Sunday, 24 February 2008

Jesse Ryder out of Test Series

New Zealand's star batsman Jesse Ryder has been ruled out of the up-coming Test series against England (which starts on March 4th in Hamilton) after injuring his right hand in a drink-related incident.
It occurred in Christchurch earlier today when he damaged an index finger and thumb while breaking a bar window to gain access to its toilet.

Ryder is set to be out of action for three months, just as he was becoming a serious candidate for Test selection. The big-hitting 23-year-old, who was in outstanding form in New Zealand's 3-1 one-day series triumph over England, has a history of disciplinary problems.

He will have a reconstruction to the exterior tendon on his index finger, a flap reconstruction and a skin graft. It will be around six weeks before he can start light training.

England's Women win New Zealand Tour Opener

England's Women made a winning start to the second leg of their winter tour, as they beat New Zealand Women A by 97 runs. Captain Charlotte Edwards chose to miss the game, but all-rounder Jenny Gunn was fit to return, following a shoulder problem that prevented her from playing in the Ashes Test in Australia.

England lost openers Sarah Taylor and Beth Morgan cheaply, after winning the toss and opting to bat first. Claire Taylor (photo), who led the team as acting captain, continued her fine form as she top-scored with 62 in England's total of 183-9 at the Lincoln Oval, collecting ten boundaries in a continuation of the form which brought her two half centuries in the Test against Australia. She shared a third-wicket stand of 107 with Jenny Gunn (47), but only two other batters reached double figures.

The target proved well beyond the home side, who were all out for 86 as Isa Guha took 3-9 and Jenny Gunn and Charlotte Russell picked up two wickets each. Katherine Brunt took the new ball for England in her first game after a 15-month lay-off caused by back problems and she was boosted by a wicket with her fourth delivery. Guha and Gunn (2-11) ran through the middle order as the home side slumped to 37-6, and although Rachel Priest survived 58 balls for 22, England wrapped up the win in the 38th over.

England achieved the result they wanted shortly after arriving from a triumphant tour to Australia where they drew the one-day series 2-2 and then won a one-off Test match top retain the women's Ashes.

New Zealand and England start a best of five one-day international series at the same venue later today.

England: 183-9 (50.0 overs) <> New Zealand A: 86 (37.2 overs)

Ireland prepares for Tour to Bangladesh

Ireland have called up 17-year-old Cliftonville batsman Paul Stirling for the forthcoming series of one-day internationals in Bangladesh. Stirling will replace experienced opener Jeremy Bray, who misses the trip because of a shoulder injury.
Paul Stirling has been with the Under-19 squad in Malaysia and scored a rapid 72 as Ireland fell to a heavy 181-run defeat by New Zealand.
Left-arm seamers Phil Eaglestone and Reinhardt Strydom have also been named in a 15-man squad. Andrew White is unavailable, as he is getting married in March.

Trent Johnston captains a squad with a lot of experience, as Ireland will have all four county-based players available. William Porterfield (Gloucestershire) is named as the new vice-captain, taking over from Kyle McCallan.

Ireland will play a four-day game against the United Arab Emirates in Abu Dhabi from March 6th-9th, before starting the three-match series in Bangladesh on March 18th.
They are also expected to play county side Essex, who will be in the region participating in a tournament.

Ireland's touring squad: T Johnston [C] (Railway Union), A Botha (North County), A Cusack (Clontarf), P Eaglestone (Strabane), T Fourie (Merrion), G Kidd (Waringstown), K McCallan (Waringstown), E Morgan (Middlesex), K O'Brien (Railway Union), N O'Brien (Northants),
W Porterfield [VC] (Gloucestershire), B Rankin (Warwickshire), P Stirling (Cliftonville), R Strydom (North County), G Thompson (Lisburn).

Saturday, 23 February 2008

England's Hopes washed away by the Rain

New Zealand has claimed the final one-day match with England in Christchurch by four wickets under the Duckworth-Lewis method and thus secured the series 3-1.

