Jan 032014

By Rob Barnett

Ben Stokes’ six stunning wickets completed England’s mission of dismissing Australia after putting them in, although it came at a greater cost than had looked likely.

The all-rounder struck twice to leave the hosts 97 for five shortly after lunch, but Steven Smith and Brad Haddin responded with a 128-run stand as the bowlers lost their discipline.

Although Stokes, playing in his fourth Test, returned to oust Haddin for 75, Smith went on to his second hundred of the series. He was the last wicket to fall, for 115, when Stokes got three in an over for figures of 6-99, his first format five-for.

Ben Stokes gets a six-wicket haul that limited Australia to 326, although it could have been less after they were 97 for five

Australia’s 326 all out left the tourists with six overs to bat, in which they lost Michael Carberry to Mitchell Johnson before closing on eight for one.

Alastair Cook this morning won his first toss of the series and opted to bowl first in initially overcast conditions on a green-tinged SCG pitch. Cook announced Test debuts for Gary Ballance, Scott Borthwick and Boyd Rankin, who replaced Joe Root, Monty Panesar and Tim Bresnan. Australia kept the same team throughout the series, the first time that has happened in a five-game rubber.

England started strongly as Stuart Broad bowled David Warner before Chris Rogers played on to Stokes, who then had Michael Clarke held at second slip. On the stroke of lunch James Anderson trapped Shane Watson plumb lbw for 43.

Shortly after the interval George Bailey edged Broad to the cordon, but Haddin counter-attacked to good effect until being caught at first slip after tea. Borthwick took his first Test wicket when Johnson holed out to long-on before Smith reached three figures.

Stokes quickly wrapped up the innings, having Ryan Harris, Peter Siddle and Smith caught. However, Johnson had the last word when Carberry was held at leg-slip.

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Evening Session

England 1st Innings

7.03am – STUMPS! England 8/1; Cook 7, Anderson 1 – Cook and Anderson see off Johnson to end a compelling day with England 318 behind. Join me tomorrow for the next instalment.

6.59am – Nightwatchman James Anderson, who takes his time between balls, plays out a Harris maiden. There will be one more over.

6.50am – WICKET! Carberry c Lyon b Johnson 0; Eng 6/1 – The ball after Australia fail to spot a faint outside edge behind, Carberry inside edges to leg-slip where Nathan Lyon holds a low chance.

6.41am – Mitchell Johnson has a strong caught-behind shout first ball against Michael Carberry. Marais Erasmus gives it not-out and Australia opt not to review, replays showing the ball only flicked Carberry’s trouser. Johnson completes a testing over.

6.37am – With cloud cover having returned Ryan Harris opens the bowling to Alastair Cook, who punches a wide full-toss through the covers for four.

Australia 1st Innings

6.26am – WICKET! Smith c Root b Stokes 115; Australia 326 all out – Smith picks out substitute Root at mid-on as Stokes gets his third wicket of the over and figures of 6-99. England will have a tricky period to bat this evening.

6.24am – CHANCE! – Lyon edges Stokes low to Anderson, who dives to his left from fourth slip but can’t hold a hard opportunity.

6.22am – WICKET! Siddle c Bairstow b Stokes 0; Aus 325/9 – The all-rounder produces a beauty first up to Peter Siddle, who can only edge behind. Stokes has his first Test five-for and is on a hat-trick, which Nathan Lyon denies with solid defence.

6.19am – WICKET! Harris c Anderson b Stokes 22; Aus 325/8 – Harris’ fun ends as he powerfully hits Stokes on the up to short cover, where Anderson holds a sharp chance.

6.16am – Harris keeps the boundaries coming, pulling Anderson over midwicket and into a delighted crowd.

6.04am – Smith sends another Borthwick full-toss to the boundary as the hosts move beyond 300. Ryan Harris then top-edges and cover-drives Anderson for two more fours.

5.53am – HUNDRED! Smith (142b 15×4 2×6) – Smith lifts Borthwick over mid-on for today’s first six to go to 99 and, two balls later, deposits a full-toss to the midwicket rope to herald three figures. The SCG rises to acclaim his second ton of the series.

5.41am – WICKET! Johnson c Root b Borthwick 12; Aus 269/7 – Borthwick has a first Test scalp when Johnson holes out to long-on, where substitute Joe Root steadies himself to hold a commendable catch. Well done Scott!

