On the Front Foot: Prior warning of team selection completes silly game of secrets and lies

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The Independent Online

More secrets surround the England cricket team than could be unearthed by Wikileaks. The team management guard the composition of any given XI as if they were protecting the digital code to the cabinet in which is encased the nuclear button.

It has become a game within a game in which either Andrew Strauss, the captain, or Andy Flower, the coach, decline politely but firmly to name the side before the match – even when they have named the same side for several consecutive matches – to keep their opponents guessing. Those who wish to know, usually the public who watch them, can go hang. This state of secrecy leads to farcical moments. In the days before the World Cup match against Bangladesh on Friday, it was the usual clandestine stuff. England had to find another opening batsman for Kevin Pietersen, who had departed with a hernia which was causing him too much pain to continue in the biggest one-day tournament of all.

They knew who they wanted (Matt Prior) but they declined to say. Conjecture is inevitable. Pundits start guessing or finding unimpeachable sources to reveal all. Two days before the Bangladesh match, one bulletin had it that England would play three spinners in Chittagong, something they had not done since March 1985, when Phil Edmonds, Pat Pocock and the 45-year-old Norman Gifford – who took 4 for 23 – lined up against Pakistan in Sharjah.

It did not happen this time, it was never truly on the cards. What usually occurs in this closed network is that the day before the match somebody in the team spills the beans. Either they let a mate know they will be playing, or they inform a former team-mate who now, say, has a newspaper column, who then tells one of the newspaper's cricket journalists. The secret is thus blown wide open and the strategy, based on sound principles though it may be, is seen to be the daftness it is.



Celebrations turn nasty

Wonderful though Bangladesh's win against England was, it had its nasty side. Make no mistake, a nation celebrated, and in so many ways it seemed to represent the coming of age of Bangladesh cricket. But in their excitement, the supporters lost touch with common humanity. As they jostled fervently outside the stadium on Friday night, they made life exceedingly unpleasant for the BBC Radio crew – including two female staff – leaving the ground. Mobile phones were grasped from hands, deliberate pushing and shoving took place and it is lucky that nobody was seriously injured. In India, of course, the crowd would have been beaten back by a police baton charge.



Silly stumper = Matt finish

Matt Prior's dismissal in the match against Bangladesh was one of the oddest of all. As his foot slid out of his ground to a leg-side wide from Abdur Razzak, the wicketkeeper Mushfiqur Rahim whipped off the bails. However, Prior, it seemed, had probably not been out of his ground. But after he had slipped from his crease and stood dozily waiting for who knows what, Mushfiqur, ball still in hand, plucked a stump from the ground in accordance with Law 28. Prior's nightmare as an opening batsman took another twist.



Trotting out incredible stats

Jonathan Trott now has more runs after 23 innings in one-day internationals than any player in history. His 1,147 runs put him ahead of both Kevin Pietersen and Viv Richards (who played before powerplays) but with a lower average and strike-rate. It is one of those shaking-head-in-wonderment statistics. Well done, Trotty.



s.brenkley@independent.co.uk

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