Put in to bat first, England struggled for runs and Daniel Vettori took 2-28, but Luke Wright fired four sixes in 47 and Dimitri Mascarenhas hit 22 off the final over.

Chasing 243, Brendon McCullum (photo) gave the Kiwis a stunning start, blazing five fours and six sixes in 77 off 43 balls. Ryan Sidebottom struck twice in two balls, but then the rain had the final day.

Nothing could separate the teams after 680 runs in a frantic tie in the fourth match at Napier, but there were some crucial differences in the finale.
New Zealand had a balanced attack with accomplished slower bowlers, while their opening batsmen made a mockery of England's assertion that it was a difficult pitch to score freely on. England's 100 arrived in the 25th over, New Zealand reached theirs in the 11th. Only nine runs came from the first five overs after England were asked to bat, Phil Mustard skewing to cover in the third.

Vettori was able to complete his three powerplay segments in one bundle and bowled his 10 overs consecutively. Just 11 boundaries came in the first half of the innings and again Vettori's clever variations caused problems, a quicker delivery pinning Alastair Cook on the crease for 42. Kevin Pietersen hit three fours and reached 39 in fairly reasonable time, but was also not at his happiest with the conditions. Patel's second delivery tempted him to attack and, slightly deceived by the pace, he dragged to deep mid-wicket.

Vettori tossed one up to lure Paul Collingwood out of his ground, and some sharp turn beat the edge and saw him comfortably stumped.
Twelve overs passed without a boundary, but then Wright quickly set about changing the complexion of the innings. He launched two sixes over wide mid-wicket and proved he was no one-trick pony with two off-side maximums, driving square of the wicket and then backing away to hit over cover. Wright dominated his partnership with Owais Shah, which reached 50 from 67 balls.

But remarkably all this was soon eclipsed by a phenomenal display of hitting from McCullum. The 26-year-old was particularly incensed by Stuart Broad, running down the line of the stumps at the end of the England innings, and took out his anger on the England bowlers.

Early wickets might have been a factor, and Jesse Ryder survived a half chance in the second over when Ian Bell got a hand to a firm square drive. James Anderson and Ryan Sidebottom found some swing but England went on the defensive and the only movement on the ball then was when it bounced around the terraces.

McCullum was given two reprieves in quick succession, on 30 by Cook who got two hands to a stinging cover drive but could not hold on, and again on 31 when Broad failed to get to a spiralling top edge at third man. After that he smashed the final two balls of Sidebottom's over over mid-wicket for six, and launched a hapless Anderson for three successive maximums.
McCullum was dropped for a third time by Collingwood low off his own bowling, but the next ball was a good one that nipped back and ended the splendid Kiwi's scintillating performance.

At that stage 125 were needed, with 34 overs remaining. Jamie How edged behind and Anderson's painful figures were ameliorated when Scott Styris mis-hit to mid-off. Then - in his final over - Sidebottom, finding swing again under the lights, trapped debutant Daniel Flynn and bowled Jacob Oram with a beauty, with 46 were still required.

Light drizzle added further intrigue, but when it intensified, it ensured there would be no miraculous England triumph. There was some confusion when - after the forced rain break - England returned to the field, only to be told by the umpires that they had already lost the match under the complicated - and little understood by the public - Duckworth-Lewis method. So, all was over without another over, and a generally interesting series with great performances on both sides ended in an anti-climax.
New Zealand's win is well deserved, as they dominated the first two matches and showed skills and strength in all of them. England will need more consistency and discipline, if they want to succeed in future where they failed this time.

Fifth One-Day International (Christchurch)
England: 242-7 (50 overs) <> New Zealand: 213-6 (37 overs)
(Duckworth-Lewis method was used, reducing New Zealand's target to 213)

Irish Women miss out on 2009 World Cup

Ireland missed out on a place at the 2009 Women's World Cup when they lost to South Africa in the semi-finals of the qualifying competition. Despite Cecelia Joyce's unbeaten 43, the Irish were all out for 107 and the hosts knocked off their runs in 27.4 overs to win by seven wickets.
South Africa will meet Pakistan in the final, but both will also play in the tournament proper next year.

