England V New Zealand: Test Series preview

Following a successful T20 and ODI series against the Black Caps, England will be looking for another series win when the first test match starts at the University Oval in Dunedin on Wednesday 6th March (or Tuesday night if you are in the UK!)

The preparation has not exactly gone totally to plan though, with England loosing their only warm up game by 3 wickets. It was an interesting game with good knocks from Bell and Prior, and Stuart Broad bowling fairly well including his first first class wicket for over 6 months! Onions however remains a concern, he didn’t bowl well in the warm up game in India and the same thing happened in Queenstown, where he bowled 11 no balls and managed only 1 for 213 in 38 overs. Woakes actually didn’t do to bad, even though no-one is really talking about him, and his second innings was better than his first. Batting wise, no real concerns actually, Cook got off to good starts, Trott played a couple of poor shots (and could be seen and heard berating himself afterwards!) KP is well KP, he usually doesn’t bat well in warm up games, but turns up for the big occasion and the tail wagged which is good.

Need to talk about Compton as that is all anyone wants to talk about, especially those from Yorkshire! So yes he didn’t score many runs in the warm up game (21 and 1), and hasn’t yet gone on to a big total in a test match yet.  But he has only played 4 test matches so I think its a bit early to judge his career, particularly as the alternative is Joe Root. While he played well in the T20, ODI series against NZ and in his only test appearance against India, its only 1 test and he is still young. Plus Compton hasn’t done anything wrong, he as put on good opening partnerships with Cook and looks an accomplished cricketer. Plus let us not forget that he was selected in India ahead of Root, so clearly the England management saw something in him. Finally its worth pointing out that his selection was based on an excellent couple of seasons in Somerset, where last season he scored nearly 1,000 runs in May, where there was lots of rain around and plenty of seamer friendly wickets. Finn and Anderson were rested for the warm up game, but they both looked might good in the ODI series and I expect them to be a handful!

To New Zealand, they have suffered a blow with Doug Bracewell being ruled out after cutting his foot on glass, apparently while clearing up after a party! They are trying another new opening partnership and with Finn and Anderson opening the bowling it will be a challenge and they will probably need their middle order to perform. As a Gloucestershire fan I am intrigued to see how Kane Williamson goes, and with Ross Taylor back in the squad they have some experience and depth. They do have some good quick bowlers too, so it will be a contest. I expect England to be to strong for New Zealand, but its not a forgone conclusion and England will need to play well to beat New Zealand at home. I can’t wait for it to start, I will be tucked up in bed listening to TMS. 🙂

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Review: England v New Zealand 3rd ODI. Eden Park, Auckland.

Much like the T20 series, it came down to the deciding game. Proof that a 3 match limited overs series is way more exciting than a longer series. Also it is a useful series with England next playing ODI cricket in similar conditions in England and the next world cup being in New Zealand and Australia in 2015.

The Stadium:

View from my seat at Eden park

View from my seat at Eden park

Eden Park is not in the city centre, but its easy to get the stadium on the train from the main train station. Good number of guides on hand to direct you where to go and I got into the stadium really quickly. Eden Park is very impressive ground, but like previous grounds in NZ it does have short straight boundaries. Previously the pitch was orientated diagonally so the boundaries were more equal and they have rugby on the ground so I was expecting a high scoring game on a good batting wicket.

The game:

Good start for England

Good start for England with the ball…

The game looked like England’s pretty much from the off. When you are 11-3 after 7.2 overs you are always behind the 8-ball and chasing the game. Finn and Anderson bowled really at the top and well supported by the rest of the bowlers and fielders too. NZ have struggled all series with Finn’s pace and bounce and Anderson had really not bowled many bad balls. After 10 overs NZ were on 18-3 and Steven Finn economy figures for the first 8 overs were 8-3-10-3. Sure McCullum took 17 of his 9th over but he was just outstanding. I actually didn’t realise just how well he was bowling and did a double take when his figures flashed up. McCullum did what he usually does and finally had a go at the bowling and dragged NZ up to some kind of total for them to try to defend (186).

 

England starting their chase. Loving Cook leaning on his bat.

England starting their chase. Loving Cook leaning on his bat.

