The Reverse Sweep

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This week we start by looking at England’s test series victory over Bangladesh, before moving on to the last seven days action in the IPL. Also covered are Australia’s victory over New Zealand in the 1st test, Shahid Afridi’s elevation to the Pakistan captaincy for the World T20 and details of a novel way of listening to England games abroad.

The Reverse Sweep is an irreverent round-up of the week that was in cricket. For further insight into this wonderful game of ours please visit my blog also entitled The Reverse Sweep, or follow me on Twitter @TheReverseSweep.

Captain Cook secures series victory for England

England secured a two-nil series victory today as Alastair Cook scored his 12th test century to round off what has been an excellent series for him with the bat. The jury is still out on his captaincy however, which didn’t have any sort of air of authority about it. That said there were a number of positives for England to take out of the series. Kevin Pietersen recovered his mojo and some confidence, Ian Bell resurgence continued and the Graeme Swann success story still shows no sign of abating.

Despite his nerveless start to test cricket at the Oval, Jonathan Trott now seems to be very nervous at the crease and his batting is starting to challenge Chris Tavaré in the boredom stakes. He is now the batsman at most risk in England’s top six, which is quite a turnaround Stuart Broad seems to be developing his stroppy streak as much as his bowling and really needs to wise up if he wants to continue to improve. Indeed, England’s seam bowling was poor in this series, albeit on pitches that offered no help, with only the dogged Tim Bresnan showing any sort of consistency. Despite this it will be good to see Stephen Finn, who endured a tough test match baptism, operate on a pitch that gives him more assistance.

On the face of it, defeats by 181 runs and nine wickets suggests it was easy for England, but they didn’t have it all their own way. Poor umpiring decisions and a failure to press home an advantage cost Bangladesh dear at crucial times and the lack of any quality quick bowlers told in the end. There are some good players emerging especially Tamim Iqbal, and it will be interesting to see how he, Shakib, Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah fare in English conditions in the return series in May and June.

Australia demolish New Zealand in Wellington test

It may have taken until the 5th day after a Brendon McCullum hundred and typical resistance from Daniel Vettori, but Australia eventually eased to a ten wicket win in the 1st test. But given the facile nature of the victory (the Aussies only lost five wickets in the match), what does this tell us about Australia? Well, following the wins over Pakistan and West Indies, it tells us that where they sniff weakness, Australia are still a ruthless side. The test also told us that Michael Clarke has a strong ticker, Phillip Hughes (he of the first class average of just below 60) may not just be a flash-in-the-pan, and the Australian bowling ranks have pretty good strength in depth. The Ashes battle next winter is shaping up well.

IPL round-up

Last week I admitted that as an IPL virgin, I was surprisingly enjoying my first experience of the tournament. Despite my adopted team Delhi Daredevils performing like my beloved Liverpool with their shared capacity to underachieve, I’ve enjoyed most of the matches I have seen.

In the last seven days, my selected highlights have been:

v         Jacques Kallis providing ultimate proof that he is a cricketer for all formats in reaching 283 runs in his fifth innings before his first dismissal.

v         The emergence of Bangalore as the early favourites for the IPL crown with the aforementioned Kallis, Robin Uthappa, Dale Steyn and Anil Kumble to the fore, and Kevin Pietersen still to arrive.

v         The irritating Super Over as seen in the clash between Punjab and Chennai, where neither side deserved to win. What’s wrong with a tie? It’s what separates cricket from lesser sports.

v         The Mongoose bat as wielded by cricket’s biggest bully Matthew Hayden got on my goat. Or am I just sore because he battered Delhi with it?

v         The continuing excellence of Sachin Tendulkar, the leader of the Mumbai Indians who seem like the next best bet after Bangalore.

New IPL franchises – good for Modi, but what about the fans?

I saw with great interest that the two new IPL franchises had been awarded to Pune and Kochi. Being new to the IPL, I wondered where the new teams were going to get their players. I was then advised that all player contracts are up at the end of this season and that there will be a new auction. This means that each team will have wholesale changes. Great for the players bank balances and for Lalit Modi, but what about the fans? I guess if you have allegiance to Bangalore the city, you carry on supporting the Royal Challengers, but what about the many supporters who are following say Mumbai because of Sachin? If he goes to Kochi, do they then change their allegiance?

Pride comes before a fall

And finally on the IPL. Wind back a few weeks ago and the sickly press conference at Lord’s to launch the Rajasthan Royals ‘global brand’ initiative. I thought it smacked of overwhelming arrogance at the time and now that Rajasthan are the likely winners of the wooden spoon in this year’s tournament, I wonder where this idea stands now. Are you there, Warney?

Shahid Afridi is made Pakistan captain

I see that Shahid Afridi has been made the Pakistan captain for the forthcoming World T20. Cricket writers and bloggers all over the World are grateful. Can you imagine the pre-match huddle? Instead of a rousing speech, each player will take it in turns to take a bite out of a juicy cricket ball. Brilliant.

Live abroad and love cricket?

If like me you live outside the United Kingdom, but follow the England cricket team it can sometimes be hard to listen to Test Match Special due to broadcasting restrictions; whatever they are. Test Match Sofa arrived last year to save the day and I have been riveted at work to the Bangladesh and South Africa series. Things seem to be going well for them and they are going to cover the T20 World Cup and even have a handy player available to put on your cricket blog or site – get it here. Even for those that live in the UK, whisper it quietly, but it is the Sofa commentary is arguably better than Test Match Special anyway.

That’s all for this week folks.

Read previous editions of The Reverse Sweep:

The Reverse Sweep – Issue 13

The Reverse Sweep – Issue 12

The Reverse Sweep – Issue 11

The Reverse Sweep – Issue 10

The Reverse Sweep – Issue 9

The Reverse Sweep – Issue 8

The Reverse Sweep – Issue 7

The Reverse Sweep – Issue 6

The Reverse Sweep – Issue 5

The Reverse Sweep – Issue 4

The Reverse Sweep – Issue 3

The Reverse Sweep – Issue 2

The Reverse Sweep – Issue 1

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