Posts Tagged ‘sri lanka’

What Now For England After Fourth Defeat In A Row?

Spin 4-0 England – Should Strauss/Flower Stick Or Twist?

It has not been the recent way with England’s cricket team to lose four games in a row. However unlucky they might feel they have been to do so, the facts are what they are. They have failed to win a Test this winter and are in danger of losing their status as the world’s best Test team.

Particularly in Sri Lanka, they have made errors of judgement at key times in the game and committed basic mistakes. If you want to beat any team at home, let alone Sri Lanka when Mahela Jayawardene is in full flow, you can’t afford to drop catches and bowl no balls that result in wicket-taking deliveries.

Even before the match had finished, Andrew Strauss was already coming under pressure in some quarters – see our interview with David Lloyd for just one example – and he isn’t alone.

Sri Lanka Celebrate As England Lose Again

Sri Lanka Celebrate As England Lose Again - REUTERS / Action Images

Only Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell held their hands up with the bat during the match but not one batsman has truly excelled this winter. Eoin Morgan made way for Samit Patel as England’s management team finally decided to play a five-bowler attack.

Given how well the bowlers (in general) performed and how poorly (again, in general terms) the batsmen performed, was that the right move? For all his improvement as a bowler and with the bat, is Monty Panesar’s fielding still holding him and the team back? You might argue a similar case for Patel but he is technically as accomplished a batsman as Ravi Bopara or Morgan, the players he finds himself in competition with.

England now need to make some important decisions ahead of the second Test. Some of the batsmen who are selected will be playing for their positions come the summer.

But is it time for sweeping changes once the team returns home, or should the players who got England to the top of the Test rankings be trusted to either keep them there or get them back there, depending on the result in Colombo?

Is it time for Strauss to stand aside and let Alastair Cook take over the ropes? Should England be looking to the next generation and players like James Taylor and Jonathan Bairstow to be putting Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell under serious pressure?

Let us know what you think by leaving us a comment below. You can also follow us on Twitter or Facebook.

Positive Signs For Cricket in 2011

With the cricketing year now over following the conclusion of the two Boxing Day Test matches, it is time to reflect on what the past 12 months have meant for cricket as sport. There have, of course, been low points as well as high, with the spot-fixing trial in October a particularly sobering one that laid bare the stranglehold that corruption has on our sport.

However, a New Year is not usually a time to dwell on past misdemeanours, and this one is no different. While there have undoubtedly been low points, it is my opinion that 2011 has witnessed a record number of high ones. From the increasingly excellent performances of all of the Test-playing nations, through to the positive signs at board level in Pakistan and Zimbabwe, and including the re-emergence of fast-bowling as a force to be reckoned with, 2011 has provided many enlightening moments.

The Test game has shown signs of rebirth, with many of the matches closely fought, as teams such as Zimbabwe – who enjoyed a triumphant second coming in August against Bangladesh; the West Indies and Pakistan - seemingly showing a much steelier resolve under their new captains; New Zealand – who triumphed over Australia; and even Sri Lanka - showing signs of moving on from the Muralitahran era – all combining to make Test cricket more competitive and less predictable. The underlining factor amongst all of this is surely that the game’s administrators have finally grasped the need to produce more ’sporting’ pitches.

The appointment of Zaka Ashraf as PCB chairman to replace the discredited Ijaz Butt is also a positive sign for the administrative side of the game, as is the ICC’s determination to make member boards less political in their make-up. Indeed, Ashraf has already shown an admirable resolve to move on from the isolationism that accompanied Butt’s final months in charge and is already making positive noises about restoring cricketing ties with India and bringing international cricket back to Pakistan by the means of a home series against Bangladesh.

However, for me, the most reassuring sign coming out of 2011 has been the sight of the first shoots of the game’s regrowth in Africa. Zimbabwe’s better-than-expected return to the top table has been well documented, but it is the organisation of that country’s domestic structure that is most exciting for the future of the game. In spite of cricket all but disappearing during the middle of the last decade, it has re-emerged as a more vibrant beast and is now much more representative of the broader Zimbabwean population. The selection, this time on purely meritocratic grounds, of black cricketers such as Keegan Meth, Brian Vitori and Njabulo Ncube, and seeing them playing under a captain such as Brendan Taylor, who clearly understands the weight of responsibility placed on his shoulders, is a sight that should give hope to cricket lovers everywhere.

