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Luck definitely is not a word appearing in the England team’s vocabulary this winter. With 5 ODIs and 3 T20s England managed just one win across both formats.

Whatever happened to Australia over the course of four months I don’t know, or to England for that matter?

Is it bad that I’m going to focus on England’s ODI win? Just for a little bit at least, you have to give me something to be happy about where cricket is concerned.

Again, it was Ben Stokes who stepped up to the mark in the 4th ODI with 70 runs and a nice 4 wickets to accompany that. Bell, Cook and Buttler were also among those who performed, the latter in particular pulling out all the stops to stop what could have been another Australian whitewash.

To be fair England weren’t too bad in the limited overs, ok they were, I mean the scores show that. But Balance, Morgan, Root and Bopara individually made pretty decent contributions across the board.

But like I’ve said so many times already these past few months, and yes Australia revel in your glory, as they were just the better team… again.

As an England fan it’s been tough going sitting through defeat after defeat, all I want is just a glimmer of hope and to take a series win away with us this winter.

Not too much to ask is it?

I hope not as we have the West Indies limited overs series’ coming up at the end of this month, not to forget the World T20 (my hopes will be high, whether that’s a good thing or not).

And whether we win or not it will be without controversy maker number one, yes, KP. As we’ve seen, Pietersen no longer forms a part of the England cricket team and never will. Shall we call it KP-gate? That’s what most people seem to do now.

Regardless, a big shake up is happening, Flower’s resigned, Swanny’s no longer the team joker – yes I’m still in shock – and a new England set-up is already in the making.

Hopefully exciting and new challenges lie ahead, don’t know if you agree but I totally feel it’s time for something different, especially with such poor results Down Under.

All we can do is see what’s to come this summer, but one thing’s for sure, it won’t be the England team we know.

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So, England managed to pull of an impressive win in time for the Champions Trophy this weekend. Despite losing the series 2-1, the outstanding batting performances from Buttler and Morgan, 47* (28) and 49 respectively, have set England’s sights high. Not to mention Broad and Finn are back, fit and ready to take England to supremacy in the 50-over game.

New Zealand did prove to be a tough match in this ODI series, with the likes of Guptill, Southee and Taylor a contest for our side. But, England was not without talented individuals, with Trott, Anderson and Bell all proving their worth; not forgetting Tredwell’s notable first performance in the series, along with Root’s maiden international ODI wicket.

With the Champions Trophy and Ashes series ahead, it could be said that England were in great form heading into the busy summer that awaits.

It wasn’t necessarily the individuals’ performances however, that were catching the attention of the public, media and the commentators themselves. The topic on everybody’s lips over the past One-Day series was the concern over England’s kit in the shorter formats.

Bright, bold and somewhat controversial, England’s vibrant red attire led some fans reminiscing over the kits of previous years. But the question is, is it really that bad?

It isn’t as if we haven’t seen red England shirts in the past, take 2006 and 2009 where red was the “dominant” colour. Some fans and pundits alike just can’t get their heads round the idea, I guess I didn’t even realise that it was such a major part of the game as it is.

Out of interest what do you as the fans think… is it that you just prefer the kits of the recent years, or maybe are you just a die-hard fan of the kits of yesteryear? Let’s see if this year, it really is a big deal, especially with the Champions Trophy about to get underway.

With that debate started, only time will tell as to how England will fare in this year’s competition. With the first game set for this Saturday against our closest rivals, Australia, it sure will be a battle worth watching. Let’s hope for more of the same this weekend where our batting is concerned, as it doesn’t come more entertaining than that.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (espncricinfo.com)

Photo Credit: Getty Images (espncricinfo.com)

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Wow! Well my nerves went through the roof at the end; I think I am just about recovering from what was an incredible end to a fantastic T20 series. It was nervy stuff, but England held on to be crowned victorious. It wasn’t certain though that England were going to walk away with the series, losing the first game and then levelling it 1-1, England had to pull out all the stops today to get over the line. They did just this, going right down to the wire; Pakistan needed 6 off the last ball, but a fabulous last over from Dernbach saw an elated England team overwhelmed by winning the series 2-1!

