Just as you were starting to look forward to the start of the opening ceremony and first game of the World Cup, true faith, naturally brings you the first Cricket Blog of the summer from our man Alex Hurst. So kick back and enjoy …
12-16 1st Test, Lord’s (11:00 BST)
20-24 2nd Test, Headingley (11:00 BST)
England take on Sri-Lanka in a criminally short two test match and all eyes will be on a Kevin ‘Pietersen-less’ England as they try and build for the future after the winter nightmare endured in Australia.
Sri Lanka aren’t normally considered to be top class Test match opposition, especially away from home, but they’re more completive than some of the other Test playing nations and this series is by no means a foregone conclusion In terms of the result.
As much as I’d like to forget how utterly useless and incompetent England were in the winter there is no evidence to suggest they will be any better this time around, although playing in home conditions against lesser conditions should make for a closer contest if England perform in a similar manner, which hopefully they won’t. Since the winter nightmare England have jettisoned their top three run scorers. For a team low on runs dropping your top three run scorers from your previous series seems like utter madness.
First of all there is the Pietersen sacking which has dominated English cricket since the turn of the year. Loathed by some and adored by many – whatever you think about the man or the batsmen – England are a far worse team in his absence. Michael Carberry (who I thought was extremely lucky to get a place in the Test team in the first place) was the second top scorer in Australia and has been binned as well. Although I like Alistair Cook and he is a far better player than Carberry, I feel that the dropped opener can feel very unlucky that his Test career is now surely over when his partner performed far worse in the same Ashes series. Ben Stokes looks to be one of England’s best prospects but he’s been left out on ‘fitness’ grounds and a lack of cricket. In many sports that would be considered a sensible policy but the selectors and ECB have come under increasing pressure for the way the team is run and the image the organisation presents themselves and questions are being raised about their desire to include Stokes – who is a bit nuts.
During the KP sacking and subsequent rumblings on each side there has been a lot written about the image problem the ECB has. They haven’t helped themselves with terms like ‘those outside of cricket’ when referring to Piers Morgan. He’s an idiot, but his opinion isn’t less valid because he’s ‘outside the game’. The ECB have every right to question and dismiss any criticism they receive if they think it is unfair and without foundation – however to not even acknowledge what someone has said, purely as they aren’t a cricketer or within their organisation. I’m not sure what the ECB would think about me writing this column now or you reading it as we’re ‘outside of the game’ but when they make comments like that it makes them seem snobbish and elitist. A large sponsorship deal with uber-fancy supermarket of the rich, Waitrose, hasn’t helped this image
There’s a consensus that the ECB don’t want the KP’s of this world. Superstar batsmen who speak their mind and don’t necessarily just agree with what is put in front of them. Andy Bull of The Guardian penned this article examining why English cricket seems to be so against the unorthodox players and the players who don’t follow conventional techniques or rules. That Jos Buttler has been left out of the Test squad, when he is arguably England’s best batsmen at the moment and the inform batsmen in world cricket. Matt Prior, who hardly scored a run in 2013 has been given the chance again. Considering the 5 match Test series to follow against India, it looks like Butler won’t get the chance to even stake a claim for a place. Prior is 32 and Buttler is 23. Who is the future of English cricket?
When England were on top of the world three years ago they were accused of playing additional and at times dour cricket. Winning is great, even if it’s not in style. That’s a distinctly Australian and bitter view in my opinion however losing whilst playing a dour cricket will draw criticism and rightly so. Sacking your most exciting batsmen and not picking your best young player will only draw roaring disapproval if England fail to win the series convincingly. This article on ESPNcrickinfo sums up the quandary England find themselves in. KP has now started penning his own newspaper column on the England Team and it remains to be seen whether the ECB view his opinion is valid as he played over 100 times for the team, but could be considered to be ‘outside of English cricket’ so his opinion, like mine or yours, isn’t valid. Read his article here.
The ECB certainly have faith in themselves, and I’m looking forwards to a fairly new look England team taking on a decent Sri Lanka, but fail to win this series and the pressure will start to mount on new coach Peter Moores after his abysmal spell in the job between 2006 and 2009. Three debutants and the return of Liam Plunkett adds an extra dimension to what should be a good series.
England squad for the first Test against Sri Lanka, Thurs 12 June
AN Cook (capt), MM Ali, JM Anderson, GS Ballance, IR Bell, SCJ Broad, CJ Jordan, LE Plunkett, MJ Prior (wkt), SD Robson, JE Root, CR Woakes.
Player to Watch: Sam Robson (England) – the young opener has been in line for debut since his 6 centuries when on tour with the development squad over the winter. The young Australian (born and raised) has been tipped for great things by his Middelsex opening partner Chris Robson of Australia. I’m keen for any England player to do well but watching David Warners face as Sam Robson scored a century in a Test match win at the Gabba, would make me a happy man.
Series Prediction: 1 1
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