The Reverse Sweep

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This week we start by foolishly predicting that England has a good chance of winning the World T20. We also look at the main talking points of the new county season, the race for the semi-final spots in the IPL, the stumbling West Indies and the 2010 edition of the Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack – the bible of cricket.

The Reverse Sweep is an irreverent and sometimes acerbic round-up of the week that was in cricket. For similar musings on this wonderful game of ours please visit my blog also entitled The Reverse Sweep, read my new bi-weekly column on CricDude, or follow me on Twitter @TheReverseSweep.

Can England win the World T20?

It may sound crazy but with just two weeks to go before the World T20 in the Caribbean kicks off, England’s chances of finally winning an ICC trophy are looking better and better. The unpredictable nature of T20 means that on any given day any side can beat another and whilst Australia, India and South Africa must start as favourites it is not inconceivable that England could beat any of them on their day.

The IPL has shown that gun players like Robin Uthappa or Yusuf Pathan can change a game in an instant, and England’s gun player Kevin Pietersen is increasingly looking back to his commanding best. His innings the other night against Rajasthan, where he slammed 62 off 29 balls was a joy to watch and his general form in the IPL has been excellent. If Pietersen fires, then England has a real chance.

With the selectors for once being adventurous, England’s cannons are fully armed. Michael Lumb and Paul Collingwood have also starred in the IPL and despite his form slipping in the last couple of weeks Ravi Bopara looks to have regained his confidence. Eoin Morgan hasn’t had much game time for Bangalore, but it is to be hoped he can continue the significant progress he made in South Africa and Bangladesh. And Craig Kieswetter completes a rather good picture in terms of the batting.

The bowling is more of a concern, but James Anderson is back playing for Lancashire and Stuart Broad is a different player from the one mauled by Yuvraj Singh in the 2007 World T20 in South Africa. The selectors have also picked three spinners for the expected slow pitches and Michael Yardy could prove to be the rabbit in the hat. A fully fit and firing Andrew Flintoff is possibly the missing ingredient, but it is to be hoped that either Tim Bresnan or less likely Luke Wright can step up to the plate.

No doubt this is just one writer getting a bit ahead of himself and England will continue their shameful record of being the only test side bar Bangladesh to yet win an ICC world limited overs event. But the hope is there, please don’t dash it boys.

IPL – the race for the semi-final spots reaches boiling point

Say what you like about the IPL. It may be too glitzy and hyped up with advertising that would shame America and commentary that makes Channel 9 look like Test Match Special, but one thing it isn’t is predictable. The salary cap and player auction process ensures that the sides are evenly matched and with franchises having one or two matches to play, only Mumbai has secured a semi-final spot. Even the erstwhile wooden spoon candidates Punjab has perked up with wins over Mumbai and Delhi, and they still have a mathematical chance of reaching the last four. Last week we predicted that the Reverse Sweep’s adopted side Delhi plus Bangalore and Chennai would join Mumbai and the first two made big steps to achieving that with wins over Chennai and Rajasthan respectively. We will stick with Chennai despite their reverse to Delhi, although reigning champions Deccan are starting to look like the team that won the competition last year.

The rise of the White Rose

Last week, we at the Reverse Sweep made our predictions for the new county season and picked Durham as likely champions. Yorkshire was our tip for third place in Division 1 and we are already thinking that we may have short-changed the House of York. The victory over Warwickshire showed that Yorkshire has strength in depth in batting and bowling alike and that Andrew Gale could emerge as a very good captain. Whilst we still believe that Durham will prevail, Yorkshire could really run them close and with a reasonably young side could be the emerging power in county cricket over the next few seasons.

England’s next great white hope

When we named Steven Finn as one of our dozen cricketers to watch over the course of the 2010 season, we realised that we were on to a fairly safe bet. He had looked decent enough on unhelpful pitches in Bangladesh and the confidence that being elevated to the test side was bound to give him was likely to make him a good bet to impress. Having also read that he had identified Glenn McGrath as the perfect role model, we are genuinely excited too by the prospect of England having at its disposal a 6’8″ bowler with pace, natural bounce and, if he could emulate McGrath, metronomic accuracy as well. So England fans had plenty of reasons for wanting Finn to do well. And he has certainly started with a bang with nine for 37 and 14 wickets in his first match of the season, and with Andrew Strauss in attendance too. If Finn keeps this up he can expect to be running in at The Gabba in November as England seeks to retain the Ashes.

Australia’s lost opening batsman

We’ve always rated Chris Rogers highly at the Reverse Sweep and can’t quite understand why the Australian selectors don’t seem to agree. When the Aussies had Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden in situ at the top of the order it was understandable that Rogers had to be content with Shield and County cricket. But he can consider himself extremely unlucky to have only played one test since that time, especially as instead the Australian selectors have preferred to remodel Simon Katich and much more surprisingly Shane Watson as its opening batsmen. With Phillip Hughes in reserve, it is unlikely that Rogers, who has a first class average of over 53, will ever get another chance. This may be bad news for him but it is great for Derbyshire, for whom he scored 200 and 140 not out in their opening match against Surrey.

An inauspicious start for Hamilton-Brown

Chris Rogers certainly gave Rory Hamilton-Brown’s fledgling captaincy at Surrey a baptism by fire. It was a brave move by Surrey to appoint as captain a 22 year old with only a handful of first-class matches to his name, and it was brave (maybe foolhardy) of Hamilton-Brown to accept the challenge. It will take some time before we know whether he can follow in the footsteps of great Surrey skippers like Fender, Jardine, Surridge, May and Hollioake, or whether he will be more akin to Captain Darling in Blackadder Goes Forth. We liked the look of the Millfield educated Hamilton-Brown whilst he was at our county Sussex and wish him well. It looks like he will need all the luck in the world to succeed.

West Indies sneak past Ireland

Even when you take into account that they were without their IPL stalwarts Gayle, Pollard and Bravo, it was sad to see West Indies struggle to beat Ireland in Jamaica yesterday. Without Ramnaresh Sarwan’s unbeaten hundred, an ignominious defeat would have probably occurred. Like Hamilton-Brown, new coach Otis Gibson is going to need the Gods on his side to turnaround the fortunes of the once great West Indies. For the sake of cricket, we hope he does.

One of the greatest annual events

As a cricket traditionalist who prefers whites to pyjamas, tests to T20 and Brian Johnston to Danny Morrison, I always look forward to the annual publication of the Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack. Indeed, despite my wife’s protestations that they take up too much room on the bookshelves, the purchase of said tomb is an annual event to be celebrated alongside the anniversaries of Agincourt and Waterloo (well, I am an Englishman living in France!). This year’s Wisden celebrates England’s Ashes triumph last summer and editor Scyld Berry launches a scathing attack on the counties putting self-preservation above the fortunes of the England cricket team. So far, so good; or so I thought. Then we get to the five cricketers of the year and to say I was surprised that Matt Prior was amongst them is an understatement. Despite this, I am still looking forward to receiving my copy in the post, even if my good wife isn’t!

Some thing’s never change

The rain may not have ruined the first round of county championship matches, but some things never change. Despite a heavy defeat for his side, Mark Ramprakash scored the 109th century of his career. He really is England’s lost batting genius. Oh what might have been…

That’s all for this week folks.


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