All posts tagged 'world cup'

A NEW CHAPTER

by maxbenson 22. February 2012 16:11

@sofa_maxb

It is fitting that the first full series we cover in our new era with The Cricketer is the format designed to engage a wider audience in the game we all love.

The 20-over incarnation has been an innovative shot in the arm to a sport that was stagnating. Its influence has benefitted immeasurably the popularity of Test and limited overs cricket at home and abroad, capturing imaginations all over world.

More selfishly than that, England are the best on the planet. Their only global title remains the 2009 T20 World Cup when Kevin Pietersen and Craig Kieswetter blew away Australia in the Barbados final.

Pietersen was crowned Player of The Tournament that day and many will argue it took until this week for his limited overs form to return to the heights his immense talent demands. A match-winning 111 in the third ODI – his first one day ton for over three years – was bettered by a mighty 130 on Tuesday as England reciprocated the Test series whitewash.

The other consecutive centurion from the series, captain Alastair Cook, is unexpectedly staying with the squad due to injury concerns - chiefly over Ravi Bopara, who was one of four replaced for Tuesday’s win along with the rested Jimmy Anderson, Graeme Swann and T20 captain Stuart Broad.

Kieswetter has opened the batting with Nottinghamshire's Alex Hales for England’s last four T20s and tough selection decisions need to be made with Jos Buttler, Johnny Bairstow and Samit Patel among those fighting for places. Strength in depth is not a problem.

The new ninth-best ODI bowler in the world, Steven Finn, is a shoe-in alongside Broad. It is a question, then, as to whether Tim Bresnan has shaken off enough injury-induced rust to find a place with Anderson far from a selection certainty in this form of the game.

Danny Briggs, the young left-arm spinner, was composed and bowled intelligently to pick up 2/39 on debut earlier this week. He would count himself unlucky were he to miss out here.

Pakistan are likely to introduce fresh blood to their side. An opener in domestic T20, Awais Zia could make his international debut at the top of the order. Exciting all-rounder Hammad Azam, meanwhile, may also make his T20 bow.

Signs of promise were visible in the bowling of 22-year-old Junaid Khan on Tuesday. He should have done enough to secure his spot ahead of the bang-out-of-form Umar Gul, Wahab Riaz and Aizaz Cheema for what will likely be a single pace bowling place.

We’ll be on air at 3.45pm GMT for the first game of three so, if you’re new to The Sofa, check out the homepage to see the many ways in which you can listen and join in the fun. You can also tweet us @testmatchsofa to be part of the discussion or to share with us anything that's on your mind.

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Can We Just Go Home Now, Please.

by daniel 24. January 2011 12:35

The whole ODI scene has gone ill for England. A thumping defeat in the 3rd match of a 7 match series may not be immediately fatal for England’s chances at the World Cup, but an alarming tendency to ineptitude with the bat hints at deeper structural problems in the longer limited overs format.

The first two matches had seen long passages of play during which England were well on top of their hosts. How they failed to get over 300 in the first match, and throw away a position of seemingly impregnable dominance at Hobart in the 2nd we can only guess, but at Sydney they were truly woeful from beginning almost to the end.

The rigidity of making the wicket keeper open the batting is currently doing Prior no favours and again he failed to make a run. And again it was a fine ball from Lee that did for him, but why is he being expected to face fast bowlers with the new ball?

Strauss, as has been the case all tour, looked comfortable enough but his run out with both he and Trott at the same end encapsulated all that is currently wrong with England’s batting.

And as for Morgan, he looks the part but is contriving the oddest ways to get out. At Sydney he managed, like Trott at Hobart, to direct a full blooded pull off a slow long hop in to the hands of mid wicket. In truth it was a fine catch by Clarke, but Morgan had 60 rows of the stands to aim for and emphatically missed them.

Collingwood, whose presence in the ODI side in theory gives England the balance they will so desperately require on the subcontinent, looks like his body is currently possessed by an 80 year old nun. His two balls featured a lucky inside edge that just evaded his leg stump and a blind grope at a straight ball from Doherty. Everyone goes through losses of form, but this is more like a loss of every sensory capacity required for the most basic fulfillment of life. I can offer no solution to his current problem more practical than the employment of an exorcist.

Thereafter England scratched their way to a total 30 runs short of respectability. There was even time for Tremlett to throw away his wicket by absent mindedly failing to ground his bat, leaving Trott stranded on 84* with two overs unused.

