issues such as running into the stumps (Steven Finn) have all put sufficient doubt into the actual England bowling line-up. Good back up stocks are therefore essential for depth and options.

The lack of potency and success on this tour to their opposite numbers in Australia is therefore particularly worrying not only because these are the potential ‘next generation’, but there is another more indirect element that needs attention. With 10 Ashes tests in the next year, and 44 different players having been selected in the last year for Australia, it is likely that some of the Australia A players that have demolished this England tour side will at some point play in the next year for Australia proper.

With a champions trophy and two Ashes tours in the next 12 months, it is more than likely that there will be an impact on bowlers in particular, forcing selectors to delve into reserve stocks such as those in the England lions. It is certainly a possibility that some who have faced up to each other in this Lions vs Aus A tour could also therefore face up to each other in the last year.

We have all seen in the past, players coming from both Lions and Australia A squads and walking straight into test cricket. Obviously most notable examples have been the likes of Alastair Cook and with the bowlers, Stuart Meaker, Chris Woakes and James Harris have all been plucked from England lions duty before to play International cricket. For Australia, the likes of Jackson Bird, Matthew Wade, John Hastings and Moises Henriques are all more recent examples. If this was needed, clearly Australia A players have the wood over England Lions players. Australia seem to have more deapth.

This has been a resounding and comprehensive tour defeat for England Lions. Australia A have out batted and out bowled their tourist rivals and signalled to the next generation that it means business.

By Jack Mendel – Follow me on twitter @jackmendel4

England T20 World Cup Preview

England 15 man squad: S. Broad (C), J. Bairstow, R. Bopara, T. Bresnan, D. Briggs, J. Buttler, J. Dernbach, S. Finn, A. Hales, C. Kieswetter (W/K), M. Lumb, E. Morgan, S. Patel, G. Swann & L. Wright

Tournament record : P: 17, W: 8, L:8, NR/T: 1,  W%: 47.06%  –  Best: Champions in 2010

England are in Group A, which also contains T20 giants India and somewhat passionate minnows Afghanistan. England have lost to minnows in T20 and in other formats so they will be praying for no slip up. It would be a catastrophe should they fail to make it through.

The opening combination is Hales and Kieswetter. Hales is coming off the back of 99 in his last T20I but is in foreign conditions and won’t have long to settle. Kieswetter, can be a destructive clean striker but on sub continental pitches there is a risk his aggressive style could be flawed by slower bowling and lower bounce. He has been reliable behind the stumps so far despite costly drops against S. Africa. He will need to prove his keeping is up to scratch on Sri Lankan tracks.

The positions in the order are not certain or fixed. I assume that 3, 4 and 5 will consist of Bopara, Morgan and Bairstow with a combination of Buttler Wright and Patel to follow. Bairstow seems to excel under pressure and can hit a ball mighty hard as he showed on finals day hitting an exhilarating 68. Despite relative inexperience he has played against India a fair amount in ODI cricket.   Eoin Morgan and Buttler will be the batsmen innovating with sweeps, switch hits, paddles, laps and scoops. This is needed against the slower bowlers to score runs and release pressure throughout the competition especially in tight scoring situations. Both Morgan and Buttler can crucially clear the rope with big hit too. Morgan especially is a very strong player down the ground.

The first of the all-rounders is Wright. A successful year yielded 312 runs in the T20 campaign, over 400 runs in the Cb40 for Sussex and selection for the big bash. Although a little one dimensional he is capable of hitting all over the wicket. He can bowl well at the death too. Bopara offers stylish wristy but often unreliable batting and bowls useful wobbly seam. After being included in the ODI side ahead of Bairstow without any justifiable form to speak of he certainly has to prove his worth or more doubt could seep in.  Patel is capable of batting in the middle or lower middle order and offers a spinning option. This reinforces flexibility at the disposal of Broad and Flower.

English bowlers need pitch it up. Stopping runs and taking wickets are strongly linked so bowling short on Sri Lankan pitches it will not be effective. It is likely to dissapear.  Most likely Dernbach will open and close the innings drying up runs whilst taking wickets with variations. He has the capacity to bowl upwards of 85- 90 Mph, but his strength lies in slower balls, slower ball bouncer and cutters. He disguises variations well and uses to them good effect.

Dernbach after taking 4-22 against India in 2011

The tall quick bowler in the side is Finn. He uses pace and height push the batsmen into their crease and attacks the stumps once batsmen are pinned back. He has a good bouncer and yorker and bowls tight to the stumps. He’s occasionally wayward but can bowl upwards of 90 Mph.

The captain has the most control. Broad In T20 ups his pace for bursts of full fast attacking bowling and will take middle overs most likely.  If he bowls well it will certainly lift the side. Broad can also clear the rope with the bat. In T20 Bresnan can bowl a heavy ball at a useful pace. His strength is Zeroing in on the stumps along with Broad and Dernbach to fire in yorkers. Bresnan’s main flaw is his occasional indiscipline dropping short or too wide. He is a capable lower order batsmen also.

