Thursday, 30 December 2010

England revel in Ashes glory

It was a celebration 24 years in the making and England were going to
do their best to make the most of it.
The sight of the cavernous MCG empty apart from celebrating England fans is one to behold and treasure, especially since this is often a ground where England arrive as an already beaten side. After all, the livescore cricket stats pointed to the fact they were 3-0 down on Boxing Day four years ago.

But now all the work and meticulous preparation that has gone into this series has paid off as the latest scores point to a 2-1 England success with one left to play.

Captain Andrew Strauss is right to look ahead to Sydney and beyond. If England don’t go on and win this series after dominating pretty much throughout, it will be a crime.

And Strauss will also be wary of what happened in 2005, when the side became caught up in the glory of it all and lost focus – resulting in that desperate 5-0 whitewash down under in 2006/07.

But for one day at least, the players and fans can celebrate emulating an event that occurred before some of the current squad were even born.

It was also a record breaking one – from the run-filled Gabba to here, England have piled on the misery for the hosts. It is the first time Australia have ever lost by an innings twice in a series outside of England, showing the scale of the tourists’ achievements.

It can’t be denied that Australia have problems. Both captain and vice-captain are out of form, while the lack of young talent, especially compared to the all conquering side of just a few years ago, is alarming.

But credit also has to go to England – they can only beat what is put in front of them and they have done so in comprehensive fashion. It has been a real team effort, with all players contributing with the bat, ball and most notably in the field - an area where England haven’t always shone.

They deserve their moment of glory – I just hope it isn’t another 24
years before they do it again.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Hussey the key for Australia

Without Mike Hussey England could have already wrapped up the Ashes. The batsman came into the series under a fair bit of pressure following a disappointing year. With 517 runs from five innings so far, at an average of 103.4, it's unlikely anyone still thinks Mr Cricket should be dropped. The batsman has singlehandedly kept his country in this series and the English bowlers have so far failed to work out a successful plan of attack when it comes to Australia's number five and the Ashes odds reflect this.

The Aussie's return to winning ways at the Waca has been thanks mainly to two more exceptional examples of Test batting from the 35-year-old. His 61 in Australia's first innings saved his team from what could have been a crushingly low total. The second innings century was an exhibition in the pull stroke from Hussey as England's pace bowlers were punished for anything short. Anyone looking to bet on the Ashes should bear in mind his excellent form.

The Aussie's current dependency on Hussey is obvious, with Shane Watson the next top scorer with 293. The rest of the batting line-up have so far failed to hit their strides. Marcus North paid the price for a disappointing start to this series and was dropped in favour of exciting young all-rounder Steven Smith.

On current form alone, there could be cases for Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke to be drop, but don't expect that wildcard move, even from these Aussie selectors. As long as Hussey keeps performing at this level, England will need to find a way to get him out if they are going to make sure they return home with the urn.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Tremlett returns with a bang

Chris Tremlett was not exactly the man that most commentators were desperate for England to select, but after his impressive bowling figures secured during the first day of the third Ashes Test, which have left England overwhelming favourites on odds comparison sites, many experts have been left pondering why they ever decided to back Tim Bresnan as the man to replace the unfortunate Stuart Broad.

With Tremlett proving both economical in his bowling figures and impressive in his ability to push Australian batsmen into making rookie mistakes, questions may now be asked about whether he deserves a longer run in the England side to cover more than just the current Ashes series.

Despite this, it is still early days for Tremlett and he knows that despite his and his fellow bowling colleagues' excellent work, Australia’s batsmen are unlikely to put in such awful shot selections in either the rest of the current Test or in future contests in the series. If Tremlett can show that he can be a match for Australia’s batsmen when they hit top form, then his chances of earning a longer spell in the team will only continue to increase.

However, should Tremlett follow Peter Siddle’s lead and only shine in the first innings he bowls in, then England may come to rue the misfortune that has seen Broad forced to end his time down under. In spite of this, the form that England’s batsmen have shown so far may be enough to avoid the side having to rely too much upon a potent bowling attack, with England so far having been by far the better side with the bat.

With the Ashes reaching an extremely crucial point, Tremlett knows that he must show his class if he is to help take credit for an England victory and please all those loyal England fans who backed their side in the fixed odds before the series even started.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Hughes ready to hit back

Young Phil Hughes will know exactly what to expect when he walks out to open the batting for Australia this week in Perth. England will be convinced they have Hughes’ card marked when it comes to his weakness against a spicy short ball or two. The 22 year old has been recalled by the Test side following Simon Katich’s Achilles injury ruled him out for the remainder of the series.

