The Reverse Sweep – An Irreverent Weekly Cricket Roundup

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This week we give our marks out of ten to the England players that took part in the one day series against Bangladesh and assess who is likely to make the trip to the subcontinent for the World Cup. We also look at some of the talking points from the Pakistan-Australia test match at Lord’s, identify England’s possible version of Michael Hussey, preview the Sri Lanka-India test series and report how Bangladesh fell back to earth with a bang.

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 – recently chosen 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.

1. England’s marks out of 10 for Bangladesh series – Who can book their World Cup air tickets?

Bangladesh’s shock win at Bristol may have made the series surprisingly interesting, but England’s clinical performance in the decider at Edgbaston showed the true gap between the sides was as big as the space between Craig Kieswetter’s bat and front pad.

So that’s four one day series wins on the trot now for England since they surprised South Africa in their own backyard last November. How did each of the troops rate in this three match campaign ahead of the World Cup assault next February? And who can start packing their kit bag now?

Andrew Strauss – 9 (237 runs, Avg 79.00, SR 111.26, 1 100, 1 50, HS 154) – Continued his good form from the Australia series and hit a career best 154 in the series decider. His strike rate has quietened the doubters who questioned his place before the Australia series.

Reverse Sweep WC rating – On the plane

Craig Kieswetter – 3 (52 runs, Avg 17.33, SR 88.13, HS 32) – Oh dear. Needs to do some work in the nets to close that yearning gap between his bat and front pad, which is the size of the Grand Canyon at present. Even though his fall from grace has been as quick as his rise, Kieswetter should be persevered with for now.

Reverse Sweep WC rating – Needs to relocate his passport quickly or could get left at home

Ian Bell – 7 (84 runs, no average, SR 83.16, 1 50, HS 84 not out) – Calm knock at Trent Bridge saw England home before Beckhamesque injury at Bristol ended his series early. What is it with English sportsmen and metatarsals?

Reverse Sweep WC rating – Looks to be in a straight fight with Trott for the spare batsman slot

Jonathan Trott – 9 (204 runs, Avg 102.00, SR 81.27, 1 100, 1 50, HS 110) – Took his ODI average to a stratospheric 75.53. He may not be the most exciting, but Trott is certainly effective. Ridiculously criticised by some for his innings at Bristol when he came so close to leading England to an unlikely (and undeserved) victory. But what happens to Trott when KP returns?

Reverse Sweep WC rating – Trott or Bell? Take your pick, the other one will stay at home

Paul Collingwood – 5 (51 runs, Avg 17.00, SR 63.75, HS 33. 1 wicket, Avg 48.00 Econ 3.42, BB 1/16) – Not a great series for the doughty Durham battler with the bat, but he tends to save his best for when the pressure is more intense. Bowled 16 overs for 48 runs to show that his dibbly-dobblers and cutters can still be pretty hard to get away.

Reverse Sweep WC rating – On the plane

Eoin Morgan – 4 (25 runs, Avg 8.33, SR 80.64, HS 23) – Poor series for Morgan, but he was due one and rather now than next February. Bell’s misfortune is likely to prove Morgan’s gain for the tests against Pakistan.

Reverse Sweep WC rating – On the plane

Ravi Bopara – 8 (1 match: 45 not out from 16 balls, 4/38) – At last Bopara was given another opportunity in his best ODI position – number six. His underrated bowling is a useful weapon too. Bopara or Luke Wright? Not a difficult choice, is it? Reverse Sweep WC rating – Should be on the plane, but how tied are the England hierarchy to Wright?

Luke Wright – 3 (15 runs, Avg 7.50, SR 65.21, HS 15. 0 wickets, Econ 4.81) – Bell’s broken foot could well lead to Wright’s England epitaph after Bopara showed exactly what is needed at number six. Is Wright good enough with bat or ball for international cricket? His stats against Australia and Bangladesh would suggest not. Reverse Sweep WC rating – It may be time to book that skiing holiday next February, Luke

Tim Bresnan – 4 (1 innings [10 from 6 balls]. 3 wickets, Avg 26.33, Econ 4.64, BB 2/40) – Has he ever taken a wicket with the new ball? Now has four wickets for 334 against the Aussies and Bangladesh in seven matches. Bresnan is a willing trier and pretty handy with the bat, but is he really ever going to bag a handful of wickets in the World Cup?

Reverse Sweep WC rating – In the departure lounge, but could yet have his visa revoked

Michael Yardy – 6 (28 runs, Avg 28, SR 57.14, HS 10 not out. 2 wickets, Avg 40.50, Econ 4.26, BB 1/15) – Has a consistently good economy rate, which is lucky considering his paucity of wickets. Works well in tandem with Swann, but Adil Rashid would be a far more attacking option if perhaps loaded with risk.

Reverse Sweep WC rating – In the departure lounge as one of three spinners in the squad, but will he be usurped by Rashid for a place in the XI?

James Tredwell – 3 (1 game – DNB, 3-0-18-0) – Only played the one game and didn’t enhance his reputation in his three overs. It might sound harsh after such a limited opportunity, but taking Tredwell to the World Cup would smack of negativity and Andy Flower doesn’t seem that sort of coach.

