Tim Bresnan faces a difficult ICC Champions Trophy campaign if he is to make the England Ashes squad later this summer, after pulling out of the national side’s ODI series with New Zealand last Thursday.
The Yorkshire fast bowler left the camp to be with his wife, who was due to give birth during the series, but is set to return for the Champions Trophy this June, where England are currently front runners in the betting odds to win.
When Bresnan returns he faces a tough challenge to convince selectors he is worthy of an Ashes start, at least in the eyes of Betfair ambassador, Michael Vaughan, for he’s played very little international cricket this year.
His last outing was during the ODI series with India after New Year and since then an elbow injury has hampered his game. He managed only two Tests when touring the subcontinent and failed to take a wicket in either outing, replacing the injured Steven Finn.
The fact he wasn’t a first-choice seamer against India must be a real concern for Bresnan fans in the betting world, for the 28-year-old is now playing catch-up to get back in the side.
What he didn’t need was another withdrawal from the England squad and although he will be back for the Champions Trophy he now has fewer matches to impress selectors. Finn, meanwhile, took wickets against New Zealand this May to push his name forward for contention and will play during the Champions Trophy too.
It looks likely Andy Flower and co. will pick four pacemen and spinner Graeme Swann for the Ashes, and with Stuart Broad and James Anderson guaranteed places there’s just two more up for grabs.
Bresnan may well get a call-up but that doesn’t mean he’ll start during the first Test on 10 July. He was a squad player in the last series and looks destined to be one here, unless he takes major wickets for England this early summer.
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On the face of it, England have played it exactly right so far during the second Test against New Zealand.
With the Black Caps on 158-6 at the close, England – in theory – have three seasons to take four wickets on the final day and seal a 2-0 victory.
I say in theory, because the weather forecast on Tuesday is dreadful, with a washout like we saw on day one a real possibility, meaning Michael Vaughan’s prediction of a draw will come true.
If that is the case then England will still win the series, but they should have wrapped this game up much earlier.
On Sunday evening Jonathan Trott brought the innings almost to a standstill, scoring 11 of 69 balls. He is known for digging in and not being rushed into silly strokes – something that makes him a safe Ashes bet. But he showed on Monday morning that he is capable of scoring quickly. – his caution cost England crucial time.
There was then the puzzling decision to bat on well into the afternoon session. England eventually declared on 468 – meaning New Zealand would have to break the world record if they were to win. But this is a batting attack that crumbled for jut 68 only a week ago, was pushing beyond 400 really necessary?
It then wasn’t even as if Cook set ultra attacking fields, with some men posted out on the boundary, as if New Zealand only had 200 to chase down.
In being cautious England have ensured they won’t lose, but they may well have ensured they won’t win either. Andy Flower and co. will say they have still won the series, but if they want to become the best team in the world, they need to develop a ruthless streak. England should have gone for the kill on Sunday evening, setting up an early declaration on Monday.
Instead they will be looking to the heavens, hoping for a spell of dry weather on the final day that will give them enough time to finish the tourists off. And even if they do, questions will still be asked about England’s excessively cautious tactics.
New Zealand have resisted the temptation to throw Daniel Vettori straight back into the side for their second Test with England at Headingley.
The 34-year-old was recalled to the squad after Bruce Martin was ruled out with a calf injury.
However, Vettori has not played for almost a year since an operation on a Achilles injury and the Black Caps medical team were wary of risking him. He is though looking a safe ICC Champions Trophy bet
It means New Zealand will have to go four an all-seam attack with Doug Bracewell coming in for Martin. It also means that part-time spinner Kane Williamson will have to take some of the bowling strain in Yorkshire.
New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum said: “Dan, (coach) Mike Hesson and I spoke about how Dan was feeling and he wasn’t quite confident he’d be able to get through five days.
“His Test future is something we need to discuss regarding what he wants to prioritise in his career, but we certainly see a place for him.
McCullum himself will take the wicketkeeping gloves after BJ Watling was rules out with a knee injury.
It caps a difficult view days for New Zealand who also had to recover from their mauling at Lord’s and are vast outsiders in the England v New Zealand betting.
New Zealand battled bravely for much of the first Test and when they took the final four wickets in England’s second innings cheaply on the fourth morning, setting a victory target of 239, they must have fancied their chances.
However, the side’s fragile batting line-up was exposed yet again and crumbled in the face of some devastating bowling by Stuart Broad, who ended with figures of 7-44.
The Black Caps were dismissed for just 68, the 10th lowest Test score at Lord’s, and know they now have to win at Headingley in order to save the series.
If there is one thing we learned from England’s opening Test victory over New Zealand last week it is that the top order must improve if this team is to challenge Australia for the Ashes.
Both Alastair Cook and Nick Compton put on reasonable displays during their first Test of the summer yet neither proved the rock at the top betting fans looking for cricket tips were hoping for.
Much like their reverse series in New Zealand earlier this year, England had to rely on batsmen further down the order to scrape them clear and their dangerously slow rate last Thursday morning is a real concern.
