Posts by mcconville92

World T20 Cricket – Can West Indies Cause a Shock?

Will Lasith Malinga be able to deal with the West Indies' strong batting line-up?

Will Lasith Malinga be able to deal with the West Indies’ strong batting line-up?

And then there were four. After nearly three weeks of huge hitting, dropped catches and yet another England humiliation, the ICC World T20 has reached the semi-final stages. The tournament has proved to be highly entertaining so far. There have been upsets, pre-tournament favourites Australia crashed and burned, ludicrous batting as the Dutch obliterated the Irish bowling attack to reach the Super 10s in remarkable fashion, and also some extraordinary death bowling courtesy of Dale Steyn (more on him later). The line-up for the last four promises more great cricket in the next few days.

 

ICC World T20 Betting Odds:

India – 2.77

Sri Lanka – 3.48

West Indies – 4.2

South Africa – 4.95

(All odds at Matchbook.com are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

The first semi-final sees Sri Lanka taking on the West Indies. This looks to be the tighter of the two games and Sri Lanka go into the match as narrow favourites. Both sides have come through must-win final group games and both will be confident following resounding victories in those crunch matches.

This is a repeat of the 2012 final which the West Indies won and I’d back them to upset the odds and beat Sri Lanka again. West Indies showed just how good they are against Pakistan yesterday. Although they got into a bit of a hole with the bat, Darren Sammy and Dwayne Bravo blasted them out of it with some brutal batting. They then showed how good they are with the ball; Pakistan never got a sniff and consistently lost wickets before folding completely. In Samuel Badree and Sunil Narine, they possess the top two highest ranked bowlers in T20, with Badree particularly adept at bowling in the Powerplay overs.

 

Sri Lanka have threats of their own of course, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakarra are both classy and elegant batsmen and will be desperate to end their international T20 careers on a high. Rangana Herath decimated New Zealand last time out and is likely to retain his place in the side after recording figures of 5-3. Then there is their trump card in Lasith Malinga who bowls yorkers with such unerring accuracy. It should be a close game, but I think West Indies will just nick it.

 

The other semi-final sees South Africa taking on the heavily fancied Indians. South Africa have lived a charmed life in this tournament with several narrow wins seeing them qualify from the easier of the two groups. Dale Steyn and Imran Tahir have been their stars with the ball, while AB De Villiers showed what a devastating player he is against England, it is also impossible to forget the talents of JP Duminy and Hashim Amla either. They are very much the outsiders of the final four and with good reason: aside from Steyn and Tahir their bowling attack looks very weak.

India on the other side are a beautifully balanced side and the only team remaining with a 100% record. They have made their way through this tournament without breaking a sweat and are now very strong favourites to lift the title. In Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina and M.S. Dhoni they have the firepower to take apart any bowling attack. They also have the bowlers to restrict the opposition too with Ravi Ashwin, Ravi Jadeja and Amit Mishra forming a fearsome spin trio. All evidence points to an Indian win and it’s hard to look past them for the semi-final really.

 

So who will win it overall? India are of course very strong and will be most people’s picks to go and win the competition now but I’m sticking with the holders to go on to retain their title. Even though India have already beat them in the group stages, the West Indies are coming into form at the right time and will take some serious stopping.

 

Betting Instinct Tip – West Indies to beat Sri Lanka and score the most sixes is 3.06 with GR88.com

 

liam avatar LIAM McCONVILLE is an avid cricket fan, a hapless village cricketer and a Yorkshireman with an irrational  hatred of Jade Dernbach. He rants about the game he loves at http://www.fortyballduck.blogspot.co.uk/ and  @FortyBallDuck on Twitter.

Can Liverpool continue their momentum at Southampton?

Martin Škrtel has played more league games than any other Liverpool defender this season

Martin Škrtel has played more league games than any other Liverpool defender this season

Last weekend we saw the very best and the very worst of Liverpool, all within ninety minutes. While their irresistible strikeforce was running riot, the defence was looking worryingly incompetent. It says all you need to know about the state of Liverpool’s defence when Brendan Rodgers turns to Kolo Touré to shore up the defence.

