Common Sense Prevails

I’m not going to dwell on the issue of the Ian Bell run out for too long as I believe it has already been blown well out of all proportion.

First I have to say well done to MS Dhoni and the Indian team for their decision to withdraw their appeal for Ian Bell’s run out, it was the right course of action and the game of cricket was the real winner in the long run.

Yes, to the letter of the law India were correct and Bell was out, but for me the run out wasn’t in the spirit of the game. For a start it appears that Bell thought the ball had gone for 4 and was therefore dead. But whatever way you want too look at it, I think we ended up with the correct outcome.

Dhoni’s decision leaves Paul Collingwood still in sole possession of the worst bit of bad sportsmanship I’ve seen in modern cricket. His decision to appeal the run out of Grant Elliott in 2008 after he collided with Ryan Sidebottom was an appalling one and should have resulted in him being removed as captain in my book.

Any person stupid enough to do what Collingwood did that day isn’t fit to lead an international side.

So again, well done to MS Dhoni and the Indian side for a common sense decision.

A funny tweet I noticed in the aftermath of the incident said something along the lines of ‘it is the most shocking thing I’ve seen on a cricket field since Paul Harris got a ball to spin.’ A bit harsh on poor old Harris.

Lay Off Kevin Pietersen

I can’t believe I’m hearing and reading all this stuff that Kevin Pietersen should be dropped from the England test team if his form doesn’t pick up. Are people for real?

Ok, so no one is undroppable and if he is still struggling after another 6 or 7 tests then there could be good reason for dropping him. But talk of dropping him for the 3rd test against Sri Lanka is just madness.

There are a number of reasons why he shouldn’t be dropped,

1) After carrying Englnd’s batting for years, we owe him.
2) It was only 6 tests ago he scored a double hundred, before succumbing to his (so called) weakness of slow left hand bowlers – 227 runs later.
3) He averaged the small matter of 60 in the Ashes.
4) He scares the opposition, both Sri Lanka and India would rather not face him.
5) The opposition keep picking crappy left arm slow bowlers that the rest of England’s batsmen cash in on.
6) Consistency of selection – Alastair Cook and Paul Collingwood didn’t get dropped for far worse form.

Apart from all that he is a world class batsman, England need to back him, not drop him. Also, on the matter of slow left arm bowlers, Mike Atherton struggled against Glenn McGrath, Gooch against Alderman, etc – did we call for them to be dropped every time we played Australia? No, because they were our best batsmen and we rightly backed them.

Onto the TV coverage of Day 1 of the 2nd test and didn’t Ian Botham have a stinker. First he claimed the ball that got Andrew Strauss out LBW was too high and should be reviewed by England, before then seeing the replay show that it was hitting three quarters of the way up the stump.

Would Botham have slaughtered England for wasting a review had they done as he suggested? By the end of the days play, I believe he probably would have.

It didn’t get much better as he claimed that Sri Lanka wasted a review on Eoin Morgan’s wicket as the ball was (according to him) going down the leg side, before getting shown up again as the replay showed the ball hitting middle and leg.

As I haven’t been around for a while on here, I have another issue I wish to go back too and give my opinion on. I totally disagree with the criticism levelled at Andrew Strauss for allowing Ian Bell to complete his century on Monday.

I choose to look at this in the greater scheme of things and there are a number of factors why I think this was the correct thing too do. At the time an England victory was highly unlikely, so why not let Ian Bell further boost his confidence with another century?

England have invested a lot of time in Bell, centuries are only going to further build up Bell’s self belief and make him feel like he belongs in the England side. That’s why I think it was the correct call from Strauss, to criticise and say that England let Bell put a personal milestone ahead of the good of the team, is in my view, a short sighted theory.

For example look at the difference in Matt Prior’s performances last year against Pakistan when he finally felt part of the set-up. Bell seems like one of the more fragile players that needs to be built up like Prior was, this can only serve to help him.

It was a totally different set of circumstances from Mike Atherton’s decision to declare on Graeme Hick (98no) in Sydney back in 1995, but from what I can remember that proved to do England no favours at all in the long run.

Well done Ian Bell

He did it this time, Ian Bell managed to see a job through to the end.