5.34am – Scott Borthwick is back into the attack with a tidy over that will boost his confidence. While Smith is into the 80s, Mitchell Johnson has quietly reached double figures.

5.24am – Smith breaks a quiet period of play by smashing Stokes for a straight and aerial four that moves Australia past 250. Anderson immediately gets similar treatment.

5.12am – After Stokes and Anderson send down a tight over each, Rankin is back into the attack in place of the former. But one ball later the debutant pulls up again and, like in the afternoon session, leaves the field. Stokes completes the over.

5.01am – Smith, who opened the face to cut Stokes for four in the previous over, sweetly cover-drives James Anderson to the rope.

4.46am – WICKET! Haddin c Cook b Stokes 75; Aus 225/6 – A huge wicket for England as the right-hander nicks a full delivery through to Alastair Cook, who holds a regulation low chance at first slip. It ends a stand of 128.

4.38am – Brad Haddin smites Ben Stokes for two aerial off-side fours, the first over extra-cover and then over mid-off. Haddin then pulls Broad for four more over mid-on to reach 75.

4.33am – FIFTY! Smith (87b 10×4 0x6) – Steven Smith drives Stuart Broad to the square off-side boundary to bring up a solid half-century in the first over after tea. Boyd Rankin is back on the field but he isn’t allowed to bowl for a while.

Afternoon Session

4.10am – TEA! Australia 201/5; Smith 48, Haddin 59 –  Yet again, Haddin is causing England a headache. Smith is supporting him well.

4.08am – HUNDRED PARTNERSHIP! – Haddin pulls Anderson for four to reach a landmark in his alliance with Smith and to move Australia to 200. It’s been quite a turnaround since Bailey fell.

4.03am – Haddin greets the returning Anderson by leaning back and whacking a one-bounce four over midwicket before Smith cover-drives Stokes to the rope.

3.55am – FIFTY! Haddin (70b 8×4 0x6) – Haddin blocks Stokes, who has replaced Borthwick, for a single to mid-on, completing his fifth half-century of the series in addition to a century at Adelaide.

3.49am – Following a menacing Broad maiden to Haddin, Borthwick concedes fours at the start and end of his second over as Australia go after him.

3.41am – Haddin, having opened the face for three runs, advances to Borthwick and smacks him powerfully back past the bowler for four. The young leg-spinner responds well in the rest of the over.

3.35am – Bad news for England: Rankin needs treatment after the first ball of his ninth over and leaves the field, feeling his left hamstring on his way off. Broad continues the over.

3.28am – After Smith slashes Stokes for four through backward point without foot movement, leg-spinner Scott Borthwick has his first bowl in Tests. Smith clips a full-toss between midwicket and mid-on for four.

3.21am – Haddin flat-bats Rankin over mid-on for four to raise a fifty partnership with Smith that the wicketkeeper-batsman has made 38 of.

3.18am – Haddin strikes Stokes for three fours in an over with a cover-drive, a flick to fine-leg and an aerial pull. Haddin, Australia’s batsman of the series, is threatening again.

3.05am – Haddin cuts a short-and-wide Rankin ball for four and pulls Stokes to the rope. Broad returns to the field after a period off it and Smith streakily edges Rankin high over third slip for four.

2.56am – Boyd Rankin replaces Broad and starts with a tight over that Anderson emulates.

2.46am – REVIEW! – Haddin plays back to Anderson, who appeals for caught behind via pad. There were two noises so England review but there is no indication of an inside edge, meaning Haddin survives on nine. Later in the over Smith takes a painful blow to the glove from a length ball that reared at him.

2.38am – Smith and Haddin shoulder arms to Anderson and are each struck on the pad, but England review on neither occasion with both balls too high to hit the stumps.

2.30am – Following Anderson’s runless over to Steven Smith, in-form Brad Haddin gets going by driving Broad for four through mid-off to herald Australia’s hundred. Later in the over Haddin narrowly evades a fierce Broad bouncer.

2.20am – WICKET! Bailey c Cook b Broad 1; Aus 97/5 – Bailey edges to first slip where Alastair Cook spills the ball but clasps it to his left hand just above the turf. England are right on top here. Broad completes a wicket-maiden.

2.15am – Stuart Broad delivers a threatening maiden to Bailey with bright sun having replaced the morning’s cloud cover.