Australia’s reply had its own moments of comedy value. Watson’s ton in the 1st match was clearly the worst thing that could have happened to him as thereafter he has looked like a wicket waiting to happen. Sure enough Tremlett did for him cheaply.

Hobart’s century maker Marsh was trapped in front, called for a review and was surely surprised to discover the replay suggesting it would have hit middle half way up. White seems chronically out of form and Clarke is currently batting for the opposition. With only Haddin showing any fluency England began to believe they could somehow get back into the match. When the gritty keeper chipped an easy catch to long on off Collingwood the hosts had slumped to 100-5 and we had a game on our hands.

But this was a temporary illusion. David Hussey is a much underrated earnest battler and the situation was tailor made for him. With no pressure on the scoring rate he was able to busy himself with ones and twos as Strauss failed to attack with Tremlett. Shorn of his other strike bowlers in Anderson, Broad and Swann, a diet of Yardy and the commendable but hardly threatening Collingwood was not what the doctor ordered.

Smith, true to type, did manage to toss away his wicket in pointless fashion just as the game looked won, briefly raising England’s spirits but a mundane ODI got the finish England deserved as Hussey and Hastings cantered to victory.

People will speculate about tiredness, will offer the excuse of missing players (Pietersen was unavailable through unspecified injury to go with the front line bowlers) and may even suggest that the whole series is something of an anticlimax after the thrills of the Ashes. But in truth, England’s batsmen are so far away from any kind of limited overs form that the situation looks bleak.

It could all change. Pietersen and Morgan could score heavily at Adelaide, Bell may even get to open one day, and Strauss might just go on to convert a good start into an anchoring hundred. For sure the Aussies look vulnerable with both bat and ball, but no matter how well England’s second string bowlers compete, no side will defend 214 on a regular basis.

I’ve been told by hundreds of listeners that it doesn’t actually matter. England won the Ashes and frankly who cares about these ODIs? What really counts is India’s test tour of England in the summer.

Well, we on Test Match Sofa are about to embark on a 30 game World Cup marathon. With a bit of luck it may be one of the last 50 over tournaments ever staged. If England keep up their current batting form I will be reporting on far more humiliating defeats than the three we’ve suffered at the hands of the number one ODI side in the world. Bangladesh won’t be the worst of it. Ireland? Netherlands? It could be a long dark teatime of the soul.

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What do you do with a mad dog, Modi?

by daniel 29. April 2010 20:08

Ah the humanity! Cricket is in crisis. The IPL wasn't, after all, the benevolent brainchild of a one off philanthropic Colossus. Lalit Modi wasn't Attlee designing the welfare state but rather David Cameron scheming to give the top 1.2% of the population some extra money through inheritance tax exemption (I'm sorry, I'll stop this in a week). The Mr. F blimp wasn't a kindly donation by Hindu businessman to give us a better view. The Max Headroom strategic time out wasn't a kindly gesture designed to save the aching limbs of our exploited and exhausted gladiator heroes. The Shitty Moment of Success wasn't a subliminal message to the kids to get off the streets, hand over their knives (they've all got them), stop chewing crack and start helping elderly WW2 veterans get to their naval reunions on time.

But out of despair rises hope in the shape of the upcoming T20 World Cup in the Caribbean. And there is much to relish. I can't wait to see Afghanistan at a senior tournament for the first time. They're good. Better than Ireland and Holland. And if the Indians underestimate them, as they are wont to do (see the first four days of the test series against Bangladesh this year), there could be a delicious shock.

Watching South Africa grumble and crumble under the weight of bizarre expectation is always a pleasure. And this could be Murali's last hurrah on the world stage. The Windies have a real chance to make a splash on their own grounds with match winners like Gayle, Pollard, Bravo and Roach in their line up, not to mention the much underrated Mr. Benn. Can Pakistan hope to prosper without their senior players or will they lose the title of World Champions in less than a year? And of course England's inevitable loss to the Irish will please many.

However, my pick for the final is Australia v New Zealand. A chance for this most parochial of rivalries to provide redemption for the shotest form of the game. The Kiwis meander round world cricket with the appearance of emotionally troubled academics spending their spare time in botanical gradens taking Latin notes and writing them up in candlelight beneath cream tarpaulins. This Australian team on the other hand are possibly the most proletarian side in world sport. Wearing toothless 14th century grins and seemingly covered by axe wound scars, they communicate in either grunts, excessively hearty laughter or with a jovial back slap that could dislodge a kidney stone and all that notwithstanding the extraordinary omission of Doug Bollinger who spends his off season getting pin money as a grotesquely ugly extra in the latest Terry Gilliam medieval epic.

