King Kohli set to be Top Indian Batsman again in 2nd Test!!

Lets face it, if it wasn’t for England winning the Test match, Virat Kohli would have easily won the man of the match award (rather that England’s Sam Curran) for his first innings century, as his knock was imperious and fully underlined his credentials of being the best batsman in the world at the moment.

Such was Kohli’s dominance, it looks hard to see past him repeating the feat and again being Top Indian batsman in the 2nd Test, starting at Lord’s on Thursday (9th August).

Such was the quality of the innings, it would have been worthy of taking the man of the match award every day of the week under normal circumstances – but such was the all out action and up and down nature of the 1st Test, meant these weren’t normal circumstances. It was a bonkers, thoroughly enjoyable match.

Going into Thursday’s 2nd Test match, and it’s no surprise to see that Kolhi is the favourite in the betting to be Top Indian Batsman, he is as short as 7/4 with some bookmakers, with Betway having him at 2/1.

Remarkably, and this might sum up the rest of India’s batsmen at the moment, Cheteshwar Pujara is the second favourite in the betting, at 9/2, and he isn’t even confirmed as in the team – although common consensus is that he will play.

Kolhi’s India team will be looking to level the series at 1-a-piece at Lord’s on Thursday, and they are 9/5 to win the Test. Joe Root’s England side are 21/20, with the Draw at 10/3.

India’s main selections dilemma seems to be who to leave out for Pujara to probably come back in, while trying to decide whether to go in with 2 spinners or not.

England have brought in youngster Ollie Pope, in place of t he dropped Dawid Malan, and have put him in the line up at No.3, despite him batting at 6 for his county side.

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England’s only other selection issue is the spinner conundrum as well, as they decide whether replace Ben Stokes with either Chris Woakes in a like-for-like swap, or recall Moeen Ali and go with the twin spin option.

Given the way Sam Curran performed at Edgbaston, Joe Root now knows he has a third seam bowler he can reply on, which opens the door slightly more for a Moeen recall – although I expect England will probably play safe and go with Woakes.

Rashid to play in 1st Test V India, despite all the furore

The build up to the 1st Test match between England and India starting at Edgbaston this Wednesday continues to be overshadowed by the debate around Adil Rashid’s selection, with Geoffrey Boycott the latest to give us his opinion on the matter.

In his regular Telegraph Sport column, Boycott has labelled Rashid a spoilt brat, who should never have been handed a Test recall. This is on top of criticism from the likes of Michael Vaughan who has already become embroiled in a war of words with Rashid, and criticism from the likes of Nasser Hussain, and even from his own county side, Yorkshire.

In fairness and in defence of Rashid, I think Boycott’s criticism is more of the spinners decision not to play red ball cricket for Yorkshire, as who can blame him for accepting the call up? By all means criticise Rashid for not playing against Lancashire in the recent Roses match, but not for getting called up for England. What was Rashid supposed to do, turn it down?

Adil Rashid
Rashid in his England cricket whites.

I can see the point of view the likes of Vaughan and Hussain have about county cricket, as I can totally see why it looks like a kick in the teeth for the likes of Jack Leach. Another way to look at it though, is that Ed Smith and the England selectors think that Rashid looks the best bet, and surely that is more of a damning indictment on County cricket, which we can’t blame Rashid for.

After all, Adil did say when he went onto a white ball only contract that there seemed little point in playing red ball cricket as he would hardly at the start of the season, and that he would re-evaluate the decision later in the year.

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It seems to me that the two issues are becoming mixed up, and are starting to overlap. It seems harsh to criticise him for playing for England, but fair game to criticise him for not playing red ball county cricket. They are surely two separate issues though, that are wrongly being mixed into one at the moment.

Rashid has been picked for England now, and all of this hype is overshadowing things, and is possibly putting no end of pressure on him. I think the time has come to get off his back, and let him get on with playing.

9/1 on England to beat India in 3rd Test with Betfair

As eluded too in my last blog post, Betfair have a brilliant new accounts offer running for the 3rd Test between England and India starting tomorrow (Sunday 27th July).

Anybody opening a new Betfair account through this link can get an enhanced price of 9/1 on England to beat India in the 3rd Test at the Rose/Ageas Bowl in Southampton. The current price on England is 8/5, so this is a massive price enhancement.