Reverse Sweep WC rating – Denied visa

Stuart Broad – 7 (1 innings – 21 [SR 84.00]. 4 wickets, Avg 32.50, Econ 4.33, BB 2/43) – Continues to impress as first change and finally showed us at Bristol that he hadn’t forgotten which end of the bat to hold. Has had a solid summer in one day international cricket.

Reverse Sweep WC rating – On the plane

Ajmal Shahzad – 8 (5 wickets, Avg 13.00, Econ 4.64, BB 3/41) – Only played two matches, but was England’s leading wicket taker in the series. Finally, England found a bowler who took wickets with the new ball, which will be crucial on the subcontinent. May have played himself into the starting XI for the World Cup ahead of the toothless Bresnan.

Reverse Sweep WC rating – In the departure lounge with all papers seemingly in order

James Anderson – 4 (3 wickets, Avg 40.00, Econ 6.31, BB 3/74) – His form is becoming a real concern. Seems to have forgotten how to take wickets with the new ball and was very expensive in his two matches. Maybe Anderson should go on the same strength conditioning course as Broad and Finn?

Reverse Sweep WC rating – Was on the plane, but has been called back to customs for a final check

2. Afridi’s novel approach to the Captain’s Innings

There have been many notable captains’ innings in the history of test cricket – Michael Atherton’s monumental rearguard of 185 not out to save the Wanderers test for England in 1995 comes to mind. Shahid Afridi though takes a very different approach. Playing his first test for four years, he strode to the wicket with his side in deep trouble at 83 for five. But instead of trying to hang in for a couple of hours to support the already set Salman Butt, Afridi decided to go after Shane Watson in a big way. His 31 off 15 balls may have been exhilarating, but it was hardly what was needed and was more akin to a Japanese World War II squadron leader showing his kamikaze pilots how to do it. Only Afridi.

3. The paradox of Salman Butt

Other than his running between the wickets (just ask Mohammad Yousuf), it is difficult to be anything but impressed with the batting of Salman Butt in the recent test matches against Australia both Down Under and now at Lord’s. How is it then that Butt’s test match average is 32.75 from 28 tests especially when he averages 47.14 in a quarter of those tests against Australia? Maybe experience (he is now 25) and the added responsibility of the vice-captaincy sit well with Butt. Whatever the reason expect a big summer from Butt and to see that test average be pushing 40 come the end of the series with England.

4. Australia’s propensity for the batting collapse

Australia will rightly start as favourites when the Ashes finally starts in November, but their all too frequent habit of batting collapses will give England plenty of optimism. Arguably, it was the first innings batting collapses at Lord’s and The Oval, which handed England the Ashes last summer. Australia experienced a similar collapse at Edgbaston but recovered to draw. They also suffered batting collapses against West Indies, Pakistan and New Zealand during the winter, but recovered to win those test matches. This proves that they are also resilient and prepared to battle; not surprisingly as these traits seem to be bred into every Australian. The collapse they suffered in the first innings at Lord’s (171 for two to 222 for nine) has also not stopped them beating Pakistan. But all the same it must be worrying for Ricky Ponting and Tim Nielsen especially as England are better equipped to make Australia pay if they err than the limited Black Caps, brittle Pakistan and dysfunctional West Indies.

5. England’s Michael Hussey?

We’ve been banging the drum for England to pick Ravi Bopara as their one day number six here at the Reverse Sweep for quite a while now. So we were delighted that Bopara showed just what he could do against Bangladesh by crashing 45 from 16 balls and then taking four for 38 with his underrated medium pace. Bopara could easily become England’s Michael Hussey at number six. Like the Australian, Bopara is capable of adapting his batting style to whatever the situation demands when he walks to the crease. He can embellish an already good score with some fearsome hitting like he did on Monday. But he is also able to revive an innings that is in trouble and bat with the tail or play the support role to an already established batsman. He also appears more than capable of playing the finishing role à la Hussey or Michael Bevan. Bopara or Luke Wright? It’s not that difficult a decision is it?

6. Bangladesh crash back down to earth

After the joy of finally beating England at the 21st attempt at Bristol last weekend has come two big doses of despair. Being crushed by England in the series decider at Edgbaston was bad enough, but to be beaten (and beaten easily at that) by Ireland in a one day international would have hurt even more. We’re not sure whether this shows the true place of Bangladesh in the cricket hierarchy or if it suggests that Ireland, who also ran Australia close recently, are much better than we previously thought.

7. Can India’s bowlers keep them at number one?

Those that question India’s position as the number one test side will be looking forward to the series with Sri Lanka, which begins on Sunday at Galle. Winning in Sri Lanka is always difficult, but India’s problems have been compounded by injuries to two of their senior seamers Zaheer Khan and Sreesanth. Given the paucity of their pace bowling ranks (Munaf Patel has been called up, so that should tell you everything), India will do well to win this series. With Ishant Sharma struggling to repeat his early success in international cricket and India unsure who their second spinner, they will be heavily reliant on Harbhajan Singh to take a bagful of wickets. The fact that the Galle test will be Muttiah Muralitharan’s last makes India’s job even harder. They do have a rather good batting line-up though!

That’s all for this week folks.

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