Category Archives: Special Guest Columists

Duncan Fletcher’s Guardian B-Sides: “Where now for England?”

England should look to Mahmood, Rashid, Brsenan to conquer all

Posted by Duncan Fletcher, Wednesday 19th August

England did really well.  Well done.  Winning the Ashes is never easy.  People keep asking me if this team is as good as my team in 2005.  Indeed, I occasionally offer them an answer.  The key to England’s success was Andrew Strauss, who is a very good player.  He scored 474 runs, which really is a lot of runs. An interesting statistic is that he scored 26 more runs than Michael Clarke, who is a very good player. People keep asking me if I should have made him captain for the 2006/07 Ashes.  However, I know that I always make the right decisions, and always stick to them, mainly because they are often right.

Where now for England? How do you replace Andrew Flintoff? The trip to South Africa will be very tricky, and England need the best three-dimensional young unproven cricketers they can find.  In the last two Tests Broad was exceptional and if anything proves that my old mantra that young, rounded, 3 dimensional cricketers are a good idea, is correct. On that basis, England must get Sajid Mahmood back in the side. I know I talk about Saj a lot, but he really is one of the most intelligent, rounded and brilliant all-rounders I have ever worked with. He could fill Flintoff’s boots.

An example of his intelligent bowling was in an ODI a number of years ago. Saj used his brain brilliantly, sending down 5 of his marvellous slower balls, bamboozling the batsman into only scoring 9 runs off the over, a good economy rate for Saj. Plus of course, he has pace. Pace is the single most important thing a bowler can ever have, and Saj has plenty.

I will never forget the brilliant match-winning 22* he scored against South Africa in 2006. It is probably up there as one of the best lower order batting displays in one day cricket history, but often gets overlooked. I believe that, as a genuine all-rounder, he could be slot into the no. 7 slot, allowing Broad to bat 8, and Swann 9.

I also think that Adil Rashid and Tim Bresnan must tour.  The case for Rashid is obvious, so I will not go over it again.  Bresnan is one of those players whose both his bowling nor batting are quite Test standard, but he offers an overall three-dimensional package that can boost the middle order.

South Africa will be very tough opposition, and England must play to their best to win.  They must also field their best side, and by playing lots of all-round cricketers with multiple skills it could be done.

Duncan Fletcher is the former coach of the England cricket team, who also writes for the Guardian. This column is a selection of his articles that, sadly, were not deemed publishable quality by The Guardian.

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Ian Ronald Bell MBE’s Ashes Tour Diary – Fifth Test, First Day

bellNumber 3: The Mistress I so Lament; So close, yet so far

Posted by Ian Bell, Thursday 20th August

“If I should meet thee After long years, How should I greet thee? – With silence and tears” – Lord Byron

This prose, this stunning eloquent prose, an excerpt from Lord Byron’s incomparable ‘When We Two Parted’, seemed exceptionally apt as I rekindled my squalid affair with that most buxom of mistresses: the England no. 3 spot.  Never has your humble narrator, I. R.,  ever scored a sacred three-figure tally.  I lament.

“Butterflies in the stomach” would perhaps be the most gargantuan of underestimations: indeed; the nerves set upon like one thousand of God’s most beautiful butterflies, haunting my insides with their flaunting fluttering wings, tickling the inner most sanctum of my stomach.

I believe some of these vain monsters even bore the wicked face of that beast, MG Johnson.

So, no. 3, my most wicked of lovers, how should I greet thee?  Indeed, it was with silence!  It was with tears!  A wicked silence to stun all those that bowl; no tears of salty water, these tears were filled with pure anger!  Tears crammed with the wrath of I. R. Bell!

Needless to say, with Byron’s words a-ringing true around my ears, and with my eyes gently weeping, I knew this would be it: I. R. would tame this damned mistress of no. 3.  Batting started as rocky as the rockiest boats in the most of rockiest seas, MG Johnson, the beast who be, snarling in with the most unsporting of intents: to knock the head off of this very I. R. Bell.
Plain sailing from there however, as 72 of the most sumptuous I. R. Bell runs were scored all round.  If this form continues, Warne will be soon calling me the ‘scorerunsinator’, or something equally witty.

Let us not dwell on that most of futile of futile dismissals, all but my round cranium now knows is that the second innings will have to be the time I finally tame the mistress with a century.  Bring it on.

Ian Ronald Bell MBE is an England Test cricketer, you can follow his twitter here.  The fee from this column has been donated to charity.

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Swann Song: Graeme Logs in

swannMy 5th Test preview!!

Posted by Graeme Swann, Wednesday 19th August

Swannie here, England’s number one spinner and generally good bloke. I’m often compared to this hilarious chaps in the WKD adverts. Have I got a WKD side? I should say so! HA HA HA HA HA HA!!! Must tell Jimmy that one, Jimmy’ll love that, classic banter!!!

Anyway, the chaps have all been getting prepared for the big test and spirits are high after that hiccup in Leeds. I’ve been doing my best to keep the morale with my usual high jinks. For example, the other day Cooky was fresh out the shower and drying his face with a towel. I picked up a piping hot cuppa and proceeded to dip Cooky’s little man in it, or as we call it, ‘The little chef!’ Geddit, chef, cook. Classic banter!!! Jimmy’ll love that.

Cooky went mad and all the lads thought it was hilarious except cooky who jokingly threatened to drop me the second he was made skipper. Then stormed off to Flower’s office, not sure why he always goes there when I wind him up, probably to discuss technique or something.

Anyway, they can’t drop me anymore, I’m England’s number one. Plus my banter is second to none, the lads love it, especially at the start of a day’s play. I’ll be there, winding up Straussy that he’s gonna fail to build on his overnight score again, then rubbing it right in when he comes back having added nothing. HA HA. Classic banter. Straussy clearly loves it though as he’s promoted me to honorary spokesman of the team.

The SKY lot will come in when I’m playing ‘hide Monty’s turban’ or something and ask for someone to do an interview with Atherton. Strauss always volunteers me now without hesitation, ‘Piss off Swann and do the f**kin interview’ he says, great banter. I like having a chat with the camera’s and being ‘cheeky Graeme Swann’, everyone loves it. It’s ashame I have to miss out on all the banter in the dressing room before play though. In fact, I don’t think there’s much without me. Whenever I get back into the pavilion all the lads look bloody depressed. They miss the Swann’s presence clearly.

People think there must be some animosity between me and Monty, what with me taking his place and all, but that’s far from the case. I’m always there making jokes with him about his turban and calling him the ‘turbanator’, much funnier than the ‘Shermanator’, although American Pie is a classic film. In fact, I think I was the one who made him play so well on that final day in Cardiff. Many a time the skipper felt like his resolve was flagging so he sent out twelthy and the physio to remind him that I was waiting for him in the dressing room and he applied himself again. That’s the Swann factor, oh my god, we should do that. Make a show like the X-Factor but where people try to be like me, classic, must tell Jimmy about that one!!!
Right, I’m off now to listen to some Oasis, Wonderwall is clearly the best tune of eva!!! Jimmy thinks that Blur are better, what a fool!

Graeme Swann is an England Test cricketer, you can follow his twitter here.  The fee from this column has been donated to charity.

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