News in Brief

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26 October 2010

New address

Mark Tilley Media has moved. All existing content from this site plus additional articles are located at a new address:

www.marktilley.wordpress.com

It would be great if any links to this address could be updated accordingly. Many thanks.

MT

20 July 2010

Alastair Cook – Time for the vice captain to become one of the greats

The second half of England’s winter was notable for a tour to Bangladesh that had a 100% win record. Every international that England played, they won. Admittedly, the calibre of opposition wasn’t the highest – Bangladesh, though improving, are no Australia. But England were calm, efficient and they played their cricket in a professional and highly effective manner. They were also led by Alastair Cook, deputising for the absent Andrew Strauss. Cook, a man touted for the England captaincy almost from the morning of his Test debut, led them to a 3-0 one day series win and a 2-0 Test clean sweep, in which he racked up two hundreds in four innings.

Whilst many held reservations about his inexperienced captaincy, few could complain about his batting form. A Test best of 173 in Chittagong was followed by a match winning 109 not out in Dhaka as Cook, like so many before him, found the captaincy to be a positive influence on his game. Now that Strauss has returned to lead the team and Cook has returned to the ranks, what’s next for the young left hander? After a stellar start to his international career, his star has ever so slightly fallen. Despite the good recent form, the runs aren’t coming as prolifically as they once were and it only takes a couple of bad scores for the cynics to start questioning his value to the side.

Early success

Cook’s debut seems like a lifetime ago now. Drafted into the injury hit touring party in India in 2006, he made his debut in Nagpur and immediately had people talking. A sedate 60 followed by a classy 104 not out demonstrated a temperament that was ideally suited to the rigours of Test match cricket. He’d already set pulses racing the previous summer against the touring Australians when he raced to a double century in a single day and now he was confirming what those in the know had long suspected about him. His was an old head on young shoulders and he confirmed his promise with stylish hundreds against Pakistan that summer.

A chastening Ashes experience followed. Cook’s technique was brutally dissected by a rampant Glenn McGrath and his Australian colleagues, yet a fighting century in a losing cause in Perth enhanced his standing and hundreds against the West Indies the following summer put him statistically amongst the greats. At 22 years of age and with six Test centuries to his name, he was only two behind the number held by Sir Donald Bradman and Sachin Tendulkar at the same age. Cook was being earmarked as a fixture of the England side and as a future leader.

Problems and promotion

A tough period followed. Between December 2007 and February 2009, Cook failed to pass three figures. The fifties were coming with regularity but he was unable to capitalise on the numerous good starts. It was a frustrating time for him and the weight of expectancy was weighing heavily on his still young shoulders. The fiasco surrounding the England side at the time didn’t help. Coach Peter Moores and captain Kevin Pietersen were sacked after a dispute and, despite Cook’s promotion to vice captain under the new leadership of Strauss, he, like his team, were suffering.

There was soon to be, however, a brief return to big scoring. Cook hit an uncomplicated 139 not out in a bore draw with the West Indies in Barbados before racking up 160 in a win over the same opposition. Questions were still being raised about his technique, though, and particularly about his weaknesses around his off stump. A lean Ashes summer followed and after a double failure in the first Test against South Africa in Centurion, Cook’s place in the side was, for the first time, genuinely under threat. He responded in brilliant style with a gutsy century in the next Test to help set up victory and a pair of fifties in Cape Town confirmed to many that he had ironed out the flaws in his technique. Gone were the careless thrashes outside off stump. Back was the resolute concentration and desire for runs. As the England team were on the mend, so was Cook.

The next step

Though his numbers aren’t so atmospherically high as they once were, Cook is still statistically punching above his weight. 56 Test matches have brought him over 4000 runs and 12 centuries. He averages a very healthy 44. He’s led the team and put in match winning performances doing so. So what’s the next rung on the ladder for him?

