Darren Gough (PA)

By SportUK 05/04/2012 12:19

Division two of the LV County Championship is a division clubs do not want to be in. Counties are desperate for promotion which leads to poor pitches prepared to provide results. Draws will not get you promoted. In division one, the pitches tend to be much better as no one wants to risk losing games and getting relegated.

 

Last year, division two experimented with the Teflix ball which didn’t work. The ball swung around way too much, favouring the likes of Surrey’s Tim Linley, Essex’s David Masters and Middlesex’s Tim Murtagh, who all bowl at under 75mph.

 

My first tip for promotion from division two is my old club Yorkshire, a team that was too good to get relegated in the first place. Yorkshire are one of those teams that, if things don’t go their way, can get stuck in a rut and don’t seem able to find a way out.

 

This year could be different as new coach Jason Gillespie will bring a fresh approach and his enthusiasm will rub off on some of our younger players. He's a great character who was hugely respected when he represented Yorkshire as a player and I'm excited about his appointment.

 

Over the last few years, Yorkshire have relied on Jacques Rudolph and Anthony McGrath too much. This showed last year when Rudolph was only here short-term and McGrath had a poor season. This year we need more from skipper Andrew Gale, Joseph Root and McGrath.

 

Yorkshire's Jonny Bairstow (Gareth Copley-PA Wire)The quality of Aussie test opener Phil Jaques will be needed and expectations are high for the exciting Jonathan Bairstow.

 

The seam attack is not as strong as Yorkshire bowling normally is. Ajmal Shazad needs to stay fit and show the talent England recognized only 18 months ago.

 

With Tim Bresnan probably representing England this summer, they will need wickets from the talented-yet-under-achieving leg spinner Adil Rashid.

 

Hampshire are another team who were probably too good to get relegated from division one. The reason they did was their seam attack was not great and hadn’t been strengthened since Dominic Cork retired.Hampshire spinner Danny Briggs (Chris Ison-PA Wire)

 

They missed Dimitri Mascarenhas a lot last year but he’s back fit and firing. They also expect a lot from their young spinner Danny Briggs. If Kabir Ali stays fit, Hampshire will be back where they belong, challenging in division one.

 

On the batting front, Hampshire have plenty. They’ve signed Simon Katich to partner opener Michael Carberry who, after a serious illness last year, returned in fantastic form scoring an unbelievable 300 against Yorkshire. Carberry will probably be England's next opener after Andrew Strauss decides he's had enough. Jimmy Adams is a tough left hander who tends to be consistent. They will need runs from the young 21-year-old Liam Dawson.

 

Outside challenges for promotion should come from Kent or Essex. I’m going to upset my old club and say Kent seem more likely to challenge. They have strengthened and signed players to suit their pitch conditions. The ball tends to swing around at Canterbury so in come Charlie Shreck from Nottinghamshire and Mark Davies from Durham to join Simon Cook.

 

With the bat, Kent can rely on the usual brilliance of Rob Key. They have added a bit of steel to their line-up with the loan signing of Scott Newman from Middlesex, Michael Powell from Glamorgan and West Indian cricketer Brendon Nash, the latter no doubt a pick of new coach, ex-West Indian legend Jimmy Adams.

 

Read Goughie's predictions for division one of the LV County Championship

 

Follow Darren Gough on Twitter

To keep up with the county scene I'll be hosting a new monthly show called Goughie's LV county catch-up at ecb.co.uk/LVCC. You can watch live editions of the show throughout the summer at www.facebook.com/englandcricket

 

By SportUK 05/04/2012 11:20

Well, the snow has arrived just as the county season begins, but what a season we should have.

 

This year’s LV County Championship should be an entertaining one. Last year’s winners Lancashire will once again be tough to beat. Led by captain Glenn Chapple and coach Peter Moores – who is once again proving what a fine coach he is – the defending champions have had a good start in pre-season. Beating an MCC XI convincingly out in Abu Dhabi is a good sign.

