Archive for the ‘Ashes’ category

Cracker on the cards!

July 9, 2013

Consistent selection is one of the key reasons why England have developed into a strong test team in the last decade. They have had a reasonably stable support group and most importantly, the men picked have performed consistently in different conditions worldwide. As a test match fan, it’s so hard not to closely follow a team with such high consistency in selection and performance. A country like Pakistan keeps producing terrific bowlers but the administration is a big joke and you tend to lose some motivation to follow a team like that with highly inconsistent selection.

I believe I’ve observed a few anomalies in England’s recent selections. I have been staggered by the amount of faith shown on a couple of players – Chris Woakes being picked for the test squad, Finn getting an extended run despite a fairly long stretch of ordinary performances, and now Joe Root’s selection as opener. By England’s own standards over the last 8 years or so, a bowler struggling with his run up and consequently struggling to pick wickets and act as an effective member of the bowling unit would have lost his place in a space of roughly 4 test matches. What adds to my surprise is the strength of the queue – Onions, Bresnan, Tremlett, and have you seen Boyd Rankin bowl yet? Finn was chosen ahead of the others in the Champions Trophy as well, and he went for quite a few. Chris Woakes? I’ve got no idea how he got into the test squad. I’ve been following his most recent stint with Wellington and he’s simply not test level. Someone’s got it wrong.

And my gut tells me the costliest one of all is promoting Joe Root as opener for the Ashes. He’s a busy player alright, but does he have the game to survive Siddle, Harris and Pattinson? I don’t think so. I cannot back my comments with averages or recent histories in similar playing roles and I don’t intend doing that either. I have a feeling Joe Root will be exposing Jonathan Trott very early in the innings, and that will give Australia a chance to have a crack at KP and co. at an early stage in the innings. I’m a big fan of Jonny Bairstow but he has struggled to make runs recently. The rest of the batting order looks good to me but the damage done by early wickets has been well established.  I am suspecting 2 early wickets regularly and that 2 others in the English middle order will have an ordinary series.

England’s bowling? Looks like they’re going to pick Big Bres ahead of Finn, and I’ll be okay with that. Personally, I’ll give Onions a go.

The bowling units match up nicely but everybody thinks it’s Australia’s weak batting that’s going to cost them the series. Yes, it’s weak on paper, but at least they’re trying to make sure Micheal Clarke, and the two batsmen that will follow him won’t be exposed to the new ball. Watson and Rogers followed by Cowan is a damn good top order. I also understand that ‘exposure to the new ball’ is a limited factor, and that all batsmen need to cope with a moving ball during overcast sessions. Early wickets kill the chances of a big total irrespective of changing overhead conditions, and I believe Australia is the team that’s in a better position to avoid early wickets.

There are ‘how’ coaches, ‘why’ coaches, and the rest of it but Darren Lehmann seems to be one among the players. He does not tilt the scales by himself but along with a couple of faulty English selections, he’s one of the factors why Australia will do well in this series.

Luck comes into place, but it will more than likely favour the team that doesn’t lose top order wickets too quickly. That’s always been the case in all the cricket I’ve watched. Root and Trott gone early, and it could still be overcast skies. If Watson and Rogers put up a decent stand, they could well get to see some extended periods of sunshine..

The gut tells me Australia – Boof has come into the system but that’s only one of the factors. The players remain key, and Australia have still got the players to win the series. England need to have a rethink on Joe Root.

One thing’s for sure – this will be another cracking test match series.  Even the administrators can’t make this a 2 test affair!

“….N.B.—The body will be cremated and the

ashes taken to Australia.”

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Andrew, The Ashes are yours!!!!

August 24, 2009

I’m too delighted. I tried hard to write. There was some intense cricket today but I just can’t write  now.

Farewell Freddie Flintoff. The cricketing world is going to miss you. But this moment is yours. The Ashes are yours. It’s celebration time England!!

England all the way

August 22, 2009

I cant explain the Aussie batsmen’s dismissals with too many cricketing reasons. The atmosphere had England written all over it. That’s how I felt while watching it. Broad did the damage but we shouldn’t ignore the good work done by Anderson and Flintoff at the start of the innings. Pressure was exerted right from the beginning. England would have had more than a laugh during Harmy’s batting and that last wicket partnership would have taken some excitement away from the visitors. The openers were kept quiet and there was no room for Watson to do a Dilshan. The makeshift opener has had three half centuries in as many innings and he just had to get out.

