Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Third time lucky for England?

The obsession with the shortest form of cricket continues with the start of the ICC World Twenty/20 in the West Indies this week, just days after the IPL came to an end.
For England it is another chance to show how they have adapted to the version of the game pioneered in their own country seven years ago.

The previous two tournaments have been disappointing, with an opening game defeat to the Netherlands at Lord's last June a particular lowlight.

However, encouraging performances in Pakistan, South Africa and Bangladesh has given the squad renewed optimism ahead of the latest tournament. The IPL also means five of England's batsmen will be well and truly tuned into T20 mode when they reach the Caribbean.

Something that could also be in their favour is the freshness of pacemen James Anderson and Stuart Broad. Both made sensible decisions earlier this year to take some time away from the modern day all-year-round cricketing conveyor belt.

I have long been sceptical of the ever expanding cricket calendar, with the inevitable injuries and fatigue that will arise from it. So I was relieved when Anderson opted out of the tour of Bangladesh to rest a chronic knee injury, while Broad decided not to play in the IPL to in order to rest after the long winter tour.
The result was 12 wickets between them in their respective county matches last week. Refreshed and refocused, their sharpness could be a real asset.

The biggest gamble by coach Andy Flower is at the top of the order. Newcomers Michael Lumb and Craig Kieswetter look set to open the batting despite never playing a T20 international. However, Flower knows England's lethargy in the opening powerplay has cost them time and time again and something needs to be down to ensure early runs are put on the scoreboard. The fact Lumb and Kieswetter could become the 16th opening pair in 25 T20 matches emphasises the conundrum England have faced, and flower will hope the new partnership hits the ground running.

To be honest, I can't see England winning this tournament. Indeed, the cricket betting reflects this. Despite their pretournament bullishness I still don't think the players have really mastered the tactics of the game. However, progress to the knockout stages would be considered satisfactory as Flower continues to tinker with his side, with greater challenges lying ahead.

Meanwhile, on football news, England are currently third favourites in the World Cup online betting ahead of the start of the tournament in June.