Come On Your Bears

I was delighted to see Warwickshire win the County Championship today and put to bed the ghosts of last year’s near miss. I’ve read and heard people say that the Bears choked last year when they couldn’t get the wickets to secure the win at the Rose Bowl, but I think that is a load of crap (ok, so I am biased).

The facts are that it was a flat pitch and a draw was always the most likely outcome in that match. Critics also seem to overlook the fact that Warwickshire weren’t really even in the title race with about 3 or 4 games to go last season, it was supposed to he a two horse race between Lancs and Durham, and Warwickshire gatecrashed the party late on and almost left with the spoils.

Back to this year and Warwickshire have pretty much been there or thereabouts from early on in the season. Since the mid season break for the T20, I think that Warks have pretty much dominated, with only a slight blip a couple of weeks back briefly threatening to derail their title charge.

It was also great to see the County’s England players turn up to join the celebrations, I believe this underlines the unity and team spirit within the club.

Other notable mentions go to bowlers Chris Wright and Boyd Rankin who have excelled at the club. Wright was basically an Essex reject, while Rankin is getting talked about in England circles these days, a laughable thought just a couple of years back.

Varun Chopra has also had another brilliant season to go with last years, he must now surely be in the reckoning for the vacant England openers spot that needs filling for the tour of India and beyond. Geoff Miller was present to see his 195 and with Ashley Giles on the selection committee, Chopra must now be a serious candidate for England.

Speaking of England, and I now see that Andy Flower is the latest person to be rested. That’s two of the anti Pietersen brigade, Swann and Broad, and now the coach.

Now I’m not defending what Pietersen has done, I never have, but the more I see of this situation, the more convinced I am that someone somewhere is out to get him.

It seems a little ironic to say the least that on top of all the convenient leaks to the media, Flower, Broad and Swann all get rested. Are they trying to provoke a response from Pietersen so they can throw the book at him once and for all?

On the flip side of the argument, and if as I suggested above is the case, then why are people seemingly so keen to see the back of Pietersen? Is it the case that he has been an almighty pain in the backside who needed removing? Who knows, it could be true.

If that were the case though, I’d rather someone just come out and say so – instead of this (what appears to be a) ridiculous situation.

What is going on at Edgbaston?

I’m not sure what bothers me the most about what happened at Edgbaston today. Our groundsman producing a turing pitch when our best spinner is out injured, losing 7 wickets for 11 runs, or Ashley Giles’ reaction to collapsing in that manner.

In defence of the batting collapse Giles said “I can’t fault the fight our batsmen showed. The odds were against them. They were up against two top-class left-arm spinners on a pitch that was perfect for them.”

Fight! 7 for 11, is that showing fight?

Two top class left-arm spinners! Well I suppose I shouldn’t be too harsh in my criticism as a county side is always going to struggle against Warne and Murali, I don’t know how Lancs afforded them both though, as I thought they were skint?

Also, how did they manage to play two overseas players?

Anyway, no matter how bad the pitch, that is some collapse and I hope and expect that Ashley Giles is saying something totally different to his batsmen behind closed doors.

Not the ideal return for Ian Bell (33 & 3) and Jonathan Trott (9 & 39) either, playing on wickets like this one won’t help them get into form for the upcoming test. At least Chris Woakes’ good form continued as he picked up another 6 wickets with a decent economy rate.

In the Warwickshire 1st innings on Thursday, James Anderson returned figures of 3/57 from 23 overs on a day that suited the seamers, from an England prospective that is a decent run out and return.

I spent most of the day in the Edgbaston area on Thursday and it was cloudy with a thick heavy atmosphere which are pretty much the perfect conditions for Jimmy’s bowling. How does he get that cloud to follow him around England?

Barmy County Championship season continues

It’s been a bit of an entertaining and crazy start to the county championship so far this season, Somerset struggling, Warwickshire’s batsmen scoring runs, summer weather in April, etc.

This week a bit of normality appeared to be returning to proceedings. Marcus Trescothick is back in the runs with a double ton (227), Surrey getting hammered and Warwickshire’s batting collapsing again, then I seen this headline – Bopara ton leads Essex victory – and I realised that after all we are still in silly season.

In fairness to Bopara it’s a timely contribution. A match performance of 197 runs while only losing his wicket once is just what he needed after an early season struggle, he now is averaging 41.28 after 4 games for Essex.
This can only help Bopara with Eoin Morgan not exactly setting the world on fire at the IPL, but it’s still not the sort of form that demands an England test recall.

Heavy Rollers, Tiflex Balls and £100,000 down the pan

Another bad week for Ravi Bopara, 56 runs from 4 innings is hardy the sort of form that will have Andy Flower pencilling him into the side for the 1st test with Sri Lanka.