  If there’s one bowler who has progressed through the series its Broad and not Johnson. Broad has always been bowling well while Johnson was poor in the first three tests. He was okay in the fourth and the talk of his directional issues is back. He got a wicket on the first day here and then bowled a wide one ball later. This is why Ive never been a fan of him. Broad though had been warming up for this kind of a spell. He has been hitting the right spots since Cardiff. He showed great improvement at Leeds and he’s got his reward here. And he’s put so much into his batting.

 Now Johnson has had a torrid series and he was always going to be a gamble. I would have still gone for Lee in his place. You didn’t pick him for Leeds (where he was fit and ready) because of lack of match practice. He played the practice game before the fifth test and performed well. If you still aren’t going to pick your country’s No. 1 bowler, you are  adamant. Yes, Hilfy, Siddle and Mitch performed against South Africa and deserve the rewards but they cant be called as the country’s top three test bowling options so soon. (Andrew Hilditch did) What wrong did Lee do? Johnson has had four bad outings while Lee is itching to be back and is this what you do?

 Australia now have serious problems at the top of the order. Katich worked hard for his fifty but is not in ideal form. Watson simply cannot open for Australia in tests. Even his bowling is far from effective. Chris Rogers and Phil Jacques should be back in contention.

 Coming back to the game,

 Watson – Should have been forward but went back sensing the movement of the ball towards his pads. Suicidal mistake

 Ponting – How many times have you seen him getting bowled off an inside edge?

  Hussey – Please don’t drop him (I’m expecting Hilditch  to do that). Hes another who has had a torrid run. Very good ball to receive early in your innings. Quick, sharp inward movement and caught in front.

  North – Unlucky. Looked solid again but as I said, the all English atmosphere might have just influenced the umpire’s decision.

  Haddin –  Believe me. I jumped out of the sofa when the ball hit the stumps. Beauty. Real beauty. I still dream of getting a batsman out in that fashion.

 Katich – It was England’s day after all. He wasn’t going to survive for too long.

 

I wanted Freddie to be the killer today and its someone who could be his successor. He cant match the aura that Flintoff carries, can’t create the theatre Flintoff does but can surely become a fine and regular allrounder in the eleven. 

 Don’t you worry England. Broad has just established himself. He’s the man most fitting to be carrying Freddie on the shoulders once that last Australian wicket falls.

Day 1,The Oval

August 21, 2009

Well, just look at the eleven which I wanted ever since the third day at Leeds and the eleven England are fielding today. And the time in between was described as the most dramatic week in the English sporting media ever since Ponting’s men last visited English shores. ( The Ramprakash – Trescothick and others saga) Marks for SJK’s selection credentials??

 I wanted Lee in the Australian eleven but Johnson has retained his place. And I should say I admired the way he picked up Prior today. Around the wicket to the right handed batsman, the first delivery was quick and angled in towards the batsman. It took some dust out of the wicket and while the speed gun showed 142 ks, the tv commentators called it a slower ball on first sight. The second ball was a very well directed short ball on the body. The third was a fantastic follow up. Just outside off, the slower delivery and Prior was the last man on the planet to be expecting that. The shot looked hopeless and the rest was catching practice at point. ( Remember a similar slower ball from Mitchell from around the wicket to get  Sachin in India last tour?) It also came at a very wrong time for England. Trott and Prior had a 48 run partnership going and they needed a big one. They needed some stability.

 Trott displayed great composure in his first innings for England. He loves feeling the ball in the middle of his bat and looked confident.

  One major thing that went against the Aussies was over-rate. When you don’t play a specialist spinner, the over rate factor is going to affect you, unless of course something like Leeds’09 happens. Once Colly and Bell were gone, Trott and Prior were the new batsmen. And Ponting couldn’t afford to apply pressure from both ends. They were 7 overs down at tea and he had to go with Marcus North from one end. North, for his part bowled much much better than how a part time spinner would bowl. The length was good, the line was consistent and he extracted good bounce and turn. Had the Aussies had more time, England would have been struggling to reach 270.