And it is not just in there where African cricket is thriving. Kenya, led by their talismanic CEO Tom Sears, have finally got around to organising a meaningful domestic competition, while the player/board disputes appear to have finally been resolved; and Uganda has continued its steady, and thus far unnoticed, ascent towards cricket’s top table. Indeed, the two Ugandan teams that were invited to participate in the Kenyan domestic competition more than held their own. Nigeria, Ghana, Botswana and Namibia are also showing tentative signs of growth and are providing a timely nudge to the ICC, which seems intent on forcing cricket on America, as to the where cricket’s future may lie.

The Amazing Anisa Mohammed And Promising Signs For Women’s Cricket

Off-break bowler Anisa Mohammed today starred with career-best figures of seven for 14 as West Indies demolished Pakistan in the final of the Women’s World Cup Qualifying Tournament. This means that she now has the remarkable figures of 30 wickets at an eyewatering average of 5.3 from her nine matches against Pakistan.

Her form in the competition, along with that of her teammates such as Stefanie Taylor, who was named Player of the Tournament, meant that the West Indies continued their march up the women’s cricket rankings.

However, while the West Indies’ progression has been excellent, it is the performances of the Asian sides in the tournament that will most hearten the ICC. Pakistan reached the final and lost only to the eventual champions, while Bangladesh finished in fifth to secure ninth place in the world rankings and earn ODI status. Sri Lanka also performed admirably in defeating South Africa to take third place.

All of this marks a significant shift in the women’s game which, despite having a relatively long history in Europe, was conspicuous by its absence in Asia. Not so long ago the three countries mentioned above didn’t even field a side, as cultural factors meant that women who played sport were frowned upon. Indeed, around the time of the birth of Pakistan’s national team players faced protests and court action from the government if they tried to play.

All of which makes their performances in this competition all the more remarkable. Credit must be given to the ICC, as well as the players and individual boards themselves, for this transformation in their fortunes; a transformation that is surely a step in the right direction for widening the following of the women’s game.

Seven Days Is A Long Time In Cricket

Has cricket ever known a seven days like the ones we have just witnessed? From the ridiculous to the sublime and from ecstasy to tragedy, we have seen most of it.

For just the second time in the history of Test cricket, a part of all four innings was played on the same day when South Africa, having folded to be all out for 96, dismissed Australia for a staggering 47 and it needed a last-wicket partnership to prevent them from setting an unwanted record for the lowest Test score in history.

We then had Shahid Afridi’s latest comeback from retirement and although he last played for his country in May, he said he had spent the ‘long time’ away from the side wisely. Whatever he had been doing seems to have worked as his three wickets earned him the man-of-the-match award in a comprehensive nine-wicket win over Sri Lanka and he struck with just his fifth ball back. Who writes his scripts?

In among that we saw Sachin Tendulkar score his 15,000th Test run but miss out on his century of international centuries and a graceful VVS Laxman guide India to a thrilling win over the West Indies. Their squad was then rocked when news of a horrible bus crash in Saint Lucia – captain Darren Sammy’s home – filtered through and they are paying tribute by wearing black armbands for the second Test.

I have queried elsewhere whether it is the retirement of Tendulkar that will cause India the most problems as for me, Dravid and Laxman are just as irreplaceable. Exciting times ahead for the Indian selectors in the next five years.

At the end of the week, esteemed journalist and former Somerset captain Peter Roebuck committed suicide in South Africa, cricket losing one of its great characters and it is both tragic and sad that he should have chosen to have taken his own life just as too many other former players have done over the years.

Too often, words such as ‘tragedy’ or ‘disaster’ are bandied about when a team is well beaten, dismissed cheaply or a player misses out on a personal milestone. Perspective. Out of focus.

The last seven days have – unfortunately, but perhaps necessarily – reminded us what those words actually mean.

What Is The Future For Test Cricket?

As I watch pictures of Pakistan playing Sri Lanka – putting them to the sword to be honest – in Abu Dhabi in front of a sparse crowd, what does the future for Test cricket hold?

What does the future hold for Test cricket?

Sri Lanka and Australia played out an entertaining Test series recently, but the crowds didn't come. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte (SRI LANKA - Tags: SPORT CRICKET) Picture Supplied by Action Images

Even allowing free entry to the ground has not resulted in the masses pouring in and it is clear that only a select few Test series (England-Australia, India-Pakistan, for example) will fill stadia, which is a great shame for those of us who enjoy the battles that Test cricket provides.

Former Sri Lankan off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan has told the BBC in blunt terms that without playing more One-Day International and Twenty20 International cricket, the boards will simply run out of money and then there will be no more cricket at all.

