Category Archives: County cricket

Wright for England

England’s seam attack is constantly shape shifting  One minute it is the most lethal attack in the world, and the next it is hit by injuries and a lack of depth. Perhaps it is time to inject the consistency and experience of a bowler who has had success in county cricket for a number of years now. This is of course a reference to Chris Wright.

I have on many occasions referred to Chris Wright as a bowler both similar height, ability to get bounce, pace and indeed action as Indian lanky seamer Ishant Sharma.

Yet at over 27 years of age, he is a much more experienced and clever bowler than a bowler of the stature of  Sharma, despite one having never played International cricket and one having drifted in and out of the Indian side. Wright made the England lions tour, is a realistic prospect to make the step up. He is considered as  England material, and Wright has done not only everything to deserve recognition, but he would fit very well into the England puzzle, particularly ahead of the Ashes where depth is key.

He would fit be compatible with England’s current set up for a number of reasons. England are currently using Steven Finn as the tall fast attacking bowler. Although highly talented, he is also highly inconsistent, highly uneconomical, and has perpetual rhythm problems that have even resulted in him having a shortened run up in tests. Finn is 24, so he has time on his side, but he unfortunately does not have form. Wright does though.

In 2011, he moved to Warwickshire and was trialed in four matches in which he took over 20 wickets. After being awarded a contract for 2012 he struck with 62 wickets in a championship winning year, and now just one and a bit games into the county championship season, he has already taken 13 wickets. He is in the form of his life. Utterly prolific, and he doing it for the champions of the first division.

Alarm bells should be ringing in the selectors head. What is county cricket for if a player cannot dominate and be recognised to fill a necessary hole?

Currently as stated there are problems with Finn. Anderson is at the top of his game as he has been for a number of years now, and Stuart Broad is also returning to form, but with the injuries to Tim Bresnan and Chris Tremlett, England’s seaming stocks have dwindled of late. There is a heavy reliance on Broad and Anderson, so England really need to address their depth. They have called on a number of player on the recent tour to India and New Zealand, notably Stuart Meaker, Graham Onions and Chris Woakes, all of whom are fine cricketers, but once more, none of whom really have speakable form nor replacements for a tall fast strike bowler. Wright is.. well right at the top of his game. In the prime of his career at 27 so make the most of it.

In light of the fact that there are 12 tests, a Champions trophy, and two limited overs series’ to come in the next 12 months against New Zealand and Australia, the overwhelming amount of cricket is likely to lead to some injuries. Depth is called into question with injuries, and the strength of replacements is an obvious immediate point.

Existing England players need to be managed to an extent, so ultimately if and when a bowler in particular needs to be replaced due to injury, or is rested from ODI cricket (e.g.) to preserve them from tests, it is a fantastic opportunity to spread the burden of the fixtures. It is the opening to give Chris Wright an opportunity as an immediate replacement. He should be on standby.

As with so many players, this is just the break needed. One good performance and it can get a shoe into the side on a more permanent basis. Know doubt Chris Wright would be eager to perform for England to the same level he has done for Warwickshire.

Having just signed an extended 4 year contract with Warwickshire, he is certainly seen as a long term prospect. He is clearly seen as valuable. And, if the selectors of the national side values anything from county cricket then perhaps they’d see this too, and reward his success

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Warwickshire must not do a Lancashire

Warwickshire won the county championship division one title in 2012 in brilliant fashion. They will be very cautious not to fall into the trap of previous champions Lancashire, who were relegated as defending champions.

It is not as clear cut as the football league say, which has consistent and regular winners year on year. No one team dominates. Since 2007, five different counties have won the division one title ; Warwickshire, Lancashire, Nottinghamshire, Durham twice and Sussex, so it is clear it’s hard to follow up a win with a second.

Chris Woakes

Chris Woakes

New Warwickshire coach Dougie Brown coach has recognised, before he was appointed as coach, that with winning the title comes a certain status and reputation. he told ecb.co.uk that:

“I don’t for a one minute think that Lancashire were complacent. They were the Champion County, the ones everyone wanted to beat and we need to be very wary that it’s going to be the case with us.”