 

Southampton v Liverpool Betting Odds

Southampton win – 3.50

Liverpool win – 2.00

Draw – 3.40

(All odds provided by AllYouBet.ag are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

The major problem for Liverpool at the back this season has been a raft of injuries. Very rarely have Liverpool had a settled defence and this has constantly been an issue. Throughout all these injuries the mainstay of the defence has been Martin Škrtel. Škrtel is one of the more bizarre footballers of recent times. He can look an imposing, impregnable rock at the back; more often than not though he reverts to default and to his unique form of daft wrestling in the box. He also has an ability to score own-goals at a frequency that would make Frank Sinclair proud.

Škrtel’s eccentricities have perhaps not been helped by new goalkeeper, Simon Mignolet. The Belgian has proven himself to be an excellent shot-stopper, however he often remains fixed to his line when crosses come in, a stark contrast to his predecessor Pepe Reina. This unwillingness to come and collect the ball doesn’t aid the panic that is never far away from this Liverpool defence. A compromise between goalkeeper and defence needs to be found quickly if it isn’t to derail Liverpool’s title push.

 

Whilst the defence has floundered, the forwards have regularly bailed them out. Liverpool have been a joy to watch this season. Their attacking play has often been breath-taking culminating in the first twenty minutes against Arsenal a few weeks ago, where they simply annihilated the then league-leaders.

Here is where Brendan Rodgers has to take a lot of credit. He is clearly an excellent coach. Luis Suárez, Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling have all improved immeasurably over the last eighteen months. The likes of Jordan Henderson and Jon Flanagan have also managed to kick on another level; Rodgers has certainly made the most of what he has at Anfield.

 

The Southampton game is a huge test for this Liverpool side. Rodgers has lost to Mauricio Pochettino on the two previous occasions that they have met as managers, while Southampton are the only opposition side to win at Anfield this season and will have every right to feel confident going into Saturday’s clash.

Southampton’s season is in danger of petering out though. They are safely in mid-table, they have no fears of relegation, but equally qualification for Europe looks completely out of reach. Many of the team are however playing for a place in England’s World Cup squad, and a strong performance on Saturday will certainly do the likes of Jay Rodriguez, Adam Lallana and recent call-up Luke Shaw no harm.

 

This game feels very much like a crossroads for Rodgers’ Liverpool. A defeat will halt their momentum and leave them looking over the shoulders. However a win will keep the dream going that perhaps in this very open year, Liverpool can be the ones to emerge and snatch a very unlikely title win.

The two extremes in Liverpool’s side should guarantee goals. They are unbeaten in their last eight league games and should be able to end their bad run against Southampton and just squeak a narrow victory.

 

Betting Instinct Tip – After Liverpool’s seven-goal thriller against Swansea last week, more than 3.5 goals is 2.40 with GR88.com, while if you’re feeling really bold more than 4.5 goals is available at 4.30.

 

liam avatarLIAM McCONVILLE is an avid cricket fan, a hapless village cricketer and a Yorkshireman with an irrational hatred of Jade Dernbach. He rants about the game he loves at http://www.fortyballduck.blogspot.co.uk/ and @FortyBallDuck on Twitter.

Twenty20 Preview: England’s last chance to salvage some pride

Eoin Morgan is one of a handful of England players to emerge from the ODIs with any credit

Eoin Morgan is one of a handful of England players to emerge from the ODIs with any credit

Finally the torment is almost over. A tour that has yielded just one victory so far over Australia is almost at an end. After a Test series that for the most part resembled Drederick Tatum v Homer Simpson, and a One Day Series where England looked like they’d forgotten how to win; England embark on the final part of this mammoth tour, a three match Twenty20 series which has plenty riding on it.

Not only is it a chance to finally beat Australia in a series and add a touch of dignity to a tour which will surely go down as one of the worst in living memory, this series also provides both teams with a chance to build for the upcoming Twenty20 World Cup in Bangladesh which is just two months away.

Twenty20 World Cup Betting Odds

India – 4.50

Australia – 6.00

South Africa – 6.50

Pakistan – 7.00

Sri Lanka – 7.00

West Indies – 7.00

England – 8.00

(All odds provided by Intertops.eu are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

Due to the ridiculous nature of international cricket scheduling (Australia tour South Africa next month); the hosts have made several changes to their squad. Several senior players have been rested including Shane Watson and David Warner, but the team still looks fairly strong.