2.11am – James Anderson bowls the last two balls of the over he started before lunch, George Bailey getting off the mark with a single to leg from the first delivery. 

Morning Session

1.31am – WICKET & LUNCH! – Watson lbw Anderson 43; Aus 94/4 – Smith drives Stokes through point for four before Anderson has a close lbw shout against Watson, who was padding up, although England rightly opt not to review. But next ball Watson is plumb lbw, England’s first of the series, and does not contest the verdict. That heralds the interval and makes it the tourists’ morning.

1.23am – Watson edges Anderson through a vacant third slip and immediately just over gully, picking up fours with both shots. The first would have been a regulation chance and the second was just out of the fielder’s reach.

1.16am – Clarke c Bell b Stokes 10; Aus 78/3 – Stokes, who has twice been no-balled for breaking the non-striker’s stumps, finds an ideal length that forces Clarke to edge to Ian Bell at second slip. That’s a key scalp with lunch approaching. Steven Smith opens his account by driving Stokes to the extra-cover rope.

1.04am – Clarke stays in control of a hook against Broad to get his first four. Watson scores his fifth by driving Stokes, who has taken over from Rankin, down the ground.

12.54am – CHANCE! – Clarke, on two, takes a single off Broad, who has replaced Stokes. Carberry picks up right-handed at point and would have ousted the Australia captain with a direct hit. Watson then clips Rankin to the midwicket boundary.

12.43am – WICKET! Rogers b Stokes 11; Aus 51/2 – Rogers pulls a ball that does not get up and he under-edges between his legs onto leg stump, giving England the relatively early wickets they wanted. Michael Clarke gets off the mark first ball with a single into the covers and Watson then powerfully pulls for four.

12.36am – Stokes sends down a maiden to Watson, who ends the next over with a single to leg off Rankin that raises Australia’s fifty.

12.26am – Big Boyd Rankin is into the attack, taking over from Anderson. Watson straight away plays and misses with a loose cut. Rankin’s second ball is a steepling bouncer that troubles the right-hander, who soon gets off strike with three through midwicket.

12.24am – Carberry keeps Watson to three with some smart work near the rope after Watson cover-drives Stokes on the up.

12.13am – Ben Stokes replaces Broad, and Watson immediately drives through mid-off for four.

12.08am – Rogers and Watson eschew risk in two overs following the breakthrough.

11.56pm – WICKET! Warner b Broad 16; Aus 22/1 – The left-hander pays for trying to drive a fullish delivery with little foot movement, having his off stump clipped. Broad is rewarded for pitching the ball up despite twice being driven down the ground in his previous over. Shane Watson immediately gets going with a cover-driven four.

11.52pm – Anderson keeps Warner quiet with a maiden.

11.47pm – Warner drives down the ground for fours either side of cutting Broad aerially through point for another boundary as the athletic Michael Carberry, diving to his left, cannot get near it.

11.40pm – Stuart Broad shares the new ball and David Warner gets the game’s first runs with two through cover-point. Rogers then opens his account by guiding a four between the slips and gully.

11.34pm – James Anderson opens the bowling with a maiden featuring plenty of movement to Chris Rogers.

Pre-Play News

11.25pm – The national anthems are being sung, England’s first. Not long to go until the action starts.

11.15pm – England also went into the Sydney Test 4-0 down in 2003 and responded with a win inspired in part by Andy Caddick’s 10 wickets, which he exclusively recalls for ecb.co.uk here.

11.01pm – ENGLAND WIN THE TOSS & BOWL – Ballance, Borthwick and Rankin indeed play in place of Joe Root, Monty Panesar and Tim Bresnan. The hosts are unchanged, meaning they keep the same team throughout the series – the first time that has happened in a five-game rubber.

10.55pm – The toss is in five minutes. With overcast conditions and a green-tinged pitch looking like favouring the team that bowls first, it should be an important one to win. Can Cook reverse his run of losing the previous four?

10.45pm – Australia, conversely, have the luxury of being able to keep the same team throughout the series. However, all-rounder James Faulkner may well replace batsman George Bailey.

10.35pm – Those three new caps are for Gary Ballance, Scott Borthwick and Boyd Rankin. Who will they replace? We’ll find out soon.

10.25pm – England are expected to make changes from the Boxing Day Test, in part due to Monty Panesar having a calf problem. Read about the possible alterations and Alastair Cook’s thoughts ahead of the game here.