This is a new customers only offer, and you will need to use Betfair Promo Code ZEP162 while opening your new account.

The maximum bet (at 9/1) is £10.00, and it must be placed before play starts on Sunday morning at 11am (UK time). This also must be the first bet you place after you open your new Betfair account.

This is a Betfair Sportsbook (Fixed Odds) offer, not the Betting Exchange. If you are after a Betting Exchange account, don’t worry as you can use the Betting Exchange on the same login (Betfair operate a one login system for all platforms). Just complete this offer first, then you can use the Betting Exchange.

Once you have opened your new Betfair account you will need to place your £10.00 on England at the current Sportsbook price (8/5 at the moment). This is normal practise with these sort of offers. You will get paid out at the 8/5 on completion of the Test match (assuming England win), with the remainder of your winnings (the 9/1 price enhancement) paid up within a further 24 hours.

This promises to be a pivotel Test match in the current series. The selectors are giving the players who have got England into this mess, one more chance to get out of it. So at the very least, I expect England to give it a real go and put a good fight – after all, some of these guys could be playing for their futures!

History made at Edgbaston

At Edgbaston on Friday I witnessed history in the making. It wasn’t England racking up over 7 hundred runs, or Alastair Cook’s marathon innings – it was the end of Ravi Bopara’s test career.

I know it sounds harsh and (in isolation) it is only one failure and I did feel a bit sorry for Ravi, but the real damage wasn’t done today, it has been done with the numerous chances he has had in the past. He has never really cut it at this level and it’s surely now time for England to look to the ‘next cab off the rank.’

Although records tumbled, I couldn’t help feeling a bit disappointed. Had I been listening to TMS (as I normally would have been on a Friday), I probably would have been delighted with a solid, professional days cricket from England.
But as a spectator today I couldn’t help feel that the game was just going through the motions. We spent all day waiting to see England up the run rate before declaring and bowling at India. In the end we got a brief sight of India’s batsmen and Sehwag’s wicket was the only thing that really got people jumping up and down with excitement.
Duncan Fletcher should put Sehwag on the first plane back to India after this test match, that shot he played to complete his ‘King Pair’ was absolutely ridiculous, there was no consideration for the state of the game or his team mates, it was an absolute joke.
I thought Eoin Morgan played a good solid innings. Maybe the sight of Ravi Bopara made him knuckle down and fight for his place. He showed today he has the temperament for test cricket, I think his technique might need adjusting, but for me he showed today that England have a player worth sticking with.
He does seem to have an exaggerated movement where he crouches down into a jockey like position just before he plays his shot. I’m not sure whether this could cause him problems in the long run. I suppose years back people said a similar thing about Shivnarine Chanderpaul’s technique and he hasn’t done too badly.
I also couldn’t help but feel disappointed for Alastair Cook missing out on a triple century. Although he basically bored the arse off me all day, I really wanted him to get his triple ton. Chances like that don’t come around too often and it was no surprise too see the disappointment on his face as he dragged himself off the pitch. I couldn’t believe what he had done, the shot was so out of character with the rest of his innings.

Is Alastair Cook the English Matthew Hayden?

Alastair Cook’s England career has had it’s ups and downs. He started off like a house on fire, then for about 2-3 years he was a bit like Graham Thorpe was (in his earlier career) when he kept getting to 70, 80, or 90 before chucking his wicket away.

Then for 18 months he went through a stage when he was absolute crap, before this golden 12 months in which he seems to have become England’s version of Matthew Hayden.
In the latter part of Hayden’s career when ever he got a century it always seemed to be a massive one – and lately that’s exactly what Alastair Cook has been doing.
I was delighted to see him get his three figures today, it would have been a bit of an injustice had he failed in this series, given the 12 months he has just had. He hasn’t totally had the rub of the green against India, with one or two questionable decisions also.
A hundred would also have been a nice monkey to get off Andrew Strauss’ back with the odd media vulture making an issue out of his century count lately, I don’t agree with criticism about his runs, but it’s the media driven world we live in these days. Hopefully his day will come at the Oval.
Am off to Edgbaston tomorrow. Expect England to throw the bat and declare or get bowled out, so should be entertaining. Then maybe I might get lucky and be treated to Sachin’s one hundredth hundred, who knows?

