Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Real Contenders #4 : England

Being the only country in top eight test teams, apart from New Zealand, to have never won the Cricket World Cup, England will come with big hopes. Their pace attack is believed to among the best in the world by many. Not only do they have good batsmen but also Graeme Swann, who is among world's best spinner. They would like to do what they managed at the last T20 World Cup in 2009.

Squad of 15:

1. Andrew Strauss: The technically sound opening batsmen who has been performing well ever since he came back into the ODI squad in 2009. After getting captaincy, he has been doing even better with the bat. When England have won under his captaincy, he averages a superb 47, while just 30 when they lose. His ability to anchor the innings will come in crucial, even more so, because England do not seem to have a definite opening partner for him.

2. Kevin Pietersen: By far, England's most intimidating and dangerous batsmen, KP will be essential for them throughout the WC. In the only WC that he has featured so far, he was superb scoring at an average of 55 with 2 centuries. One of the few batsmen in the English who looks to dominate the bowlers from the off-set, though it sometimes causes his own undoing. Needless to say, he must bat carefully against part-time spinners who often tend to get his wicket. Very recently, England have decided to use him as an opener, which I believe is a good move. I believe every team should have their most intimidating batsmen in the top 3, like Sehwag and Watson. Had Prior been Strauss' partner, it would mean KP would bat at 4, after Trott at 3. Also, Prior was not very successful at the opening job, so might as well try dashing KP with Strauss who can play the anchor's role.

3. Matt Prior: The one place in the England ODI side which has seen a fair bit of chopping and changing around is the wicket-keepers slot. Though Steve Davies was given a chance in recent ODI series against Australia, Prior was the main candidate for the job. However, he hasn't been too impressive as opener. Now, with KP filling in that spot, Prior will bat lower down the order at around number 7. This is the crucial spot of a finisher and he must deliver particularly in chases. His role has become more important because of the loss of Eoin Morgan due to injury. Also, his WK skills will be tested on Indian and Bangladeshi tracks.

4. Jonathan Trott: South Africa born Trott will bat at the crucial number 3 position for England. One of the players who hasn't played too many ODIs, though has piled up over 10000 domestic runs in first class cricket. Initially, I did not believe that Trott should be played in ODIs, since he was very similar to Strauss in style of play. However, the recent ODI series, where he scored 375 runs against Australia changed my perception. Trott carried his amazing form from the Ashes to the ODI series, but this is his first visit of the sub-continent and will be interesting to see if he can adjust to the conditions.

5. Ian Bell: Having made his debut in 2004, he was able to reserve a regular place for himself only lately. A player who plays good looking cover drives and much more, he is almost at his best presently. Neither is his WC record great, nor does his away record show his ability . Surely, he will look to make amends to these records and provide much needed stability to his team's batting.

6. Ravi Bopara: Coming in as a replacement for injured Eoin Morgan, Bopara might not have a big role to play. Even though he is fairly talented with both bat and bowl, he may warm the bench throughout the tournament. A while back, Bopara was England's favoured number 3 batsmen in tests, before getting dropped after a bad Ashes series. If used, could be a useful middle order batsmen who I would think will perform in India. Also, his medium pace is a good option to Strauss.

7. Paul Collingwood: The all-rounder from Durham is another very important player for. Collingwood's experience and ability to deliver under pressure will be absolutely important. In 14 WC matches, Collingwood has been superb with the bat scoring at 45 runs per innings. Though his bowling figures aren't that impressive, but his fielding and batting together, bring in a lot for the team. One of the many qualities I like about him is that he is a perfect team man. On slower pitches, his clever changes of pace will be very useful.

8. Luke Wright: The young cricketer was once the opener for England in T20s, but he didn't quite do a great job. Even his ODI statistics, look pretty ordinary since he has largely failed to perform in spite of people believing in his ability. Yet, Andy Flower and Andrew Strauss seem to have faith in his ability, which is why he has found himself a spot in the eleven. Wright will most likely fail to find a place in the starting XI, but in case he does, his hitting abilities will come into play during the final overs.

9. Micheal Yardy: The left arm spinner and left hand lower batsmen has never been anyone's favourite player, since he neither a big hitter or a wicket-taking bowler. Experienced Yardy's main job will be to supplement Graeme Swann's off spin and add a few runs if required. He too, like many other English players, hasn't played too much cricket in the sub-continent.

10. Graeme Swann: After an unsuccessful first stint with England in 2000, Swann got his chance seven years later. Now, he has transformed into a match winning ,confident spinner, who is considered the world's best presently. Swann has averaged only 23 since the starting 2009 and is at the peak of his career. Having been a major factor in England's T20 WC win, he will like to do the same in ODI WC. In 10 matches that he has played in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, he has picked up 18 wickets, doing justice to his reputation.

