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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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