It's just not cricket - or is it?

A STRANGE and rare occurrence took place during England’s One Day International against Sri Lanka on Tuesday.

Having warned Jos Buttler for straying out of his crease during his run up on two occasions, Sri Lankan spinner Sachithra Senanayake pulled out of bowling and whipped off the bails to run the England man out.

I first heard about the dismissal as I drove home from work, and it has to be said that I initially had little sympathy for Buttler.

The laws of the game are clear in that the batsman must remain in the non-striker’s crease until the bowler is in his delivery stride. This is to stop non-strikers heading for the other end while the bowler is running up to get an advantage.

I had visions of Buttler trying to nick a quick single by jumping the gun, and had that been the case, I would have had little problem with Senanayke’s actions.

However, when I saw the television pictures, I changed my mind. Yes, Buttler was out of his ground, but only by a foot or so, and he wasn’t heading down the wicket. In fact, I suspect he could have got his bat down in the crease if he had so desired.

Add all of that to the fact that Buttler had smashed an excellent century against the same opposition a few days earlier and it makes the intentions of Senanayke and his captain, Angelo Matthews, who upheld the appeal, look a little dubious.

Sri Lanka went on to win the match, and the series, but the gloss was very much taken off their win by this perceived crime against the spirit of cricket.

Yes, the same spirit of cricket that allows fielding sides to appeal and occasionally get batsmen out when they know that they should not get the decision. It’s a strange beast.

What we have learned from England's World Cup build-up so far?

Basingstoke Gazette:

ENGLAND have now played two of their three pre-World Cup friendly matches, so what have we learned?

Well, for a start, James Milner is not a right-back. And we are in quite a bit of trouble if either Gary Cahill or Phil Jagielka get injured.

Roy Hodgson got a bit of criticism for making 10 changes for the second game against Ecuador on Wednesday, but I think he did the right thing.

He played what would appear to be his first-choice team against Peru last Friday, before giving the other players a chance to show what they can do against Ecuador on Wednesday. The one exception was Wayne Rooney, who probably needs the game-time after missing the end of the season.

England were not outstanding against Peru, but they looked a decent unit, and I don’t think that there are too many positions up for grabs.

The goalkeeper and back four would appear to be nailed on, and so they should be after the way their understudies performed against Ecuador.

Captain Steven Gerrard will start just in front of them, probably alongside Jordan Henderson. I’m not convinced Jack Wiltshere is fully fit, and while I would prefer to see Milner in there, Hodgson trialling him at right-back is a big nod in the Liverpool man’s direction.

In attack, Daniel Sturridge looks certain to lead the line, with Rickie Lambert a decent option from the bench.

Hodgson’s biggest headache will concern the remaining three players. Adam Lallana, Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck got the nod against Peru, but Welbeck looked off the pace after being frozen out somewhat at Manchester United.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain impressed against Ecuador, but then got injured, while Hodgson has hinted that Ross Barkley is too much of a risk for a starting berth, despite his undoubted talent.

Raheem Sterling would probably get my vote alongside Lallana and Rooney, as long as he doesn’t make the sort of stupid challenge that got him sent off the other day.

The big debate at the moment seems to concern Rooney, but I don’t get it. Surely he is one of the best players at Hodgson’s disposal? He has to be worth a place in the team.

Signings leave Basingstoke Town with plenty of options

Basingstoke Gazette: Basingstoke Town manager Jason Bristow.

THERE was a bit of panic on the Basingstoke Town forum last week, when manager Jason Bristow indicated that he was not going to bring in a massive influx of players.

I can see where people were coming from, but if you look at the 11 players he has already signed, he has plenty of options.

Here’s three formations they could slot into: 4-4-2: Bird, Gasson, Ray, Rice/Smart; Soares, Dunn, Jenkinson, McAuley; Williams, Enver-Marum.

3-5-2: Gasson, Rice, Ray; Bird, Jenkinson, Dunn, Soares/McAuley, Smart; Williams, Enver-Marum.

4-2-3-1: Bird, Gasson, Ray, Rice/Smart; Jenkinson, Dunn; Soares, McAuley, Williams; Enver-Marum.

Now, there are a couple of gaping holes. Most obviously, a goalkeeper is needed, while I’m also pretty sure that Bristow will be on the lookout for a big, physical player to anchor the midfield.

Of course, the squad will also need a bit more depth, but I think that is the basis of a good team.

I’m also pleased to see Bristow learning from the mistakes he made last year. He signed a lot of high-profile players with big reputations before pre-season started, but none of them will be at the club next season.

This time around, he has a base of players that he knows well and will not be rushed into a raft of signings. I’m not even sure that we will see much more movement between now and the start of pre-season.

That should make for a really interesting July, with hungry players trying to prove themselves to the management.

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