George Bailey has proven himself to be both an accomplished leader and batsman in the shorter formats of the game. Glenn Maxwell may well be a filthy slogger but he is very good at what he does and England will be fearful of the ‘The Big Show’ teeing off. There’s also Aaron Finch who decimated the England attack with a brutal 156 off just 63 balls in the first T20 against England back in August.

 

England’s squad generally looks quite youthful and shows continuity as they build to the World Cup. They will be led by Stuart Broad who can enjoy his customary raucous welcome from the Australian fans. Jos Buttler and Eoin Morgan will be looking to carry on their form from the ODIs as England’s two most destructive batsmen. After excelling throughout the tour, Ben Stokes is also part of the squad and is remarkably still showing no signs of struggling with the demands of international cricket. There’s also aggressive opener Alex Hales who is one of three members of the England squad who have been involved in Australia’s Twenty20 Big Bash League this winter.

England’s bowling will be a bit of a worry with Australia’s super aggressive approach under coach Darren Lehmann. There’s plenty of experience in the seam attack with Broad and Tim Bresnan, however England are weak in the spin department. Bowling spin for England has not been a fun experience on this tour. Every English spinner has been targeted and duly despatched and this is almost certain to continue in this series.

 

If the earlier series in England is anything to go by, these games should be high-scoring. Australia will be confident of continuing their success and start the series as heavy favourites. However their squad isn’t as strong as the one that drew 1-1 with England in August and I would expect this series to be quite tight.

If England can break the shackles, they have every chance of winning. They have the experience and the quality to turn over this Australia side. What remains to be seen is whether they can overcome the mental scarring that this nightmarish tour has indelibly left on English cricket.

 

England need to learn to win again, with the Twenty20 World Cup just around the corner; now would be a good time to start.

 

liam avatarLIAM McCONVILLE is an avid cricket fan, a hapless village cricketer and a Yorkshireman with an irrational hatred of Jade Dernbach. He rants about the game he loves at http://www.fortyballduck.blogspot.co.uk/ and @FortyBallDuck on Twitter.

It’s Time for a Champion to Emerge from the Premier League Contenders

Arsenal, Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea are all in contention

(Clockwise from top-left) Arsenal, Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea are all in contention

It has been a strange season so far. The aura of invincibility that has emanated from Old Trafford for over twenty years hasn’t so much been lost but decimated by a number of embarrassing home defeats. The fallibilities that Manchester United have had for a number of years have been exposed repeatedly leaving them needing a remarkable resurgence if they are to have any hope of defending their title.

So with the holders currently suffering because of their own ineptitude; who from this year’s pack of contenders can emerge as winners?

Premier League Title Betting Odds:

Manchester City – 2.20

Chelsea – 4.50

Arsenal – 5.00

Liverpool – 7.00

Manchester United – 21.00

Everton – 34.00

(All odds posted by Intertops Sportsbook are accurate as of today and subject to change)

Manchester City seems the likely option right now. Their away form has been largely dreadful however their record at home is rather terrifying. At the Etihad, City score goals for fun and have torn apart several of their rivals this year, most recently Arsenal on Saturday. However now that talisman Sergio Aguero faces a spell on the sidelines, and with no proof that their away form blues have been completely cured (they have recorded just two wins in eight away games), City still have a lot to prove if they want to be champions.

The result of last weekend came at White Hart Lane where Liverpool humiliated Spurs and saw off manager Andre Villas-Boas in the process. I liked AVB (mainly for our mutual loathing of the Daily Mail) but results and performances have been very poor this season; while he probably deserved more time, the manner of defeat last weekend sealed his fate.

As for Liverpool, with the form that Luis Suarez is in this season anything will seem possible. They don’t have the squad to match their rivals but they do have the best player in the league right now. Ending that long title hoodoo would be a brilliant achievement but finishing in the top four seems much more realistic right now.

Another team close to the top right now is Everton, who are playing vibrant football with several talented youngsters lighting up the league. Roberto Martinez is proving himself to be a very good manager indeed which leaves us facing the rather chilling realisation that perhaps Dave Whelan was right all along.

So that brings us to Chelsea and to this weekend when Jose Mourinho’s side travel to Arsenal. The previously ‘Happy One’ hasn’t been too full of festive cheer recently. When he hasn’t been picking a fight with his best player, he’s been pulling his hair out at his strikers’ inability to do their job and actually score. He has lost twice to Basel this season and has only clung on to his unbeaten home league record by the skin of his teeth and some extremely generous refereeing.

