Mathew Sinclair | 11:48pm gmt 10 May 2009
The England cricket team once again showed that they will be a force to be reckoned with on their home turf leading up to the Ashes against the Australians.
This West Indies cricket team have got a lot of soul searching to do if they are to topple over this England team. Stand out performances from Graham Onions and Ravi Bopara set up what was an emphatic Test win without being put under any real pressure. A lot of the talk coming out of the West Indies team is of self belief and accuracy to compete. Beating England will depend on a heck of a lot more than that.
The English on their home grounds have such a huge advantage; they are used to the conditions like the weather and wickets and see this series as a good pre cursor to the Australians. The English players will all be looking to do well in this series as the selectors still debate who will face the Aussies. Bopara fresh off the IPL in South Africa showed that whilst the diet of a hectic Twenty20 campaign and the mentality of seeing the ball and hitting the ball action, you can still adjust to a Test match frame of mind. He showed patience by hitting the loose ball to the boundary as one of his batting plans. The West Indies bowlers missed out on their line and length and of course the batters leapt on this.
Good bowling I have found facing is not all about shear pace and running in like grease lightning. We want to encourage our young up and coming fast bowlers to bowl fast then the accuracy will come. The best bowlers in the world pride themselves on accuracy as their number one plan and then wait for the batsman to make the mistake. Just like watching good golfers with low handicaps they eliminate the risk of hitting big and play the percentage game by hitting the fairways and letting their irons do the work. Onions bowled within himself and was backed up with good partnership bowling, Anderson was the perfect foil for this, he dotted up his end and Onions attacked from the other end. The West Indies batsmen had no answer for this sustained pressure forcing basic batting mistakes.
Gayle, Sarwan, Chanderpaul need to start stepping up with the bat if they want to put any pressure on this English team. Gayle seems to be the key to this line up, the way he can dominate the bowlers with such ease. I do question his temperament at the best of times when he starts to stand and deliver every ball and wonder what he is thinking about in his batting plans. Without doubt a great batsman to watch as you see the ball flying to the boundary and over it but seeing this you would think the bowler surely has a great chance of getting his wicket. The bowlers need a platform from which to bowl from and getting all out in the mid 100s is not the way to get your bowlers to come in and bowl with the accuracy to attack the batsman.
I am glad to see Strauss as the new England captain. I think he brings that maturity and determination and no fuss attitude to do well at this job. Here is a guy that has been in and out of this team a few times and to see what he has achieved so far is a real testament to him and his attitude. There have been times he has been put under a lot of pressure - his own form, media, and the change of coaching and captaincy in this setup. The best is yet to come from him as well as his England team as they look to quickly wrap this series up and move onto a bigger challenge.
South Africa has really turned it on for this Indian IPL tournament, some see it as a travelling circus whilst others see it as a great marketing ploy for up and coming Indian cricketers to play on the world stage in a foreign country. The Kiwis haven't fared so well and a lot of them seem to be warming the benches quite a lot. The cut throat nature of this game is proving that if you don't perform there is someone else to take your place. This is definitely the case for some of the Kiwis over there from what I can only imagine. I like the idea of taking this tournament overseas every now and then rather than just India as it gives other cricketing nations an opportunity to see the best.
From what I can only watch on TV, the crowds have really got into the hype of this tournament which is a real credit to whomever brought this together. With the Twenty20 World Cup not far away it's a good chance for players to get into some form with bat and ball to prepare themselves for the World Cup. Spin seems to be the choice of bowlers with them dominating the bat as the wickets are a bit tacky and taking slow turn. Not bad options especially after the six overs as batsmen have to create their own pace from the ball and access gaps to score runs. Still, would like to see batsmen improvise by lapping the ball and reverse hitting, areas where fielders aren't a batsmen's priority. The game is changing all the time and bowlers are getting smarter as to where they bowl the ball according to field settings, so as batsmen we need to change as well.
Exciting times are ahead with the conclusion of the IPL. I would only be guessing as to who is going to win but it has been a success all the same with the World Cup just around the corner with more Twenty20 cricket.
This week I was presented with the Central Districts Player of the Year award. It really capped off what a great year that I have had and the hard work that I have put in on and off the park. It was a great honour as I hold Central Districts quite close to my heart and love performing for my team and leading from the front. There have been some fantastic performances from all of my team mates throughout the year and for me to take this title came down to doing it all for the team cause.
This winter I am unsure of my next professional commitment, a lot of exciting prospects are ahead, expecting a baby and also a book that won't be far away from being on the shelves. So watch this space with developments on all of these things. Till next time.