"Everybody is absolutely gutted," said Ireland captain Heather Whelan (photo).
"We trained so hard, and for so long for this, in order to try to go to the World Cup in Australia, but it's not going to be. But we'll be here again in four years, looking for a place in the World Cup, and we expect to make it next time."

Pakistan beat the Netherlands by 98 runs in the second semi-final after bowling them out for just 68.
Australia, England, India, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and the West Indies automatically qualified for the World Cup, which will be played in New South Wales in March 2009.

Ireland's men took part in their 2007 World Cup in the West Indies and achieved unexpected success, beating Pakistan and drawing against Zimbabwe. This performance has given Cricket in Ireland a great boost, which also inspires the Irish women team.

England's Women retain the Ashes

England's women retained the Ashes with a six-wicket victory over Australia in the one-off Test in Bowral. Congratulations!

Australia started the fourth and final day on 195-4, a lead of 105, but Isa Guha took 4-60 and the hosts declared on 231-9 to set England 142 to win.
England reached their target for the loss of four wickets, with Claire Taylor 64 not out and captain Charlotte Edwards hitting the winning runs.

"I'm delighted. To win in Australia is a fantastic feeling," said Edwards after the match.
"We had always said we would come out here and aim to win this match in order to retain the Ashes and that's what we did. I'm so proud of all my players. We have played some fantastic cricket over these past four days to continually have the upper hand over Australia and to pull through and secure victory was a great effort. It was comfortable in the end, but it was a really hard battle. I am just delighted we have managed to win in Australia. It's the hardest pace to win in cricket and it shows the strength in depth we have got, especially with two 18-year-olds in the side. I haven't won a toss all tour and I think it was a turning point. You need that kind of luck sometimes."

Isa Guha (left) was named player of the match after taking 9-100 in Australia's two innings.
She said: "It was brilliant to be playing at the Bradman Oval and it was an extra special win because we knew that people were saying we had only come out for the draw as that would have been enough to retain the Ashes. But we always knew that we were playing for a win and it's great to be part of such a special occasion."

Seam bowler Guha started very well right from day one, when she took 5-40. Australia were bowled out for just 154 after having been put in by England captain Charlotte Edwards, who had won the toss. England was, however, weakened by the unexpected absence of key all-rounder Jenny Gunn, who had failed a fitness test shortly before the match. (Maybe Jenny was working too hard on her blog, which I recommend to everyone. And I hope she will be fit again to play in the upcoming matches in New Zealand). Isa Guha's figures were her best in a Test and she was well supported by Nicky Shaw, who claimed 2-18 from 19 overs.
England needed a solid start in reply and openers Caroline Atkins and Beth Morgan provided it, surviving 15 overs to see the team to 22-0 at stumps.

A record stand from captain Charlotte Edwards (right) and Claire Taylor kept England in a healthy position over Australia on day two. Edwards (94) and Taylor (79) put on 159 for the third wicket, as England reached stumps on 222-7.
Their partnership surpassed England's previous record for a third wicket stand against Australia, the 137 put on by Rachael Heyhoe-Flint and Edna Barker in 1968-69.
England had resumed on 22-0, but then collapsed from 216-4 in the final session, giving the Australians some hope.

On the third day England's women looked to be on course for a draw, to retain the Ashes despite letting Australia recover from 33-3 to 195-4, a lead of 105.
Isa Guha trapped Melissa Bulow and Australia's captain Karen Rolton lbw, and bowled Alex Blackwell in between.
The excellent
Lisa Sthalekar (98 no) added 107 with Shelley Nitschke (36) and 54 unbroken with Kate Blackwell to lift the hosts. However, despite their best efforts, the Aussies could not prevent England winning the match outright, and thus retaining the Women's Ashes.