Test cricket is the true test of a player’s range of skills but with the increasing dominance of the shorter forms of the game, will it still have a place in, say, ten years time? Will we only see an even more select band of nations (those who feel they can afford it) playing five-day cricket in the future?

And will coaching methods and programmes change, instead guiding players from an early age to follow the money and specialise in limited overs cricket rather than all-round technique?

What A Summer Of Cricket

We have now reached the end of a marathon summer of cricket and although it ended with England being dismissed for 88 by the West Indies in the second T20I, there was much to celebrate.

England finished the summer on top of the Test rankings, didn’t lose a series and witnessed the emergence of a number of exciting young players.

But what was your highlight? England’s 4-0 whitewash of India? Lancashire ending 77 years without a Championship title? Leicestershire giving Paul Nixon the perfect send-off at Edgbaston?

Let us know by commenting below…

India Set Up World Cup Final Clash With Sri Lanka

It might not have been a classic cricket World Cup semi-final, but India did enough to beat arch-rivals Pakistan and set up a final with Sri Lanka on Saturday.

Sachin Tendulkar was dropped no fewer than four times and survived a close stumping appeal on his way to 85 before both teams’ middle orders rather lost their way – Wahab Riaz’s five-wicket haul inspiring a mini-collapse and Pakistan’s engine room failing to click into gear until the game was all but over.

India-Pakistan clashes are typically nervy affairs and this one proved to be no exception. Umar Gul, usually reliable, lost his line and length early on and was savaged by Virender Sehwag, who in turn inexplicably missed a straight ball.

Younus Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq – two of Pakistan’s most experienced cricketers, and two who usually save their best for matches against India – then dropped simple chances to offer Tendulkar further chances.

He eventually fell 15 short of a century having played far from his best innings before Riaz rose to the occasion in style, returning five for 46 and picking the perfect stage to return a career-best performance.

His efforts, were in vain however, as despite a fast start from Kamran Akmal and Mohammad Hafeez, Pakistan fell away dramatically, and once Hafeez was dismissed – to an uncharacteristically bad shot – India were always likely to close out the game.

Yuvraj Singh registered just the second golden duck of his ODI career but struck twice with the ball in quick succession to further pin Pakistan down and the look of shock on Umar Akmal’s face when he was bowled by Harbhajan Singh left little to the imagination.

Pakistan were perhaps stunned by their own inability to cope with the situation of playing India in a World Cup (five times they have played, five times they have lost now) in front of 40,000 screaming fans in Mohali.

In the eyes of many Pakistan fans, Misbah is the main culprit for the defeat. His 56 in 76 balls was a valiant effort, but he hardly played an attacking stroke before the required run rate had shot up to 12 an over and he was left with the tail-enders.

In his defence, he would not be expected to take on the role of the aggressor while Akmal, Shahid Afridi and Abdul Razzaq were at the crease. Their failures to go on and make big scores quickly merely increased the pressure on him.

Had he been unbeaten on 40 and one of those players had have smashed 50 in 35 balls then he would be a hero. Yesterday was India’s day and therefore Misbah was cast as villain.

Now India take on Sri Lanka on Saturday with both teams bidding for a second World Cup triumph and Mahendra Singh Dhoni looking to complete a full house – he has already led India to the number one spot in the Test rankings and the ICC World Twenty20 title in 2007, as well as guiding the Chennai Super Kings to both Indian Premier League and Champions League Twenty20 glory.

World Cup 2011 Hat-Tricks And Batting Feats

There have been only seven instances of a bowler taking a World Cup hat-trick, but two of those came within 24 hours of each other when quick men Kemar Roach and Lasith Malinga both achieved the feat in Delhi and Colombo respectively.

West Indian Roach took six for 27, ending his side’s game against the Netherlands with three in three while Sri Lankan Malinga then returned six for 38 to hustle out Kenya’s lower order with a series of deliveries that would have tested any batting line-up, let alone the beleaguered African side’s.

Remarkably, Malinga’s feat means he has now taken two World Cup hat-tricks – prior to Roach he was the previous man to take a hat-trick when he memorably knocked over four South Africans in four balls in Guyana in 2007. On that occasion, just as against Kenya, the hat-trick was spread over separate overs but unlike in Colombo, Sri Lanka still couldn’t quite force victory in Guyana with Robin Peterson hitting the winning runs.

In his joy at getting South Africa out of a tight spot, his celebrations included him hitting the stumps with his bat, an action repeated by Tim Bresnan – but for different reasons after he was dismissed – for England against India. He had bowled beautifully earlier in the day, taking the tournament’s second five-wicket haul (Shahid Afridi having managed the first).