Consistency would be a good start. Cook performed brilliantly with the bat in Bangladesh but for the return series in England last month, he failed to pass fifty. Admittedly, he only batted in three innings and was on the receiving end of some questionable umpiring decisions but he’ll know more than most how fickle the game can be. A couple more low scores could see the same panicking over his place from last summer. But it would be best for him to look forward.

Along with his opening partner Strauss, Cook is one of the bedrocks of this team and still one of the first names on the team sheet. His no-nonsense approach to accumulating runs can only be a positive for the side and if he is able to recapture the stratospheric form of his early England days, then the team will have rediscovered a precocious talent. The Ashes series in Australia this winter is a perfect opportunity for Cook to erase the demons of his last trip and to consolidate his standing as one of England’s finest. That’s what he should aspire to be – one of the greats.

They say that with great power comes great responsibility and, make no bones about it, Cook certainly carries the weight of responsibility. Be it responsibility to get England off to a good start or to help his captain in the field or to play his role as a senior figure. He is no longer the child batting talent of this side, fawned upon by the media. Cook has grown up. Time to start acting the part.

Time to step up to the next level.

(blokely.com, 2010)

16 July 2010

Enough said

28 June 2010

What was it that changed England's one day fortunes?

Cast your mind back to September. England had just won the Ashes and there was a glorious feel-good atmosphere reverberating around the game as the team headed into a seven match one day series with the wounded Australians. What followed next was akin to lambs heading to the slaughter. England were out-played, out-thought and out-muscled to the tune of a 6-1 series defeat, with the solitary win coming in the last game.

England were a spent force and their one day cricket looked bland and lacking in ideas. The batting was one dimensional and seemed to get bogged down to easily. All too often, England would crawl to a pitiful 70 or so after the first 20 overs, leaving too much work to be done by the rest of the team. The bowling, though impressive in patches, was ordinary and showed an inability to cope with aggressive batsmen.

England, so often the latecomers to the one day party, were at rock bottom and the situation didn’t look too hopeful. But less than a year later, we enter into another one day series with the old enemy and we’re brimming with confidence. Hell, we’ve even got a one day World Cup title to our name. So what has changed? What inspired this remarkable turnaround?

Aggression

Many credit the success of batsman Eoin Morgan as core aspect of England’s progression as a one day side. Dublin-born Morgan, who made his debut last year, revolutionised the side with his unorthodox and highly attacking style of play. His 67 off just 34 balls against South Africa really caught the eye of the cricketing world and the explosive performances that followed made him one of the few English players to earn a lucrative Indian Premier League contract.

Since Morgan’s inclusion in the side, England have played a new brand of exciting, attacking cricket. Players like skipper Andrew Strauss and Paul Collingwood, who were previously thought to be incapable of producing big-hitting innings, have transformed their one day games with aggressive shot selection. Naturally hard-hitting players such as Kevin Pietersen and Luke Wright have been allowed to let their strokeplay reign supreme.

And new players have been brought in to help accelerate this process. Craig Kieswetter, a wicket keeper known around the domestic game for his ability to blaze away at the top of the order, has been fast-tracked into the England side and has made an excellent start to his international career, hitting a century in only his third game.

Twenty20

Despite being the nation that gave Twenty20 cricket to the world, England have traditionally struggled in the shortest format of the game. But the new all-guns-blazing England have rapidly altered their T20 fortunes also. Choosing a bold selection policy for the World Twenty20 tournament in the Caribbean back in May, England produced a string of hugely impressive performances, mixing aggressive batting with intelligent bowling.

With players like Kieswetter, Pietersen and Morgan all regularly scoring at an extremely healthy rate, the bowlers were able to come into their own. Tim Bresnan and Ryan Sidebottom, two players discarded by recent England selection policies, kept a lid on the opposition along with Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann. Though England’s game plan was evident, it was also highly effective and impossible to defend against.

England blazed their way into the final and held their nerve to turn out another highly efficient performance, taking the honours against Australia. It was a symbolic tournament win and England’s first major one day trophy. It showed that England had changed the way they approached limited overs cricket and that their bold new tactics were here to stay.

