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Please don’t blame me for jinxing anything, but it appears as though England may just be on the road to recovery. However, that’s a big may.

We all know about the series loss over in the West Indies (not our finest hour) and needless to say, it wasn’t the best start for our World T20 campaign.

Then to top it all of a defeat in our first official T20 game versus New Zealand, really want to cover it up and blame it on the Duckworth Lewis method, but the scorecard just goes to show our batting had seen no sight of improvement over the winter.

So you can imagine my surprise, shock, amazement at the spectacular show we saw today. Less hiding behind the sofa, more me staring open-mouthed at the television screen.

Alex Hales. Need I say more, just when England wanted a boost they certainly got one.

With Sri Lanka posing a somewhat tricky target of 189-4, I hope I’m not the only one to say that the thought of Malinga, Mendis et al against our batting line up was not a pretty one.

Who knew that what we would witness would be a power-hitting master class from Hales, smashing 116 of just 64, yes 64 balls.

I’m still in shock this very second as to how he could pull off such a show, England’s first international T20 century and an incredible one at that.

Hales not only created the innings of the tournament so far (if I say so myself), but in alliance with Morgan helped push England to reach their highest successful run chase in T20 history.

Now come on, if this isn’t a glimmer of hope I don’t know what is.

A victory to England’s name at last, now me and every fan alike definitely won’t mind seeing the same performance next match, pretty please.

In two days’ time South Africa will be next in line for England, now if Sri Lanka can be beaten, surely we can beat these guys too, right? Fingers crossed.

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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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Ahhh, it is that time again. The clocks have been put forward which means I am still adjusting to losing an hours sleep. But, it also brings along with it light nights, summer, sun, and most importantly… cricket! The time has come and the Sri Lanka Test Series is finally upon us, only a meagre two Tests this is disappointing, the impending IPL is most probably a contributing factor. That aside England introduce to us a reinvigorated side in order to capitalise on the dusty pitches, and more importantly to enhance their Number One status, which was recently under threat by the South Africans.

So what do we expect from this tour? It will be Mahela Jayawardene’s first Test Series as he returns to the captaincy, whilst the pitch itself in Galle (the venue of the opening Test) will come under scrutiny, no one knows what performance to expect. Then we have the uncertainty over England’s batting on the subcontinent. We saw how they coped in the UAE, and following the two warm up games, we see the likes of Ian Bell still struggling to gain a decent score; the absence of Muttiah Muralitharan’s mystery spin however, may lessen the problem.

England team news –

  • I have mentioned changes have been made to the side, personally for the better, now with a squad of four spinners, the inclusion of Samit Patel and James Tredwell making their Test returns gives England the spin options they require on these subcontinent pitches. The other significant change would be that of Eoin Morgan departing the side with Ravi Bopara earning a recall, it is now up to Morgan as to whether he selects gaining valuable experience from the County Championship commencing 5th April, or whether he chooses the lucrative Indian Premier League (4th April).
  • With an early injury scare when Stuart Broad sprained his ankle, hence missing England’s first warm-up game, Stuart fortunately has been declared fit for selection for the first Test tomorrow. Not bowling yesterday in order to rest up, Broad thankfully will not miss the Test series. With no limited over games whatsoever, Broad will not have to worry about captaincy during the Test series, being able to focus fully on taking advantage of the subcontinent pitches, along with his fellow opening partner, James Anderson.

Keep an eye on –

  • Alastair Cook and Monty Panesar – Time will tell as to whether Cook can regain superior form following on from the ODI series versus Pakistan. At the top of the order, Cook can help the foundations for England’s run-chase, this will be vital if runs are sparse in the lower-order. Panesar on the other hand has a lot offer this England side. Impressing over in the UAE with 14 wickets, Monty’s talent will prove him worthy of selection, but may also heighten the level of expectation from the fans themselves.
  • Mahela Jayawardene and Tillakaratne Dilshan – Two fantastic senior players, stalwarts of the Sri Lankan game but both will hope to impress in this series. Jayawardene as aforementioned will captain his side once again this year, so with this added pressure, he will certainly aim to win this series outright to earn themselves their first series victory since Muralitharan’s retirement. With plenty of runs coming in at fourth, the Sri Lankan captain will be closely watched in this short series. Dilshan however, will want to surge his way back to full form. Opening alongside Thirimanne, he will be expected to return back to his best, perhaps not having the captaincy will benefit his game greatly.

So there we have, it is all to play for tomorrow as we witness the first day’s play, of what shall hopefully be a very entertaining series, however short it may be. There are to be more early mornings obviously due to the time difference over in Sri Lanka, with coverage starting at 5 am over on Sky Sports 1. The Tests have been long awaited and plenty of talent will be on show, there is just one thing left to do…

Set those alarms! 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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