World T20 team guide: Sri Lanka

Sri lanka

Group: New Zealand, Zimbabwe

Pedigree: World Cup winners in 1999, runners-up in 2007 and co-hosts in 2011, World Twenty20 runners up in 2009, Sri Lanka are one of the genuine heavyweights of the one-day game. Their form in Twenty20 has sometimes been a little patchy, but possess proven quality.

Star man: In Ajantha Mendis, Sri Lanka have the world’s most potent limited overs bowler. Though his stock has fallen in the past year as players begin to work out a strategy against his mystery spin, his record of 56 International Twenty20 wickets at 15 is unmatched.

One to watch: Angelo Mathews, the stocky all-rounder, has been one of the stars of this year’s IPL. A robust and repeatable bowling action is backed up by a flair with the bat. Can hit the ball out of the park at will.

Strengths: Quality throughout the batting order with the likes of Tilikeratne Dilshan, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara. And, with Mendis, Lasith Malinga and Muttiah Muralidaran, a bowling attack full of experience, skill and invention.

Weaknesses: Still relying on 40-year-old Sanath Jayasuriya at the top of the order. Still very capable, but match-winning performances are becoming few-and-far-between.

Chances: Will start as one of the favourites with bookies and fans alike. Have the players and the continuity of selection to go all the way, and few are better equipped to do so.

Best odds: 6/1 with Paddypower and Totesport

Prediction: Winners

April 21, 2010 at 10:43 am Leave a comment

World T20 team guide: Afghanistan

Afghanistan

Group: India, South Africa

Pedigree: None. This is the first time they have qualified for a major tournament.

Star man: Averaging more than 50 in ODIs, and with two first-class hundreds to his name, Noor Ali is the star of Afghan cricket. Only 21, he lit up the qualifying stages as Afganistan stormed through to the tournament in the West Indies.

One to watch: The rising star of the Afghan team is Mohammad Shahzad. The teenage wicketkeeper-batsman has hit hundreds in two of his four ODIs to date and has picked up a couple of Twenty20 fifties too.

Strengths: Afghanistan have nothing to fear – and boy do they play like it. They go about Twenty20 as it was supposed to be played, hitting hard from the start and playing with freedom.

Weaknesses: Lack of experience, proven quality and battle-hardened players top a huge list of reasons why they won’t progress.

Chances: None. It’s hard to see them even making an impression on either India or South Africa. But they lit up the qualifying tournament and have plenty of guys capable of clearing the boundary.

Best odds: 1000/1 with Skybet and Coral

Prediction: Last place. By a long shot.

April 16, 2010 at 3:31 pm Leave a comment

World T20 team guide: England

With the World Twenty20 starting at the end of the month, the Opening Fatsman has the lowdown on every team, starting with…

England

Group: Ireland, West Indies

Pedigree: A humiliating defeat by the Netherlands in last year’s tournament was slightly made amends for by victories over Pakistan and India. Failed to get past the super 8 stage.

Star man: Kevin Pietersen has at times struggled to adapt to Twenty20 cricket, as a record of three fifties in 22 games for England suggests. But he has looked back to something near his best in the IPL and is still the linchpin across all the formats for this England side.

One to watch: After blazing 81* for England Lions, against the senior side, just days before becoming England-qualified, Craig Kieswetter immediatley thrust himself into the selectors thinking. A maiden ODI century on the tour to Bangladesh cemented his place at the top of the order for the World Twenty20 and he has replaced Matt Prior as gloveman.

Strengths: England possess experience and talent in boat-loads. Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann are proven performers at the highest level. And the talented Kieswetter, Tim Bresnan and Ravi Bopara add that sprinkling of flair to the solid backbone.

Weaknesses: A lack of participation in the IPL has hindered the team’s progress. Collingwood, Bopara and Michael Lumb have got more game time this year, but Anderson and Broad chose to stay away. They may well miss the competitive edge the tournament has given other players.

Chances: England are an improving side in the shorter formats and, with their experience, shouldn’t be fazed by anyone. But they have never won a significant limited overs trophy and the best they can hope for is probably a semi-final place.

Best odds: 12/1 with 888sport

Prediction: Super 8

April 16, 2010 at 1:48 pm Leave a comment

Unicorns squad announced

The absurd Unicorns squad for the newly-formed Clydesdale Bank 40 was announced today, and it contained some peculiar names.

Made up of cricketers with county and university experience, the Unicorn team is designed to help the development of those without county contracts. It is not for ageing county journeymen.