The future

So whilst England are involved in the current one day series with the Aussies, thoughts will surely be on the 50 over World Cup, scheduled for next February on the subcontinent. With the advent of Twenty20 cricket and the dwindling interest in the 50 over format, it could turn out to be England’s last chance of claiming a World Cup triumph. It is clear that planning has gone into England’s selection – the inclusion of a second spinner in Michael Yardy shows that England are prepping their team for the slow, spinning pitches that they will encounter next year.

And with players such as Pietersen and Collingwood hitting their peak, there remains a good chance that England could replicate their success of last month’s exploits in the Caribbean. However, the success they’ve had so far is one thing. Producing it consistently is the next challenge and England will need to show some self-belief should their new system occasionally fail to produce the goods.

Still, there’s much to be excited about and with young players like Kieswetter, Wright and Broad all certain to improve, English fans can look forward to a positive future. Gone are the days of slow scoring defeats and abject humiliations. England have a young and vibrant team that can achieve big things. Who knows? We could be celebrating another trophy in a years time.

(Blokely.com, 2010)

White Hart Lane

White Hart Lane is the home of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, who play in the English Premier League and have a long-standing reputation for playing attractive football. Nicknamed 'Spurs', the North London side enjoy a great deal of support and are historically one of the most successful teams in English football history. They enjoy a fierce rivalry with neighbours Arsenal, though they are generally considered to be the weaker of the two teams at present. Tottenham have enjoyed a period of slow progress recently, however, and observers say that the gap between the clubs is narrowing. White Hart Lane is a comparatively small stadium with a capacity of approximately 36,240 but the club currently have plans to build a new, bigger ground very close to the current site. The new stadium is planned to hold around 55,000 supporters and will be considered as a host venue should England be awarded the 2018 World Cup. As a result of the huge fanbase and limited number of seats, tickets for Spurs matches are sometimes difficult to come by. Visit www.tottenhamhotspur.com for more details.

Address: Bill Nicholson Way, 748 High Road, N17 0AP
Telephone: 0844 499 5000

(LondonTown.com, 2010)

Friends Provident Twenty20: Surrey v Middlesex

The stars of the international game descend on South London as the Surrey Lions host the Middlesex Panthers in a thrilling evening of high-octane Twenty20 cricket at The Brit Oval. As well as being a local derby with loads to play for, the game will be illuminated by the presence of some of the most explosive players in the world. Australian legend Adam Gilchrist should open the batting for Middlesex along with the big-hitting David Warner while middle-order powerhouse Andrew Symonds will want to get one over on his compatriots and help his Surrey team to a win. Both sides have been in sparkling form in this season's Friends Provident t20 tournament and will have high hopes of coming out on top at the Oval. One thing's for sure: expect fireworks and a shed load of sixes.

Address: The Brit Oval, Kennington, London, SE11 5SS
Telephone: 020 7820 5700

(LondonTown.com, 2010)

4 June 2010

Hard-Hitting Hants Put Essex on the Back Foot

Neil McKenzie provided the anchor around which Hampshire batted on an interesting first day's play at The Rose Bowl. McKenzie made a fine 83 before falling just before the close, on a day where several players got in but none were able to go on to the big score needed.

Hampshire, after winning the toss and electing to bat, began the day tentatively and paid the price early on. Opener Jimmy Adams departed for just 3, nicking one behind to James Foster off Maurice Chambers.

This brought Michael Lumb to the crease aiming to avoid his fourth consecutive duck in all formats, which he did with an early single. Despite recent stories circulating in the press regarding his availability for selection, Essex included Pakistan spinner Danish Kaneria in their side and he produced a well executed maiden in his first over as Lumb and Michael Carberry tried to build a solid foundation after the early loss.

And build they did, taking advantage of perfect batting conditions under bright sunshine. They inched their way to a fifty partnership against a good Essex bowling unit that looked threatening early on. The pair expertly drew the sting from the away side’s attack, though, and headed into lunch with Carberry on 40, Lumb on 30 and Hampshire in a solid position on 82 for 1.

