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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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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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What a wonderful three days of cricket we have seen! Fortunately for every England fan out there, it is fair to say that yes, we are almost back to our normal selves. Over in Abu Dhabi England have finally put the wheels in motion meaning we can finally witness a test in which both teams are in contention for victory. First up the big selection news that was casting a shadow over this current test, Monty returns due to Tremmers being injured. I am delighted, oh and not because of Tremlett, I just can’t believe how long Monty has waited in the side-lines and now finally gets a game. His crazy wicket celebrations are back people, so rest assured! It also has turned out to be a very successful move by Flower and Strauss also, as Monty has been one of the stars within the team to date, pitching in as the second spinner and proving to be worthy of his England place.

Onto the action then, and we started on Wednesday with Pakistan winning the toss and choosing to bat (Cheema replaced by Junaid Kahn). It was Swann who claimed the first wicket of Taufeeq, after Strauss decided to bring in spin after just 12 overs, dislodging the off stump for 16. Making the breakthrough of the opening partnership of 51, it was Swann’s spinning partner, Panesar, who then took his first wicket after a long-awaited return, bowling Hafeez through the gate beautifully for 31 leaving Pakistan on 61-2. A decent partnership between Ali and Kahn ensued of 37, but before Pakistan could bring up three figures, it was Broad who with a perfect delivery nipping back, knocked back Kahn’s off stump for 4. Broad was currently in fantastic form and was bowling beautifully (I do remain unbiased here), so it was no surprise to see him just four overs later removing Azhar Ali’s off stump also, beating the edge and having him out for 24. So with the top four in the batting line-up all bowled and standing at 103-4, Pakistan needed a saviour, who came in the form of captain, Misbah, along with Shafiq, who together compiled a 100 partnership. Shafiq soon however, misjudged a sweep shot, leaving him LBW to Swann on a much-needed 58. Having defied Monty’s spin, sending him towering over the boundary rope for consecutive sixes, Misbah seemed to be in very good touch and was leading from the front. With the ‘keeper Akmal at the crease with his captain, the partnership lasted merely 7 overs before the ‘keeper departed LBW for 9 to Broad. However controversy followed as the mode of dismissal was questioned as to whether or not an edge was present – nevertheless Akmal walked without referring. So Pakistan were 216-6, a decent total bearing in mind four wickets remained, adding 27 runs, Misbah looked settled bringing up a worthy 50, Rehman however was yet to get off the mark. He failed to score a run before his dismissal, leaving him with a duck as Swann got one to straighten and pass the bat. No more wickets graced day 1 and Pakistan ended the day on 256-7, Misbah remained not out on 83, Ajmal 0*.

As day 2 approached I had high hopes for England to get the three early wickets, I did not however expect Pakistan to add only 1 run for 3 wickets – perfect sums it up really. Misbah was the first to go with a great innings of 84, falling LBW to Broad, even with a review on Pakistan’s part. Then the following over brought the remaining two wickets and Jimmy Anderson’s first of the match, as he claimed Ajmal (0) and Kahn (0), LBW and caught respectively. A triumphant England returned to the pavilion in high spirits, and I felt sure that 257 was a respectable total for our boys to chase and build up a, hopefully, substantial lead. Things didn’t go quite to plan as Strauss departed in the 14th over for 11 being caught at short leg off the bowling of Hafeez once again. However the pair now at the crease, Cook and Trott, were there to stay, and as Atherton wonderfully put it “When Cook and Trott are batting, they’re not that scintillating often”. Very true words but we don’t expect them to be, as these two bat in their own glorious way, and most times rescue us from a sticky patch. As they toiled away they piled up a partnership of 139, it was Trott who broke this partnership with his footwork, as Rehman passed the outside edge and removed the bails in the process for 74. No century for him then this time, but as I seem to jinx a situation during a test series I thought that I would be right in saying that Cook on 75 at this time, would easily sail to 100. Erm, Cook was next to depart on 94! Not able to judge Ajmal’s doosra (he isn’t the only one) Cook was trapped LBW, and selflessly did not review – what a team player. At 198-3 it only got worse for England, as 5 runs later KP left with 14 caught at slip off the bowling of Ajmal, leading to a minor collapse, Morgan played an unwise shot one ball before the end of play, also caught at slip in an Ajmal over. England left the day on 207-5; considering they were 198-3 it was just a tad worrying to say the least.