 When it came to England’s batting it was, well not the most exciting of chases, but chasing at just under 5 an over is an England speciality  After Ian Bell hit out (and them got out!) Trott and Cook did what they do best, knock the balls around, hit the bad ones to the fence and cause the crowd to start singing/throwing beach balls around/ Mexican waves in boredom. As an England fan, I love this quiet accumulation of runs and it was a bit of a surprise when both Trott and Cook got out to a fired up spell from Southee. Which just brought Morgan and Root to the crease. Morgan was well Morgan, after he edged his first ball through the slip region before working through the gears. It was lovely to watch him, and I thought he was on for a half century but he fell to a good catch by Kyle Mills (which was the biggest surprise of the night, Mills is really not a good fielder.) As seems to be the pattern of late, it was left to Joe Root to finish it off and take England home! Was great to finish my New Zealand trip with an England win, I wondered round from my seat to watch the presentation and to see if I could get autographs from the boys. It didn’t happen this time, the stands were quite high and I think they had to head off (even though the game finished early). Headed back on the train with lots of noisy England and NZ fans, still lots of banter going on, the best comment from a Kiwi fan to a very noisy and loud England fan: ‘Pipe down Justin Bieber!”

England celebrating their series win

England celebrating their series win

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England vs New Zealand, the ODI decider.

Greetings, we appear to be in the same position as in the T20 series, with both sides winning one game each. This is how limited overs series should be, short and sweet, with a decider and not drag on for ages. They also should be the build up to the test games.

On the subject of test games, I went to the Basin Reserve in Wellington yesterday to take photos, thought it was shut up for visitors at the moment, however there was a Plunkett Shield game going on, so I spent about 30mins there (would have spent longer but wanted to make the most of my final day in Wellington.)

The Basin Reserve, Wellington

The Basin Reserve, Wellington, my view sitting on one of the grass banks 🙂

The ground will be amazing for the England V New Zealand game, its one of those lovely stadium with grassy banks that spectators can sit on, and its completely encircled by roads, so probably won’t hold cricket for that much longer, particularly as all short formats go to the Westpac Staduim. I really wish I could be there to see the game 😦 Will just have to settle for Aggers and Co describe it to me on BBC TMS.

Anyway back to the point of this post, I am off to the final limited overs game of the series at Eden Park tomorrow, before I fly back to Blighty. Can’t wait for the game, weather looks good and England played well in the last game, judging on current form in this series though, NZ will win it! General rule with New Zealand at the moment seems to be if Kane Williamson scores runs, NZ win! As a Gloucestershire fan I know he is a class player, but as an England fan I really don’t want him to score any runs. Ross Taylor getting a ton last game will settle his nerves a bit and England still need to deal with McCullum, but England are playing well, so it should be another good tight game. Will be doing a match report, though might take a couple of days, I fly back the day after and as its a day night game, it won’t finish till late, so just bear with me, it will be worth the wait 🙂

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Review: England v New Zealand T20, Wellington.

Well my first experience of England away from home really couldn’t have gone any better! Really great atmosphere and a resounding 10 wicket win. Could not ask for any more.

The City:

Wellington is a great city, there is a real buzz about the place and the bars and pubs were full before the game. It was very strange to be walking to the game in an England shirt and to not be surrounded by others in the same attire. There were more Brits once I got nearer the stadium, but the atmosphere wasn’t hostile in any way and had some good banter with the Kiwi’s in the pub beforehand, even if most assumed I was part of the Barmy Army! I guess everyone outside the UK thinks that all England Fans abroad are part of the army, which isn’t the case. Particularly in NZ there are lots of people just over on holiday or travelling on their own like me, or who have been living in NZ.  The walk from my hostel to the ground was lovely mostly, through the streets of Wellington, amongst the shoppers and people after work. 7pm start on a Friday night is ideal for cricket in the city and there were just over 2,200 people in the ground. The last part is on a raised walkway, its a bit sterile and concrete, but one imagines is designed for crowd control before and after games! It was great after the game to, bars still busy (but we managed to get a seat) and everyone was drinking together.

 

The Stadium:

Its an impressive ground, even if its not an attractive location,  its by the port so lots of cranes, cargo and concrete. Facilities good and it was quick to get in. Also giving out free flags and 4/6 cards and things to bang together to make noise! Only disappointment was no cider on offer, so had to settle for soft drink! Also didn’t try out the food as I brought my own picnic! Its known as the cake tin and feels like an Australian style stadium rather than an English Cricket Ground. Indeed its really meant for rugby, so they have a drop in pitch for cricket. The test match is being held at the traditional Cricket Ground of Basin Reserve. I was quite a long way back but view was good and atmosphere inside the ground was great.

 

The view from my seat!

The view from my seat!