10.15pm – Hello and welcome to ecb.co.uk’s live blog coverage of the fifth and final Ashes Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Can England avoid a 5-0 whitewash? Stay here to find out over the coming days. The toss is due to take place in 45 minutes and the start of play is set for half an hour later.

Click for detailed story

Jan 032014
Ashes 2014 (Day 1): England surprise with three debutants included in the last test side.

The fifth and final test of the 2013/2014 Ashes series got underway at the SCG today. The main surprise being the team Alistair Cook and the English selectors chose to take on the unchanged Australian team.

Match report: Ashes 2013/14, 5th Test, Day 1, Sydney Cricket Ground, 3rd January 2014.

Gary Ballance, Scott Borthwick and Boyd Rankin all making their debuts for the England team, the three players who were dropped in order for the three debutants to play was Joe Root, the injured Monty Panesar and Tim Bresnan.

However the selectors gambles didn’t pay off, with Boyd Rankin injuring his hamstring into his 8th over and had to go off the field twice for treatment, it is unknown what damage he has done to his leg, and whether he will continue to play in his first test.

Despite the injury to Rankin, England had an incredibly optimistic start before lunch with four key wickets. Rogers, Warner, Watson and Clarke were all dismissed rather cheaply by England, leaving Haddin and Smith to bail Australia out after lunch.

With the four top batsmen only putting on 80 runs, leaving Australia at 5/97 just after lunch when Bailey was dismissed.

It was Haddin and Smith that managed to drag Australia back in the game. Haddin added 75 runs in just 90 balls before he was dismissed by Stokes in the 55th over, but it was Smith that got the century, his second this summer. He added 115 runs before being caught in the deep by Joe Root (Substitute fielder for Boyd Rankin). England finally managed to clean up with Australian tail end before the end of the day, with Ben Stokes collecting 6 of the wickets.

England were then sent in for 6 overs before the end of the day, with Johnson getting Carberry out for a duck in the third over, leaving Alistair Cook and night watchman James Anderson at the crease tomorrow morning to face Johnson, Siddle, Harris and Lyon.

Scorecard: England 1/8 (Cook* 7, Anderson* 1) trail Australia 326 (Smith 115, Haddin 75, Stokes 6/99) By 318 runs.

Credits: ESPNcricinfo (Scorecard and Image) 

Nov 162013
Heartening win for England

England managed to sneak a morale-boosting seven-wicket victory over an Australia Invitational XI between the showers at the Sydney Cricket Ground ahead of first Ashes Test.

Michael Carberry, in particular, can head to the Gabba with a spring in his step for his second Test cap after reaching 50 in all three warm-up matches and helping England pass a target of 148 with 16.2 overs to spare but in the nick of time as more rain threatened.

The other notable ‘winners’ included Jonny Bairstow, who took seven catches in the match as the injured Matt Prior’s deputy, doubtless enhancing confidence should England’s first-choice wicketkeeper fail to recover from a calf problem in time for next week.

Boyd Rankin finished with 3-46 and Steven Finn 3-88 as the Invitationals mustered a second-innings 261 all out at lunch.

England then lost Alastair Cook, bowled trying to cut a leg-break from James Muirhead, to be 40 for one when forecast rain arrived and brought an early tea.

But Carberry, who hit 50 and seems assured of adding to his solitary Test cap as Cook’s opening partner, dug in admirably.

On a pitch showing significant signs of wear – especially for Muirhead, who found some alarming bounce at times – Carberry’s was a telling contribution.

Promoted to open last week in Hobart in preference to Joe Root – who will now almost certainly be deployed in the middle order next week at Brisbane – the left-hander completed his 69-ball half-century with a cover-drive off Muirhead for his eighth four.

He got himself out, without further addition, when he mistimed a pull at the leg-spinner and was caught in the leg-side ring to end a stand of 51 with Jonathan Trott.

Carberry had already put England within striking distance of a first win of the tour after draws in Perth and then rainy Tasmania.

The final straight was not without its complications, however.

Trott would have been run out by 12 yards or more on 17 had wicketkeeper Peter Nevill’s shy at one stump hit the target after Kevin Pietersen set off for a single off Muirhead to short square-leg.