1st innings: 154 (81.5 overs) / 2nd innings: 231-9 (93.0 overs)
: 1st innings: 244 (141.4 overs) / 2nd innings: 144-4 (44.3 overs)

Friday, 22 February 2008

The Thriller of Napier

The current One-Day Series in New Zealand is still undecided. In the fourth match, played at Napier, England hit back with some late wickets to earn a dramatic tie against New Zealand and keep the series alive, going into the final game on Saturday.

Daniel Vettori needed two off the last ball to win the game and the series, but could only manage one off Luke Wright. New Zealand had looked set to reach their target of 341, but Jamie How was run out for 139 in the last over.

New Zealand gave England the opportunity to bat first on a perfect pitch and the tourists responded by rattling up their third highest score in one-day internationals. England's 340-6 was partly due to captain Paul Collingwood, hitting England's fastest one-day fifty off just 24 balls.
The out-of-form Alastair Cook was given a lifeline when New Zealand wicket-keeper Brendon McCullum unbelievably dropped the most straightforward of chances. England capitalised on their good fortune, and while Phil Mustard blazed a trail of runs, Cook began to show his own class with some effective pulls and drives.
Mustard (right) brought up his maiden one-day fifty with a typically risky chip over the vacant slip area for four, and Cook followed soon after with a sumptuous extra-cover drive.

They both looked completely in control - until Vettori turned to the medium pacer Jesse Ryder. Suddenly England had to rebuild and Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen did just that. Bell looked in prime touch before he perished in the deep for 43, leaving Pietersen and Collingwood to continue the assault.
Collingwood stepped across to the offside and lashed anything he could get his bat on into the stands for six - even hammering debutant Iain O'Brien against the roof. Pietersen (50) fell to Vettori, and Shah was caught in the deep, but Collingwood and then Wright continued to score runs as the Kiwis toiled.

The England captain finished with six sixes to his name and the pressure was on New Zealand from the start of their innings to keep up with the massive run rate of 6.82.
Their cause was not helped when James Anderson rapped McCullum on the right hand and the Kiwi opener required treatment. Having looked as though he would have to retire, McCullum proceeded to step up the tempo, hammering Anderson to all parts of the ground and passing fifty soon after.
How had joined him and immediately looked at ease on the wicket, reaching his half-century by clubbing Collingwood into the legside crowd for two huge sixes.

How was in great form and he continued on his merry way, capitalising on anything remotely short or wide with stunning efficiency. Ross Taylor joined the party to put on 92 in 13 overs with How, before Anderson caught his outside edge.
How blitzed his way to a maiden one-day hundred, before England cranked up the tempo and got rid of Styris, Fulton and Oram in a quick-fire spell as tension got to the hosts. Wright (left, with Anderson) was bizarrely picked to bowl the last over - his first in the match - and with seven needed for the Kiwis, How was run out and they could only manage six as the game was sensationally tied.

The incredible ending of this true Cricket thriller means that England can still level the five-match series by winning at Christchurch on Saturday. However, it is more likely that New Zealand will win that match and the series.

Fourth One-Day International (Napier)
England: 340-6 (50 overs) <> New Zealand: 340-7 (50 overs)

Friday, 15 February 2008

The Empire strikes back

Well, it appears that England is not down and out yet down under, and that our one-day XI is still a force to be reckoned with. After heavy and embarrassing defeats in the first two matches, the third - played earlier today in Auckland (and followed ball by ball via TMS by many England fans) - had the (British) Empire striking back. Captain Paul Collingwood (right) led England to a six-wicket win, to keep the one-day series against New Zealand alive.

Collingwood won the toss and - having obviously learned from recent experience - opted to field first. With Dimitri Mascarenhas and Luke Wright recalled at the expense of Graeme Swann and Ravi Bopara, the tourists looked a different team altogether during the day-night match in Auckland.

