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Sri Lankan Lions

Bob Willis Posted 11th October 2007 view comments

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Having never won a one-day series in Sri Lanka and after breaking a 25-year duck on the sub-continent, this England team deserves all the praise it is receiving.

I can only add to it and praise the selectors too for some bold and, so far, successful decisions. The inclusion of Graeme Swann, Ryan Sidebottom and Stuart Broad to the one-day team has made a big difference to the England team in the past six months.

Jimmy Anderson: A joy to behold

Jimmy Anderson: A joy to behold

The same can be said of Owais Shah and Ravi Bopara and they are players that I think will be staking their claim for consistent inclusion at Test level very soon.

Kevin Pietersen praised England's bowlers in Colombo on Wednesday night after completing the series victory, noting that Sidebottom, Jimmy Anderson and Broad didn't offer up a half volley until the 19th over in the fourth one-day international.

Stuart Broad and Matthew Hoggard, I believe, will travel to Sri Lanka for the Test series, but I am not so sure that Steve Harmison will.

Bob Willis.
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The control we have seen from those three has pleased me enormously and, if you turn the clock back to the start of our summer when Steve Harmison and Liam Plunkett were spraying it everywhere, there is a stark contrast.

The improvement in Anderson is a joy to behold; I have always been a big fan of Broad - as regular readers here will know - and you have to hand it to Peter Moores for plucking Ryan Sidebottom from the relative obscurity of Nottinghamshire.

Selection issues

The selectors have some more tough decisions to make with the Test series ahead. On the bowling side Harmison's place must be under extreme threat and, in the batting, the same would be said about Andrew Strauss's spot.

There is a feeling that Michael Vaughan can open the batting with Alastair Cook, and then it would follow, Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, with possibly Owais Shah or Ravi Bopara in for Strauss and Andrew Flintoff. The bowling would be Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar with Ryan Sidebottom and Jimmy Anderson.

Stuart Broad and Matthew Hoggard, I believe, would travel on the trip but I am not so sure that Harmison will.

We are trying lots of wicket-keepers but we don't seem yet to have found a definitive solution. Phil Mustard is a more natural wicket-keeper than Matt Prior and the powers-that-be seem determined that the principle skill is batting, so I would put Mustard in front of Prior in that regard too.

This will mean huge disappointment again for Chris Read and Jamie Foster, who are specialist wicket-keepers who can bat a bit. I believe it will be Mustard and Prior who travel and I know that the selectors aren't that impressed with Prior's wicketkeeping because otherwise they would have given him a central contract.

We will find out who plays and travels when the ECB announce the squad shortly and then, live on Sky, we can see if the Test team can emulate the success of this ever-improving one-day team.

Bob Willis answers your email

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The end of one-dayers one day?
Bob, what are your thoughts on the success of the Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa? I have my fears for Test match cricket and ODI cricket as it is currently. Keep up the good work, Charles Seagram, Hove.

BOB SAYS: It will have an effect in the longer term. The ICC cricket committee have tinkered with the 50-over game but I think it needs radical changing. I want to see one fielder outside the circle for the first ten overs, then two, then three, four and five as ten overs elapse, to keep it much more simple for the public. I don't think the public can ingest different power plays and so on and I think the game needs to be simplified.

The current TV contract with ESPN will preserve 50-over cricket as the major one-day game for the length of that contract but after that I think there will be huge demand for more and more Twenty20.

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