Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

The enigma of the Champions Trophy


Before I was based here in Italy, I reported on quite a lot of cricket including the 2004 Champions Trophy and the 2007 World Cup.

Being out here, where Italian friends often confuse cricket with hockey or golf, means I completely missed the start of this year’s Champions Trophy.

It passed me by mainly because it is a very incongruous tournament — a bit like soccer’s Confederations Cup. It has all the big teams but pales in comparison with the World Cup and after a few weeks you often can’t remember the winner. 

With the success of Twenty20, many in the blogosphere had questioned whether the 50-over Champions Trophy should be scrapped altogether. What’s the point in having a 50-over World Cup, a 50-over Champions Trophy and a T20 World Cup?

England’s Champions Trophy bid seems doomed before it starts


England qualified for three of the first five World Cup finals and should have emerged with at least one trophy.

Yet their last appearance came in 1992 and they are now the only member of the top eight test-playing countries who have never won a major one-day title.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

England sail through, but how are their World Cup chances?

So, once again, England qualify in style. The garages can start stocking up on plastic flags of St George, the breweries can breathe a sigh of relief and the tabloids can start their gradual shift from cautious support to the crescendo of expectation that will accompany Fabio Capello and his squad to South Africa next year.

But is there any evidence that "this time, more than any other time, they'll do it right"?

Flintoff and Botham were good, but were they great?


flintoffcelebratesIn an echo of Australia’s futile craving for a new Bradman for at least a decade after he retired, England cricket yearned in vain for another Ian Botham.

Derek Pringle, David Capel and Phil DeFreitas were hailed as potential successors while the all-rounder was still playing in the 1980s. The unsought weight of expectation then fell on Chris Lewis and Dominic Cork.

And so the search for a new Flintoff begins…


In the wake of England’s Ashes triumph over Australia, a huge question awaits…can England find a replacement for Andrew Flintoff?

He has been the scourge of the opposition for so long. His importance was underlined in this series where despite being half-fit he managed to knock over the tourists at Lord’s to claim five wickets and even ran out Australian captain Ricky Ponting at the Oval (which he said on Monday was probably the first time he’s ever run somebody out).

England regain the Ashes — your views



England have regained the Ashes after beating Australia by 197 runs at the Oval to seal a 2-1 series victory.

How important was Andrew Flintoff’s run out of Ricky Ponting when the Australia captain looked well set? Flintoff did little with bat or ball in his last test before retiring but still made sure he grabbed the headlines.

A captaincy masterclass from Strauss



It can be a dog’s life being a cricket captain: adored and cherished, chastised and deplored in equal measure. If Ponting was the crown prince of captains after the first test in Cardiff, he became the pauper at Lord’s and is now very much in the shadow of Strauss at the Oval.

The second day of the final and deciding Ashes test could not have gone much better for the England captain, with the home side bundling Australia out for 160 inside 53 overs and closing day two on 58 for 3, a second innings lead of 230 after England were bowled out for 332 earlier in the day.

Ill discipline costs England again


flintoffHeard the one about the English batsmen who just couldn’t resist nibbling at balls way outside off stump? It is an all too common occurrence and is the main reason why England fell short of a good first innings total in the deciding Ashes test.

Of course, flashing away outside the off-stump isn’t just a disease to afflict English batsmen, although the problem does appear to be more acute on these shores than any where else.

Will England prove too fragile for final Ashes battle?


fredIn the end the England selectors kept their calm, remaining cut off from the hyperbole that followed Australia’s demolition of the home side at Headingley, and made just the one change for the Oval, with Jonathan Trott chosen to replace Ravi Bopara in England’s fragile middle order.

Personally, I would have been happier to see Kent’s Rob Key getting a recall for his experience and proven grace under pressure, but given Trott was in the squad for the fourth test, it would have smacked of vacillation from the selectors not to stick with him. As it was, Ricky Ponting described Trott’s promotion as an act of desperation.

Should England bring back Ramprakash for Ashes decider?


rampsEngland will be under huge pressure to make changes for the deciding Ashes test at the Oval and the middle order is the obvious place to start, with Ravi Bopara, Ian Bell and Paul Collingwood contributing just 16 runs in six innings at Headingley.

So what should England do about it?

Possible replacements include Jonathan Trott, who was called into the squad at Headingley, Robert Key of Kent and even 39-year-old Mark Ramprakash as a one-off experiment.