England will need Swann to reclaim his flight and loop which was absent in the last 6 months in patches. Variations in both pace and flight will be needed to prize out batsmen by bowling economically.  Swann is a big spinner of the ball and he will hopefully be able to take wickets regularly which is the best way of being miserly with runs. His understudy is Briggs, the second spinner in the squad. If he plays, he will not be turning the ball a significant amount but is a holding spinner.  It would be his  job to maintain pressure. 

One gets the feeling the batting is not as settled as the bowling unit. Morgan, Bopara and Bairstow must step up as the senior batsmen and lay a platform so Broad Dernbach Finn and Swann in the main, will have something to bowl at. Without runs on board England can expect to struggle to bowl out sides as there will be less room for maneuver.

2nd Test 2nd Day 2nd Class England

A number of bold and arguably wreckless decisions have put England in a weak position at the end of the first innings.The toss being won by Andrew Strauss and opting to bowl was, i thought slightly risky yet not a disaster. England had had just come off the back of 3 days in the field facing 600 odd for 2 declared. Clearly the England bowlers do not have a bucket of wickets to their name in this series.

South Africa after being inserted into bat were 419 all out with a gritty and anchor-like century from Petersen. He went in to the innings a little bit as an underdog that was unknown and certainly not the focus of the South African batting lineup. He was still batting by tea on day two.

The toss

This decision was even more bemusing after hearing the decision to leave out the best spinner in the world. Graeme Swann’s exclusion reinforced my frustration at the initial decision to bowl first. I felt like it was Ricky Ponting at Edgbaston 2005 all over again after McGrath not fit for play. It just didn’t make sense to chose to bowl when you have just been hammered and you are leaving out the best spinner.

Economy wise Anderson went at 1.83  an over and Broad went at 2.74  and therefore kept a lid on the runs to an extent. Bresnan went at 3.62 an over and Finn went at 3.68 an over. The overall innings run rate was exactly 3 an over therefore although Strauss had 2 bowlers he could use economically they cannot bowl all day. Two would slightly let him down. Sometimes which is often OK if you are taking wickets

Jimmy Anderson was as ever, reliable and disciplined. He bowled 33.2 overs including 10 maidens going for 61 runs and taking 2wickets but going at a very economical and steady 1.83 economy rate. Below is the iconic image for Anderson though. Alistair Cook of course, dropping Alviro Peterson on just 29 and he went on to make 182.

I certainly got the impression England had good plans for Kallis, Amla, De Villiers and Smith and rather hoped that Petersen, Rudolph and Duminy would just be got out somehow. They were seen as the side dish as opposed to the main meal. The drop cost over over 150 runs

Broad bowled 35 overs and as a return had 3-96. Once again slow, maintaining regular pace of very low 80’s and high seventies. I felt Broad bowled far too short bearing in mind he was consistently hanging around low 80’s. Short balls are supposed to be used as surprise balls not stock balls. Petersen’s signature shot against Broad was his Pull stroke which one felt he had an absolute age to play. He exploited the lack of conviction of the bowlers bowling to him and made them pay.

One of frequently seen pull shots by Petersen enabled by predictable and slow short pitched bowling

Finn bowled aggressively i thought. He had an unfortunate problem in the sense he keeps running ‘through’ the stumps. The umpire at one point decided after a chat with Graeme Smith to start calling his regular deliveries where he accidentally hit the stumps as dead balls. ut of all the bowlers on show, he was the only one to go for over a hundred. he bowled 32 overs for 118, taking two wickets (one being the nightwatchman Steyn). Broad went for 96, Anderson a miserly 61 and Bresnan 98. I was disappointing with finn.

England’s 3rd bowler was Bresnan who reeled off 27 overs and went for 98 runs taking the important wicket of Smith and affecting the run out of the bearded batsmen that tormented England at the Oval, Amla. Bresnan i just feel is a bit of a nothing bowler. he is a decent All rounder cricketer but not outstanding at anything. He occasionally reverse swings the ball.. has a decent bouncer, but does not bowl excessively fast, dosn’t swing or seam it. He just has a nack of taking useful wickets.

Too often pressure was built up and then at the crucial time the wrong bowler was brought on and it was released. Really not impressed with Strauss’s captaincy in these two tests. Unimaginative, uninspiring and toothless. He is not making anything happening and is relying on mistakes.

Nearing the start of the innings, Strauss’s fields were not attacking enough having a man out on the boundary in addition to only having 2 slips. He failed to keep lower order or tail-end batsmen on strike nearing the end of the innings. Most bemuzingly, he didn’t give Anderson the second new ball. I hope Strauss and cook continue their fluent partnership on Saturday morning though.

To conclude i think it’s fair to say that the England bowlers were slightly in disciplined but not as much as they were at the oval. The gaping hole left by Swann was obvious as the run rate was controlled by South Africa not England’s bowlers. They needed to have some more pressure held up by economic bowling. This can really only be done by better lines and lengths