 

The only question mark is whether they can get the same results at Old Trafford as they did on the bowler-friendly pitches of Blackpool and Liverpool last season while their ground was being redeveloped.Lancashire's Paul Horton (Andrew Matthews-EMPICS Sport)

 

Last season’s top run-scorers Paul Horton and Stephen Moore will once again score heavily, as will overseas signing Ashwell Prince, and give top spinners Gary Keedy and Simon Kerrigan – and the reliable Chapple and Kyle Hogg – plenty to bowl at.

 

Pushing Lancashire will be newly promoted Surrey, a side with experience and youth. They’re a very athletic fielding side who will be pushed all the way by their determined coach Chris Adams and his assistant Ian Salisbury.

 

Some consider Surrey to be the Chelsea of the cricket world, a club that has gone out and built a team to win trophies. Their strong batting line-up features Jacques Rudolph, Mark Ramprakash, Zander de Bruyn, Steven Davies and skipper Rory Hamilton-Brown.

 

Surrey’s bowlers are also high in quality. There’s Stuart Meaker, Jade Dernbach, Jon Lewis and the young seamer Tim Linley who took the second division by storm last season. Gareth Batty rounds off their attack with experienced left-arm spinner Murali Kartik, who will arrive after the IPL.

 

Durham's Ian Blackwell (Gareth Copley-PA Wire)2008 and 2009 champions Durham could mount a sneaky division one title challenge too. They’ve got gaggles of batting in the form of Michael di Venuto, Dale Benkenstein, Paul Collingwood, Ben Stokes and the consistent Ian Blackwell, who amassed 900 runs and took 36 wickets last season.

 

Durham’s challenge is to keep Steve Harmison on the pitch. Last season he only managed to play in six matches but if Harmison and fellow bowlers Graham Onions and Mitchell Claydan stay fit, Durham could mount a serious title challenge. Look out for their young and talented leg spinner Scott Borthwick who everyone is expecting to shine this season.

 

Read Goughie's division two preview

 

Follow Darren Gough on Twitter

To keep up with the county scene I'll be hosting a new monthly show called Goughie's LV county catch-up at ecb.co.uk/LVCC. You can watch live editions of the show throughout the summer at www.facebook.com/englandcricket

 

By SportUK 25/03/2012 14:20

After a disastrous showing against Pakistan where we were crushed 3-0, England now move onto the most difficult conditions in world cricket to take on Sri Lanka where the heat and humidity are almost unbearable - especially in Colombo.

 

We all know England will have to play spin on the slow, low pitches a lot better than we did against Pakistan where our lack of technique was highlighted in the three tests.

 

It will be a strange series as there are only two tests: the first one being at the port town of Galle where there's been only one draw in the last six tests. The second test will be held in Colombo where Sri Lanka have a great record.

 

Ian Bell's form is a concern for England ahead of their series in Sri Lanka (AP Photo-Eranga Jayawardena)England need to be ready and prepared and, with two wins since they arrived in the country, it looks like they are. All the batsmen have scored runs, except Ian Bell who once again just can't get started which is a little concern.

 

England’s last two tours to Sri Lanka have gone against them, losing their last two series 1-0. Obviously, a challenge awaits England if they want to remain the best test side in the world.

 

After losing Murali, Sri Lanka are not the force they once were but they are an ever-improving side. They have just won a test in South Africa and got to the final of the tri series in Australia knocking out India along the way.

 

Their strength lies in their batting where they have high quality players with experience in Kumar Sangakarra, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Mahela Jayawardene, who is once again named captain for a series against England.

 

Sri Lanka’s seam attack shouldn't trouble England’s batting too much. The hosts will rely heavily the two spinners they've selected - Sujay Randiv and Rangana Herath. Randiv has been recalled after taking 37 wickets for his club in five first-class domestic matches. Herath is the customary left arm spinner teams love to use against England’s batsmen, especially Kevin Pietersen.

 

Surprisingly Sri Lanka have left out their only mystery bowler Ajantha Mendis due to poor form. I reckon he could have troubled the techniques of some of England’s batsmen.

 

Preparing for a tour of Sri Lanka takes a lot of dedication to fitness, more so than anywhere else in the world due to the heat and humidity. When we toured there in 2001 and won, it was the peak of my fitness and definitely the fittest team I was ever involved in.

 

I prepared by spending lots of time in a sauna fully clothed doing press-ups and sit-ups, getting used to the effects it had on my body and I'm sure with the success I had it definitely worked.