Both Cook and Compton recorded sub-30 strike rates on a bat-friendly wicket at Lord’s that openly opened up for the bowlers over the weekend. It was a pedestrian performance from the opening pair and it was only Jonathan Trott’s quick-fire innings that got the game into full swing.
Yet it was only by the fifth and sixth men that England made something of this match and both Joe Root (40 & 71) and Jonny Bairstow (41) can rightly be proud of their contributions.
The Yorkshire pair did what Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell have done so often in the past and held up the innings when top-order batsmen failed to do their job.
England cannot afford to keep letting their middle order make up for the failings of the top and what won them the Ashes Down Under in 2010/11 was a strong leading partnership in Andrew Strauss and Cook.
People claim Compton is still learning the ropes but he’s an eight-Test 29-year-old with his name in Wisden now. He cut his cloth in India last winter and now must step up and match Cook blow for blow.
England v New Zealand betting fans have got England down as Ashes favourites but this could swing if the batsmen don’t improve – which gives even more impetus for a good performance in the second Test at Headingley.
Matt Prior has become the first wicketkeeper to be named England Cricketer of the Year.
The Sussex star beat England captain Alastair Cook and last year’s winner James Anderson to the award at a awards dinner at Lord’s.
It caps a fine 12 months for the 31-year-old, who matched his consistency with the gloves with fine form with the bat.
He hit seven Test half centuries during 2013 but will perhaps be best remembered for his memorable performance in Auckland in March.
Prior’s defiant 110 not out on the fifth and final day of the final Test helped England to salvaged the draw when defeat looked inevitable, ensuring the series remained 0-0.
“I’ve no doubt the innings in against New Zealand is pretty fresh in people’s minds so that’s probably had something to do with it,” Prior said
“It was great to get over the line, a hugely proud moment but from a team point of view we want to be winning Test matches not drawing them.
“But to save a game for your country is a great feeling and I was very proud.”
The South-African born star is preparing for the first Test of the English summer, also against New Zealand, at Lord’s on Thursday. The hosts are heavy favourites in the cricket betting, despite their struggles against the same opposition last time out.
It marks the start of a busy and exciting calendar for England, taking in the ICC Champions Trophy and back-to-back Ashes series against Australia.
Despite the challenges lying ahead Prior insists he is fully focused on the Black Caps, adding: You can’t have Test matches that are warm-ups,” he said. “Every Test match is a special moment.
“You only have to walk into this ground at Lord’s and walk out playing for your country.
“This series is massive. We had a tough series in New Zealand and we want to put in good performances and get a win.”
New Zealand paceman Trent Boult says he expects England to “hit new Zealand hard” when the two sides resume their rivalry at Lord’s this week.
The Black Caps are preparing for a two match Test series against Andy Flower’s men just two months after the sides met in New Zealand.
Back then the wet weather forced draws in the opening two Tests before a defiant 110 not out from wicketkeeper Matt Prior helped England salvage a dramatic draw in the final Test in Auckland and keep the series at 0-0.
Most punters who placed a cricket bet on the series did not expect England to encounter too many problems against the Kiwis, who surprised many with their performance.
Boult was one of those who impressed for Mike Hesson’s men and it will be interesting to see how he copes on foreign soil.
England are again heavy favourites in the betting to claim the return series and Boult is bracing himself for an English backlash, though he also insists his team-mates are primed and ready.
“We’re in their home town now and we know they’re a world-class side,” said the 23-year-old.
“They are definitely going to hit us hard. We are expecting that and are ready for it.”
Thursday’s clash will be the first time Boult will have played at the home of English cricket and he admits he is delighted to be able to play at such an historic ground.
There is no doubt there’s a great feel to the ground. It’s awesome to be here,” he added. “A big opportunity lies ahead of us and we’re looking forward to taking it on.”
Graeme Swann says he is “quietly confident” his elbow woes are behind him ahead of an exciting summer of English cricket.
Swann was forced home from England’s winter tour of New Zealand in order to undergo an operation on his troublesome elbow injury.
Bone fragments that that were dangerously close to the nerve had to be removed, a procedure that carried some risk to Swann’s career.
However, the operation was a success and, after two months on the sidelines, the 34-year-old returned to action for Nottinghamshire at the start of the English domestic summer.
He bowled 40.2 overs in a County Championship defeat to Durham earlier this month and featured in two YB40 matches last week.
It is a timely return to action for Swann ahead of an unprecedented year that will take in the ICC Champions Trophy and back-to-back Ashes series.
First though is a two-match return Test series with New Zealand, with Swann poised to link up with the squad in London next week.
The off-spinner, who has taken 212 wickets in 50 Test matches for England, is pleased with how his rehabilitation has gone and is excited to return to action.
“It is a long summer but I’ve had four months off now; I’ve not had a break like that since I started playing for England,” he said to Betfair cricket betting pundits.
“Who knows if the arm will hold up? I think it will – I’m quietly confident. It is an amazing summer – it is a long one with the Champions Trophy and two Ashes series; you can’t get better than that, really.”
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