Englandwatch – 28th April

Neither of us are Bill Oddie or Chris Packham and we don’t have a nightly slot on BBC Two to talk absolute rubbish for an hour, which in some ways is a shame, not least because we don’t have a platform to carry out our dastardly plans for world domination, but also because it means we don’t get to hang around with Kate Humble and talk about birds (cue the usual predictable misogynist double entendres about members of the genus Parus). Nevertheless, spring has sprung, albeit soggily, and we’ve got our binoculars trained on verdant pastures, hoping to catch a glimpse of a few fledgling youngsters, some migrating exotic varieties or, in the case of Mark Ramprakash, severely endangered species. Yes, Englandwatch is here! We’ve got our I-Spy books out and are ticking off some of England’s finest, past, present and future to see how they’re surviving after the long winter. So let’s do away with these frankly awful ornithological analogies and find out what they’re up to:

Andrew Strauss – The Dear Leader scored all of 6 runs and lasted 27 balls on another ploughed field of a pitch at Lord’s in his return to the day job. He had the misfortune of coming up against Graeme Onions who is finding conditions somewhat to his liking at the moment (see below). Needs a score.

Jonathan Trott – No such problems for Mr OCD, who presumably laughed in the face of the conditions before taking his guard again for the eighth time in the over. A fluent 178 against Sussex showed what a fine player he’s become. He steadies the ship at Number 3 like a thousand ton keel. Could rack up 600 runs against the Windies if he feels like it.

Ian Bell – Ronald’s obviously been playing on a different wicket to Trotty, making a duck in the same innings, having made only 18 and 16 against Lancashire last week. It’s hard to believe he’s the same batsman who scored runs for fun last year.

Kevin Pietersen (on migration in India) – Now we’re not ones to advocate the IPL in any way, shape or form, but if you haven’t had a chance to watch the highlights of KP’s hundred the other week, it’s well worth three minutes of your day. We don’t think we’ve ever seen anyone hit the ball so hard with such timing. Why hasn’t he been playing like this for the last two years? He remains a class act when he wants to be.

Owais Shah (likewise) – Had anyone else realised that Owais Shah was playing in the IPL? After a career that can be summed up with the words ‘unfulfilled potential’, Shah has caught the eye with three fifties in the competition so far. England aren’t desperately in need of T20 batsmen, but Shah is level-headed if unspectacular.

Nick Compton – Like Atlas carrying the earth on his back, Compton is just slightly weighed down by comparisons with his rather better grandfather, Denis. However, forget 1000 runs before the end of May, Compton is over two-thirds of the way there before the end of April, at a healthy average of 137, helped by the ECB apparently forgetting that, as Flanders and Swann (no, not that Swann) put it, ‘April brings the sweet spring showers / On and on for hours and hours’. Even though 236 of those runs came against the mighty Cardiff UCCE with their formidable (ahem) bowling lineup, Compton’s been rewarded with an England Lions spot. Jolly good.

Matt Coles – Another pick in the Lions squad, Coles is behind only the also-surprising David Balcombe in the wickets tally so far this season with 21. Also aged 21, Coles appears to be quietly becoming a pretty decent bowler (as if we needed any more…)

Jack Brooks – Despite being in urgent need of a haircut and being a latecomer to the county game, Brooks found his way onto the Lions tour to the subcontinent over the winter and has again started the season strongly. He’s unlikely to break into the full England squad any time soon, but it’s nice to know these people are there if we need them.

Graeme Onions – Headline writers have got out their ‘Onions makes X cry’ templates out again after an extended period of absence through injury. He is back with somewhat of a bang, taking 20 wickets in 3 matches at a Ramprakash-eque average of 9.40 (again, see below) including his first ever 10-for in a match against Middlesex, which included Strauss twice. Back in the picture for England again, one would imagine.

Mark Ramprakash – It seems that early starts don’t suit Ramps, who received a reprimand this week from the ECB for abusing the umpires against Worcestershire. Always one of questionable mental fortitude when the chips are down, Ramps appears to have finally gone ‘wibble’ and should probably not be allowed near sharp objects until The Oval wicket has dried up enough to resemble 22 yards of Route 66 asphalt again. 62 runs at 10.33 is all he has to show for the season so far. We expect retirement to be on the cards come September.

Plus Vernon Philander – Not an Englishman, but we’re watching Philander like a hawk at the moment, as, we suspect, are Andy Flower and co. A rare bad day against Lancashire on Thursday proved just a blip and yet another five-for has been completed this morning. South Africa’s bowling lineup is howwibly howwibly good at the moment…

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