 

I remember the day we arrived. We all had to do the customary bleep test and get to level 12.2 to be available for selection. We did it at lunchtime in heat of 120 degrees on a tennis court with no shade. Everyone passed which was unreal as there's always one or two that fail every tour. Darren Gough celebrates with his team-mates after England's series win in Sri Lanka in 2001 (Rebecca Naden/PA Archive)

 

Looking back at that bleep test, I can see what the manager/coach was doing to us. He was testing us mentally and physically for what we had ahead.

 

What’s it like playing a test match in Sri Lanka? For a start, you seem to be drinking water non-stop to try and replace the fluids you lose during the heat of day. You get weighed in when you get to the ground and your weight is monitored after each session as you can lose up to 4kg in a single day, which you need to replace.

 

Whether you’re batting, bowling or fielding, it takes great concentration. When I bowled in Sri Lanka, we came up with a plan in the hottest part of the day of bowling one over spells so we were able to give our all for longer.

 

The new ball is important. It will swing early on and offer chances to make early in-roads. As the day goes on, you use clever variations of speed to preserve your strength.

 

England’s two spinners will be vital, bowling in tandem, hopefully creating pressure and taking wickets when they can before another new ball becomes available.

 

I've a strong feeling England will have learned from their mistakes against Pakistan and claim the series. Alastair Cook should once again score heavily - in 15 innings against Sri Lanka he averages 60.21.

 

Good luck, boys. Be prepared for a hard few weeks with plenty to drink and plenty of ice baths. Win the series then enjoy the victory as England do best!

 

Follow Darren Gough on Twitter

 

By SportUK 10/03/2012 10:55

A great ambassador for the sport of cricket; the perfect role model for youngsters all around the world; a gentleman on and off the pitch. What better way to start your press conference than with the words:

 

"My approach to cricket has been reasonably simple: it was about giving everything to the team, it was about playing with dignity and it was about upholding the spirit of the game."

 

Rahul DravidThat statement sums him up perfectly. Nicknamed 'The Wall', he was a man who stopped so many fast bowlers in their tracks and left them frustrated and out of steam. His solid technique stood up all around the world, and was proved by his record of becoming the first Indian batsman to score a century in all 10 Test-playing nations.

 

In an era of natural stroke players who tended to take the headlines - like a certain Tendulkar, Ponting, Lara, Kallis - Dravid fitted in the background, matching them run for run but almost going unnoticed. 

 

However, I can assure you that the majority of fast bowlers around the world paid attention when he came to the crease, saw them off and sent them to bed totally drained by their efforts. He revelled in moments of crisis. He was the Indian batsman who always put his hand up when the ball was moving around and had sent back Sehwag, Ganguly, Laxman and Tendulkar.A lot of this was down to that exemplary technique which is the reason he excelled where othe Indian batsman failed in seamer-friendly conditions. Just look back to last year when England embarrassed India with a 4-0 drubbing: Dravid hit three centuries of the five he scored in the second half of 2011.

 

So why now people ask?

 

Well, after an unbelievable career spanning almost 16 years of Test cricket, beginning with that opening knock at Lords of 95, he seems to have decided enough is enough.

 

164 test matches, 13,288 runs at an average of 52.31, he is second only to Sachin Tendulkar and just ahead of Ricky Ponting. In addition he has 344 ODIs with 10,889 runs at 39.16.

 

These are quite extrordinary stats which are hard to keep up, especially as the years pass by. And after another drubbing by Australia I reckon he thought it was time for the youngsters to step up to the plate. On his final tour he was clean bowled six times in eight innings which tells you something was happening technically with his game.

 

Had he lost that desire he'd always had in abundance to go away and put in the hours required to fix your game or was it time to have some fun in the T20 and spend time with his family .

 

I wish a great player and a great man all the best in his retirement, but I'm certain we will see The Wall involved in Indian cricket again sometime as a coach or even the top man at the ICC.

 

By SportUK 22/02/2012 15:12

What an amazing turnaround in form by Kevin Pietersen! Give him the white ball, a blue shirt and a 2lb 10oz bat and the world's his oyster - that and obviously not having to face spin at both ends when he first goes in as England decided to open the batting with him.

