Friday, September 15, 2006

Sweet Sixteen?

Some random thoughts on the touring party - plenty more of this sort of thing to come!

Strauss - With Tresco's problems, Strauss is going to have to be the rock on which any large England score is going to be built, at least until Cook comes to terms with the Australian bowling attack and conditions. He was the only person to get two centuries last summer and once he got over his 'Warne phobia' (which he did through a load of hard work) was always a safe bet for a decent score.

Mahmood - At the moment he reminds me of Norman Cowans - young, raw, very quick with bags of potential but very likely to suffer the odd 12-0-78-0 kind of day. On the other hand, he's also as likely to produce an inspired 4-10 spell that could turn a match. Not quite a direct replacement for Simon Jones, but we could do a whole lot worse.

Harmy - Someone really needs to tell him his fortune, and make it clear that it's time he really stepped up and produce the sort of pace and accuracy that we've only seen recently in fits and starts. If anyone's going to get through it's going to be Flintoff. Thanks heavens we've moved away from the Illingworth/Dexter era. Otherwise Harmison would have been in the nets being forced to bowled left handed wearing a dinner jacket. Talking of clothes, management should be happy to let him wear his Newcastle United shirt whenever he wants, (receptions, official functions...) fill his room with crates of Brown Ale and turn the air conditioning up full to recreate the freezing conditions found on the Tyne (dry ice makes a nice substitute for fog)

KP - Prediction time - he's going to make a huge score in this series - 200 plus. By the end of the series, He'll have wound up thousands of people and taken a heap of abuse, but no one will dare leave their seat when he walks out to bat.

Plunkett - In some England squads, there's someone who gets referred to in polite company as the 'goat photographer'. To put it bluntly, the title reflects the feeling that he must have pictures of one of the selectors in a compromising position with a cloven footed animal to have achieved selection. Fully fit, he might have been worth gambling on, but as he's one of an ever growing list of players who will have to prove their fitness before getting on the plane, it seems an odd choice.

Monty - Should be first choice spinner, but I suspect that he'll only play when two spinners are required (Sydney & Adelaide) Of course, if Giles is unfit it's a whole different story, to the extent that England may well restructure their team to make sure they get the most from him.

Giles - First response is to think of him as the faithful family retainer who's only in the squad because he's best mates with the (non playing) skipper. But then you remember the golden moments from last summer, the fact that he's no mug with the bat and can catch anything that goes through the gully region and you start to realise that he's not a bad choice after all. Must be his last tour though.

Read - Hasn't done anything wrong since his recall, which is enough to have him pencilled in for the first test, regardless of what happens in the warm up games.

Jones - His selection suggests that Fletcher and Co still have an open mind when it comes to choosing an 'England No. 1'. Otherwise, they'd have taken the opportunity to go for a Prior or a Foster.

Freddie - Leaner, fitter, and feared. One thing he won't do is win the toss at Brisbane and ask the Australians to bat first. He won't take a backward step when the Australians come out swinging, and there'll be hell to pay for anyone in the team who does.

Trescothick - You try to deny it, but in all honesty he's a 'accident waiting to happen'. (Source - Mike Selvey) If your mind is in a fragile state, the very last place you want to be going is on a cricket tour to Australia. If he does come through, and is in contention for the first test, there might be an arguement for batting him at six. Let's pray he does get sorted, because he's the only batsman in the squad who's scored a test match run in Australia, and only one of four in the whole squad.

Collingwood - He'll feel right at home in Melbourne where there's an Aussie Rules team named after him - though he'll think differently when he finds out their nicknames is the 'Magpies'. In terms of temperament, and making the best use of his ability, he's the nearest we've got to an Aussie in the squad, aprt from the real one of course!

Bell - Seemed out of his depth last summer, although gutted out a couple of 50's at Old Trafford. This time, could be a good outside bet to be the top England run getter. Also a handy man 'under the helmet' at short leg.

Cook - In all probability, he's likely to end up opening with Strauss. Quick quiz - When was the last time England had an 'All Public School' opening pair? I've mentioned here before that he's more obsessive about simply scoring lots of runs than anyone since Sir Geoffrey was in his pomp. No bad thing!

Hoggard - Yet another fitness worry. In a way though, this could be a blessing in disguise. Australian wickets really won't suit him, and it's a long way to go to hope for the odd overcast day to come along. if he doesn't play, he's very likely to pack his rucksack and tour round with the Barmy Army...

Anderson - With Hoggard, Anderson and Plunkett all in the squad, Stuart Broad looks the best bet in the 'first to be called up from the reserve squad' stakes.

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