Relieved to see some Cricket

I was very relieved this morning to see that all the looting and thieving bastards hadn’t prevented the third test from taking place at Edgbaston, especially as I am going on Friday.

I must admit to feeling a bit of trepidation as I drove towards Birmingham this morning on my way to work and seen a big thick black plume of smoke rising from what looked like the Aston area of the City. Thankfully it turned out to be an unrelated Scrap Yard fire, or an insurance job, as I believe it is generally known in the trade.
I noticed that ECB said it would only call off the test if advised (more like ordered) too by West Midlands police, which was in stark contrast to the Football Association who seemed to give in without much of a fight in calling off the football friendly with Holland at Wembley.
Good old Giles Clarke, what chance him taking a decision that would cost ECB a few quid? Absolutely none!

To matters on the pitch and Tim Bresnan continues to nail down his spot in the side with a sledgehammer, the ball that got rid of Dravid was almost unplayable.
Could Chris Tremlett have got injured at any worse a time? Who would have thought that after Tremlett’s magnificent performances in the Ashes, that by August he wouldn’t be able to get in the side?
It was good to see Dhoni chip in with a few runs today. After the way he led India to the world cup as a captain and with the bat, it would be harsh to see him getting slaughtered on his return to India for the teams and his own performances in this series. At least a few runs from him here should help.
England look to be in a great position here again. Strauss would have taken the current match situation when he won the toss, despite India’s slight recovery during the afternoon. At the moment unless there is a momentous turnaround in this match, it looks like only the Birmingham weather can save India.

England win the test they had no right too.

This was another magnificent victory and performance from England at Trent Bridge. Too win a test match by 319 runs when you were 88/6 and 124/8 back on Day 1 and effectively already beaten is a major achievement in my view. England really had no right to win this match from there, they were dead and buried.

The turnaround in fortunes was amazing. India were in total control of the test match at tea on Day 2, and they then got absolutely hammered out of site from that moment onwards in a manner usually reserved for teams like West Indies, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.

I know that injuries have crippled India, but they surely aren’t the sole reason why the team capitulated in such a spectacular way over 7 sessions. It has been written and said a million times before, but the bowling really is carried by Zaheer Khan – and Sunday just proved it with over 400 runs conceded.

I hope I don’t upset any Indian readers by writing this (and I’d say the same about England if it were true), but India’s performance since tea on Saturday was utterly pathetic. They just rolled over.

Their performance seemed to smack a bit off ‘After the Lord Mayor’s show.’ Winning the world cup was the main event and this series is all a touch inconsequential, with Dhoni in particular looking like a man who has really ran out of gas. All the responsibilities he carries with him must take their toll eventually.

I really hope Zaheer and Gambhir both play at Edgbaston so that England can test themselves against a stronger India team.

While India struggle to replace Zaheer, England have no such problems with the seam department. At the moment all three front line seamers (Anderson, Broad and Tremlett) could get injured and be replaced with Bresnan, Finn and Onions – that’s some strength in depth England now have.

With regard to Tremlett’s possible return at Edgbaston, I think he will have his work cut out. Tremlett is very similar to Broad and the selectors might go down the route of sticking with Bresnan for a touch more variety. To take 5 wickets, score 90 runs and get dropped would be seriously unlucky.

I heard it said on TMS earlier today that with Trott unlikely to play in Birmingham, England should just bring Tremlett back for Trott and play 5 batsmen. I can’t believe for a minute that Strauss and Flower will do that, the 6 batsmen policy has worked and there is absolutely no need to change it.

Andy Flower also isn’t sentimental, he is ruthless and will do what is best for the team and I believe that means that one of Tremlett or Bresnan will miss out, whoever it is, is desperately unlucky. But that is the strength of England at the moment and what a luxurious position Flower finds himself in.

An example of how together and supportive of each other this team is was shown with Alastair Cook going to console 12th man Scott Elstone after he dropped Harbhajan in the deep. The irony of the situation was that at least it was an England player who could emphasis with the feeling of dropping catches who went too him.

But on a more serious note, I have heard England criticised in plenty of different quarters (mainly Australia last winter) over this touching of gloves and running 50 yards across the outfield to pat someone on the back for simply ‘doing his job’ and fielding the ball. Why though?