 

Kevin Pietersen launches a six against Pakistan (Gareth Copley-Getty Images Sport)It was great to see KP's swagger back: the high bat lift, the intimidating figure coming running at the bowlers, that big lunge forward and, of course, the usual array of shots through the leg side as if to say to the bowlers: 'You can't bowl that rubbish to me'.

 

Having known KP for such a long time, as well as being his best man when he married Jessica, I know what makes him tick. After that match-winning knock, he'll have had his usual couple of beers and been talking cricket with his teammates with that smugness I absolutely love to bits.

 

Kevin always loves proving people wrong. Even when he was in a bad place form-wise, when most people would want to curl up and hide, he didn't. He came out to his hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers, admitted his form was not good enough and had to get better.

 

Then what did he do? He did what he always does. He worked his socks off to improve and find away to play Pakistan's impressive spinners.

 

In the one day series, KP definitely changed a few technical bits to his batting against spin. He looked to stay leg side, especially to the left arm spinner. He ran at Ajmal to hit him down the ground. He used the extra pace of Afridi to deflect the ball. He might have also slightly changed his top hand grip as well.

 

All this is typical KP, always working always trying to better himself. What really frustrates me, and always has, is that the general public don't see that side of him. What they see is a showman with class cars, expensive clothes and a pop star wife - he has everything and doesn't care.Goughie and KP share a joke (Chris Young-PA Archive)

 

Well, you're so wrong. I see an awesome talent who is always trying to better himself. Even with a £1.3m contract with the Delhi Daredevils for six weeks' work, he's not walked away from England's one day set up.

 

He wants to be remembered as one of England's finest batsman, if not the best. If his last two innings are anything to go by, he might just prove that.

 

Now Kevin has to get back to scoring consistent big scores in Test cricket, where you earn the real stripes as Ponting, Tendulkar and Dravid have done. That won't be easy with the next tour being to Sri Lanka where once again spin will try to come back and haunt him.

 

Congratulations to England on the clean sweep; four truly impressive performances totally outclassing Pakistan in all departments, even after bringing four players into the last game to give them a run out.

 

Blooding new players is vitally important with the next World Cup approaching fast. We need to get as many of what Andy Flower thinks our nucleus of players will be to 30 caps just as India, Sri Lanka, Australia and South Africa do leading into every World Cup.

 

Follow Goughie on Twitter

 

By SportUK 10/02/2012 15:18

After a disastrous month in Dubai and Abu Dhabi where Pakistan inflicted their first whitewash on England, we now have just the slim hope that a little pride is restored with some fighting performances in the one-day internationals.

 

Batsmen must improve their techniqueFor that to happen, England's batsman are going to have to drastically change their game plans. During the test series an astonishing 70 wickets fell to spin, 43 of them lbw in only a three match series.

 

The DRS system has taken the blame for this. The technology was brought in to eradicate the odd howling decision but many former supporters in England now complain that it has become a lottery for the spin bowlers where any ball into the pads could be worth a punt in case the graph showed it would have clipped a stump.

 

I've written in this column before about the problems that have been introduced into the Test arena as a result of too many ODIs and 20/20 and this is another example. The improvisation that is so praised in the short form has in fact encouraged lazy techniques to creep into the game of even top-notch batsmen.

 

Not long ago I remember players from yesteryear who on uncovered pitches used to tackle spin with ease, like famous Yorkshire and England cricketer Doug Padgett. He would tell all the youngsters coming through to play the ball with the bat not your pad - get your bat well out in front of you. The only player to do that really well was Younis Khan who profited with a fine hundred.

 

So batsmen need to relearn their game but even if they do, the DRS will still have fundamentally changed the game. Test cricket will no longer be a graveyard for bowlers especially spinners. Slow bowlers won't just be a containment option until the new ball is due. Just wait and see ... the top wicket takers of the future could well be spin bowlers, whose skills were being written off as a dying art just a few years ago.

 

Kieswetter and Buttler will get their chanceBut England's defeat is not all bad news and the ODI series will offer an opportunity to some young talent who now have the added incentive of the prospect of forcing their way into the Test arena. Players like Briggs, Buttler, Kieswetter, Dernbach, and Bairstow can make a name for themselves along with Finn, Bopara and Patel. Taylor and Hales will also be waiting in the wings to take their opportunity to show they can replace the old guard.