England had the Kiwis at 95-6 - thanks to Anderson, Broad and Collingwood, who took two wickets each (with Mascarenhas taking two catches off Anderson and Broad) - but Jacob Oram smashed 88 off 91 balls to help the home side survive their 50 overs and end on 234-9.

Chasing a revised target of 229 in 47 overs (adjusted from the original 235, using the Duckworth-Lewis method) after a short interruption by rain, Ian Bell (73) and Kevin Pietersen (41) shared 107, but fell in three overs to an economical Daniel Vettori.
Paul Collingwood
hit three sixes in 70 (from 50 balls) to secure victory with three overs left. He was joined by Owais Shah, and the pair played sensibly to keep the rate around a run a ball, recording a fifty stand in 51 balls.

It was an important win for England, who were comprehensively beaten after making low scores batting first in the two opening matches of the five-game series. The two remaining matches will still be challenging for England, and the Kiwis are no easy opposition. But at least the one-day series is kept alive, with the Test matches still to come.

Third One-Day International (Auckland)

New Zealand: 234-9 (50 overs) <> England: 229-4 (44 overs)
(Duckworth-Lewis method was applied, reducing England's target to 229)

Thursday, 14 February 2008

A Passage to India

If there are people who look regularly at my weblog, they might have noticed that I did not write any entries here from January 28th to February 11th. Well, I am not getting lazy, nor was I sick.
I have in fact been away for two weeks on a most pleasant passage to India, attending a Commonwealth conference on contemporary English writing in the capital Delhi.

Among the many speakers was the amazing Arundhati Roy (photo), who - more than ten years ago - won the prestigious Booker Prize for her splendid first novel, The God of Small Things.
I had heard of her - and her strong personality - before, and of course I had read the book, quite a while before it became famous. But I had never met her before. What a woman! A living example of great spirit, decency, common sense and integrity, and a vociferous campaigner for human rights as well as an inspiring writer.
She had only just returned from Istanbul, where she had spoken in the Bogazici University at the commemoration ceremony for the Armenian journalist and human rights campaigner Hrant Dink, who was murdered a year ago by Turkish nationalists. With people like Arundhati Roy alive and making their voice heard, there is still hope for the human race and this planet.

Even though this has nothing to do with Cricket, I felt it important and worth mentioning here, in my personal weblog. But when one is in India, one is never far from a game of Cricket. So I am very pleased to report that I also managed to watch a number of interesting amateur matches while I was there, especially between various university teams.
I can only say that I am highly impressed by the standard of these young players and by the spirit in which they play the game. Whatever one might say about Australia and England, for me India still is - and always will be - the greatest Cricket nation.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Dismal Start for England in New Zealand

England have played badly before many times, and especially on foreign tours our national XI is prone to failure.
But rarely have I seen such disastrous performances as the first two One-Day Internationals of the current winter tour to New Zealand. What is the point of having very well paid professional players and sending them to the other side of the globe, if they play worse than the
amateur second XI of Little Humbledon-on-the-Haze? Something is - once again - very wrong with the England team, and I wonder if the new selector might have a word or two to say about it. But so far Geoff Miller is keeping silent...

On February 9th the opening match of the one-day series was played in Wellington. England won the toss and decided to bat, but there was little joy for the tourists who were bowled out for an unbelievable 130.
Phil Mustard was the top-scorer with 31, and Stuart Broad impressed with 3-26. But the bowlers had really nothing to defend and New Zealand eased to victory in 30 overs, completely at home on a slow wicket which had bamboozled England.

Given that the tourists had enjoyed a good build-up to the series, with comprehensive wins in the two Twenty20 Internationals, it was a desperately disappointing performance from them - particularly with the bat.

