This week we pick our England XV for the World Cup following the end of the thrilling and controversy filled series with Pakistan. We also ask just how much of an idiot Ijaz Butt is, pay tribute to Andrew Flintoff, bemoan the decision of Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard to reject their West Indies contracts and look at Yuvraj Singh’s annus horribilis.
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.
The battle for the little urn isn’t the only major event that the England team will embark upon this winter. There is also the small matter of the World Cup and with the one day series with Pakistan having concluded this week (see our marks out of ten for the England squad here), it seems an opportune time to pick our intrepid XV who will battle to lift a trophy that no England side has won.
Mike Atherton recently chaired a panel of so-called cricket experts comprising Darren Gough, Alec Stewart and Derek Pringle to name their England XV for the World Cup. They surprisingly left out Andrew Strauss, who promptly scored his 126 at Headingley in the hours that followed the transmission of the panel’s choice. Gough also pressed for the inclusion of Andrew Flintoff.
As such we wisely chose to wait until the end of the series (no television deadlines for us). We do concur though with one of the views of the panel, who suggested that England should utilise an extended squad for the seven (oh no, not seven again) one day internationals against Australia that immediately proceed the World Cup.
This will enable England to rest key players and then make the borderline decisions that will be required to arrive at the final XV by picking players in form. As such, we will name 20 players, but highlight at the end the 15 we would choose now so no one can accuse us of sitting on the fence.
With Strauss, Morgan, Pietersen and Collingwood probably assured of their places in the final squad, it will likely come down to two from Bell, Trott and Bopara to join them. Each offers something different. Bell is the most talented batsman of the three and as he showed in the recent CB Final is capable of shifting through the gears to play a match-winning one day innings. Trott averages just under 50 in his 11 ODIs and whilst there is some concern over his strike rate, it is difficult to argue against the volume of runs. But if he doesn’t bat in the pivotal number three role (where KP is arguably a better bet), can Trott fit in anywhere else in the middle order? Bopara would seem the best suited of the three to the number six role as he can repair, embellish and support a one day innings in equal measure depending on what is required. His medium pace could also prove useful on the slower sub-continent wickets.
Davies would seem to be in pole position to open the batting with Strauss and wear the gloves in the tournament following a good showing against Pakistan. That leaves Kieswetter and Prior to battle it out for the second wicketkeeper slot if indeed England decide to pick another keeper in the final XV (it could come down to a choice between a second keeper and a third spinner). In our view, Prior has had enough chances at one day level without ever really convincing so should be left to concentrate on test cricket where he has shone over the last 18 months. Kieswetter’s ability to hit over the top may actually make him better suited than Davies to the wickets on the sub-continent, but he may complete his hero-to-zero 12 months by failing to make the cut.
Two spinners will be needed in the XI in the World Cup, so three may well be required in the squad. Swann and Yardy are clearly in pole position, but the latter doesn’t take many wickets and proved expensive in the series against Pakistan. In our view, Samit Patel is a better batsman and bowler than Yardy and in our opinion should be selected irrespective of his supposed girth. The other option is Rashid, but unless the selectors have decided to keep him as a secret weapon then his omission from the Performance Squad tells us everything we need to know.
Despite rarely taking wickets with the new ball and being regularly carted around for runs, the selectors seem set on retaining Bresnan in the XI. Wholehearted trier? Yes. Useful runs down the order? Yes, sometimes. Bowls the occasional good spell with the old ball. Occasionally. But surely England need a more potent option to open the bowling? The other permanent feature in England ODI squads is Luke Wright. We wouldn’t take him in our XV, but hell why not give him the chance to prove us wrong in Australia.
We actually agree with the selectors decision not to blood Steve Finn in ODI cricket and he should be left to concentrate on tests for the time being. Anderson and Broad pick themselves and to that illustrious duo we would add the names of Shahzad and Tremlett.
So, the Reverse Sweep longlist of XX for the one day series with Australia is (with our current choice for the World Cup XV in bold): Strauss, Trott, Bell, Pietersen, Collingwood, Morgan, Bopara, Davies, Kieswetter, Prior, Swann, Yardy, Patel, Rashid, Bresnan, Wright, Broad, Anderson, Shahzad, Tremlett.
“Bit baffled… Cricket on TV… teams made up of Saffas, Indians and WIs… what is it… what are they playing in?”
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