 

My personal opinion is that England have to make at least one change in the batting line up to show every other cricketer knocking on the door that it's not a closed shop. We have some very talented batsman who've waited patiently for their chance. Well, here it is. I hope someone goes out there and takes it.

 

 

By SportUK 28/01/2012 19:02

I always thought this series would be close but I predicted England would edge it. Even this morning, I was pretty confident. We got the selection right with two spinners. Panesar bowled excellent, and in tandem with Swann was a real top combination. As a captain it makes it easy when you can turn to players like that to seal off the runs. But then it all went wrong.

 

Andrew StraussBatting first on that pitch was always going to be an advantage but England wrestled the advantage back by bowling so well. Then Pakistan showed their class.

With Strauss and Cook, who love to use the pace on the ball, teams on the sub-continent have learned to bring spinners on early to stifle them. You could see Strauss still trying to cut the offspinner but the field was right and the bowling was tight and he got into a rut. From ball one, England were negative, looking to go back and block and wait for the bad ball. But these Pakistani spinners don’t make it easy, keeping it wicket to wicket and giving no room or length to play with.

 

Of course, these days it’s great to be an orthodox slow bowler, you send it down straight and with, the DRS, anything that is close, you have a chance. Pietersen and Strauss were both out to balls that would just have clipped the top of the stump. In the past they’d have been comfortable but not now. The technology has changed that.

 

In a situation where you are chasing a low total, you can’t afford to get off to a slow start. Andy Flower has always been a great believer in changing the momentum at the start of an innings. Something Warwickshire used to do so well when they dominated the county scene in the 90s. They’d send a big hitter like Neil Smith in at the top of the order and within four or five overs he could virtually end the game.

If you play nervous, the opposition feel that and up their game. You get bogged down and start to panic and that’s collapse-ville.

 

So what do England do? Nothing much, is the answer. For a start there’s not much they can do except for work harder. The bowlers have justified their places and the only other batsman in consideration is Bopara. It would be foolish to make a change just for one game, so they need to make any decisions carefully and for the future.

 

And the batsmen who let us down this time have done enough in recent time to earn a little more breathing space. The same is true for the captain. We all know a team performs well when its captain performs well. Look at Australia! It’s not a co-incidence that they are firing when Michael Clarke is filling his boots.

 

And it’s such a difficult call to consider Strauss’s position. We all know he’s a fantastic player and he has a reputation as a great leader. The record he has will see him through a couple of series so even if he keeps failing with the bat he’s pretty sure to stay as skipper.

 

But for some of the other senior players time is ticking. It will be a shootout to see who can hold off the youngsters coming through.

 

Today was hugely disappointing, but England still have the talent.

 

By SportUK 19/01/2012 17:47

Monty Panesar and Graeme SwannI said in my preview that we needed to play two spinners and I was right.

 

A disappointing opening Test finishes in just three days with England never being in the game right from the very first wicket lost.

 

The main reason for this was we didn’t choose the right team for these conditions.

 

Monty Panesar took five wickets in the game before and then he’s not included. I was really disappointed. It was definitely a negative move. England decided: 'we’ve been successful with just one spinner so we’ll stick with it', but you’ve got to play the conditions.

 

Tremlett was innocuous. We didn’t need him.  He just doesn’t add much to the team in these conditions. We can use Jonathan Trott as a third seamer and he showed he can do a job when he took one for 16 from eight overs.

 

But adding Monty to the side means that we have drop one of Pietersen, Bell or Morgan. If they drop Pietersen – that would be the real bombshell, especially as when he’s on form he’s one of the best players of spin around. Morgan would be the more sensible choice, in an almost last one in, first one out situation.

 

There’s even an argument to bring Ravi Bopara into the team as well as he can add bowling options, but that would mean dropping two of them and it’s going to be a tough enough decision to drop one.

 
  • Darren GoughDarren Gough

    Former England strike bowler and Yorkshire captain Goughie talks all things cricket and occasionally shows off his knowledge of other sports...

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