All the usual characteristic traits of Bell where on view, he looked good, he got off to a good start, he looked totally at ease and comfortable with the situation.

So what could go wrong? As something usually does.

Would Bell’s past tormentor, Shane Warne turn up and ruin things? Or would Bell simply capitulate like he used too when the pressure was on?

Well apparently nothing went wrong on this occasion, Bell managed to tie the knot and is now proudly married to new wife Chantal.

Chantal Bell! Surely she will have to use her maiden name.

Anyway, Shane Warne didn’t turn up and humiliate Bell again by calling him the Sherminator, or shouting out in objection (and with a good reason) from the back when the ‘does anyone know any reason why this man and woman should not be joined in holy matrimony’ question was asked.

I bet Bell must of had nightmares about it happening though, Warne haunted him throughout the early days of his England career. I can just imagine Bell waking up in a cold sweat at the thought of Warne turning up and ruining his wedding.

On a serious note, it was great to see Bell take time out to turn up for Warwickshire’s media day today. After the long winter and the obvious fact that he has only been married a day, he could have well been forgiven for not turning up.

It shows that Bell is a staunch supporter of the his county and the county game, and for that I think he should be applauded.

Ian Bell, England’s new world beater!

While watching the afternoon session on Monday, seeing Alastair Cook and Paul Collingwood milking the stop gap easier bowling, waiting for the new ball, I just couldn’t help but think I knew what was going to happen to Ian Bell.

You just knew that when he came out to bat, that he would have a new ball zipping around his ears, with no assistance to the batsman whatsoever.

Unlucky for him you could say, and with Alastair Cook releasing the pressure on himself as well with his century, Bell would have known for definate that he would be the fall guy if changes where to be made later in the tour.

Cook did him no favours by getting out when he did either, exposing him to the new ball.

In 2008 after he scored his 199 at Lord’s against South Africa, I kept hearing about how Bell looked in good form but he kept getting out for 20’s and 30’s.

That for me is the main area that Bell lets himself down, when he is in form he dosen’t cash in enough. The bad times can be just around the corner at test level so you really need to make the most of things when you are in good touch.

When he finally came to the crease, I thought, here we go another failure.

But no, the top lip was curled up in the way it was during that 199 against South Africa, and the 72 against Australia that set up the Ashes victory, the fearsome side of Ian Bell was there for all to see (the one Shane Warne knows too well).

Bell stood firm and fought for his place in the side and is 55 not out over night.

He could again be accused of getting his runs easy as England were 297/4 when he came out to bat, in the eyes of the selectors though, they will be vindicated with their selections of Cook and Bell.

Lets see what tomorrow brings!

The real reason why Bell keeps his place

Seeing Ian Bell maintain his place in the England side for the 2nd Test against South Africa might disappoint more than a few fans who think he has more than had enough chances, it may well also have people scratching their heads wondering what the selectors see in him.

Could it be that just two tests ago he scored a battling 1st innings 72 at The Oval against Australia in the deciding Ashes test, top scoring (in 1st inns) and going a long way to setting up the test and series victory?

Or is it more likely that the selectors keep him in the side to take the heat off captain in waiting and a man they have invested a lot of time and effort into, the woefully out of form and having major technical problems, the found out star that is Alastair Cook.

In sticking with Bell – when England clearly needed a fifth bowler in the 1st test – the selectors are less likely to have to answer questions about Cook’s form and why they didn’t bring a spare top order batsman. In other words they won’t have to admit they got things wrong with the selection of the touring party!

All joking aside, neither man looks in any great shape. Alastair Cook looked all at sea in the 1st test and seemed that preoccupied with worrying about his feet and trying to implement his newly worked on (with Graham Gooch) technique that he seemed to miss the most obvious fundamental thing for a batsman – judging and playing the next ball on it’s merits.

I don’t doubt for a minute that Cook has not put in an immense amount of hard work in trying to rebuild his floundering test career since the Ashes series, working with Graham Gooch, he has attempted to remould his batting technique.

That could be regarded as a very high risk strategy going into a test series against a side as good as South Africa. After all, up until 12-18 months ago his technique had gone ok, so was it really worth him tearing up the script and starting again? I’m not so sure.