Getting off to a decent start as always seems to be the case; England had another mini collapse in the middle overs, which made the outcome of the innings seem ominous. With the middle order annihilated by spin, yes no surprise it was Ajmal, Kieswetter went first, despite getting off to a great start with a 4 and a 6 already to his name. Bopara, Morgan, Bairstow and Buttler all failed to reach double figures, with only Bopara falling to the pace of Cheema, who had a surprisingly good spell of bowling, proving to be tricky for the England batsmen. Patel supported KP with a good knock, keeping off the pressure, as he also hit a 4 and a 6 taking him to 16 before becoming Ajmal’s fourth and final victim. It was opener Pietersen though; that I suppose you could say saved England’s innings.

  • Kevin Pietersen – With England falling to 89-6 and already 15 overs in, Pietersen provided a stable, yet powerful innings that helped push England’s innings up to a decent total. With 6 wonderfully timed fours, and 1 crisp six, KP’s innings seemed to ooze skill and class, which is not something we always see. However, it must be said that in spite of what we all think about KP, he is great to watch when in form, especially in the shorter formats. Reaching his second 50 of the series, KP hit his way to 62* soaking up the applause at the end of the innings, and he was the vital batsmen in England’s line up.

The chase now being set at 130 had to be defended by England; it was a tough job, especially on the slow pitch in Abu Dhabi. The first breakthrough was early on, that of Hafeez, with a caught and bowled by Dernbach, his second in two matches. Pakistan on 8-1 were in a tricky situation if they didn’t kick on, but the middle order put up a fight. Partnerships between Shafiq and Zia (40), and Misbah and Akmal (37), really spurred them on even though Broad, Swann and Dernbach were in the wickets. Along with running out Shafiq and Afridi for 34 and 3 respectively, Pakistan were reduced to 120-5, needing 10 runs with just 4 balls remaining. Unable to hit the winning runs, it was all down to one man who left his best over until last…

  • Jade Dernbach – The specialist death bowler has helped England out of a tricky spot or two, but today was just that little bit different. Pakistan needed 13 to win from the last over, and every England fan seemed to be on the edge of their seats. A wide increased the tension and the last ball was nearly unbearable to watch… what actually happened though was fantastic. Dernbach unhappy with just a dot wiped out Misbah’s middle stump with a slower ball. Let the celebrations begin! A superb final delivery, Dernbach wrapped up the game, and the series with it, figures of 2-24 highlighting his feat.

It was such a relief to see England go all the way, and finishing the tour on a high England can walk away from the UAE with their heads held high. Yes losing the Test series was a bitter disappointment, but they can only come back better, showing glimpses of hope by walking away with successive series wins. The limited over formats were kind to England this tour, but it’s all about the Test in Sri Lanka, let’s hope there are some much-improved Test performances. It does raise a few questions though, namely over Morgan’s form, will we see him selected in the tour to Sri Lanka in late –March, well we’ll find out tomorrow morning as to who has made selection.

With this being England’s last game for just under a month it was great to see smiling faces and a victory for them to walk away with, expect much more blogging to come as we approach the Sri Lankan series. Not forgetting the County season, which I have mentioned will soon be around the corner!  However, for now it is time to reflect on a tour with mixed emotions, but one in which England came out on top at the end, Pakistan certainly played well throughout and did deserve their Test victory. I hope you have enjoyed this UAE tour as much as I have, and there is still plenty more cricket to come! :D

Photo Credit: ECB (ecb.co.uk)