More worryingly and telling for me is Bopara’s response to his latest low scores. He said on Twitter “No heavy rollers & tiflex balls is a recipe for low scores. Crap cricket!”

That sounds like excuse making to me, it’s not the sort of response I’d expect to hear from a top class test cricketer. It’s taking the easy way out.

I keep hearing about how talented Ravi is, how he has all the shots in the book. This all may well be true, but I think he badly lacks the temperament and strength of character to be a test cricketer.

He was found badly wanting against Australia in 2009 and I haven’t seen or heard much to convince me that anything has changed with him. I just don’t see him ‘gutsing it out,’ a quality that top class test cricketers possess.

At the moment it looks like Ravi should have took the hundred grand on offer.

In other matches it was great to see Graham Onions back in the wickets with his 5/53 against Yorkshire.

I was shocked when I heard it was his first game in 15 months, it’s amazing how quickly you can forget about a cricketer when his name is out of the public domain.

I would imagine that there must have been times when he wondered if he had played his last game. England looks a long way off for him now, but I’d imagine he’d quite happily take a quiet season playing for Durham after the last 15 months.

What has happened to Warwickshire? I got quite excited yesterday when they got to 416/6, I was absolutely amazed when 642 was finally posted.

I heard it mentioned on a radio show this morning that this must be the first time in 2 years that Warwickshire had secured maximum batting points, I thought at the time that it was a sarcastic remark. On thinking about it, such has been the Bears poor batting over the last couple of seasons, it’s probably not far off the truth.

I did then expect to see Somerset blitz their way to a similar score, but no – they haven’t. Rikki Clarke and Chris Woakes triggered a collapse and now Somerset are in deep trouble.

Boyd Rankin struggled and still needs the kick up the arse I recommended yesterday, while the unknown (to me anyway) Andrew Miller got off to an impressive start with figures of 12-3-25-1.

Great start for the Bears

What a start to the season for Warwickshire at Taunton today. To end the day on 416/6 after being asked to bat first is a start I’d imagine Ashley Giles could only have dreamed off.

When I heard on the radio that Warwickshire had got off to a decent start, I thought it was down to the famous old Taunton batting paradise, although it did cross my mind that it is a bit early in the season for such a pitch to already exsist.

But there must have been something dodgy looking with the pitch or the conditions for Trescothick to ask the Bears to bat first. I suppose how the rest of the match pans out will answer that particular query.

I’m not getting carried away with one days cricket though, but compared to how Warwickshire batted throughout last season, todays batting display is the equivalent of Geoff Boycott scoring a century off 40 balls.

Varun Chopra is already on the verge of a double hundred, hopefully this is the start of things to come from the former Essex player who it would be fair to say didn’t even manage to achieve the dizzy heights of an average season last year.

He is nearly 24 now, so it’s now the time when he needs to make the transition from a kid with potential, to the real thing.

It was also a reasonable start for Will Porterfield, 45 on debut for your new county isn’t a failure. I’m sure he’ll find his feet and better will come eventually.

I do worry about the bowling now though, after Chris Woakes it looks a bit thin.

We have Ant Botha who is a steady player – but nothing special, Rikki Clarke is unpredictable, Boyd Rankin reasembles a man who needs a good kick up the arse and Andrew Miller is a bit of an unknown quantity at the moment.

Early thoughts suggest this game could end in a draw.

County Championship Safe for Time Being

I was pleased to hear the announcement today that the County Championship is to be preserved in its current 2 divison format, with teams playing 16 games each.

I know it’s at the expense of T20 cricket, and that it’s a harsh decision on the the counties who rely on T20 for the main bulk of their income, but personally I think it’s the right decision.

A credible County Championship is essential. It’s the bedrock of English cricket and I’m sure to start undermining it would have been disasterous.

What has surprised me though, is that ECB are reported to have listened to the counties. According to a report in the Daily Telegraph, the counties were that worried about losing members, that they didn’t want the 4 day Championship tampered with.

I didn’t realise that the members annual subscriptions were that substantial, compared to the TV money.

The other part of this that caught my eye, is the fact that now the new TV deal is not expected to be as lucrative, due to the cut in the number of limited overs matches.

Just how did the counties get Giles to agree to that? They must have something on him, lol.

But seriously, there is no ideal solution to these problems. There is serious fixture congestion, counties need money from T20’s, they also need to be careful not to over do the T20 cash cow, ECB need a product to sell to Sky, etc, etc.

So just what can be done? I don’t know and I’m glad it’s a problem I don’t have to attempt to solve.

I’m also not over confident that ECB will be the long term guardians of the County Championship either, but at least for the time being, they seem to have made the right call.