If the first match was really bad, the second - played earlier today in Hamilton - was abysmal. New Zealand won the toss and decided to field, but once again the England batting collapsed in a shambles.
For the second match running, England's innings was unhinged by three run-outs. And after they had been bowled out for 158 in only 35.1 overs, three catches were dropped as New Zealand blasted their way to the winning target in an amazing speed, passing it without loss in just 18.1 overs!

England captain Paul Collingwood (left) conceded that his team had produced a "very poor performance" in the second One-Day International against the Kiwis. "We're very disappointed," he said. "There are eleven blokes in the dressing-room who are devastated. We hit 85 from the first 15 overs, but when the rain came it really knocked the stuffing out of us. I don't know why, but it was very poor from then."
Commenting on the run-outs, Collingwood said: "I would have thought we would have learned from the last game, and I hold my hand up as I was involved with the first one. We are not getting totals on the board for the bowlers to defend and we have got to get that right pretty soon."

I could not agree more with Collingwood, but I am still waiting to hear a word from Geoff Miller...

By contrast, New Zealand opener Brendon McCullum was full of confidence after his sparkling unbeaten 80, containing five sixes, gave his team a commanding 2-0 lead in the series.
McCullum's innings was particularly inspirational after he revealed that his father had been rushed to hospital at the weekend following a heart scare.

First One-Day International (Wellington)
England: 130
(49.4 overs) <> New Zealand: 131-4 (30.0 overs)

Second One-Day International (Hamilton)
England: 158 (35.1 overs) <> New Zealand: 165-0 (18.1 overs)

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Pre-Season Thoughts II

Today I spent a good few hours at our local Cricket club. As a member of the committee I often go down to the ground on a Saturday or Sunday, talking with some other members and having a drink or two in the the pavilion.

Quite a few members were there today, and for a while we watched (on TV) India batting in their second innings of the Adelaide Test. Unless there are any surprise developments tomorrow, it seems quite certain that the match is heading for a draw, which means Australia will win the series 2-1. Well, it is always extremely difficult to beat the Aussies, and especially at home.

Our groundsman joined us for a drink and we discussed several technical matters, but nothing of great importance and urgency. Even though we are a small village club, our ground is well kept and in good condition. In fact much better than some of the larger grounds in the towns of our area. It all depends on the time and commitment people put in, and in this regard we are quite lucky.

We decided to give the dressing rooms a new coat of paint before the season starts, and thanks to a kind local sponsor we will now also have a new long-wave radio for the pavilion. Thus we will be able to follow TMS more closely, even when an international match is on at the same time as a local game.

The weather was fine and dry today, with sunshine for several hours, so a few of us decided to have a little catching and fielding practice in the afternoon. I am pleased to say that the long winter pause and the annual weight increase I encounter around Christmas have not diminished my skills. With January nearly over, the weather should allow us to have more training sessions soon. Our groundsman will have the nets ready every weekend from next Saturday on, and so we can begin to get ready for another season.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Adam Gilchrist announces Retirement

Australia's wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist has announced his retirement from professional Cricket. He will end his Test career after the current match against India in Adelaide, and his one-day international career after next month's triangular series against India and Sri Lanka.

The 36-year-old chose Australia Day for his announcement, which came as a surprise for most, as only last week he stated in an interview the intention to carry on playing for his country.
And only yesterday Adam Gilchrist became the record holder for most Test dismissals by a wicketkeeper, when he claimed his 414th victim and moved ahead of South Africa's Mark Boucher. But it is not clear if this achievement had any influence on his decision.

With 96 Test matches Gilchrist is an Australian veteran and scored 17 Test centuries. His finest hour was probably last year, when he hit a brilliant 149 (off 104 balls) against Sri Lanka, to guide Australia to a third successive World Cup.

Friday, 25 January 2008

England's Women lose first Tour Match in Australia

England's women had a bad start ahead of their one-day series in Australia. They lost by nine wickets to the Victoria state team in a warm-up tour match in Melbourne.
The tourists were bowled out for 137, with only Jenny Gunn (29) and Nicki Shaw (26 off 23 balls) making much of an impression with the bat. It left Victoria an easy task and they knocked off the runs in their 36th over.

