England captain Andrew Strauss’ latest Test warm-up has been pencilled in for India in December, alongside 11 members of the England Performance Programme.
Strauss, 34, prepared for the Test tour of New Zealand in early 2008 by playing some limited-overs cricket for Northern Districts and was loaned to Somerset in mid-summer to improve his match sharpness ahead of the recent 4-0 win over India.
Now with a four-month gap in his international schedule between the end of that final npower series and the Test tour of the United Arab Emirates, where England face Pakistan, some practise would appear prudent. So it is anticipated he will join the batsmen, spin bowlers and wicketkeepers group during the three-week trip to the subcontinent.
“I’m not overly worried he’s not going to be playing cricket for a while. I think it will be good for him and the family but we will have to find him some training outside of England before Christmas,” confirmed England team director Andy Flower. “As in hitting cricket balls and getting ready for the Pakistan tour.”
As revealed in a previous column, the half-a-dozen fast bowlers named in this winter’s EPP – including Ajmal Shahzad and Stuart Meaker, two players seemingly heading in different directions – will travel to a camp at the High Performance Centre, Potchefstroom, South Africa.
A surprising statistic for you, given the slurs on the outgoing Tiflex, a cricket ball that was allegedly so bowler-friendly it was providing an unbalanced contest: there were more batting bonus points secured in Division Two than Division One of the County Championship last season.
Second division teams managed 351 across the 16-match season compared to the 339 secured in the top tier, which makes criticism about its help to the bowlers somewhat curious.
“It’s almost been given the characteristics of the snitch in Harry Potter. It supposedly goes all over the place but the figures don’t back that up,” said Middlesex managing director of cricket Angus Fraser, whose champion team managed 50 of the 351 points.
Tiflex balls were introduced into the County Championship for the 2009 season but batters complained that they swung and seamed too much early in an innings, and the England and Wales Cricket Board recently confirmed universal use of the Dukes-manufactured version in 2012.
ECB originally turned to Tiflex following concerns that Dukes were going soft prematurely and general worry on this issue has contributed to the International Cricket Council opting for a new ball from each end in one-day internationals as of this week.
Clydesdale Bank, sponsors of English cricket’s sole one-day competition, will have their preferred post-Sunday lunch competition for the final year of their deal but its retention as a 40-over affair appears to be delaying the inevitable.
CB say market research highlights fans’ fondness for the slightly shorter limited-overs contest and that it is attractive to families turning up after their roast dinners while informal feedback from England 50-over captain Alastair Cook, one of their ambassadors, suggested the loss of 10 overs per innings, although not ideal, was not critical in preparing players for ODIs.
But the smart money is on a switch back to a 50-over game from 2013, the year in which recommendations from former ECB chairman David Morgan’s report on county cricket can be applied.
When Mumbai Indians’ Champions League squad was beset by injuries, the governing council stepped in to ‘ensure the integrity’ of its tournament.
Regulations permit teams to field four overseas players in any XI but because they did not have a full 15-man squad to choose from and were limited to seven homegrown cricketers, special dispensation was granted for Mumbai to field five. Contrast that to their non-Indian Premier League opponents in Group A – Cape Cobras, New South Wales and Trinidad & Tobago – who have just one import, the Cobras’ Owais Shah, between them.
Tournament bosses were at pains to point out that other teams in similar circumstances would have been treated equally. Yet, to my mind, some in this rupee-loopy cricket world are increasingly more equal than others.
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