Moments later, Trott was dropped at slip off Muirhead by Aaron Finch – and then Pietersen played across a straight ball from Chris Tremain to be bowled off his pad.

Trott and Ian Bell ensured, however, that the wobble got no worse, the latter ending proceedings with a straight six just before the heavens opened once more.

After heavy overnight rain, Cook had given Rankin and Finn the first opportunity as the Invitationals resumed on 153 for four on a pitch which had spent several hours under cover again.

The two seamers were unable to take immediate advantage, and it was not until Stuart Broad was summoned that Kurtis Patterson opened the door to England with a poor shot – a front-foot pull at a delivery that was not short enough and bowled the left-hander off an under-edge.

Ryan Carters was joined by Nevill, the partnership which had held England up for 58 overs in the first innings.

This time, they managed only 12 overs before Nevill edged Finn behind on the back foot – and Bairstow, who did little wrong throughout, claimed a low catch.

The wicketkeeper was neat and safe again in the next over when Carters got a thin edge down the leg-side off Graeme Swann.

The second new ball, and Rankin’s extra bounce, was too much for Josh Lalor – who, with only eight to his name at number eight, became the first batsman to go for a single-figure score in the innings.

Muirhead was also spooked by Rankin, and Bairstow had another victim behind the stumps with a sharp catch away to his right, before Finn closed out the innings when Tremain holed out to mid-off.

Click here for images from day four.

Nov 132013
England’s two seam bowlers

The fight to be England’s third seamer is not a classic. It is a pillow fight, at best.

In the warm-up matches, Chris Tremlett has taken one wicket in 37 overs; Boyd Rankin has three wickets from 49 overs; while Steven Finn tops the wicket tally with five wickets in 55 overs. Finn also has the best average of the three, at 51, despite conceding 4.63 runs an over.

You might think: ‘warm-up matches, schwarm-up matches,’ but this does make a mockery of all that talk about competition for places. If there’s competition here, it’s in the style of Go For Broke where the players are competing to achieve the exact opposite of what you might expect.

At present, the choice seems to be between Boyd Rankin’s ineffectiveness and the occasional wicket from the run-haemorrhaging Steven Finn. We’d go for Monty Panesar. Or we’d play Jonathan Trott as an all-rounder. You can’t beat a bit of slapped-back dobble.

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Oct 302013
English quicks in trial Test battle

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ENGLAND is set to unleash its towering pace trio of Steve Finn, Chris Tremlett and Boyd Rankin on the bouncy WACA Ground deck on Thursday, with the quicks in direct competition to grab the final bowling spot for the first Ashes Test.

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Established group James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann are all likely to miss the three-day clash against a weakened WA XI, leaving the three fast bowlers an opportunity to stake their claim for a berth in the Test side in Brisbane next month.

England skipper Alistair Cook will miss the clash as he recovers from a minor back problem, while star batsman Kevin Pietersen is also set to sit out after making only a brief appearance at the side’s net session this morning.

Pietersen only joined the squad on Sunday after taking compassionate leave following the death of a friend.
Wicketkeeper Matt Prior, who will act as stand-in skipper for the warm-up fixture, said Finn, Tremlett and Rankin were all looking to put their best foot forward ahead of the First Test beginning November 21.

“Nets have been good fun at the moment with the big guys steaming in, all playing for that place,” Prior said.

“The batters have been hopping around a little bit.

“It’s great to have competition in a squad – I think that’s very healthy. It’s not just bowlers, it’s batters, all-rounders.

Throughout the team there’s a huge amount of competition.

“Everyone’s pushing each other very hard, and I think that gets the best out of the final XI chosen.”

Prior said the fact the bulk of England’s best XI had tasted success in Australia during its most recent tour in 2010-11 would hold the side in good stead as it looks to seal a fourth successive Ashes series win.

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“It’s a huge advantage,” he said.

“Coming over here, you’ve got the majority of the squad that know about playing cricket in Australia, and also know about winning in Australia, which is a huge thing and a great confidence boost.

“Immediately we go into our first net session and batters with experience of playing on wickets with more bounce are feeding back to the younger players.

“All of this information is immediately being filtered down, and you don’t need to take the first week / ten days / two weeks of getting into it and finding these things out.

“We know what we need to do, we know how to best prepare for that first Test match, and we can get straight into our work. It’s a massive benefit.”