Those Hughes will be desperate to put his disastrous first taste of Ashes cricket firmly in the past. In his three innings at the start of the 2009 series loss in England, Hughes scored a meagre 57 and exposed a glaring fault in his game against the short ball. Freddie Flintoff took advantage of the opener’s weakness and dismissed Hughes twice with similar deliveries.

It’s fairly certain according to those that like to bet on cricket match outcomes England will adopt a similar tactic at the WACA this week but Hughes insists he’s ready for whatever the Poms throw at him.

“They are going to come out firing against me. But I'm ready for it; I'm ready for anything they throw at me, and I can't wait for it.”

England shouldn’t underestimate Hughes though, who at the tender age of 22, has already notched up two 50s and two centuries in his seven Tests, at an average of 51.

Those who like to study the odds cricket wise note that he left-hander already has some recent success against England this summer to take confidence from, hitting a second innings 81 for Australia’s A side in Hobart, albeit facing a second string English bowling line-up.

The talented youngster clearly has the ability to silence his critics and Hughes will be determined to do just that in Perth this week.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

England look at Bright side after Melbourne struggle

England's warm-up game against Victoria at the MCG will go down as a draw in the record books and another unbeaten game on the current tour, but the fact Matt Prior doggedly had to hold on in the final session means it won't be a game that lives long in the memory.

The struggles of England's seamers was the main concern. The trio of Chris Tremlett, Tim Bresnan and Ajmal Shahzad were tipped to be involved in a shoot-out to determine who will replace the injured Stuart Broad.

But combined figures of 1 for 216 in 78 overs on a lifeless wicket means the decision remains unclear and anyone who has bet on the Ashes will be anxious to find out who is selected.

England's laboured bowling was in stark contrast to the joys of Adelaide, where they ripped through the Aussie batting line-up twice to set up that historic innings victory.

Coach Andy Flower has put a positive spin on things by claiming the tricky three day match at the MCG was a "reality check". And Although I agree such matches can help keep a player grounded and focused, he surely must have wished his quick bowlers had helped him decide who to pick for Perth.

As it is Chris Tremlett looks favourite, but that in mainly due to his tall frame being suited to the Waca pitch rather than his performance against Victoria.
Matt Prior's century may hinder Tim Bresnan, who is seen as a man to strengthen the batting line-up as well as a handy bowler.

But with Prior becoming the six member of the touring party to hit a hundred Bresnan's abilities with the bat aren't rally a priority. That said anyone who has bet on top England batsman shouldn't expect Prior to grab that title.

England need someone to hit the deck and rough up the Aussie batsmen, Something Stuart Broad did well despite only picking up a couple of wickets in the opening two Tests.

For that reason I expect Tremlett to make a international return as England seek to secure the Ashes with a win at the Waca.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Hauritz set for recall?

This Ashes is getting more and more embarrassing for the Aussies, as they look set to recall Nathan Hauritz for the Perth Test after Xavier Doherty failed to shine in the first two Tests of this series. Doherty's failure on the international stage came as a surprise as no one.

With the crazy talk surrounding Shane Warne's "comeback" still being churned out by the Australian media, Hauritz will be hoping to cement himself again as his country's number one spinner.

The off-spinner did his case no harm by taking seven wicket for New South Wales against Western Australia in Perth last week. The 29-year-old followed that performance up by hitting a career best 126 not out at the SCG, against South Australia.

The way in which the Aussie tail has folded in the opening two Tests will have given the management plenty to think about and Hauritz's century couldn't have come at a better time and the Ashes betting reflects this.

Hauritz was extremely unlucky to be dropped in the first place, despite his poor form in the recent series loss to India. Since Shane Warne's retirement, Hauritz has been an integral part of this new generation of Australian cricket and was his country's best bowler in last year's Ashes loss in England. Anyone looking to bet on the Ashes should bear this in mind.

It's true that this year Hauritz has struggled for form but the decision to pick the extremely inexperienced Doherty right before the Ashes started was seen as an odd one by many in the cricketing world. If Hauritz is recalled to the side, the England batsmen should be wary of a rejuvenated player.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Brilliant England beat Australia - and the weather

England players, coaches and fans following the latest scores from Adelaide alike were all nervously watching the sky on the final morning of the second test.

A heavy rainstorm was predicted for the area and with England still requiring six wickets for victory, there was a very real chance the weather could, for once, work against England in an Ashes test.

However, despite the best efforts of Shane Warne and his rain dance the players awoke to blue skies in South Australia, meaning they had at least a session to try and work their way through the Aussie lower order.

In the end they only needed 90 minutes as the deadly combination of Steven Finn’s power, Jimmy Anderson’s swing and Graeme Swann’s spin rattled through the Aussie batting line up with the addition of just 66 runs.

