The Reverse Sweep – All the Cricket News this Past Week

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This week we look at England’s batting woes, which were finally exposed in the loss to Pakistan at the Oval last week. We also feature a former England opening batsman who continues to show his class as well as looking at Chris Tremlett’s claim for a recall. Also covered this week are Salman Butt’s impressive captaincy, the prospect of a World Test Championship and our view on the farcical announcement of the ICC Cricketer of the Year long-list.

The Reverse Sweep is an irreverent and acerbic round-up of the week that was in cricket. For similar musings on the sport that God would play, please visit our blog also entitled The Reverse Sweep – selected as one of the 50 best cricket web sites in the world by The Times. Alternatively, you can read our regular column on CricDude, or follow us on Twitter @TheReverseSweep.

Oval defeat exposes England’s batting problems

Finally, England were made to pay for one batting collapse too many when Pakistan stumbled over the finishing line at The Oval. Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott had put England in a good position but the loss of the former after his redemptive hundred started a slide that ended up with the last seven wickets falling for only 28 runs.

Five times in six innings in this series, England have suffered from the batting wobbles. At Trent Bridge the last six wickets were lost for only 16 runs and then at Edgbaston the last seven wickets fell for 46. Also at Trent Bridge, the first six second innings wicket went for 98 and at The Oval, the first seven departed for only 94.

That’ll teach us for crowing. A few weeks ago in this column we took great pleasure in Australia’s misery when highlighting their increasingly frequent batting collapses (see article here), which culminated of course with being dismissed for 88 all out at Headingley.

But England seem to be similarly afflicted. Indeed, England’s batting wobbles are perhaps the only stain on Andy Flower’s successful 18 month tenure as coach. Collapses cost England test matches in Jamaica and Headingley in 2009 and Johannesburg earlier this year, and without Graham Onions twice seeing out the last over in Centurion and Cape Town, it could have cost them in both of these tests too.

Cook’s hundred probably removed his head from the selector’s guillotine, but the vice-captain is not the only England batsman having a torrid time. Indeed, the table below shows that with the exception of Ian Bell and Trott, none of the seven England batsmen who will contest the six batting places in the Ashes XI have exactly had a stellar 2010.

England top order batsmen – Averages since 1 Jan 2010
Player Mat Inns NO Runs HS Ave 100s 50s
IR Bell 6 9 1 572 138 71.50 2 2
IJL Trott 9 17 2 696 226 46.40 1 3
AN Cook 9 17 1 700 173 43.75 3 2
PD Collingwood 7 12 0 444 145 37.00 1 2
EJG Morgan 5 7 0 256 130 36.57 1 0
KP Pietersen 9 16 2 507 99 36.21 0 4
AJ Strauss 7 13 1 397 83 33.08 0 3

When you consider that everyone on the list has played at least two of their tests against Bangladesh, then that really puts these figures into perspective. Most observers would agree that if England are to retain the Ashes this winter then Pietersen and Strauss will need to have good series’. The former seems to have lost his swagger and confidence and has now gone 15 test matches since his last test hundred. Whilst the captain’s barren patch now stands at 12 tests since scoring 161 at Lord’s last summer.

No wonder Flower came out this week to make it clear to his batsmen that they need to improve starting with the fourth and final test against Pakistan, which begins this week. England will have their work cut out as Pakistan have their tails up. Mohammad Yousuf has added calmness and solidity to the batting and his influence seems to have imbued his batting colleagues with a bit more steel. Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif continue to impress and England still haven’t been able to pick Saeed Ajmal.

Suddenly, England have a battle on their hands to secure the draw or win they need at Lord’s to take the series. Their batsmen will need to markedly improve as a unit if they are to succeed.

Trescothick shows England what they are missing

Whilst England’s batsmen were struggling at The Oval, a former England opener was showing his erstwhile colleagues exactly what they were missing. In a game where the next highest score was 84, Marcus Trescothick smashed an unbeaten 228 off only 230 balls to help his Somerset side secure the win they needed to maintain their title challenge. Once again, England fans can cry “if only’ as make no mistake, Trescothick would be the first name on the team sheet if he was still available. Yes, ahead of you KP.

Chris Tremlett gives the England selectors an Ashes nudge

Chris Tremlett played three tests against India in 2007 and did reasonably well taking 13 wickets at under 30 and troubling most of the illustrious Indian batting line-up with his extra bounce. But since then inconsistency and above all injury, has seen him slip off the selectors’ radar. A feeling that he is undemonstrative and lacks the inner fire of a Stuart Broad has also not helped his cause. But his season for new county Surrey is getting better and better. Match figures of 38.1-12-87-8 last week against Worcestershire seem to suggest he is back to his best. Tremlett now has 38 championship wickets at 19.6 this season. Is it too late for him as far as England are concerned? Or will the selectors take a gamble on a bowler whose height and bounce would seem to be ideal for Australian conditions? He is certainly a better bet than Tim Bresnan in our opinion.

A man of dignity gets his just reward

Salman Butt has impressed in his short tenure as Pakistan skipper. Pakistan sides of recent vintage would have descended into discontent and recrimination after the heavy defeats at Trent Bridge and Edgbaston, but this one has kept its spirit. Butt should take a lot of credit for that and the dignified way he has handled himself in front of the press has been impressive. So it was nice to see him finally getting some runs during the second innings at The Oval. His captaincy record now stands at two wins and two losses. Would anyone have predicted that on the eve of the Headingley test when he took the reins amidst the chaos of Shahid Afridi’s resignation? This Pakistan captain could be in for the long haul.

Is a World Test Championship near?

There was an interesting article in the Sunday Times last weekend, which suggested that England is preferred as the host for the first World Test Championship, which is understood to be pencilled in for 2013. Apparently, the tournament will see the top four sides play off in a semi final and final with games lasting for six days in order to increase the likelihood of a result. We are all for such an initiative but wonder if 2013 when England are already staging five Ashes tests as well as two against New Zealand is the most sensible year. This would be typical of the ICC where ineptitude is never far away…

Talking of ICC ineptitude…

Like many cricket fans and writers, we were staggered when we saw the 16 name long-list for the ICC Cricketer of the Year for the period 24 August 2009 to 10 August 2010 (why not 1 January -31 December, or would that be too logical?). Firstly, we were stunned that Graeme Swann, Mohammad Asif and Tamim Iqbal were not included to name but three. But why would Ricky Ponting (who let’s face it has had a bad year by his standards), Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris be included? Johnson was fortunate to win the Award last year and one wonders if his Mum is on the ICC selection committee. When Swann’s name was belatedly added to the list, it just showed up what the whole exercise is; a complete and utter farce.

…and finally, the quote of the week

From Graeme Swann, who with typical honesty summed up England’s batting performance at The Oval as thus:

“Let’s face it, we batted like morons twice – me included”

No more words are necessary, so that’s all for this week folks.

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