Queensland batsman Chris Lynn has been drafted into the WA squad for the match, with the Warriors first XI playing a Sheffield Shield game against Victoria in Melbourne at the same time.

Young all-rounder Mitch Marsh will make his return from a hamstring injury.

Likely England team (one to be omitted):
Michael Prior (c), Joe Root, Michael Carberry, Jonathan Trott, Ian Bell, Jonny Bairstow, Gary Ballance, Ben Stokes, Chris Tremlett, Steve Finn, Boyd Rankin, Monty Panesar.

Western Australia (one to be omitted): Michael Beer (c), James Allenby, Burt Cockley, Matt Dixon, Ryan Duffield, Marcus Harris, Chris Lynn, Mitch Marsh, Luke Towers, Tom Triffitt, Ashton Turner, Andrew Tye.

Aug 302013
Ireland aim for 'embarrassing' case
Boyd Rankin bowls Duncan Allan, Ireland v Kenya, ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier, Dubai, March 14, 2012

The shoe on the other foot: Boyd Rankin will feature for England this time around © International Cricket Council

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Players/Officials: Phil Simmons
Series/Tournaments: England tour of Ireland

Ireland’s push for greater global recognition reaches another important landmark next week when they host England in front of what will be a record crowd at the new stadium at Malahide. The ODI is on course to be a 10,000 sell-out and, while the available seating at the new venue is one reason for the record figure, there is also a feeling that cricket in Ireland has hit a new peak this year.

The national side came very close to beating Pakistan in a two-match ODI series, while they continue to qualify for all the global tournaments put in front of them. The Inter Provincial three-day tournament has also been launched and Cricket Ireland’s aim is to earn first-class status for that competition by 2015 in their pursuit of being a Test nation by 2020.

However, opportunities against Full Member teams remain rare and have to be fought for around the politicking tables of world cricket, but Cricket Ireland are determined to make the game so successful in the country that it becomes “embarrassing” for other nations not to play them more often.

“The perception of Ireland cricket continues to be one that is fairly low within the Full Member world due to the opportunities spurned by others to play us,” Warren Deutrom, the Cricket Ireland CEO, told ESPNcricinfo. “But that doesn’t stop us doing what we can; investing in our senior squads, investing in our facilities, getting public and private funding, and growing the sport where we can attract these big matches.

“Basically, it’s about building the argument until it’s one that is too embarrassing to ignore regarding how good we are becoming. We have few and far opportunities against Full Members, but look at what we do when they come along. People may still say we don’t expect Ireland to win these games, we expect them to be competitive. Well, I’d say we are extremely competitive when we get the chance.”

Phil Simmons, Ireland’s coach, said that there is now a very different mindset within the team compared to a few years ago. “The way that we played against Pakistan showed we are learning every time we go out. We should have won the second match. We are learning how to win games. Since the 2011 World Cup, we’ve had that mentality. We go in to win the game and not just compete.”

Deutrom was keen to stress that the England fixture on September 3 was not the “be-all and end-all” for Irish cricket. He is well aware that pinning all ambitions on one fixture every two years does not do Ireland any favours, and also the weather does not have a record of being especially fair to this fixture, but acknowledges that it does carry extra weight given England’s recent Ashes success and the fact it will be covered by Sky TV.

“Above everything else it’s about the perception of Irish cricket,” he said. “Having 10,000 in an Irish cricket ground against England, in front of TV cameras, with the President of Ireland and chief executive of ICC, says everything that we in Cricket Ireland have been trying to drive home.”

Neither is Deutrom going to be drawn into a debate over the strength of the England side that is coming over. A number of key figures – Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, James Anderson and Kevin Pietersen – will not be making the trip to Dublin. So, as in 2011, it will be an experimental England side that is captained by Eoin Morgan, who was also the captain for the 2011 one-off encounter. This time there is also the presence of Boyd Rankin, the former Ireland quick who played against England in the 2011 fixture, to stir the emotions of the locals.

“The under-strength team still won last time,” Deutrom said, referring to England’s narrow 11-run success in a rain-curtailed match. “It’s not as though we are hammering whoever they send over. It’s a full England team that is being sent. It is at the ECB’s risk that the team does not win, then they have to face the potential fall-out of that.

“If I was the ECB, I’d say whichever team we have sent over since 2006 has won. Ironically, the game we did beat them in, at the World Cup, was when they played most of their big names. We need to beat whatever they send over to justify.”