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The series is now wide open with England defeating Pakistan in the second T20 leaving it all to play for.  England bouncing back after a mediocre performance on Thursday had improved their game ten-fold beating their opposition by 38 runs in an England dominated match. Perhaps the difference being England winning the toss elected to bat first, leaving Pakistan to chase a very reasonable 150. England got off to a great start, bringing up 35 runs within 5 overs, with both KP and Kieswetter looking in good form. However, each innings isn’t perfect, but losing 4 wickets in the next 5 overs was just a little bit nerve-wracking. At 79-4 it didn’t look really promising, with both openers gone and 10 overs still left for England to face. But for one man he loves a challenge, and he certainly wasn’t fazed by the mysterious spin of Ajmal, or at least he didn’t show it…

  • Jonny Bairstow – Not coming into the T20 series with great form, or little practice aside from Thursday’s game, Bairstow definitely took charge from the start. Powering his way to his maiden T20 half-century Bairstow controlled England’s innings, and with wonderful memories against the Indians’ last summer, Jonny once again made his mark. Towering sixes, plenty of boundaries and superb skill against spin, this batsmen is one for the future, as England undoubtedly require Bairstow’s talent. Remaining 60*from just 46 balls at the end of the innings, meant he thoroughly deserved the MOTM accolade.

So, as Bairstow boosted England’s chances of a defendable total, it was the turn of the bowlers to turn hope into reality and prevent losing the series just two games in. As always, the bowlers impressed from the beginning, Finn and Dernbach striking in their first overs made a huge impact; especially as Pakistan were five down for a mere 50 runs. Yet with Afridi ever-present things were not quite finished, destructively taking 17 off Patel’s only over, Afridi sent one miles into the stands. However, even he could not defy England’s bowlers as Pakistan fell to 112 all out; a fantastic performance particularly from Finn taking 3-30, but the bowler that stood out for me today was…

  • Stuart Broad – Let alone being captain, Broad took control producing figures of 2-12 off just 3.2 overs in today’s innings. Taking the crucial wickets of opener Zia, who didn’t look in great form to be honest, as well as the damaging Afridi, Broad, seemed to continue his form from the Test series. With Afridi being the last man to depart it was fitting to see Broad have him hit one high to Morgan, running from backward point, to round off a match that saw England excel as a team once more on this tour. Broad’s captaincy has aroused controversy, but it can’t be said that a bad job is being done, just take a look at how England are performing.

With the series now level, it is up to the decider on Monday to figure out who will come out on top next time around. It will be of no surprise that I am hoping for a repeat show of what was on offer tonight. If the fielding is anything to go by England will win hands down, superb catches from Bairstow, Morgan and in particular a stunning take from Buttler, are highlighting the skill this team possesses as their fielding can never be faulted – well maybe the odd exception!

Monday’s game will be England’s last for nearly a month, before they take on Sri Lanka in late March, so enjoy every minute of it. Before we know it will be the 5thApril, and the County season will have begun… yes people the cricket season is nearly upon us and I cannot wait! Bring it on :)

Photo Credit: ECB (ecb.co.uk)

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The music, the cheerleaders, the excessive boundaries… they are all here, which means the T20 series is now up and running. Actually don’t get me started on the first two; the less said about them the better.

As people always say, cricket is usually a batsman’s game, today however, defied this theory as it was the turn of the bowlers to star in a close-run T20, which saw Pakistan eventually beat England by a margin of 8 runs. With Bopara fit to play, Cook didn’t feature, along with Hales who unfortunately missed out on a place, whilst the two young guns Buttler and Bairstow featured in the middle order. So with everything in place, Broad elected to bowl and despite an expensive start from Finn and Dernbach, the bowlers, namely Swann and Broad, pulled it back. Reducing Pakistan to 144 with a late boundary surge from Misbah, it was a decent chase, however, it would have been far trickier to achieve if it wasn’t for one man in particular…