Brown has been made new coach of Warwickshire, after former coach Ashley Giles has been made the England limited-overs coach. It is a disruptive change, but a forced one. Unfortunately for Warwickshire, so far it is the only real change.

The Bears coach recognised that Warwickshire need to improve and build on the success of 2012 but they could actually be at risk of losing a number of key players without having built on their side.

Although they have secured Jeetan Patel as their overseas player, who took 51 vital wickets in 13 matches, a New Zealand call up will be likely with Daniel Vettori perpetually injured. Chris Woakes seems to be on the cusp of the England ODI side, and could certainly make the Champions trophy squad, not to mention due to the sheer amount of cricket England play this summer, Woakes could find himself with an England cap in any format. So, again, Warwickshire could suffer from losing 2 key players.

They will certainly have limited access to their England stars Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell.

Other stars of last year, Varun Chopra, Chris Wright and Rikki Clarke all remain, hopefully, but there is a risk of falling behind and ‘doing a Lancashire’, if the squad is not sufficiently improved further from last year. So far nothing has been changed.

In the last 6 years, the winning division 1 championship side did not contain the leading run scorer and only twice the leading wicket taker (in 2009 and 2007). This outlines the neccesity of a balanced side, and a team performance.

Last year Warwickshire’s allrounders, Rikki Clarke and Chris Woakes, exemplified just this: Rikki Clarke scored 3 hundreds (joint top in the club for 2012 with Varun Chopra) and amassed 826 runs overall, in addition to 20 wickets. Fellow allrounder Woakes averaged 71.83 with the bat, with 2 hundreds, in addition to 27 wickets in 8 games, again a strong all-round display by junior and senior.

Warwickshire’s frontline bowlers were also exceptional with Chris Wright (62 wickets at 24.06) but interestingly with only 2 five wicket halls, highlighting the fact it was competitive. Keith Barker also took 56 wickets at an average just under 21, both of whom were supplemented by Woakes, Patel and Clarke.

Next year Warwickshire should benefit from Boyd Rankin who returns following a year of turbulent injury. He is exclusively a Warwickshire player now as he has quit Ireland duty.

It is clear that once more Warwickshire will need a well rounded and strong side with lot’s of options.

However, their major rivals have all improved their squads. They all want to beat the champions.

Yorkshire for example have brought in seamer Jack Brookes and Liam Plunkett, Nottinghamshire claimed England seamer Ajmal Shahzad and Aussie opener Ed Cowan, Somerset have secured Alviro Petersen and Abdur Rehman, Sussex Rory Hamilton Brown and Chris Jordan, and Surrey even audaciously captured South Africa captain Graeme Smith in addition to Vikram Solanki.

There are still months ahead of the county championship to change this, but it is noticeable that competitors to the title are already planning the demise of the new champions.

As has been shown, it is not hugely common for one team to win two championships in a row, and Warwickshire are facing strong competition as their main rivals are already building up new improved squads. Although last year Warwickshire won, they need to step up further. They need to add and improve. Not just maintain what they have.

Dougie Brown says they will learn from Lancashire, but so far, not much has been shown to prove that. Few changes are taking place.

The coming months will be crucial.

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Politics of Pietersen

An England side with KP is undeniably a better side than one without him. However, it is important to look at how and why the events that have unfolded have placed him in his current ridiculous and almost entirely self made predicament. I will look at the timeline of events in the ‘Pietersen VS ECB’ fiasco to appreciate the lunacy of the situation and explain why after reading lots of articles and watching lots of interviews. It’s the only possible outcome to see him unfortunately dropped.

The debacle began on the 31st May when Pietersen out of the blue decided to announce he has retired from ODI cricket, citing the “intensity of the schedule”. Shortly after this KP says he will carry on playing T20, which was not an option as the ECB reject this due their  policy on selection. A player must be available for both ODI and T20I in order to play either. It is totally irrelevant that this is an arbitrary and pointless policy,the fact is, that is the policy and Pietersen  thought he could take the ECB on and failed .