 

Match report:

With two one sided games it all came down to the decider in Wellington. England bowled well from the off, with Broad and Finn really challenging the batsmen with good line and length and control. You know a team is bowling well, when their top scorer (Guptill 59) only manages 3 boundaries in his WHOLE innings! Treadwell did a good containing job as did Root, replacing Samit Patel. He did get hit for 6 by Ross Taylor but responded well to have him caught next ball by good bowling, he tossed it up again, enticing the same shot twice, but he bowled it a little bit wider and slower and he was caught in the deep by Bairstow. Dernbach was again the most expensive, but bowled much better and he did take 3 wickets! 139 for 8 in 2o overs didn’t feel like enough, but with England you just never know. I felt we could chase that, but we would need a good start.

I was sat next to a Brit who had been living in NZ for many years, but he didn’t know much about the England players, so I was telling him all about the likes of Root, Bairstow and Butler. Though I said I would rather not see Butler bat but rather  the openers to get most of the runs and well that’s want happened, but it was even better than I could have of predicted.

England’s 10 wicket victory, with 44 balls remaining is even more the impressive when you consider that the 2nd over was a maiden!!! Alex Hales described it as the worst first ten balls of his life after the game, and for a couple of overs it was a bit painful to watch, you kind of wanted him to be put out of his misery, but he more than recovered from the early scare. It must be said though he was aided by some average bowling and poor fielding that at times was just to painful to watch.

The aftermath of another example of poor NZ fielding!

The aftermath of another example of poor NZ fielding!

After that England were on top, and really punished anything short or on the wrong line. It was carnage and I loved it! They went through the gears and just kept going!! NZ run rate, 6.75 England run rate 11.28 that says it all! It finished with Hales not out on 80 and Lumb brought up his 50 and won the game with a massive 6 that went out of the park! In the 13th over, and did I mention over 2 was a maiden!! NZ need to work on their basics and England just need to keep that momentum going forward to the ODI’s.

 

Ross Taylor:

Just a quick mention about the ex NZ captain as everyone has been talking about the reseption he has been getting. The noise when his name gets called out, but particularly when he came out to bat was mental. When NZ were fielding parts of the crowd were chanting his name! There are a lot of angry Kiwi’s out there and they are not happy with their administrators! Plus NZ keep loosing which really doesn’t help matters. He posed with fans after the game, which was great. NZ cricket reminds me of English cricket in the 90’s they will bounce back, but I don’t see it for a good couple of years, it must be a strange dressing room at the mo and I think it shows on the field sometimes!

Autographs:

I moved round to watch the presentation and then after the England boys signed autographs for the fans. They usually do it in the UK and it was really nice to see them doing it abroad as well. Luke Wright, Jonny Bairstow and Steven Finn were around for the longest and very chatty, but all the boys were there signing stuff and posing for photos. My 4/6 card now has the autographs of Alex Hales, Luke Wright and Steven Finn. Good times.

Steven Finn and Jonny Bairstow posing for photos and signing autographs for fans

Steven Finn and Jonny Bairstow posing for photos and signing autographs for fans

 

Final thoughts:

England looked mighty in this game. They win the series and will look to keep that momentum for the ODI’s but with a stronger squad of players. NZ need to rebuild and quickly as their strengths lie in the shorter formats. As for me, I’m off to explore the south Island and Wellington a bit more, before flying up to Auckland for the final ODI.  There will be another report from that game before I have to head back to the UK and I have to listen to the test series late at night on my radio!

 

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England in New Zealand

So the exciting news is that I am actually in New Zealand, and following England away from home for the first time. Not actually on an official tour or following them around for every game, but I am going to a couple of games, the next T20 in Wellington on Friday and the final ODI in Auckland on the 23rd. I am looking forward to seeing England away from home for the first time, though would prefer they play how they did in Auckland rather than Hamilton! So first one of my two game is the series T20 decider at the Westpac stadium in Wellington on Friday. I shall be doing my own match report and experience of the game and the ground, hopefully with photos, so enjoy.

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England in India review..

England in India: Bet you didn’t see 2-1 coming!

 

The odds on the finishing scoreline changed throughout the series much like the fortunes of the two teams. Before England arrived, some commentators thought that England had a chance, this disappeared after Ahmadabad and then re-appeared with some gusto after Mumbai and especially after Kolkata. For the Indian’s this was meant to be the revenge series, 4-0 was on the cards, particularly after Ahmedabad, but they perhaps became victims of their own hype.