"We're disappointed with our performance. It was a long way from our best," said England coach Mark Dobson, but insisted: "I'm confident that with a week's training and two more warm-up games, we'll be back close to our best and ready to compete."

England, who used 13 players during the match, never recovered from the early loss of opener Beth Morgan (1), Claire Taylor (9) and captain Charlotte Edwards (5). Sarah Taylor made 21 off 33 balls, but Lydia Greenway (20) was the only other batter, apart from Gunn and Shaw, to reach double figures.

Although Jenny Gunn (picture) later trapped Elyse Villani lbw for 15 at the start of Victoria's reply, Rachel Haynes (63 not out) and Sarah Edwards (50 not out) saw the Australian state team to their target as England opted to give nine different bowlers a chance to turn their arms over.

England: 137
(48.3 overs) <> Victoria: 143-1 (35.4 overs)

Increase in female Participation

The ECB has just announced a 45% increase in Club and Schools Cricket participation among women and girls in England and Wales during 2006-07.
Former England's women captain Clare Connor, now the Board's head of Women's Cricket, welcomes these results and said: "It provides a great foundation on which to build future England teams."

Will a paid Selector do Things better?

The state of English Cricket has been much criticised over the years, and often with good reasons. Especially the national team has not performed consistently, floating erratically between amazing victories and crushing defeats. Many wise men have offered many different explanations for that, but no one has yet come up with a real solution that would give England the strength and stamina displayed for many years now by Australia.

Having searched for answers and looked around the world, we have adopted the Academy system from Australia and employed a whole string of foreign coaches, including specialists for bowling and fielding. This has lead to some improvement and produced some excellent new players. But still - as a team - England lacks motivation, skills and consistency.

For that the selectors have often been blamed, and in many cases rightly so. Before the introduction of the new contracts many good players - and in particular new emerging talents - have simply been ignored. Others were called up to play for England, but then dropped again after only one or two Tests. We all know that even the best player can have a bad spell, and only practice makes masters.

Now, after a tenure of eleven years, David Graveney is stepping down as chairman of England's selectors, to be replaced by Geoff Miller.
Personally I am sad to see David go, as he was not only a good selector, but also a chairman who listened to others and introduced a better and more efficient system of selection. Above that he is a good communicator and kept captains, players and officials well informed of all important details.
But eleven years is a long time, and one can understand that the ECB is looking for a change now and then. Geoff Miller is probably a good choice, as he has international experience and worked with Graveney as his assistant. I wish him luck and success, and most of all a sense for stamina and consistency.
New chairman of selectors Geoff Miller (centre) with his predecessor David Graveney (left) and Rod Marsh (right)

With the change of chairman the ECB has also changed the status of the selectors. Geoff Miller is the first chairman who will be a full-time paid employee of the ECB. The idea is to give him more time to concentrate on the job, and with an ever increasing number of international fixtures - now not only for Tests and ODIs, but also including the new 20/20 format - this might well be necessary, especially as the game is becoming more and more professional.
But it remains to be seen if a paid full-time selector can do a better job than the many who did it on a part-time basis before.

This might well depend on the input from the two part-time selectors, who will be Ashley Giles and James Whitaker. Both have more than enough experience and should form a good team with the new chairman. However, as Giles is in his first year as Director of Cricket for Warwickshire, he will have to spend much time looking after his county team and be present at Edgebaston. Whitaker, after losing his position as Director of Cricket for Leicestershire, might have more time on his hands and also the motivation to make an impression as a selector.

England's upcoming tour in New Zealand will be the first chance for the new selectors to work together and to make an impact on the team.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

England's Women frustrated over short Ashes tour

England's women captain Charlotte Edwards is frustrated that their Ashes defence will be decided by just a single Test in Australia next month. England's women won their Ashes over two Tests at home in 2005, but there is now only room for one Test on the upcoming tour.