11. James Tredwell: His selection as third spinner wasn't really expected. Samit Patel, who should have been picked was dropped due to 'fitness' issues. Tredwell has no India or international experience for that matter. With Swann and Yardy in the line-up, he will most definitely be a passenger unless asked to play in a inconsequential game.

12. James Anderson: Being one of England's most experienced players, Jimmy will play a very essential role. He is a class swing bowler who will have to change his lengths and pace cleverly to adjust to flat batting pitches or slow turners on offer in the WC. As such, England's success will rely a great deal on him cause of his fabulous record in wins.

13. Stuart Broad: Coming back from injury, Broad forms an effective new ball pair with Anderson as he too has the habit of picking up wickets regularly. Broad's ability to extract bounce from his height is one of the prime reasons he is successful. Like Anderson, he too has a good record in wins, but his experience of India has not been great. However, two consecutive five wicket hauls in the two warm-ups will give him good confidence. Not to forget, he can provide useful contribution with bat as well.

14. Tim Bresnan: Statistically, Bresnan isn't a great bowler. But, ability to bowl good yorkers and change pace effectively makes him a useful bowler. He proved to be superb in the T20 WC when England won and will play the crucial role of third seamer. One of the rare bowlers who bowls better away from home, Bresnan will be expected to perform, since he has been in good form in recent past. Also, he is no mug with the bat and do the damage with some big blows.

15. Ajmal Shahzad: Yorkshire quickie Shahzad has impressed one and all in whatever chances he has got for England. He bowls accurate lengths with good control to keep a check on the scoring. In the absence of main seamers, he performed really well in most ODIs in Australia in the recent tour, though England went on to lose the series 1-6. If either of Bresnan, Anderson or Broad get injured through the tournament, then he will get a chance to make his WC debut. Though he will surely know, that it is not very likely.

When you see the quality of players in this English squad, you will not feel surprised that they are coming with hopes of English fans that they will finally win their first ODI WC. But, to be frank, I do not feel England will do that well. Their pace bowlers are suited to conditions in England and adjusting in India might not be easy. Also, their middle order isn't the strongest around. Spin has always troubled their batsmen, so I believe that Bangladesh-England will be an interesting match.

Predictions: Quarter Finalists.

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  1. I think England's 6-1 loss to Australia should do them a lot of good. Ian Chappell had once remarked on a cricket show: "One tends to learn more from a loss, than from a win!"

    For England, this learning is taking place right before a World Cup. That should hold them in good stead.

    There is no doubt that they will reach the quarter finals. In QF, it is a matter of putting in a big performance on that day. But whatever happens, I don't think they will go beyond the semis... simply because I don't see enough Big Match Players in their squad who can win them 3 Knockout matches!

  2. I believe England would do much better than we think. I give them a 75% chance at Semi Final and 50% chance at Final. Final is anyone's game.

    Why do I think so ?

    A fully fit Swann will be a handful on Indian pitches.

    They have the best bowling side in the cup and I believe they didn't put in their best when they lost 6-1 to Australia. That simply was not possible.

    I put them as my second likely team to win after South Africa followed by Sri Lanka, Australia, Pakistan and India in that order.

    Batting will matter, but towards the business end of the tourney, it will be the bowling that will determine the winner and that is why I place India at a lowly sixth behind even Pakistan.

    My Top Teams in the order:
    1] South Africa
    2] England
    3] Sri Lanka
    4] Australia
    5] Pakistan
    6] India

    Heart says India but the brain says any other team !

  3. @Shridhar - I couldn't agree more with what Ian Chappell said. It is in loses, that you tend to see where you are going wrong, in wins, small but crucial mistakes tend to be forgotten over glory.

    I also do not expect them to win all 3 knockouts, but I think, they might meet Australia in QFs, so good chance that their journey will end their.

    @Govind - Interesting thoughts. I do understand why you say bowling is more crucial, but I still feel it will be a batting dominated WC mostly. I agree that England's 6-1 ODI series wasn't their best effort, but I genuinely feel that their bowling is good in tests, not really that great in ODIs.

    My top teams in order:
    1. Sri Lanka - Strongest bowling line-up, conditions they are used to and batsmen to deliver.

    2. India - Batting, spinner and conditions to take advantage of.

    3. SA - Balanced side in both batting n bowling, best fielding team and determined to do away with C-tag.

    4. Australia - Still a good balanced side, though spinners aren't the best.

    Pakistan is unpredictable, so can't say much about them. England is hence my 6th team. It will certainly be interesting to see how well they do, considering not many have played in India.

    Thanks for the comments. :)


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