Wednesday, 22 July 2009

England suffer double Ashes blow

England’s Ashes were dealt a double blow today: Kevin Pietersen underwent surgery and is therefore out of the 2009 Ashes and, even more worryingly, Ian Bell has been given his place!

Losing Kevin Pietersen is a huge blow. Anyone who suggests otherwise is either lying or stupid (cue England management multi-choice options). Pietersen is by far the best batsman in the England side. He may not have made many at Lords but his mere presence is a lift and when he does get into his stride he can change a game in a couple of hours.

Gaining Ian bell is a huge blow. The Shermanator oozes indecision and a lack of confidence. How on earth can this guy be next in line? Its a disgrace. I might start to support Australia.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Mitchell needs to get his groove back

How can Australia win the Ashes 2009 after such a crushing defeat? Two words: Mitchell Johnson. Johnson is by far the best bowler in Australia and a more potent all rounder than Andrew Flintoff. In his last Test series (in South Africa) he had hauls of: 4/25, 4/112, 3/37, 1/78 and 4/148. He scored: 96*, 1, 0, 35, 123*. He bowled like a million dollars last winter, he is struggling to find 50 quid this summer. Whatever Australia need to do to get Johnson back to his best they must do it.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Ricky Ponting

I think there is a lot to like about Ricky Ponting. He is one of the best Australian batsmen ever, possibly the best since Bradman. He is a brilliant fielder – certainly in the top five of all time. At post match interviews Ricky often gives his players and the opposition a lot of credit, quite often giving the most honest of reports. His interview with Michael Atherton at the end of the Lords’ Test was a good example. He eloquently spoke about the game, England, Flintoff and Australia’s efforts and put to bed any question of unfortunate umpiring. He was applauded by the English crowd. So why don’t people like him? I think the problem is that he makes lots of contentious comments before, during and after a match. He is constantly sniping as if he somehow believes that matches are won in the newspapers rather than on the cricket pitch. People remember his barbed comments more than his brilliant batsmanship and it riles them. We want cricketers to be heroes and not actors in a soap opera. Give it a rest Ricky, we will like you more for it.

Lord's Voodoo broken

So England have done it and finally broken the Lord's/Ashes spell. Can it really be 70 odd years since England beat Australia at Lord's? If so, why on earth do England play there? I have heard about providing a level playing field (something with Lord’s can never be) but not winning for 70 years is ridiculous.

Eight days before England won at Lord's they were 100-5, soon to be 159-7 with an innings defeat and a 0-1 score line looming large. What a difference a week makes, I wonder what the odds were at lunch time of the final day of the first Test of England leaving Lord's with an Ashes lead.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Ashes U-turn

I have learned a new trick. If you stand on your head so all the blood rushes to your head, although I suspect just hanging off something upside will do. Once in the position, if you take a pair of binoculars and whilst shaking slightly them look at a monitor showing the 2nd Ashes Test score, then it looks like England are winning. Weird eh?

What on earth happened between Cardiff and Lords? Did the Australians get replaced by imposters? Did England have ‘backbone’ injections? The one that really puzzles me is Mitchell Johnson. His form in Cardiff was not good by his standards but his performances at Lords have been poor to plain rubbish. Anyone that saw Mitch bowl against South Africa last winter know he is capable of exceptional performances – so what happened?

Monday, 13 July 2009

Selected quotes (made up of course)

Things you didn’t think you would hear in Cardiff but could have:

  1. Come on England
  2. That Hauritz isn’t that bad
  3. Well batted Monty
  4. Well batted Jimmy
  5. Well batted Colli
  6. Oh come on guys get the 12th man off the field Marcus North wants a bowl
  7. What do you mean "it’s a draw"?

Sunday, 12 July 2009

High drama in Cardiff

The ICC World Twenty20 competition produced some exciting moments but nothing came close to the high drama at Cardiff. In the true spirit of Test cricket England’s tailenders hung on to the draw with their fingernails, turning a comprehensive thumping into a brave draw.

England may not have lost the match at Cardiff but they did a good impersonation of a losing team for most of the match. Time after time England has suffered from the same issues:

  • Batsmen failing to capitalise on good starts
  • Batsmen failing when the pressure is applied
  • Bowlers not able to take wickets on a good pitch

Australia was simply a better side in the first test. Will it turn around at Lords? Probably not but at least getting away with a draw today will help confidence.

So Ricky Ponting, why didn’t Johnson bowl in the last hour? In which universe does bowling Marcus North seem a better option than Mitchell Johnson? What a bizarre decision. I am sure Panesar and Anderson were very happy with it.

Monday, 6 July 2009

The Baker's dozen

The England ‘13’ for the first Ashes test contains a couple of curious picks:

Ian Bell: what does this guy have that keeps getting him in the squad? The answer is obvious I suppose: a central contract. It would be an admission of failure to keep not picking him especially after the Vaughan central contract fiasco. Bell’s first class record for Warwickshire this year looks quite good: 8 innings at 79.50. However, those numbers are a little deceiving. He has only made one century and that was way back on April 15th. He made an outing for England Lions last week (or England A as they used to be called) and got a first baller from Lee followed by 20 (from 63 balls). So why would they pick him? Oh yea, the central contract...

Monty Panaser: “go back to your county and take some wickets”. Well he only did the first part of that. Not only did he not take many wickets but a look down the bowling averages makes me wonder if he would be dropped from Northamptonshire’s side. His stats are 8 wickets at 86.7! Surely that would make him unpickable. He did take three wickets for England against Warwickshire last week (batsmen numbers 8, 10 and 11 mind you) and he does have a reasonable record against Australia.

The problem is that both these players were told to go away and get some form. Neither has done that and yet are in the squad – with the suggestion that Panesar will play (even if Bell does not). How can young England cricketers hope to get selected when serial poor performers are regularly rewarded with selection?

Calm before the storm

Hype, the Ashes always have plenty of it. None of it matters of course, the Australian players may ‘believe’ they get the psychological upper hand by making their pronouncements but the truth is they are kidding themselves. Words will mean nothing if not backed up by actions. It all starts on Wednesday. Wednesday? What sort of stupid idea is that? If it’s a rout the first test could be all over before the weekend. What will they think of next – not having it in England?

Friday, 3 July 2009

Michael Vaughan

Michael Vaughan’s retirement from professional cricket seems to have been met with general agreement. I, for one, am sad to see him go. He is the best English (born) batsman in the past decade. His performances drove him to the world number one spot in the ICC Test batting rankings. This is no small achievement; Pietersen the highest ranked English player is ninth.

There is an often used joke about Vaughan that despite a string of low scores he was ‘hitting it well in the nets’. There may lie some of Vaughan’s problems, he was a fantastic stroke player but there are times when a bit of graft is called for. As one failure follows another runs sometimes need to be ground out rather than blasted. His position was made more difficult because he was the (ex) England captain – everyone heard about his low scores. There was nowhere to hide.

Vaughan was an intelligent cricketer whose captaincy was a credit to himself and his team, often illustrating the limitations in the opposing captain. Hopefully Vaughan will not be lost to cricket.