BBC BLOGS - Tom Fordyce

Archives for May 2012

A special era for England and their supporters

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Tom Fordyce | 12:55 UK time, Tuesday, 29 May 2012

These are curious times for English cricket.

Not so long ago a series win was a cause for national celebration. Slightly longer ago it was such a rarity that there would also be genuine surprise.

That we have become so accustomed to victory that a nine-wicket win - making it seven series wins at home in succession - prompts admissions from skipper and sages of a lack of ruthlessness speaks volumes for how significantly ability and expectations have shifted since then.

England have never before won seven home series on the bounce. Only twice have they won six, between 1882 and 1896 and from 1955 to 1960.

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A turning point for Samuels?

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Tom Fordyce | 19:48 UK time, Friday, 25 May 2012

It was a day of surprises - unblemished blue skies after a month of rain, West Indies fighting back in fine fashion having seemed damaged beyond repair, a glorious Test century for one of cricket's more wasted talents.

The sunshine had at least been forecast at the start of play. What no-one dared predict was that the tourists would recover from 63-4 and then 136-6 to reach 304 with four wickets still in hand, leaving England so frustrated that James Anderson was seen throwing sunglasses and Graeme Swann booting his home turf.

The source of their ire was perhaps the most unexpected sub-plot of them all. Marlon Samuels has a Test record that is the definition of mediocre - 31 years old, 38 matches, an average of only 30.

His career has been more about infamy than fame - running out Brian Lara in his last ever international innings, being banned for two years for bringing the game into disrepute after a murky business with murkier bookmakers.

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West Indies show progress but England take control

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Tom Fordyce | 18:49 UK time, Monday, 21 May 2012

If it started with a snick and smear and sense of panic in the murky Lord's air, it ended a few hours later in entirely contrasting fashion - runs flowing, sun shining, batsmen coasting.

England's five-wicket win on Monday afternoon might have been the result that all wise men predicted. But the way they got there has filled weary West Indian hearts with rather more optimism than most expected, and simultaneously shone a light on how this England team hope to fulfil their stated desire to become the best their country has yet produced.

When Kevin Pietersen was caught behind to reduce England to 57-4 with shine still on the ball and 134 more runs needed, thoughts went back to another Lord's run-chase, 12 years ago, when England needed just 188 to beat the same opponents and teetered on the brink several times before wriggling home by two wickets.

This is a more anodyne West Indian side, and England's more comfortable escape must be seen in that context. The pitch this week has been as true as a surveyor's sextant and as full of fright as an episode of Balamory.

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Andrew Strauss's century silences critics

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Tom Fordyce | 20:29 UK time, Friday, 18 May 2012

Lord's has seen bigger hundreds. It has seen more important hundreds. But the standing ovation that Friday's full house gave Andrew Strauss as he celebrated his first Test century in a year-and-a-half was as long and as loud as any at headquarters in an age.

It wasn't just that the skipper's unbeaten 121 put his side in complete control of this first Test, with a lead of 16 and seven first-innings wickets in hand.

It was a collective celebration, a sympathetic sigh of relief, that one of England's most popular leaders had finally emerged from the most prolonged and agonising slump of his career.

"Outwardly you're always going to say you're playing well, that you're just one innings from playing as well as you ever have," says Alec Stewart, England's most capped player and here at Lord's as an analyst for the BBC.

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Shivnarine Chanderpaul - a man for all seasons

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Tom Fordyce | 20:13 UK time, Thursday, 17 May 2012

On the first day of the brand new Test summer at Lord's, it was as if nothing had ever changed.

Men wore striped blazers and duck-egg blue trousers, England's bowling attack ran through a struggling opposition line-up and Shivnarine Chanderpaul pushed and poked his way to within earshot of a century while those around him could only flash and dash.

Chanderpaul is now into his 140th Test. With his strange batting stance, all skewed feet and sideways bat, he is as graceful as a breeze-block and as hard to shift as a foundation stone, an imperturbable oddity in a fast-forward Twenty20 world. So long has he been around that he probably refers to Old Father Time as 'Junior'.

He is also as effective a batsman as his country have ever produced. His 87 not out here, from a total of 243-9, brought his tally of Test runs over the past 18 years to a staggering 10,142 - more than Gavaskar, more than King Viv, more than Boycott, Sobers or Greenidge.

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How Jimmy Anderson became England's main man

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Tom Fordyce | 22:07 UK time, Monday, 14 May 2012

On his Test debut at Lord's almost exactly 10 years ago, 20-year-old James Anderson picked up a brilliant five-for. A decade further on, he's taken more Test wickets in the last year than any other pace bowler except South Africa's Vernon Philander.

The casual observer might imagine a relatively straight line between those two points. But for Anderson, named England Cricketer of the Year on Monday night, it has been anything but.

"In the last 18 months I've probably doubled my Test wicket tally, which tells you something about the first eight years of my career," he smiles.

"I always believed I could perform at the top level. I knew on my day that I could be brilliant. But there were a lot of times when I would be at the other end of the scale, and that scared me a little bit. I didn't know what was coming from day to day."

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Jonathan Trott and the science of selfishness

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Tom Fordyce | 18:01 UK time, Monday, 7 May 2012

You think you know Jonathan Trott as a batsman - obdurate, intensely focused, obsessed with accumulating runs, a player who appears to have been born for long Test innings. It's the first of many misconceptions.

"I haven't always been like this," he says, surprised. "It's something I've developed and worked on.

"As a young player I was actually quite a reckless batsman. I get bored quite easily, and I'd often try to hit the ball all round the ground. But as I got older I began to realise what batting was all about. I watched a lot of great players to see what you need to be successful at the top level."

He clearly found the answers. The 31-year-old has developed into England's best number three in a generation, an immovable presence in a pivotal position.

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