  Alastair Cook provided a nervous start for the English fans and myself. Bell and Strauss were then responsible for making it England’s session. 108 for 1 at lunch after winning the toss is a dream start. To lose that initiative is very irritating for the English fan.

 So what did Australia do to wrest that initiative? They were always on the ball. They tried new things. They were constantly looking for wickets. They got an early reprieve after lunch when Strauss was caught behind. But when Bell and Collingwood were building on a strong partnership, they were made to work hard for the runs. The line was tight. The length was full and the pace was up. What struck me when Collingwood was caught at gully was that he would be better off at No. 5.He bats well with the lower order and bowlers target him less. I don’t think he’s well suited for No. 4. He couldn’t withstand the pressure Siddle created and was forced to play that loose drive. Mathew Prior was absolutely out thought. That’s the way the bowling department must be working in dry pitches like these. They didn’t have a spinner but they could still induce so many English wickets on a dry first day pitch in sunny conditions.

 Stuart Broad showed tremendous commitment towards his batting. Oh and I almost forgot to mention Flintoff. Another example of gifting your wicket away. He couldn’t see off two overs from Johnson. Sad. What was the need to play that extravagant slash?? Why? These are the little things which count in the end.

 The day surely belongs to Punter’s men. Flintoff has to make amends with the ball. Or that’s what Im praying for.

And it’s all over

August 9, 2009

Five top order wickets in the last session on day 2 and I thought that spoiled my Sunday.All English fans would have made different plans for the Sunday but Graeme Swann had other ideas.

http://twitter.com/Swannyg66
So day 3 had an option
1. A hopeless cause
2. A route to immortality

And if a kid in the streets  of Yorkshire says he played better than Ravi Bopara, I wont be surprised at all.Swann and Broad were the entertainers today and they were the cause for an unbelievable 163 runs in the 24 overs before lunch.The 3rd day crowd at Leeds got much more than what they would have expected.

There was a lot of talk among Warnie, Holding, Nasser, And Bumble about the line ups for the decider.This was Holding’s ‘suggestion’ –
Strauss,Cook,Rob Key,Bopara,Prior,Collingwood,James Foster,Swann,Anderson,Onions,Flintoff/Harmison

Thats the batting order he recommends.Would you believe it?
Bumble wants two spinners for the Oval and is considering both Monty and Adil Rashid.

Warnie wants Rob Key at No.3 as well.And the current squad contains an additional specialist batsman in the name of Jonathan Trott.Thats’ not ideal?Is it?

I can easily call it the weakest middle order among the top 7 test playing nations.You can now gauge the dependence on KP.

Here’s my 11 for the Ashes decider
Strauss,Cook,Bell,Trott,Collingwood,Flintoff,Prior,Swann,Anderson,

Broad, Harmison

 Monty in case Flintoff’s unfit

Aus – The same top seven,followed by Lee,Clark,Siddle and Hilfy

I absolutely loved the way Atherton interviewed the captains at the post match presentation.

This was how Ponting’s interview ended
Atherton : So Ricky, going for a draw at the Oval to retain the Ashes or a win??
Punter   : What do you think? ( with a wide smile)
Atherton :  Win… Thank you..and well done

Day 2, Headingley

August 9, 2009

England already needed a miracle at the start of the day. Marcus North and Micheal Clarke were in too much of a good form to entertain
any chances of that.They just took the game far and away from England’s reach. I couldn’t take good note of the English bowling performance  in
this period but I believe Harmison bowled with a big heart, especially with the second new ball. I did watch Stuey’s cameo later in the
innings. When you’re in that kind of a position in a match, bowlers lose focus while bowling to tail enders.

Coming to the   ‘delaying the inevitable’  English innings, Hilfenhaus was outstanding in his opening spell.His line was perfect right from the start. Siddle bowled a very tight spell and it was pressure from both ends.
This is where Cook and Strauss played well. They played each ball to merit.They were concentrating hard  and got to a good half century stand. Test cricket demands long periods of concentration and that’s where Strauss was found wanting in this innings. It was the usual Hilfenhaus inswinger pitching just outside off and coming back in.The captain missed it and was back in the hut.