He then slipped from second to fourth on the list of best bowling analyses with Roach and Malinga cottoning on to the blueprint of how to bowl fast and take wickets on unresponsive, slow subcontinental wickets. They bowled straight and full and got stunning rewards and it will be fascinating to see whether other bowlers will now follow suit.

The likes of James Anderson and Dale Steyn, who traditionally rely on movement through the air and off the pitch, for example, will have to mix things up and change their lengths if they are to succeed.

And one final point – Jonathan Trott has just equalled the record of Kevin Pietersen and Sir Vivian Richards in needing just 21 innings to reach 1000 One-Day International runs. His international record is outstanding and, just like Michael Hussey, Graeme Swann and Andy McKay, he is further proof that sometimes, taking your international bow once you know your own game inside out is the best way to go.

There will always be exceptions to that particular ‘rule’ – Sachin Tendulkar, Michael Clarke and Steven Finn to name just three – but like everything in cricket, it’s about finding the right balance.

Waiting For A World Cup Upset

Six days into the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011, and we are still waiting for our first upset as so far the tournament has gone as expected with the favourites winning each game.

Only England, who were pushed a lot closer than they would have felt comfortable with by the Netherlands, have come close to slipping up with India, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Australia, Pakistan and South Africa all registering comprehensive victories.

Bangladesh had high hopes of causing an upset in the tournament’s opening game on home soil but their plans were ruined by a once-in-a-lifetime innings of 175 from Virender Sehwag – a score that is already unlikely to be bettered throughout the duration of the World Cup.

Kenya – semi-finalists in 2003, remember – were handed sound thrashings by New Zealand and Pakistan, making only 69 and 112 with the bat while Zimbabwe made Australia work hard but were eventually outclassed and beaten by 91 runs.

Canada, as expected, proved to be no match for Sri Lanka, although they won’t be the only side to struggle against the co-hosts, who with Mahela Jayawardene in top form, will go deep into the tournament and must be the favourites to top Group A.

While the West Indies are no minnows, they were always up against it when they took on a well-drilled, well-disciplined South African outfit and came up well short, beaten by seven wickets with AB de Villiers in sparkling form. In their defence, they have been hit hard by injuries, losing Carlton Baugh and Adrian Barath to hamstring problems ahead of the tournament and then lost Dwayne Bravo during his bowling spell.

With moves afoot to trim the World Cup to ten nations and potentially denying the Associate nations the chance to compete at the highest level, what nobody needed was a series of non-contests. Some will say that it was a great shame that the Netherlands didn’t able to hold on against England and show everybody that while they might not be playing Test cricket, there is no reason why they shouldn’t be playing at World Cups.

Some would claim that the fact that they got close enough to worry England was enough to justify their inclusion in this, and future World Cups, in any case. But what do you think? Should the World Cup remain open to the best Associate nations or should it be a closed shop, open only to the top ten sides in the world?

What Can We Expect From The Opening World Cup Games?

Just hours away from the opening ceremony now and excitement levels ahead of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 are being ramped up to a very high level. Although the opening stage of the tournament is set to pit a number of highly-ranked sides against the lower-ranked associate nations, there are some potentially interesting match-ups early on.

The first game of the competition sees Bangladesh play India. While India are the overwhelming favourites to win the game, Bangladesh famously beat them in 2007 and dumped them out of the competition, so India will be taking nothing for granted.

Then we have New Zealand against Kenya – although New Zealand enter the tournament with little in the way of form, they should be too strong for Kenya, an outfit far removed from the team that reached the semi-finals in 2003.

Sri Lanka, who many are tipping for overall glory, then meet Canada and although the Canadians gave England a serious fright in a warm-up game, with home advantage, and coming off the back of a winning run, Sri Lanka should boss the game and take some early points.

Australia then play Zimbabwe and although the four-time champions aren’t playing at their best at the moment, undoubtedly missing Mike Hussey in the middle order, neither are a Zimbabwe side that has been badly hit by injuries. They stand a chance if their big players – Brendan Taylor, Tatenda Taibu and Elton Chigumbura – all fire with the bat but Australia should be too strong.

England will be wary of their opening match against the Netherlands following their embarrasment at the hands of the men in orange in the opening match of the 2009 ICC World Twenty20. It would be an even bigger upset if the Dutch beat them over 50 overs but they do have recent victories over Bangladesh and Kenya under their belt so will be nothing if not confident going into the encounter.

Despite the six-week competition being yet to get underway, we’d like you to make your predictions – who do you think will win the tournament overall? Check out what Cricket World’s John Pennington and Jim White think below – and then leave us your views.