  • Graeme Swann – Not having the best of starts, dropping a crucial catch and then miss fielding the ball for 4, Swann needed to up his game. The run-out of Shafiq for 19 soon spurred him on, and so with the ball in his hand Swann was keen to impress on this tour. Hafeez was the first of Swann’s ‘victims’, slog-sweeping to Bairstow at deep-midwicket, just two balls after Shafiq’s run-out. In a spot of bother at 65-3, Swann starred in a fantastic over that reduced Pakistan’s chances of a reasonable total. With the dangerous Afridi at the crease, pitching it on leg stump Afridi hit it straight to Morgan at midwicket for an easy chance. What was to come was even better as Umar Akmal; the second danger-man departed with a duck merely 3 balls later, Dernbach takes an impressive catch running in from long off to give Swann his third. A double wicket-maiden for Swann left him with excellent T20 figures of 3-13 going at just 3.25 – amazing!

So with England needing 145 to win it was the turn of the batsmen to do their job. KP and Kieswetter were the men to open, and a great start was made reaching 41 before the first wicket fell. Pietersen was on great form smacking 33 from 21 balls; however, Afridi despite failing with the bat removed KP, which slowly led to England’s downfall. Kieswetter and Morgan followed suit, both failing to defeat the spin of Hafeez, Kieswetter’s the bizarre dismissal of the night after he returned to his old ways of moving away from the stumps, hence unable to reach the ball. After the World T20 when Kieswetter first entertained us with this shot, I certainly didn’t think we would see it again! It was from hereon in, with England on 80-3, that the innings unravelled…

  • Umar Gul – The destructive death bowler, Gul, returned to the side today and definitely made an impression. First removing Bopara, England’s vital cog at this current moment on 39 from 32 was bowled with a leg-stump yorker, potentially thwarted England’s chances. But with Buttler and Bairstow at the crease, everyone was sure things would go to plan. Yet did we know that 2 overs following Bopara’s dismissal and in close range of victory, Buttler, being inventive with his shot selection, unluckily hit one straight to Ajmal at short third man. Well England fans weren’t expecting this kind of display, still, our batting line up was capable of crossing the line. Gul hadn’t stopped there though, he wasn’t happy until he had Patel for a golden duck plumb LBW, shattering England’s chances as they stood on 121-6 in need of 24 from 15 balls. With figures of 3-18 and an economy of 4.50, Gul was the stand out performer for Pakistan when they needed it most.

Bairstow and Swann were unable to smack the winning runs, leaving England with an unlucky defeat when they were on target for yet another victory. With two games left to secure the series win, England have to dramatically improve their game plan if they don’t want to be whitewashed for the second time this tour. Hopefully though it won’t come to that and England will maintain their winning form from the ODI series, but it is just a matter of time.

After a game dominated by the bowlers it will be good to see what the second T20 brings… roll on Saturday, let’s see if England can conjure up a magical win in order to level the series! :D

Photo Credit: ECB (ecb.co.uk)

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Yesss! This is the moment we have been longing for, a series whitewash over in the UAE. After the humiliating Test defeat, the England boys can finally hold their heads high in a 4-0 victory that was full of outstanding talent from start to finish. With Pakistan posting a decent total of 237, England for the 4th consecutive time bowled Pakistan out, this is the first time England have ever bowled their opposition out in every game of a series! This just highlights how fantastic our bowling unit has been. Then we had the run chase, despite the early wicket of Cook for 4, Pietersen gave everyone another master class as he stormed towards his successive ODI century. With 4 balls to spare, and 6 wickets down, England managed to cross the line in style to take that wonderful series victory.

However, the team that were victorious today was somewhat different in many ways. With niggles for Swann and Bopara, and the experienced pace attack of Anderson and Broad in need of rest before the T20s, it was the perfect time for Cook to make changes in the team. Bringing in debutants Jos Buttler and Danny Briggs, along with Bresnan and Dernbach reappearing in the side, these four had a great opportunity to take England to a superb victory. Which they certainly did, winning by 4 wickets and taking a lot of pleasure in all that they had achieved over the series. As always I have picked the players who I felt today made the most vital contributions to England’s win…

