The Reverse Sweep: The Week in Cricket

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This week we address the debate over Andrew Strauss’ position in the England ODI side, which believe it or not was brought into question by a recent panel of ex-cricketers on Sky Sports. We also look at Tim Bresnan’s poor form, Ian Bell’s return from his Beckhamesque foot injury and the photo-finish to this year’s County Championship.

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.

Andrew Strauss gives 126 reasons why he should be in the England ODI team

As the World Cup looms ever closer, Sky obviously thought it an opportune time to get Michael Atherton to chair a group of supposedly learned cricket experts to pick an England XV for the tournament. The discussions and outcome of the panel comprising Derek Pringle, Alec Stewart and Darren Gough was aired in the innings break of the second ODI between England and Pakistan at Headingley last Sunday..

The main talking point of the XV they selected was that there was no place for Andrew Strauss. We wonder if the England captain was watching as of course he gave Messrs Pringle, Stewart and Gough 126 reasons why they may well be underestimating him.

The main crux of the panel’s decision was that Strauss’ favourite square of the wicket scoring areas will be negated by the sub-continental pitches he will encounter during the tournament. It was also felt that although Strauss has adopted a more aggressive approach since his return to the one day side in the Caribbean last year, he still has a problem in scoring freely off the spinners.

Both of these points are not without some justification. However, Strauss is the captain of a side that has climbed off the floor from a dire 6-1 drubbing at the hands of Australia only 12 months ago to now be ranked amongst the favourites for a tournament England have never won. Removing Strauss from the helm at this late stage would likely disrupt team spirit and therefore harm England’s chances.

The stats also favour Strauss. Yesterday’s hundred was his third in 32 matches since his return last year. When you consider that there have only been five other centuries by England players during that time (Morgan (2), Collingwood, Kieswetter and Trott (1 each)), that is pretty impressive. Strauss has also scored eight fifties during this time, has an average over 42 and most importantly a healthy strike rate of 86.46. The new remodelled Strauss may not be as good a one day opening batsman as Marcus Trescothick or Graham Gooch, but he has been pretty effective all the same. Further evidence of his more expansive approach is perhaps provided by the fact that 11 of his 21 career one day sixes have come since June.

Yes, doubts still remain whether he can be as effective on sub-continental wickets, but with Andy Flower and Geoff Miller firmly behind him, Strauss will get the opportunity to prove the critics wrong whatever Gough, Stewart and Pringle may think.

It is not as if the alternatives are in the Sanath Jayasuriya or Chris Gayle category either. The panel went for Ian Bell, who is an extremely good player but hardly a six hitting power ranger. Other options could be Matt Prior, who has no hundreds in 55 ODI, only two fifties and a strike rate below 75, or Jonathan Trott, who makes Strauss look like Sir Vivian Richards. It is too early for Alex Hales, which leaves Trescothick as the only opener we would rather see in place of the England captain. And that sadly, will not happen.

Why do England keep picking Tim Bresnan?

We are starting to wonder if Tim Bresnan has something incriminating on Geoff Miller, Andy Flower or Andrew Strauss (or even all three), as surely that can be the only reason why the beefy Yorkshireman keeps getting picked for England’s ODI side and is entrusted with the new ball. Whilst we admire Bresnan’s wholehearted effort and runs down the order, he is failing dismally in his main role as a bowler. He has had a truly awful summer as the stats below show:

Tim Bresnan – ODI bowling figures
Mat Overs Mdns Runs Wkts BBI Ave Econ SR
Career 30 239.5 11 1271 32 4/28 39.71 5.29 44.9
2010 summer 9 76 3 429 7 2/40 61.28 5.64 65.1

Seven wickets at 61.28 with a high economy rate suggests that another opportunity for Ajmal Shahzad is long overdue. Bresnan is a World Cup accident waiting to happen.

Could Ian Bell be England’s Ashes Ace in the Pack?

Ian Bell is making the first steps back from his Beckhamesque metatarsal injury with some style. The England middle-order batsman followed up a 50 in his return match by helping steer Warwickshire to the CB 40 final at Lord’s against Somerset this weekend with a classy 57 off 49 balls to see off Yorkshire in the semi-final. If anything, Bell’s reputation has been enhanced by his absence from the side in the test series against Pakistan where only Jonathan Trott did not struggle on bowler friendly surfaces. Bell will probably come in for Morgan for the start of the series in Brisbane and we are backing him to continue the excllent form he has shown since his recall at Edgbaston last summer. Now is the time for Bell’s talent to flourish, which allied to his new-found mental strength makes him our tip to be England’s leading batter over the winter. You read it here first.

Somerset on the verge of a landmark

With rain dominating proceedings at Old Trafford and Headingley, Somerset increasingly look like pipping Notts and Yorkshire to be crowned this season’s county champions. If they succeed, it will be the first title in their history, which is pretty amazing for someone who grew up with Somerset’s star-studded side of the late seventies and early eighties. That team, which contained Botham, Richards and Garner, won a series of one day competitions but the prize of the championship eluded them. We hope that Somerset succeed at the Reverse Sweep as it will be just reward for a family orientated and unfashionable club. It will also be great to see that loyal stalwart of county and country Marcus Trescothick lifting the prize in his first season as captain as the still best English qualified batsman in the game would richly deserve it.

Quote of the week…

Goes to Shahid Afridi, who certainly says it as it is. His frustration at losing a close match to England at Headingley was exasperated by 7ft giant Mohammad Irfan dropping an easy chance to reprieve centurion Strauss when he had only made 23. Afridi didn’t hold anything back when he irritably said:

“I’m really disappointed with this guy (Irfan),” he said. “Cricket is not all about just batting and bowling, nowadays fielding is very important. Maybe if he is good in the field I will give him a chance but otherwise I am not happy.”

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