Yet somehow the likes of Mark Hardinges and Keith Parsons, two stalwarts of Westcountry average-ness, have snuck their way on to the roster.

Hardinges boasts a career record of 1700 first-class runs at 26 and has managed only 50 championship appearances in 11 seasons since making his debut in 1999.

Parsons has managed far more – 130 matches – but still averages less than 29 and, at 36 years old, was not considered worthy of a place in the Somerset team in 2008, spending last season with Cornwall in the Minor Counties League.

Don’t get me wrong, I know what the selectors are looking for – a mix of youth and experience. But they should be going more down the route of fringe county players, who have some prospect of a future in the game (like Wes Durston, who was also picked), rather than washed-up players who have never been good enough.

Full Unicorns squad: Jahed Ahmed, Arfan Akram, Christopher Brown, David Burton, Wesley Durston, Ned Eckersley, Carl Greenidge, Neil Hancock, Mark Hardinges, Stephen Humble, Joshua Knappett, Thomas Mees, Christopher Murtagh, Michael O’Shea, Sean Park, Keith Parsons, Christopher Peploe, Richard Querl, Zoheb Sharif, Duncan Snell, Jackson Thompson.

April 13, 2010 at 4:45 pm Leave a comment

Pollard blitz lights up Mumbai sky

Just when you thought you had seen the most extraordinary Twenty20 innings you will ever see, along comes another one.

Kieron Pollard, the big-hitting West Indian blasted a remarkable 45 from just 13 balls for Mumbai Indians side today – at a crucial time in the game, it should be noted – as they coasted past their IPL rivals the Delhi Daredevils.

45 from 13 balls; that’s a strike rate of 346.15. Astonishing. Innings like that must keep the likes of Geoffrey Boycott up at night.

It’s easy to knock such innings, particularly ehen they are made with 200-odd runs already on the board.

But Pollard came to the crease with the score at 133-4 with just three overs remaining. His blitz took the Indians to 183, way beyond the reaches of the Daredevils.

Build like a boxer and blessed with a keen eye, Pollard looks like one to watch in limited overs cricket.

April 13, 2010 at 4:08 pm Leave a comment

No fire from Dragons

As Glamorgan slide towards defeat in their first Championship match of the summer against Sussex, there hovers an air of inevitability about what is to come at the Swalec Stadium over the coming months.

The Welsh county again look a weak unit, held afloat by a sprinkling of young talent and wise, old heads. Another winter of investing more in stadia than squad leaves them embarking on the 2010 season with fingers crossed and empty statements of possibility.

As has so often been the case in recent seasons, James Harris, the young, Swansea-born fast bowler, has carried the can for the Dragons in their opening match, taking eight wickets.

Harris aside, only the evergreen Robert Croft and his spin partner Dean Cosker looked threatening with the ball, while the batting continues to be a worry.

They have secured Shaun Tait for the Friends Provident Twenty20, a competition they have some prospects in, but the lack of pace in their seam attack in the other formats leaves a gaping hole and makes a mockery of any optimism from coach Matthew Maynard on his side’s chances.

It will take a miracle for Glamorgan to get out of the second division this season and, unless they seriously adjust their focus at board level, it may take another one to keep Harris at the club past his current contract, which runs out next year.

April 12, 2010 at 2:50 pm 1 comment

One step forward, two steps back

Bangladesh are becoming something of a frustration to cricket watchers the world over. In the latest example of inconsistency, after some promising but ultimately unfruitful performances against India, they were blown away by New Zealand at Hamilton.

True, Sri Lanka, India and New Zealand themselves struggled when given the green light to play international cricket – it took the Black Caps more than a quarter of a century to record a first Test victory.

But Bangladesh have consistently shown they have players of great potential… who continue to fall down when it matters.

Habibul Bashar was the first to show genuine talent but fall short of fulfilling it, Mohammad Ashraful is in danger of going down the same route and Shariar Nafees may already be a lost cause.

The axe is falling on Bangladesh’s Test status but there is some cause for optimism, which should give them a stay of execution in the short term.

Shakib Al Hasan is a player of real world-class potential and Mashrafe Mortaza was quickly improving before injury and illness kept him out of the side for the India and New Zealand series. And Tamim Iqbal, the young opening batsman who clocked a rapid century in a losing cause against the Indians, is finally begining to realise his promise.

For the sake of the development of these talents, Bangladesh should be given some time to improve, but time is running out and there must be a point at which the cricket world says no, because right now they are doing little more than distorting the history books.

February 3, 2010 at 11:05 am 1 comment

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