The second installment in this soap opera came between the 13th -18th July  when Pietersen hit a brilliant double hundred in a rare appearance for Surrey. He used this as a platform to show his talent that could be missed, but after not being named in the ECB’s provisional 30-man squad for the Twenty20 World Cup in Sri Lanka he is devastated. He back-peddles and tries to get his foot back in the door but states he ‘would only play on the condition that scheduling issues are addressed.” He reasserts his desire to play “in all formats” and simultaneously says he wants scheduling changes which one can only assume are loaded with more retirement threats if not met. Utterly confusing and unstable for the team

Not only is this a not consistent with the ECB central contract regarding availability for all forms but is also completely incompatible. Either he wants to have a break from the schedule or he doesn’t. He can’t ask for a break and go to play more. What else could the ECB do other than say stop trying to dictate to us and assert their authority ?

Pietersen’s magnificent 200 for Surrey

Part three came between the 4th -6th August  with Pietersen’s most dynamic stunning and match saving knock of 149 on day three of the second Test match against South Africa at Headingley. Clearly still seen as stable enough to pick and comfortable enough to perform. Despite this, It was a very obvious nudge in the stomach to the selectors. ‘Pick me or you will will miss this’ kind of knock. The fact is the ECB could have already dropped him but didn’t. They were lenient and although Pietersen’ts antics were unsettling thus far, it’s clear that his talent was still more important than his silly comments and outrageous demands.

Part four  – After opening the batting in a short attempted run chase in the aftermath of his breath taking century, Pietersen gave a inexplicable interview to TMS. He hinted that he could retire from Test cricket  and ‘he could not confirm whether that innings would be his ‘last test innings’’. He voiced his anger that details of his meetings with the ECB have been leaked to the media and said issues within the dressing room need resolving. KP being abrasive and aggressive selfish and egotistical were completely centered around his own interest. He is clearly now harming the balance of the side by personalizing the fiasco, talking about the dressing room outside of the game. His hundred is one thing but his comments are another

Between the 8th-16th  August, after his ton and comments he had a rant about a parody Twitter account – @kevpietersen24. This humorous mocking incident was overshadowed by the subsequent revelation.  Texts   to members of the South African team during the Leeds Test by Pietersen had purportedly spoken ill of captain Strauss and coach Flower. Despite his talent with the bat and form he was in, it would be inexcusable to keep him in the side until the exact details of the messages were revealed and there was clarity over his England future.

KP clawed back dignity when he published a video on YouTube on the 11th of August  in which he reiterates commitment to the England team. He once more changes his mind and claims that he is now available to play for England in all three forms of the game. He also apologized for his behavior and says he must reign himself in.

Between the 12th -14th August  the apology and confirmation of commitment (which was not cleared by the ECB) still led to him being  dropped from the England squad for the third Test at Lord’s.

I know a lot of people such as Piers Morgan looked past his antics and said pick him anyway but The ECB were clear and justified with their dropping of KP. They say he was ‘unable to clarify that the text messages he sent to South African players were not disparaging about his team-mates or the ECB management’. This is a fair reason both due to upsetting other members of the dressing room and the chemistry of the side. Furthermore when the captain says he feels ‘let down’ and  the ECB say there is a ‘trust issue between Pietersen and other players’ the day before a test there is no way he can play. Regardless of his obvious natural class, Pietersen cannot find a way back.

Pietersen walking off at Headingley unknowing of the drama to unfold

Pietersen called a press conference in whcih he apologizes but essentially he had still put himself in an awful situation. The conference was largely saying how he would reveal more after the 3rd test. Little did he know by that point that  the only real option the ECB have was to drop him. He had done just about everything that a player should be dropped for. He has retired and unretired on the basis of personal gain, Slagged off players and coaches in addition to being dis loyal to England wanting to quit international cricket to play IPL.

He has said he will reign himself in. If he does then fine. Get him back. Until that he needs to cool down. I’m sure sooner or later England will need him again and this could be short lived anyway