Aug 052013
Warwickshire excited by Rankin's form

Yorkshire 302 and 180 (Ballance 45, Woakes 5-42) drew with Warwickshire 309 and 3 for 0

Boyd Rankin was substituted into the Warwickshire XI, Surrey v Warwickshire, County Championship, Division One, Guildford, 3rd day, June, 7, 2013

Boyd Rankin made short work of Yorkshire’s lower order © PA Photos

Warwickshire’s frustration was greater than Yorkshire’s when only an hour’s play was possible on the final day, when heavy overnight rain persisted well into the morning to leave the Division One leaders less vulnerable to defeat than they might otherwise have been. Even so, had the weather been kind to the defending champions after a 2.40pm start, they might still have pulled off a third win in a row.

As it was, after completing the first part of their assignment by prising out the three remaining Yorkshire wickets, they had no sooner begun the chase for the 174 they needed than the weather closed in again, after only two overs of the 36 that theoretically were available.

The draw enabled Yorkshire to reinforce their lead a little, extending the gap between themselves and Sussex from seven points to 10. Warwickshire, with five games left, have 37 points to make up if they are to catch Yorkshire and retain the title they won last year, although as was pointed out by Varun Chopra, still acting captain while Jim Troughton struggles to regain full fitness, the gap is as it was.

“It would have been nice to have closed the gap with a win but with Sussex and Durham losing, we have not lost any ground,” he said. “And we are playing some very good cricket now.

“We dominated against Middlesex and Notts in our last two games, which is easier said than done, and we were favourites to win this game here. With five games to go we will be a match for most teams and if we could win four of those we would have the same number of points that won us the title last year.”

It took 13 overs for Yorkshire’s attempted resistance to collapse after resuming on 148 for 7. Chris Woakes finished with 5 for 42, his best analysis of the season, after uprooting Ryan Sidebottom’s stumps with his yorker and Boyd Rankin’s pace and bounce was too much for Steve Patterson and Jack Brooks, both caught on the leg side fending off rising deliveries. The big Irishman might have seen them off sooner but in questionable light Chopra was anxious not to give the umpires an excuse to take the players off and felt obliged to use Jeetan Patel from time to time.

Chopra feels Rankin could be Warwickshire’s trump card on the run-in, compensating for the loss of the injured Chris Wright. “He had got something different to most county cricketers, with being 6ft 8ins, massive and fast. Standing there at slip, you can see it is hitting the ‘keeper real hard.

“He is a better bowler this year even than last, with his areas and lines that he bowls. Last year you might have got the odd release ball from him but he is more at the batsmen this time and it looks very uncomfortable for anyone facing him.”

It was not one of Yorkshire’s better performances, an analysis with which their captain, Andrew Gale, did not disagree, although he is not alarmed enough to revise his view that three more wins, perhaps even two, will be enough to clinch the title for Yorkshire for the first time since 2001.

“I thought 300 was a little below par but the way we bowled on the second day put us in a good position,” he said. “But that morning session on the third day, where we had our foot on the throat of the defending champions, we let them off the hook. We should have made more than 180 in the second innings, when our batting was a bit soft in places, and that put them in a commanding position.

“We cannot afford to have many sessions like that if we are to win the title but it might not have been a bad thing in a way as a wake-up call.

“From here I think two more wins will put us in the mix, especially if we can beat Sussex away and Durham at Scarborough, and three would see us home.”

Gale, whose side were a batsman short with Phil Jaques and Joe Sayers both injured, says that Yorkshire have ruled out signing an overseas batsman for the closing weeks of the season, despite the threat of losing another one, Gary Ballance, to England.

“The club’s finances dictate what we can and can’t do and there is no money there, it is as simple as that,” he said. “But Phil is well on track to be back for the next Championship match and Joe is back playing second team today so we should have a full squad next time.”

Gale admitted he would be irked if he were to lose Ballance to the England Lions games against Bangladesh A, which clash with Yorkshire’s clash with Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge.

“As far as Gary is concerned if England come for him we will have no say in the matter, of course, but I would hope we would not lose him for the Lions game,” he said.

“If he goes and plays for England that’s fair enough but if it is for England Lions I think he’d be better off playing for us, in the Championship, to be honest. With the three in the senior side and five in the Under-19s I think we’ve given our fair share to the three lions.”

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