Alan Turing v. Roberto Duran, therefore, is my prediction. And if you disagree (or even if you don't) go to www.sportguru.co.uk/t20 enter the pool code "wormchew" and test your Nostradamian skills against me.

What do you mean hypocrite? Now the IPL has been so terribly discredited it behoves the ethical institition that is the Sofa to pick up the baton of product placement.

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Will England Ever Play Cricket Again?

by daniel 9. December 2009 22:58

So, international cricketers are in danger of burn out. The amount of cricket that’s scheduled will result in players taking early retirement and picking and choosing games. Test cricket for sure will fall by the wayside as exhausted sportsmen drag their weary bodies from one high pressure match to the other. Well, call me a miserable old git stuck in the 60’s but am I alone in thinking this international cricketer lark is quite low physical maintenance? Since England arrived in South Africa they’ve played 5 one day games (full days mind you), and a punishing two and three quarter 20/20 matches in 5 weeks. In total they’ve had to endure a back breaking 260 overs in the field. Colin Dredge would get through that many in less than a week at Taunton in the 70’s. In part this is due to the absurdity of attempting to play cricket in South Africa’s so called summer.

You could be fooled for thinking that the land of the rainbow nation was some sort of sub tropical paradise if you’d sat through the promotional videos that accompanied last Friday’s turgid world cup draw. But closer scrutiny of the meteorological facts reveals that half of South Africa (the half where they insist on trying to put on cricket matches incidentally) receives more rain in an average summer than Manchester. Fifteen days in every November and December it rains in Jo’berg and Pretoria. It’s seriously infuriating. Especially when we’ve got the Saffies on the rack. The only comforting consequence being that we have that much longer to marvel at what might be wrong with Anderson’s knee. Scans reveal nothing, but he’s labouring in terrible pain and might not make the first test. As for Sidebottom, he’s bowled about 86 overs in 9 months and has a crocked side. In form then. So whom to England call up? Harmison, a known but mistrusted commodity? No. Mark Davies who has missed half of the last three seasons with the usual smorgasbord of ailments, all no doubt brought on by playing too much cricket.

Maybe, they actually don’t play enough cricket. Is it possible that the niggles, aches and pains that were a regular feature of a fast bowler’s life from the start of cricketing time until the arrival of central contracts, are in fact the natural background noise that accompanies a professional sportsman’s career? Poor old Anderson and Co. are shocked by these pains. Having played less cricket than a more than averagely keen club player over the last 3 years, they are bemused by these sensations of stiffness after a long day in the field. Their knees don’t feel quite right. They can’t bend down with quite the same ease as they could in their youth. Blow me down.

Of course, I’m lashing out in fury at anything, owing to the lack of cricket to report on. It's bad enough spending four months in unemployed, miserable, grey gloom, when sunsets coincide with the Countdown soddin' Conundrum, without my winters being blighted by vicarious rain. And that’s the point. Forget less cricket. If a game is rained off, schedule another one immediately. If necessary do it indoors. The cricket authorities (for whom I have a lot of time by the way. You try navigating your way through numerous cultures, power interests and a game whose laws, yes laws, have been passed down from generation to generation like the sacred non existent tablets that Moses must have mislaid – I mean have you seen them?) have managed to find space for pyjamas, white balls, orange balls next year, limited overs, very limited overs, umpire review systems and Duckworth Lewis. I want cricket. I don’t care how they bring it to me. Have both captains throw 16 sided dice that correspond to dots, runs and wickets, and then computer generate the results. Or, or, just tell us something is happening but say that the grounds are empty 'cos of a nationwide bomb scare and there are no TV pictures. Make it up. Commentate it, and make it up. Something, for chrissake. Just don’t schedule games in South Africa, in November and December, on top of a high plain. And most importantly of all, don’t listen to the preposterous whinging of  people who claim they’re overworked when they actually put in about 100 days of labour a year, half of which is spent in an air conditioned pavilion tweeting about their colleagues’ diabolical taste in music.

Oh, and I just checked the weather forecast for Jo'berg. Thunder storms for four of the next five days. Hmmmmm. Thank God guns are illegal in Tooting. 

Listen to SA v Eng 5th ODI Highlights (and World Cup Draw) Durban.

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