The Reverse Sweep – What’s Gone on in Cricket This Week?

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This week we look at the positives and negatives that emerged from the Trent Bridge test for England. We also sympathise with Salman Butt, congratulate Sachin Tendulkar on yet another record, laud Virender Sehwag as the best batsman in the world, and report on the latest cricketer to fall foul of Twitter. Finally, we ask if Andrew Flintoff’s latest injury setback could be the end for the larger than life all-rounder.

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.

Worries about Cook and KP as Ashes loom for England

Victory by 354 runs is a massive winning margin, but there were times in the 1st test at Trent Bridge when England were behind the eight ball. In their first innings they were indebted to some truly awful wicketkeeping from Kamran Akmal and a brilliant partnership between Eoin Morgan and Paul Collingwood to recover from a precarious 118 for four. Then in their 2nd innings, Matt Prior came to the party at 98 for six and for once delivered when England really needed him to.

In any case, Pakistan’s brittle batting line up simply couldn’t cope with a brilliant exhibition of swing bowling from James Anderson on his favourite ground with strong support from Stuart Broad and Steven Finn.

Whilst England sit back and watch the latest instalment of the soap opera that is Pakistan cricket with the recall of Mohammad Yousuf, coach Andy Flower and captain Andrew Strauss will know that more pieces of the Ashes jigsaw now seem to be in place.

Anderson proved what we all know – that when conditions suit he is the best exponent of swing bowling in the world. He had had a poor summer prior to Trent Bridge and the feeling persists that he may struggle with the kookaburra in Australia where he has a dreadful average of 82. But unless something spectacular happens, Anderson will be in the XI come Brisbane.

The performance of Steven Finn would have pleased Flower and Strauss even more. He looked sharp after his strength conditioning, and the majority of his wickets came from the extra bounce he was able to extract from the wicket. This is exactly what will be needed to succeed in Australia, and with Stuart Broad also in the attack, England have at least two bowlers who should thrive in Australian conditions.

On the batting front, Morgan showed he has what it takes to succeed at test level. He battled hard at first to see off Asif and Aamer and then tucked into the gifts offered up by Gul and Kaneira. It would seem that England have discovered another batsman with the right temperament for test cricket despite an unspectacular first-class record – as they did with Trescothick, Vaughan and Collingwood. Having Morgan and Prior at six and seven means that England have the ability to counterattack or take the game away from opponents as Australia once had with Steve Waugh and Gilchrist.

It’s not all rosy for England though as Alastair Cook, Kevin Pietersen and even Strauss himself are not operating at the peak of their powers at the moment. Pietersen has not scored a hundred for 13 tests and seems to lack a bit of confidence. Strauss too has not scored a hundred since his 161 in the Lord’s test last summer and will be mindful of his poor tour to Australia in 2005/06.

Most observers would back Strauss and Pietersen to come good using the form is temporary, class is permanent argument. But can the same be said of Cook? His fallibility around off-stump is now an open secret amongst test bowlers and he has a dreadful record against the Aussies, averaging just 26.21 in 10 tests. Apart from his dogged hundred at Durban in the winter, you have to go back to Galle in 2007 for when Cook last scored a test century against opposition other than Bangladesh or West Indies.

Despite there being a lack of alternatives as Strauss’ opening partner, Cook could find himself most at risk due to the emergence of Morgan. With Ian Bell to come back into the side, seven batsmen into six places doesn’t go and Jonathan Trott would appear to have the technique and temperament to open the innings.

It could be a definitive remainder of the series with Pakistan for Cook.

Who’d be captain of Pakistan?

Spare a thought for Salman Butt. Just hours after he had expertly handled the post-mortem into his side’s heavy defeat at Trent Bridge and questioned the merits of recalls for Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan, the PCB announced that Yousuf would be flying in for the second test. Not only has Yousuf not played any serious cricket since March but his reintroduction to the dressing room will certainly send sparks flying. Yousuf is a great batsman, but maybe it was time for Pakistan to show faith in the youngsters? We certainly wouldn’t mind being the fly on the wall when Yousuf and Shoaib Malik are reacquainted for the first time. Butt will need a lot of skill and luck to manage that one.

Another record for Sachin Tendulkar…

Not content with being the record run scorer and century maker in both test and one day international cricket, Sachin Tendulkar broke yet another record this week when he played his 169th test match for India in the 3rd test against Sri Lanka. The Little Master thus goes past the previous record holder Steve Waugh and who would bet against him getting to 200 before he finally retires? Given that he has scored nine centuries in his last 15 tests, we at The Reverse Sweep certainly wouldn’t be surprised if he does.

…but is Virender Sehwag now the best batsman in the world?

If India do manage to square the test series with Sri Lanka, they will be indebted to yet another blitzkrieg hundred from Virender Sehwag, who hit 109 from 105 balls. Sehwag is now arguably as devastating a batsman as Viv Richards was in his prime. In his last ten tests, Viru has hit six centuries at a Bradmanesque average of 91.57 and at a startling strike rate of 97.56 runs per 100 balls. These are phenomenal stats and place him in our opinion right at the top of the list of the current best test batsmen in the world.

This week’s award for the biggest Twit goes to…

Azeem Rafiq of Yorkshire and now former captain of the England under-19 side, who having been dropped for breaking curfews during the 1st under-19 test with Sri Lanka, decided that he needed to vent his feelings on Twitter. His forthright comments about the ECB and under-19 manager John Abrahams are not fit to publish in a family column such as this. But suffice to say they were none too complimentary and earned Rafiq the drop and a month long suspension. Rafiq compounded his idiocy by expressing surprise that his tirade on Twitter would be public. What a twit.

…and finally

The news that Andrew Flintoff has been ruled out for the rest of the season because he hasn’t fully recovered from his knee operation of last summer, hardly comes as a surprise. Apparently, he hopes to return for Australia’s Twenty 20 Big Bash in January, but perhaps it is now time for Freddie to call it a day? If it is the end, he should be remembered for his peak of 2003-05 rather than the disingenuous slurs that his presence unsettled the England dressing room. The Reverse Sweep for one will always remember that over at Edgbaston in 2005, which accounted for Langer and Ponting. Happy days.

That’s all for this week folks.

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