Why do the likes of Ian Chappell have to say that they don’t see the point too it all? Look at the team spirit, something is clearly working. They are all clearly together – unlike the Aussie team last winter.

Going back to India and despite the fact that they now can’t win this series, there is still plenty to play for. For a start they can obviously still draw the series and even if the 3rd test ends in a draw they would still have the incentive of remaining the world’s No.1 side by winning the final test at the Oval.

One last point to make. The way England turned this game around reminded me of the way recent Australian sides used too. Self belief, attacking intent and aggression. All the hallmarks of those great Aussie teams.

Trent Bridge looks like a result wicket

Ahead of the 2nd test starting at Trent Bridge on Friday and all the stats seem to be pointing towards a result. The last draw here was back in 2002 against India in a rain affected match, since then there has been 7 successive results (with no test in 2009), taking those stats on a stage further and there has been only 2 draws in the last 12 tests here.

It was also reported on Thursday by Jonathan Agnew that there is a heavy covering of grass on top. Although most of that will be mown off by the start, it is widely acknowledged that England want a seamers wicket here to try and go for the kill while they (apparently) have India on the ropes.

The reason why I add apparently to that last sentence is because I am far from convinced that India are totally there for the taking in the way it is being portrayed by the media. India aren’t the No.1 ranked team in the world by pure luck!

Also working against India and a possible result is the news that Zaheer Khan is out injured, he would no doubt have thrived in these conditions and without him it is hard to see India taking the required 20 English wickets.

The draw has steadily drifted out on Betfair all week. It is now trading at 3.15 and was at 2.8 just 24 hours ago. England are clear favourites at 2.12 and India can be backed at 4.6.

Hoping to be able to lay the draw here at some stage. Will wait and see if it comes in to below evens, but I somehow can’t see it happening. So will watch proceedings and see how the test develops and maybe get involved at a later stage.

If you want to be the best team in the world…..

Then you have to be ruthless in situations like the one England found themselves in during this test match.

When your opponents are a bit rusty – and lose a quality bowler from a 4 man attack during the first morning, have to rearrange their batting order due to injury and illness and were already missing a quality player like Virender Sehwag – you have to make sure you cash in. And that’s exactly what England did.
All in all, I also think India can take a lot of heart from this performance. They played on a flat track with a 3 man attack, Tendulkar was never at the races due to illness and they also suffered an injury to Gambhir, so to take the game as close as they did is a major achievement. They can be proud of their performances.
If you want to be ultra critical, you could say that India never exploited the conditions very well on Thursday and they also let England off the hook after lunch on Sunday after Ishant Sharma’s fine spell got them back in the match.
It could also be pointed out that it is India’s own fault they were undercooked and that could have contributed to Zaheer’s injury. England have rightly been heavily criticized in the past for such poor preparations, so India should be open to it also.
Could Duncan Fletcher be the consistent theme there?
From an England perspective, I was delighted to see Kevin Pietersen shut a few of his detractors up with his 2nd double ton in less than 9 months. It never ceases to amaze me just how quickly ex players seem to jump on his back.
Jonathan Trott again steadied the ship with an excellent 70 in the 1st innings when England could have struggled in the trying conditions. I think a mark of how far England have come as a side is that if they had played in those conditions 12-18 months back they would probably have been something like 60/4 by lunch.
Matt Prior again showed how good a counter puncher he is with the bat. Not sure how useful he would be defending for a draw, but he is a great attacking option and he certainly speeds the game up with his batting.
The bowling unit was again excellent, to bowl India out twice for less than 300 on this pitch is a good achievement. I thought Jimmy Anderson was becoming the new Ian Botham with the wickets of Dravid and Laxman with awful balls, but he bowled well enough to justify his five-for.
Tremlett and Swann played their parts, Tremlett could easily have had more than the one wicket in the 2nd innings. While Broad justified his selection with a great all round performance, only KP’s double prevented him getting Man of the Match in my view. Andy Flower’s pre match kick up the arse seems to have done the trick.
Tim Bresnan must have mixed feelings of what might have been. He will no doubt be happy with the England win, but he must be wondering when his chance will come again now.
Which leads me onto my biggest praise of all – the selectors and the England management. Yet again they were proved right with their patience as they made the right call in sticking with Stuart Broad. We all think we know better, but time and time again they get it right and prove us all wrong.