  • Jade Dernbach – Definitely the star with ball as he made his way back into the England side for the first time this tour. Striking with the second ball of his over removing Hafeez, Jade later removed fellow opener Azhar Ali breaking the crucial partnership, when it looked as though Pakistan were on course for a large total. But Dernbach made his most significant contribution in the latter half of the game, removing the ever-dangerous Misbah on 46, along with Ajmal in the space of two balls to conclude the innings, finishing with 4-45.
  • Kevin Pietersen – Well what can I say? Firstly, he does not get an ODI century for 3 years, then his gets two in a row. This time the better of the two saw KP rack up 130 runs, his best ever ODI score, complied of twelve 4s and two 6’s, a purely fascinating innings to watch. With England in a spot of bother on 68-4, KP stuck in for the long haul and took England virtually all the way. Unfortunately hitting one straight to point with only 2 runs needed, KP couldn’t believe the shot he had played; nevertheless, he was pivotal in England’s win.
  • Craig Kieswetter – With runs needed on this tour, Kieswetter pulled it of the bag when England required it most. England were stranded on 68-3 when things went from bad to worse as unlucky Buttler fell for a duck on his ODI debut. With a partnership the only viable option, Kiesy took it in his stride with a valuable innings of 43, as he and Pietersen safely took England to 177-5 and within touching distance of victory. Kieswetter unfortunately suffered from a run-out, departing 7 runs off his half-century. Despite this, Kieswetter played the supporting role for KP, and made a great contribution of a well-deserved win.

How can I not also have my performers of the series?

BatsmanAlastair Cook – Who else? MOTS in what was a fabulous series for Cook, including 2 centuries, and pure captaincy talent that saw his side unbeatable in this ODI duel. Announced also today that Cook will be staying with the side for the T20 series due to Bopara’s niggle, it is sure to say that Cook is currently in the form of his life, and long may it continue!

BowlerSteven Finn – With nothing but impressive performances this series, Finn was the leading wicket taker with 13 under his belt. Another 2 wickets today for just 39 further accentuates my point that Finn has grown so much over the past few months, and still continues to develop, a test place as I said before, is surely on the cards again?

And finally how did the debutants fare… well it was a little bit of a mixed bag:

  • Danny Briggs (Hampshire) – This was Briggs’ first international call-up to the senior side, and with England bowling first Briggs was soon facing the expectation of many. I have been keeping an eye on Briggs for a couple of years now, and it must be said that his left-arm spin is pretty impressive. Hoping he would earn a place sometime this tour, I was elated when he finally made his debut today replacing Swann. Finishing with an economy rate of 3.90 from his 10… well it just shows the talent Briggs has at present. To top it off Briggs debut could not have been better, than when he took his first international wicket – that of Umar Akmal, caught at long off by Dernbach for 12! Also obtaining the wicket of Shoaib Malik LBW for 23, it really wrapped up a remarkable performance by the young debutant, one that will certainly be a memory to treasure.
  • Jos Buttler (Somerset) – Now to the opposite end of the spectrum unfortunately for Buttler. When it came to Buttler’s turn, coming in at 68-3, we really needed his supreme batting skills. With every England fan looking forward to his arrival at the crease, Buttler could only manage 2 balls before he left, pushing one to short leg for 0. The expectation of Buttler coming in to rescue the England side had been dampened. This being his ODI debut – having already played T20 cricket for England – it could not have been worse for Buttler with a duck to his name. You could only feel sorry for his disappointment, as everyone was willing him on from the start, but you have your ups and downs in your cricketing career, be it domestic or international. All Buttler can do is come back stronger when he gains his second chance.

So there we have it, a fantastic day’s cricket as I have said so many times this series. It really has encapsulated everything I adore about the game, and I couldn’t have wished for a better result, a 4-0 whitewash! Nothing beats the feeling in cricket of a whitewash, and the boys had better celebrate in style, as they fully deserve it. The performances we saw by the England boys were spot on time and time again, the T20 series that is approaching on Thursday I am sure will also provide superb cricket as always.