Then finally we witnessed day 3, and without breaking into song… what a difference a day makes! Despite Prior falling early on 3, LBW to Ajmal, Bell had played sweetly with 3 fours taking him up to 29. Broad was the man who was impressing down the other end however, with 6 fours already under his belt, at the time Bell departed he was on 33*. Bell unfortunately was another victim of the LBW, this time to Gul, making way for Graeme Swann to play a brief spell coming in at 268-7. Again another one of our batsmen fell LBW, Swann defending a straight one from Rehman for a reasonable 15 from 15. Once tail-ender Jimmy came to the crease, Broad never gave up the fight, and at 291-8, he and Jimmy created a great 36-run partnership taking England over the 300 mark. During this Broad brought up his well-timed 50, including a wonderful 6 over wide long-on. But once Hafeez took the wicket of Jimmy minutes after lunch, as he miss-read the length and was bowled for 13, it didn’t take long for Monty to fall – one ball in fact – LBW for a golden duck.  So at 327 all out, Broad stood tall with 58* and everyone anticipated what was to come. What did come was actually better than expected, well in my eyes anyway. The openers fell early, Hafeez the first to Monty in the 12th over, LBW for 2 hitting Hafeez on the inside pad, then Taufeeq followed an over later to fellow spinner Swann, this time bowling him through the gate for a mere 7 runs. Wonderful stuff, Pakistan were 29-2 and things were looking rosy. It soon became 36-3 as Panesar with his second wicket of the innings had the experienced Kahn bowled for just 1, celebrations followed as it was Monty of course. The last wicket to fall for the day was the captain, Misbah, as Panesar picked up another, trapping him LBW for 12, leaving Pakistan in a not so good position of 54-4. Ali and Shafiq rescued Pakistan in the late stages of the day, hauling them to 125-4 before the close, with 46 and 35 respectively. A better performance by these two cricketers meant Pakistan now have a lead of 55, hopefully the England boys will wield their magic as always tomorrow, early wickets are essential to keep that deficit down.

So I wonder what tomorrow will bring, I am wishing for quick wickets leaving England with a manageable total… minus the batting collapse and it should be a perfect day. Let’s level this series and come back even better next match! I’ll be back with a massive smile on my face hopefully if England can become victorious; I have no doubt that they will fantastic in the remaining two days; Pakistan will resume day 4 on 125-4. Let me know what your highlights have been so far!

FB :D

P.S Don’t forget to keep up to date with the Lions progress. I will soon report in full but they have won their first match versus Sri Lanka A by 68 runs – Buttler 102* from only 56 balls, Hales 94, Kieswetter 53; Buck 4-39 from 8 overs! Brilliant performance by these boys, replicate it next match please.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (espncricinfo.com)

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So sorry about not posting anything sooner, but there has been so much to do over the past few weeks, let alone Christmas approaching. This is just a little something before the end of the year, especially as there hasn’t been much cricket to report on.

It was the Sports Personality of the Year (SPOTY) last night, and this is definitely worth mentioning. Firstly Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss were up for the main award – and so they should be! – not forgetting the whole of the England team hoping for a collective prize. So as the awards, and most probably the alcohol, started flowing we discovered that it was to be our very own Andy Flower who won Coach of the Year which was fully deserved. To be fair Flower has had an incredible past 12 months, the hard work and dedication he has put into the team throughout his run so far has been phenomenal… I mean look where they are now! So with one award in the bag, the final surprise of the evening was that the England team were awarded the Team of the Year… honestly (and no I’m not being biased) but just look at the achievements of the boys this year. Retaining the Ashes in Australia after 24 years of pain, whitewashing the Indians 4-0 and finally reaching that wonderful number one spot in the Test World Ranking s – it couldn’t have gone much better. On the whole these two awards really showcase what an excellent set-up we have in this country, and unfortunately even though neither Strauss nor Cook  claimed top prize (this went to cyclist Mark Cavendish), England cricket was well and truly on top!

With a great 2011 cricket wise coming to an end, the January tests are soon approaching and oh how excited I am, not only will we see England in prime form once again, but also the County season will just be around the corner! I will be back in 2012 to report on all the action as always, and what a year it will be with Pakistan and Sri Lanka firstly, as well as the West Indies, South Africa and not to mention Australia waiting in the wings. Roll on 2012!

Thank you for all the support, and to all those who have visited, read, recommended and took part in discussions in my first complete cricket season on Caught At Slip. I hope you have all enjoyed reading my work and look forward to seeing you and many others (fingers crossed) next year for an exciting cricket-filled summer. Thanks again, and I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, but for me this is 2011 over and out!

Photo Credit: BBC Sport

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Wow what developments have there been this week, seriously, things are changing in the England camp, extremely exciting ones I may add! As we all know Andrew Strauss is the test captain and has sadly retired from the one day format, so we were bound to see a change. Now we witness a powerful trio of captains happily making their way onto the cricket field as well as our T.V screens! Keeping Strauss for tests, Alastair Cook and Stuart Broad are the captains for the one day and T20 format respectively. Young, fresh talent is just the thing needed for this side to help them achieve even more than they have already, and reach cricket domination in all formats ;)

I feel that these two new appointments was the best decision, and they will definitely thrive in their roles helping them to achieve immense heights in this sport. Especially with Strauss’ experience he will be the main man in aiding our two new captains to the forefront, and help them to succeed as best they can; and I’m sure that these two are here for keeps! With Flower extending his role also, this means that the England side remains a secure unit, one which we all know is a close-knit team that excels when any one player is performing at their upmost, which is rarely just one of them!

Okay so I may be slightly biased but just look how far they have come in the past 6 years from the 2005 Ashes series, especially Cook and Broad who in such a short time have come so far it is hard to think back to their debuts in 2006! With great leadership qualities I have no doubts that this trio will be fully backed by all their teammates, as I know they have every cricket fans support am I right! This is an England side that is emerging as one of the great England sides of all time, yes I’ve said it one of the greatest! Come on England we all behind you this summer, bring on the 26th May for the first test of the year… me excited? That is an understatement!

Photo Credit: ecb.co.uk

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