The Reverse Sweep: What’s Been Going on in Cricket this Week?

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This week we preview the third test at The Oval between England and Pakistan, before laughing at Ricky Ponting’s wild predictions as we move within 100 days of the start of the Ashes. We also sympathise with Yuvraj Singh, round-up the conclusion of the English Twenty 20 competition and question the sanity of Cricket Australia and their new one day format. Finally, we ask what makes a cricket hero or zero.

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.

Who’s a Cooky boy then?

It seems that nothing in this mixed up summer of cricket is considered sacred by the bungling English Cricket Board. We have already seen (or not seen to be more precise) the England team play no test matches in the peak July period to accommodate the neutral series between Australia and Pakistan. Even worse has been the marginalisation of the County Championship, which should be the pinnacle of the domestic programme, in favour of an elongated domestic Twenty 20 competition. Now we have two further sacrileges with the penultimate test of the summer beginning on Wednesday instead of Thursday at The Oval – traditionally the venue for the final test of the English summer.

After several shakes of the head and the odd curse in the direction of the hapless ECB Chairman Giles Clarke, thoughts can turn to the actual test match. Pakistan will hope that the inclusion of Mohammad Yousuf will stiffen the batting and help prevent another heavy defeat after the 354 run and nine wicket reverses of the first two tests. Yasir Hameed also gets a recall as youngster Umar Amin and the technically deficient Shoaib Malik are dropped.

Kamran Akmal also gets a massive reprieve after his replacement Zulqarnain Haider was ruled out of the rest of the test series with a fractured finger. There has been some talk that the injury was worsened when Stuart Broad threw the ball at Zulqarnain during his impressive knock of 88 in the second innings at Edgbaston. If true, that should certainly make things a bit spicier at The Oval. Akmal will just hope that he doesn’t add to the 34 dropped chances he has now spilled in his last 28 tests.

The loss of Umar Gul is a huge one for Pakistan, with The Oval expected to favour bowlers who can extract extra bounce and produce reverse swing. Left arm seamer Wahab Riaz is the latest paceman off the Pakistani production line. Having seen how impressive Abdur Razzaq was for Hampshire at the weekend, it is perhaps surprising that the all-rounder hasn’t been called up to add some balance to the side.

By contrast, England are unchanged for the third match running, which seems to suggest that Andy Flower’s much vaunted rotation policy has been put on the backburner. In a way that is a shame, because it would have been interesting to see how Ajmal Shahzad would have fared on a pitch that is closest to what is expected to be found in Australia this winter. Shahzad has a bit of the Simon Jones about him and could prove to be a surprise success in the forthcoming Ashes series. Broad also probably deserved to miss a match after his poor behaviour at Edgbaston.

England’s selectors have also showed continued faith with Alastair Cook, who is having a bad time at the top of the order. A lot of time and energy has been invested in Cook and to be fair he already has 12 hundreds from 58 tests at the tender age of 25. But perhaps a chance has been missed here to move Jonathan Trott up to open (especially as he and Andrew Strauss seem to bat well together) and blood James Hildreth (six centuries this summer) or take another look at Ravi Bopara or Michael Carberry. Cook too may have been better served by going back to Essex to regain form and confidence.

Cook therefore can consider himself lucky to retain his place and will know that he can quell any doubts about his inclusion in the Ashes squad with a hundred here. But whether Cook shines or not, one can only see an England victory over the five days, which would seal the series 3-0.

Ricky Ponting does a mean Glenn McGrath impersonation

It would seem that Ricky Ponting has pretensions of celebrity stardom after he retires from cricket. Appearing on the Australian version of Stars In Their Eyes earlier this week, Ponting announced the immortal words “Tonight Matthew, I am going to be Glenn McGrath”, before duly predicting that a 5-0 Ashes win was “absolutely possible” this winter. Weren’t you bowled out for 88 in your last test, Ricky? As Andrew Strauss rightly retorted the silly season of wild Ashes predictions and propaganda has certainly begun.

100 days and counting until the Ashes…

Ponting made his Mystic Meg prediction exactly 100 days before the 1st Ashes test begins at The Gabba on 25th November. That milestone has not gone unnoticed at The Reverse Sweep and we have instigated our own Ashes 100 day countdown. Every day between now and the eve of the Gabba test, there will be an Ashes related post that provides a statistic, observation, memory or maybe even a witticism on the greatest contest in cricket. Check out the Ashes 100-1 RSS feed here to join in the fun.

Yuvraj Singh’s Annus Horribilis

2010 has truly been an annus horribilis for poor old Yuvraj Singh. Injury and loss of form was bad enough. Then they were the dismal displays for Kings Punjab XI in the IPL and India in the World T20. Then there was the Water Boy incident at the third test between India and Sri Lanka, where 12th man Yuvraj was ribbed mercilessly by certain sections of supporters after Suresh Raina had retained his place despite Yuvraj’s return from injury. Now though poor old Yuvraj has managed to contract dengue fever, bringing a whole new meaning to his new ‘water boy’ nickname. At least he will lose some of that excess weight now!

Hampshire win the FP T20

Due to an unseasonal downpour on the Côte d’Azur, we tuned into the FP T20 finals day at the Rose Bowl at the weekend. The competition itself has been poor, too long and has seen falling attendances. But the finals day made up for it. Hampshire pipped Essex in the first semi-final, which was notable for the poor performance of Dwayne Bravo. Essex had flown in Bravo just for the finals day but this proved an expensive mistake in more ways than one with Bravo only making five before being poorly run out attempting a second run that an arthritic tortoise would have expected to make. Bravo compounded this by then being smashed for 46 runs off his four overs. Somerset then beat a Nottinghamshire side containing Broad, Swann and Sidebottom in the weather affected second semi with Marcus Trescothick reminding us all what England has been missing and Jos Buttler demonstrating what England could enjoy in the future. The final itself went to the wire before Hampshire won by losing fewer wickets. It’s a shame that the two sides won’t be featuring in the Champions League though. Another black mark for the ECB in a season of gaffs.

Have Cricket Australia gone mad?

It’s not just the ECB who need a visit from the men in white jackets if Cricket Australia’s plans for its domestic one day competition are anything to go by. The new format will see a split innings 45 overs per team with innings of 20 and 25 overs. If that seems strange in the year of a 50 over World Cup some of the other innovations also seem bizarre. Each bowler can bowl a maximum of 12 overs across the two innings and each team can pick 12 players – teams can bat any 11 of the 12 and field any 11 of the 12. There will be no powerplays, a maximum of two bouncers per over and a new ball will be used from each end at the start of the innings. It all sounds like a recipe for confusion and disaster to us.

…and finally

What makes a cricket hero or zero? At the Reverse Sweep, we are attempting to answer this conundrum with our ‘Heroes & Zeroes’ feature, which will see the unveiling of a hero each Saturday, with a zero following on the Sunday. Such luminaries as David Gower, Bob Willis, Graham Gooch, Imran Khan and Shoaib Malik have already featured. Check out the Heroes & Zeroes RSS feed to see whether they are classed as a hero or a zero.

That’s all for this week folks.

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