Once again, England could not have given this series any more than they did, full credit to them! :D

No champers though :) Photo Credit: Getty Images (espncricinfo.com)

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Tomorrow is the day on which we will be able to get an inkling into which team is looking on course to be the superior side in the limited overs series. England are set to face Pakistan in four ODIs as well as three T20s, and hopefully they will be able maintain their pride by resisting another humiliating whitewash. The current England squad that we have lined up are the cream of the crop as expected, but who do we think we make the final cut, and what changes have been made since last summer against India?

  • So one thing is for sure, our openers – Alastair Cook will be partnering Kevin Pietersen, pushing Kieswetter into the middle order, where he first began his career with Somerset. After impressing in the recent Lions’ series over in Sri Lanka coming in at 5, Kieswetter feels confident with his new role, and so let’s hope KP stands up to the mark.
  • Tim Bresnan was an uncertainty a few days ago after doubts over whether his elbow injury had fully recovered, but as of today he has declared himself fit to play which is definitely a bonus to the England side. But do we think Bres will be given the opportunity of a game tomorrow?
  • ‘Newbies’ to the squad are also present, Jos Buttler and Danny Briggs. Buttler has previously played for England in the T20 format, but this is his first call up to the one-day side. Whilst Briggs, the talented Hampshire off-spinner, receives his first England call-up; I would love to see Briggsy get a game especially after his success in the Lions series just gone.
  • Unfortunately though we won’t see Buttler get a game tomorrow, due to splitting the webbing in his left hand during the England Lions’ final match against Sri Lanka A. Hopefully he will be fit and ready to go in the remaining games, we could definitely do with his supreme batting skills over in the UAE.
  • Ian Bell has missed selection for the one-dayers which is a shame, being out of form during the Pakistan Test series he hasn’t made the final pick. Now this is a tricky one as we do have some great new talent coming in through the ranks, the likes of Buttler and Bairstow, but Bell brings along that experience – so hopefully he will return to the ODI side in the summer!

Bar all of the above news, the ODI side remains the same and in full working order (fingers crossed). Now if I was a selector I would have a hard time selecting which of the guys would get their place, obviously there are the main men who will undoubtedly be in the team, for others however it is just a matter of time. However I have picked my squad which I would love to see play in tomorrow’s game, it is as follows in batting order –

My selection: Cook, Pietersen, Trott, Morgan, Kieswetter, Bairstow, Patel, Broad, Swann, Finn, Dernbach

Now that was difficult, I really wanted to include Briggs but that would really be at the expense of a batsman such as Bairstow or Patel. So I have decided to stick with two spinners to maintain that balance, and have Jonny in at 6, with Patel then at 7, although the latter may be further up the order. I have stuck with Finn even though he doesn’t provide the batting of Bresnan, but I feel Finn’s recent performances have been fantastic, namely in the England v England Lions match two days ago; Dernbach has also been in great form hence his inclusion.

So with the team being released on game day tomorrow it will be interesting to see who Cook and Flower have chosen. But what I would really like to know is who you would pick to be in your final 11 – so I would love everyone to comment below with your selection, and after tomorrow’s game we can see who was on the same wavelength as the selectors, so get commenting! I look forward reading all of your selections :)

Full ODI squad for the UAE: Alastair Cook (Essex, captain), James Anderson (Lancashire), Jonny Bairstow (Yorkshire), Ravi Bopara (Essex), Tim Bresnan (Yorkshire), Danny Briggs (Hampshire), Stuart Broad (Notts), Jos Buttler (Somerset), Jade Dernbach (Surrey), Steven Finn (Middlesex), Craig Kieswetter (Somerset), Eoin Morgan (Middlesex), Samit Patel (Notts), Kevin Pietersen (Surrey), Graeme Swann (Notts), Jonathan Trott(Warwickshire)

England are without power-hitter Buttler for the 1st ODI Photo Credit: ecb.co.uk

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