Ponting had the luxury of setting a really attcking field and he did that.It was good to see the mid off area left open for Cook, inviting him to drive against the inswing off Hilfenhaus.

It was just a matter of sticking to plans and applying constant pressure for Australia. Pressure alone was enough.Bowlers did’nt need  to do anything extraordinary.
Ravi Bopara has had a nightmare of a series.I thought he played for the outswinger when the ball jagged back and hit his pads.He was a  little unlucky to be given out considering the faint inside edge the ball took before hitting his pads. Shane Warne has called him ‘not international class’ and Bopara
has got a lot to prove now.Bell proded at an angling delivery from Johnson and he wont remember this match for too long.

The wall goes as well

Nasser Hussain called it a classic way to set up a batsman’s dismissal but Colly made a huge mistake of shuffling in too much.There were a few balls angling away and then the full pitched inswinger caught  Collingwood in front.
Mitchell Johnson is still not back in good form. The Sky commentary team thinks he is.If I were Ponting, Ill pick Lee in Johnson’s place for  the decider at the Oval. That’ll make a great bowling attack for Australia.
Lee,Clark,Hilfy and Siddle..all in great form.
Im a huge fan of Marcus North’s batting now. Terrific. I see him as the next Mr.Cricket.
England play for pride tomorrow.

This is the Headingley disaster of ’09.

Day One Headingley, Ashes ’09

August 8, 2009

 Fire alarm waking up England early morning, Prior’s injury on the stroke of toss, Flintoff’s exclusion, Prior on a stretcher, Talk of flying in Tim Ambrose from Edgbaston, the delayed toss, Prior back with his gloves on… I haven’t seen so much of chaos on the first morning of an Ashes test.

And then more drama unfolded. It was 16 for 2 in quick time when I hoped  Bell and Collingwood would do some repair work. Nothing at all happened. It was Australia’s morning all the way. Nine out of eleven were caught in the ring between wicket keeper and gully. That’s a shame. When they’re 1-0 up with 2 to go and a toss won on a good pitch with good bounce, they should have capitalized. Yes, there were fine spells of fast bowling but test batsmen are required to see them off. Not one batsman did that. 102 is pathetic.Here was a chance to further tighten their grip on the urn. They lost it.

Stuart Clark went out of the team due to injury and there was never a problem with his form. He should have been in the line up right from Cardiff and he showed his worth today.

 The Aussie Innings

 Harmison started off well. Ideally all the bowlers should have been bowling full but Harmy, with his height can afford a spell on the ribs. He started the attack there and Katich was trapped. Watson and Ponting started off with such freedom that it looked like Australia already had a huge lead with them. David Lloyd called it a boundary fest and that’s what happens when the bowlers have nothing to bowl with. They were short, wide and both batsmen were helped along. 

Why don’t new ball bowlers in swinging conditions bowl full??

Ponting and Watson were chancy though. I cant forget a Harmy delivery which pitched on leg and absolutely squared up Watson and hit his box. Of an Anderson( if I’m right) in swinger, Punter was totally beaten and when the ball hit the outside of his leg, he wasn’t attempting to play a shot off it.He was initially trying to play at it but quit that attempt when the ball swung in. He couldn’t have been quick enough to play that. The batsmen took a leg bye and Billy Bowden signaled a dead ball. It was a fantastic decision to me but the commentators found it wrong.

The bowlers were visibly trying too much, looking for wickets without a specific plan. There was no patience. No consistency. That happened because they were trying to get Australia out for 100 or as little as possible. They had nothing to bowl with. Batsmen’s poor show affected the bowlers as well. Micheal Holding would agree with me I’m sure.

Just when I was thinking Stuart Broad was leaking runs and should be replaced by Swann, he produced a quick angling delivery to get rid of Ponting. Earlier, Watson was caught plumb in front off Onions and  Australia had two new batsmen in the crease. Broad produced another quick angling ball from around the wicket to get rid of Hussey. Its not been the best of times for Hussey but he shouldn’t be disturbed. I’ve seen many a middle order batsman with lengthier patches of poor form been given more time. Hussey will be back.

So at stumps on day one, the damage has been done for England. It’s a Herculean task from now on but I’m still looking forward to a collapse tomorrow morning.

Was good to see Mr. Dickie Bird watching the proceedings today.

Cheers