Essex struck immediately after the break, however, when Lumb, who had battled hard for his runs, was bowled by Kaneria. Undeterred, Carberry moved on to his fifty with a punch through the covers and a beautifully timed pull shot off David Masters, both shots travelling to the boundary. Despite looking in such good touch, he was out soon after, smashing a cover drive straight to Jaik Mickleburgh at extra cover, leaving Hampshire in a slightly precarious position.

New batsman James Vince made an instant impression with a regal drive through the covers and, before long, he and partner Neil McKenzie were regularly finding the boundary edge. Vince was particularly strong in the cover area and the pair put on an important fifty stand at a run rate of just over four and a half. But just as Vince was looking like he might go on to a big one, he failed to get on top of a short one from Chambers and was caught and bowled for an impressive 44.

Sean Ervine, promoted up the order, got going with a big heave for six over square leg. But, having played himself in for a few overs, he then got an edge to a spinning Kaneria delivery and was caught at slip by Essex skipper Mark Pettini for just 15. And captain Nic Pothas didn’t last for very long either, trapped lbw for just a single in Ravi Bopara’s first over of the day. Hampshire went into tea on 190-6, with McKenzie defiantly unbeaten on 38.

The final session of the evening saw Hampshire desperately needing to stick in and the tail needed to play around the established McKenzie.

Dominic Cork helped the South African take the score past 200 and the veteran even managed to loft Kaneria over long on for a mightily impressive boundary before cutting Bopara behind square on the off side.

McKenzie reached his fifty with a neatly steered single before a towering six from Cork off Ryan ten Doeschate brought up the fifty partnership as Hampshire fought back after those pre-tea break wickets. The new ball was taken by the away side but it was more of the same treatment as Cork moved into the 40’s with another boundary.

A flurry of boundaries, including a fiercely struck cover drive off a ten Doeschate full toss, advanced McKenzie’s score also, as Essex strived to break what had turned into an excellent partnership.

It may have taken a hint of fortune but Cork brought up an excellent fifty with a slice over the covers for four. Soon after the pair were exchanging handshakes in the middle after the hundred partnership was reached. But it wasn’t smiles for long - McKenzie’s long innings was brought to an end as he was bowled around his legs by the returning Bopara for 83.

Cork remained unbeaten on 54 alongside David Balcombe as Hampshire ended the day on 298-7.

(rosebowlplc.com, 2010)

3 June 2010

Royals Beat Spitfires in Nail-Biting Finish

Hampshire made the worst possible start to their run chase as Michael Lumb pulled the first ball from Stevens straight to the waiting fielder. Tight bowling from Stevens and Mahmood kept the pressure on the batsmen but a flurry of boundaries off Stevens’ second over kicked started the Royals’ run chase. However, after an assured start, Carberry was bowled by Simon Cook, leaving Hampshire teetering on 29-2.

Ervine joined Adams at the crease and the two put on a nerve-reducing partnership. Ervine looked particularly in the mood and found the fine leg area much to his liking, hitting identical boundaries. With almost half the runs made, Adams gave his wicket away, top edging a sweep off Tredwell straight to Khan at midwicket. Ervine was then dismissed in similar fashion and Hampshire looked to be feeling the heat out in the middle.

Razzaq joined McKenzie at the crease and the two took Hampshire to within 20 runs of their target with some clean striking and sensible running. Razzaq, known for his big hitting for Pakistan, deposited leg-spinner Bandara over midwicket for consecutive fours and looked to be steering the Royals home. But the returning Stevens had him caught behind as the nerves increased around the ground.

Needing a run a ball from the last three overs, Pothas and McKenzie calmly took Hampshire towards their victory target. Bandara’s last over was picked off for two boundaries and with two needed off the last three balls, Pothas ran one down to third man for the winning runs.

(rosebowlplc.com, 2010)