He has two test hundreds this year, both against West Indies. One was on a pudding wicket in the 4th test at Barbados. The other was in the home series at Chester-le-Street in May 2009 when West Indies turned up in presence only. Test centuries they might be, defining innings of note they are not.

I watch him at the moment and think he might as well just throw caution to the wind and go out and play a few shots and try to release the shackles.

In the case of Ian Bell, here is another thorn in the selectors side. Currently playing his 51st test and with the exception of the 2006 home series against Pakistan, he has never really looked at home in the side.

He has the footwork, the technique, all the shots, looks complete at the crease and is the textbook batsman of the England side, all these are the reasons the selectors stick with him.

He just seems to be lacking in that important area between the ears. He dosen’t appear to have that self belief that he belongs at test level, the body language is never great and it shows to the opposition.

He dosen’t look like he can even impose his character on his own team mates, let alone the opposition. Shane Warne summed him up with that memorable nickname in the Ashes series 2006/07.

Just how much longer the selectors can go on hoping he can finally turn that corner, who knows? The fact that he has already played 50 tests shows how much Geoff Miller and co want him to succeed. The opposite school of thought would suggest that if he hasn’t come good by now, he never will.

With only Luke Wright on this tour as a viable batting option, it looks like the selectors will either have to stick with Cook and Bell, or play five bowlers with Bell missing out.

Either way they need one or both to come good as they have backed themselves into a corner with the squad selection, it is time they both stood up and delivered and repaid the faith the selectors have shown in them.

No need for England to panic – yet!

Despite the hammering England suffered at the hands of Australia in the 4th test at Headingley last weekend there is no reason for wholesale changes and major panicking as the series is 1-1 going into the final test with all still to play for – a position everyone involved in the England set up would probably have gladly taken if offered at the start of the series.

Yes, the batting line-up does look in disarray and badly struggles without the steadying hand of Kevin Pietersen, England’s only true World class batsman. The selectors will probably point to the fact that England have scored over 375 in all three of their 1st innings in this series before Headingley saying that the batting can’t be that bad.

The facts are though that the tail in all of the 1st three tests has had to bail out the batsmen in getting the total to respectability, it’s a team game after all the selectors would probably rightly argue. Only Andrew Strauss though (once) has scored three figures in any of the four tests in this series, and for the top five that just isn’t good enough.

As stated above this is no time for panic and wholesale changes, team changes should be kept to minimum – that is for sure. If the situation dosen’t improve at The Oval and the top 5 buckle under the pressure yet again though it should be a different matter.

The time will surely have arrived for a rethink in the batting department before the South Africa series and with Andrew Flintoff going as well England can start looking at rebuilding the team. How many times now have the likes of Cook, Bell, Collingwood and now a new face in Ravi Bopara failed against the major test playing nations.

If the feeble nature that they continuously surrender isn’t bad enough the brainless shot selection and ill discipline and apparent inability to think on their own two feet and learn from previous mistakes and experiences is enough to drive an England supporter mad.

For me changes need to be made at the end of this series, I applaud the selectors for their loyalty and reluctance to chop and change at the drop of a hat like in the really bad old days (which I’m not for a minute suggesting we are in now), but you get the feeling that this current batch have been shown a bit too much faith.

Haven’t we been here before, Collingwood was on the verge of getting dropped last season against South Africa until he got his 100 at Edgbaston in the 3rd test. Bell has done nothing since his 199 in the 1st test at Lord’s in the same series. Alastair Cook could easily have gone after the 1st test in West Indies ealier this year when Bell was dropped after England’s diabolical 51 all out.

Again I’m not suggesting wholesale changes but a rethink is certainly needed. All in the England set up seem to think Ravi Bopara is going to be a good test player and I’m not going to disagree with them, the problem is he looks like he might be better suited down the order, maybe at No.5 or 6.

Is Pietersen willing to move up to No.3? If not that is a long standing problem. Opener Alastair Cook has 3 hundreds since December 2007 (two of which against West Indies), not good enough for a test opener! Could he bat at No.3 if another opener could be found? England have a lot of questions to answer, they can’t go on stumbling around hoping things will put themselves right.

It’s great caning the West Indian and New Zealand bowling attacks around in English conditions – a task not much tougher than playing against county cricket attacks – but when it comes to the big boys they are continuously found wanting.