"It's frustrating. We'd have preferred a two or three-match series, but it can't be," Edwards said in an interview with the BBC. "If it rains then it could be even more frustrating, but we won't go looking for a draw. May the best team win."

The England team has now arrived in Australia, knowing they face a tough task against opponents that are the top-ranked side in the women's game. But 28-year-old captain Edwards is confident the memories of 2005 will help lift England's performance.
"We are going out there as underdogs," she admitted. "It's a massive challenge for us, as Australia have been the most consistent team in the world for the last ten years. But the 2005 win made Cricketing history and is something that I will never forget."

England will play a Twenty20 match and five one-day internationals against Australia prior to the Ashes Test, which starts at the Bradman Oval in Bowral on February 15th. Afterwards they will head off for more one-day matches in New Zealand.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

England - Ireland matches announced

It has been confirmed that England will play Ireland in three one-day internationals (ODI), scheduled for 2009, 2011 and 2013.

Irish Cricket Union chief executive Warren Deutrom said it "was a logical step to enter into a more formal agreement" to play England regularly. "Having England play in Ireland will give the game a huge boost and I'm sure our cricketing public will be looking forward to welcoming the English team."

England & Wales Cricket Board chief executive David Collier said: "The matches with Ireland will create a lot of interest and the participation in our domestic competitions by the Ireland team will help build on their outstanding World Cup achievements."

England were 38-run victors in their first ever official ODI against Ireland in 2006 and won by 48 runs in the Super Eights phase of the 2007 World Cup.
Ireland famously beat Pakistan at the World Cup in the Caribbean to progress beyond the group stages into the Super Eights. But in the 50-over English domestic competition last season they did not win any of their nine matches.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Well done, India!

Congratulations to India on winning the third Test of the current series against Australia at the WACA by 72 runs. Especially as no overseas team, barring legendary Caribbean sides, has won in Perth since 1985-86.

Given what happened in Sydney a fortnight ago, India's convincing victory will surely go down as one of their finest Test wins.
An entertaining ninth-wicket partnership between Mitchell Johnson and Stuart Clark gave a 16,000-strong crowd plenty of merriment, but it proved to have only nuisance value, as India ended Australia's stunning 16-match winning streak.

This shows that - after coming out of the quagmire of controversy off the field - the greatest game in the world is still capable of producing great and fair sport with brilliant results.

As Australia won the first two Tests in Melbourne and Sidney, India still needs to win the fourth, which starts on the 24th in Adelaide, to square the series. I hope they will and wish them luck.

IND: 1st innings: 330 (98.2 overs) / 2nd innings: 294 (80.4 overs)
: 1st innings: 212 (50.0 overs) / 2nd innings: 340 (86.5 overs)

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Pre-Season Thoughts I

Still about two months to go until the start of this year's Cricket season in England. Nevertheless I have already done a basic check on my equipment and made some notes which parts might soon be due for replacement. But I will wait with that for another while, since we often get special offers for new bats, pads, gloves etc. from various companies when the playing season is about to begin. This is one of the benefits one has as a club member.

On a wider scale I have been following India's tour in Australia and find myself annoyed seeing another controversy casting a dark shadow over the game. It appears that the Aussies have some problems with the "time after Shane" and it is clear that a genius bowler like Warne cannot be easily replaced, if he can be replaced at all. So Aussies turn to their second-best skill: teasing and hurling insults at the opposition. And the Indians, having just overcome their performance crisis of the 2007 World Cup, will not take such behaviour without reaction.

Sad really to see two generally great and skilled teams declining into a slagging match rather than playing decent Cricket. And once again an umpire has fallen foul of one particular team. This has to stop, and the ICC needs to come out in support of the independent umpires and match officials. Otherwise the spirit of the game could suffer severely and we could see Cricket turning into the same kind of ridiculous freak show that Football has become in recent years.