Ahmedabad was the watershed moment from the perspective of both teams. England were crushed first innings and bowled out for 191. 4-0 India looked very likely. Second innings though, man of the series and captain, Alistair Cook showed what could be done by scoring 176, and others players followed. Matt Prior in the same innings, and then in other games the rest did the same. Some were slower that others, yes Ian I am talking about you! But they all got there in the end, with every position 1-7 scoring at least one 50+ score in the series; Compton (57), Cook (190), Trott (143), KP (186), Bell (116*), Root (73), Prior (91)*. The other reasons that second innings was important was it showed two things, 1, England were not going down without a fight, and 2, India’s bowlers were a bit average, particularly in the dreaded spin department. This attitude continued into the second test and beyond, with India looking lazy in the fielding department and a bit average with the ball, and England looking up for it and aggressive (In a good positive way, not in a crazy go after the first ball and loft it straight to the hands of a fielder way, yes Ian I mean you!)

 

8 key reasons England won the series:

 

1. Reintegration!- KP back in the fold and never looking better.

 

2. Alistair Cook- obvious, leading from the front with the bat and running out Dhoni on 99, a key moment in the final game of the series.

 

3. James Anderson- Outstanding. 12 wickets on tour, next best seam bowler (on both sides) had 4, sometimes stats don’t lie!

 

4. Sehwag and Gambhir’s running between the wickets- mainly Gambhir’s fault really, as he managed to run out two partners in 1 game, a very dangerous looking Sehwag and the only guy to score 200 in the series Pujara! Very clever!

 

5. Ahmedabad- as explained above, it couldn’t really get much worse for England after 191 all out and unlike in the UAE, they actually decided to do something about it.

 

6. The spin twins- Finally getting rid of the curse that Monty & Swanny playing together doesn’t bring victories. It does. Out-bowling Indian spinners in India is a serious achievement, and we all love Monty 🙂

 

7. Fielding- England looked up for it, energetic in the field, executing run outs and stopping boundaries, India, looked unprofessional, tired and old! The number of times England poached a single as the ball went near, Tendulkar, Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh just proves it. Only 1 run out and that was only because Cooky decided he would rather the wickets not himself got hit by Kohli’s throw!

 

8. Selection: Yes we all know England got it wrong in Ahmedabad, but the key about this tour is that they learnt from their mistakes, they selected Monty for 2nd test, it paid off, they dropped a struggling Broad and picked Finn-4 wickets in the only match he played before getting injured again and they decided to pick Joe Root in the number 6 spot in the final test and he got a very important 73 (top highest score in our innings with KP) and 20*.

 

Tagged on to the end of the test series were two T20 games, in the first England’s young and inexperienced team struggled to find their feet and it showed, but in the second game they came out firing and showed just how dangerous they could be, add KP and Finn to that team and give them a bit more experience they could well be world beaters.

 

Next up for England is a return to India for an ODI series. India are a better ODI team than test side, though they did just loose to Pakistan. England are the number 1 ranked ODI team, but missing some key players and also last time the sides met, India won 5-0. It will be an interesting series.

 

 

*N.B I am aware when Bairstow batted at 5 he only made 9 and Samit Patel when batting at 6 top scored with 33. But if you pick a starting XI based on top scores, positions 1-7 did all score at least one 50+ innings. So there 🙂

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Ricky Ponting…run-outs, Ashes and a comedy dismissal

With Ricky Ponting announcing his retirement, and everyone sharing their memories I thought I would do the same, though as a Pom my favourite memories don’t necessarily show him at his best, enjoy!

1.

Ricky Ponting getting run out by Gary Pratt. Never stops being funny.

2. 

Ricky Ponting getting run out (again!) this time by Freddie Flintoff. Helped us win the Ashes in 2009

3. A recent find, thanks to two Grumpy English Cricketers (http://72allout.wordpress.com/author/testmatchspecialist/) for making me aware of this one:

Perhaps something that helped him make his decision and again comedy gold!

Ponting is the pantomime villain for many English fans, booed when he came  out to bat during Ashes series. I think it proves the respect the Fans have for him actually, rather than anything unsporting. You always want to get the opposition captain out as early as possible and particularly Ponting as he can take a game away from you. He is a great puller of the ball and will punish you if you bowl anything short, and 3 Ashes series aside, he has a great record for Australia. For me I will always have a soft spot for Ponting because we kept beating him. Bring on Michael Clarke next summer, he’s due a failure soon!…

 

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