The common consensus is that Chelsea have been very below-par this season and yet they are just two points off the top spot. While Chelsea have been lambasted, Arsenal have been lauded; and yet the Blues can overtake their London rivals with a win on Monday night. Arsenal have been great this year but now they are in a mini-slump which could reverse their earlier impressive work. They were blown away by City last week with old defensive concerns becoming prominent once again.

This is not the Chelsea of old that would routinely swat Arsenal aside. They lack the physical threat they once had, their strikers are about as lethal as your average butterfly, and their defence looks vulnerable. Arsenal can take heart from all this as well as from their own good home form. They will fancy their chances against a side that is very much for the taking.

I do not expect another high scoring game though. Mourinho is aware of his side’s weaknesses and will set up accordingly. It is game where both sides may be a little scared of losing; a low scoring draw may be the most likely result.

Betting Instinct Tip: Less than 2.5 goals is 2.05 with AllYouBet.ag

‘Lucky Charm’ Bresnan Returns to Bolster England for Second Ashes Test

England travel to Adelaide hoping to level the series

England travel to Adelaide hoping to level the series

Whilst England were slogging away in a two-day game at Alice Springs; most eyes were looking back at Brisbane where the England Performance Squad were in action. On the face of it this might have seemed a rather unremarkable match where England’s next generation of stars were battling to make an impression. However this may well be remembered as the moment when England’s tour started to turn itself around.

One of the key components of England’s success is recent years was making his return from injury and pushing desperately to return to the England set-up. Bowling all-rounder Tim Bresnan clearly did enough to impress as he has earned a recall to the squad, he is now expected to return to the side for the crucial Second Test at Adelaide. Bresnan picked up four wickets and added valuable late-order runs in the game, England will be looking for him to replicate that form against the Australians starting from Thursday.

Bresnan has been something of a lucky charm in his England career so far, he was on the winning side of the first thirteen Test matches he played. The bustling Yorkshireman has a good record in the Ashes too, England have won four of the five Tests against Australia that he has played in with Bresnan often picking up important wickets in those games. He has largely been unsung, plugging away while the more esteemed duo of James Anderson and Stuart Broad have taken the glory.

Bresnan can’t be underestimated though. He bowls tight lines, has a good bouncer and is a very useful batter with three first-class centuries to his name. He bowls at a decent speed, not as quick as Australia’s attack but certainly sharp enough to exploit the quicker pitches Down Under. He is likely to replace Chris Tremlett who bowled relatively well at the Gabba without being overly threatening.

England will be relieved to have Bresnan in to boost the batting, indeed with him in, the tail looks a lot stronger. When he wasn’t busy decimating England’s batting, Mitchell Johnson showed the worth of lower-order runs in the first Test, his 64 in the first innings helped change the momentum of the game at the Gabba.

There has been talk of Bresnan coming in to bat at seven and England deploying five bowlers but I really can’t see that. England’s batters are enduring their worst run for a long time, they haven’t passed 400 since the tour of New Zealand earlier this year and they must end that run if they are turn this series around.

Only Ian Bell had a very good series against the Australians with the bat in the summer, England aren’t batting well as a unit, the top-order in particular has consistently failed recently. England now have a tough choice of whether to push Bell or Joe Root up to three; whoever gets the nod must deliver.

England claimed victory in the summer without ever really playing at their best. How they respond in this match will help indicate whether the Gabba was merely a blip or the start of a decline for this vastly successful and experienced side.

The batters will take solace in the fact that an England batsman has scored a double hundred in the two most recent visits to Adelaide. They will be looking to turn this into a hat-trick following on from the heroics of Paul Collingwood in 2006 and Kevin Pietersen in 2010.

If England are to get back in this series they need to fight fire with fire and counter the Australian onslaught which devoured them in Brisbane. Don’t be surprised if the returning Tim Bresnan is right at the heart of the backlash.

Australia v England Betting Odds
Australia to win – 2.40
Draw – 2.20
Everton to win – 3.45
Quoted odds are posted by Bulldog777.com as of today.

liam avatarLIAM McCONVILLE is an avid cricket fan, a hapless village cricketer and a Yorkshireman with an irrational hatred of Jade Dernbach. He rants about the game he loves at http://www.fortyballduck.blogspot.co.uk/ and @FortyBallDuck on Twitter.