Unbridled joy swept through the Adelaide Oval - again almost solely occupied by England supporters – with each passing wicket.

The stay-away Australian supporters’ lack of faith in their side proved well placed when last man Peter Siddle was clean bowled by Graeme Swann with still an hour of the morning session to play.

Queue another string of re-written records – England’s 100th Test victory against Australia, their first win against them by an innings for 24 years, only their ninth in 30 Tests at Adelaide and Australia’s
first innings defeat at home since 1993.

Those often following the cricket live scores believe that it is a win that symbolises a turn in the tide in England Australia relations. For a generation England were made to suffer at the hands of a brilliantly ruthless and destructive Australian team. There were more batting collapses, series defeats and ritual humiliations than I would care to count. Today is England’s long awaited wait for revenge.

The win was made even sweeter when the rain did eventually arrive just after lunch, the puddles on the pitch by late afternoon confirmation that England’s bowlers did the job just in time.

The only negative to what was a pretty much perfect display from Andy Flower’s men was an injury to Stuart Broad, who will miss the rest of the series with a stomach muscle strain. But with a clutch of bowlers itching to take his place England have a great chance of picking up where they left off at the Waca in a fortnight’s time.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Can Swann start proving himself on Aussie wickets?

To date, Graeme Swann has endured a pretty frustrating experience every time he has been handed the opportunity to bowl on Aussie wickets. However, as the Adelaide wicket starts to show that it has some turn in it, now is perhaps the time for Swann to show precisely how good a bowler he really is.

The buoyant England camp will surely be all too aware that they need to get the Aussies out as quickly as possible if they are to stand the best possible chance of avoiding seeing the test end as a draw. They'll also know that their bowling attack will need to take full advantage of the last gasp wicket of Michael Clarke that the test's current unlikely hero Kevin Pietersen managed to take.

After watching on as Pietersen managed to find the turn in the pitch perfectly, Swann can now go on to sweep away the middle and lower order of the Aussie batsmen, something that few Ashes online betting would surely bet against him doing on an English wicket. However, with Swann aware that he has not been at his best so far in the current series, he can really steal the limelight of the test with a solid display.

If, though, Swann fails to up his game and take any wickets, he may just find himself under a fair amount of pressure from both his fellow players and the English media, which no player of any sport wishes to endure.

Despite Swann not firing on all cylinders, the English batsmen have at least been able to show the kind of form that undeniably takes a fair amount of pressure off the English attack.

However, tests are won by great bowlers and batsmen working together, and if England’s current crop of players are to be considered by those looking at Ashes betting odds as amongst the all-time greats, they will need to show that they can do just that.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

England ready to pick up where they left off

For many cricketers back-to-back test matches are an inconvenience, especially if the first match went to five days.

However, as England prepare to do just that in Australia they will be glad they have another chance to have a go at the Aussies so quickly.

The match may have been a draw but England definitely have the momentum going into the second test at Adelaide.

Their recovery from being 221 behind after day three to scoring 517 runs with the loss of just one wicket by day five, has left Australia reeling. Anyone who has bet on top England batsman will have been even more pleased by the score.

Doug Bollinger and Ryan Harris have already been added to the Aussie squad as the selectors contemplate changes, with the desperately out-of-touch Mitchell Johnson (who is the Aussie media’s scapegoat following the Brisbane draw) set to be dropped.

England have no such problems, though they will hope Graeme Swann rediscovers his mojo after a below par performance at the Gabba. Swann had trouble finding the right length and also failed to cope with the Aussies deliberate attempt to blast him out of the attack.

A flat lifeless track didn't help and although Adelaide has a reputation for being a batters paradise, it could take turn on days four and five and the toss looks set to be crucial once more and the Ashes betting reflect this.

England need no reminding of what happened at the Adelaide Oval four years ago, when Shane Warne ripped through the England batting on the final day to secure a morale crushing victory for the Australians that seemed so unlikely when both sides scored over 500 in their first innings.

Revenge therefore is just another reason to motivate Andy Flower's men when the action kicks off on Friday.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Johnson lacks bite

Australia's main strike bowler needs to be a fairly intimidating figure, a scary Merv Hughes or Dennis Lillee sort. The Aussies' current number one bowler, Mitchell Johnson, has always talked an aggressive game but against England he's always looked more bark than bite. Johnson's performances during the first Test at the Gabba have been far from what Australia are going to need if they are going to regain the urn.

With Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus both performing admirably at the Gabba, Johnson could find himself scrapping to keep his place for the next Test. Doug Bollinger has been Australia's most consistent bowler over the past year and was unlucky to be left out of the side for Peter Siddle. The Aussie management may be having a serious think about reinstating him for the Adelaide Test. Indeed, the Ashes cricket odds suggested Bollinger could be the home side's top wicket-taker.

Not only did Johnson bowl inaccurately at the Gabba, but he wasn't smart or aggressive either. Johnson's lack of swing may also come into any decision, as this is an asset that Bollinger has in his artillery. Anyone who has placed an Ashes bet on Australia will know they have to take more wickets if they are going to win Tests.

Johnson is always raved about by the Aussie media but whenever he faces England, he seems to completely lose his game. His Test record is up there with the best, 166 wickets in his 38 matches at an average of 29, while against the English its nearly ten runs higher.

Without a strike bowler, Australia look a very average bowling attack and one which England can continue to attack. That is unless Johnson can find the form that makes him so revered by the Aussies at any other point in the year.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Is Swann suited to Test cricket away from English soil?

Graeme Swann is clearly a top-class bowler, as well as a man on a mission to show that he can perform well on Australian soil, but is he the man to perform on Aussie wickets?

Yesterday, he looked anything but and was hit for 34 runs off just four overs. Although this may not have been quite so bad in a 20/20, it's simply not acceptable in Test cricket and particularly when there is so much national pride at stake. The Ashes betting suggests England would have a good chance of retaining the urn, but players like Swann will need to do their bit.

Admittedly, it is still early days in the 2010 Ashes series, but the fact remains that this is not anything that has massively shocked the cricketing world, with many experts predicting Swann would prove to be unable to cope with Aussie wickets.

Should Swann fail to get a few wickets under his belt soon, and some better bowling figures to boot, England's selectors may have to start thinking about whether a man who has often been seen as their best bowler is worthy of retaining a place in the team. Anyone who has bet on England to win the Ashes will be worried about the situation.

However, if he can get the wicket of his tormentor Mike Hussey, then perhaps he can begin to show doubters he is not just another English spinner who can't handle Aussie wickets, but one of the best cricket players in the world.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

England given short, sharp shock

They may have had the perfect preparation and gone into the game high on confidence, but England where given a stark reminder of just how difficult it will be to win in the Ashes down under.

One day one at the GABBA, a ground Australia haven’t lost at in 22 years, England actually began well – winning the toss and electing to bat on a decent looking surface.

As those following the livescores last night will tell you, that air of optimism was blown away within three balls when captain Andrew Strauss attempted to cut a Ben Hilfenhaus delivery that was too close to his body and the ball flew to Mike Hussey at gulley.

In a series that will no doubt be close and keenly contested (hopefully) England know they will have to stand up and be counted and win mini-battles throughout each contest.

Sadly for England fans they lost everytime on day one, with Australia clawing themselves into contention on each occasion England looked to be settling into the game.

None more so than at 197-4, when with England set for a decent score Peter Siddle dismissed Alastair Cook, Matt Prior and Stuart Broad in successive deliveries for an historic hat-trick that left England reeling.

Siddle became the 11th Australian to take a hat-trick, the fifth in Ashes and the first against England since Shane Warne at Melbourne in 1994.

The Victorian paceman, playing on his 26th birthday, continued to torment England and soon snared Graeme Swann lbw before debutant Xavier Doherty finished England off with two late wickets.

It was the sort of day England feared most. A score of 260 is a poor return on what was a decent pitch and those keeping up to date with the latest Ashes scores tonight will know that England’s bowlers have to dig themselves out of a massive hole.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

England look to attack Australia’s soft middle

There is a good chance England will have been looking at Australia’s under pressure middle order and seen a chance to pile more pressure on the batsmen. Australia’s middle order has been the envy of the world for much of the past decade. The current crop have had a tough year and have all faced their own issues in keeping their places in time for the opening Test.Australia’s vice-captain Michael Clarke is still a doubt according to some studying the Ashes betting odds going into the opening match of the series, after struggling with his back injury.

That aside, Clarke has had a disappointing year by his high standards and was particularly poor in the recent 2-0 series loss in India. In the two Test matches against the Indians, Clarke’s weighed in with a whopping 35 runs, although he was clearly struggling with his back during the series.

Clarke has done enough throughout his career for England not to underestimate him. The same can be said of Mike Hussey, who came in for his fair share of criticism leading up to this week. Despite ‘Mr Cricket’ being one of Australia’s most consistent run scorers over recent years, Hussey is under pressure to start scoring runs for the Aussie’s or he could face being dropped.

Marcus North can be grateful for his gutsy 128 in the second Test against India. Before his century the batsman’s place in the side had come under intense pressure from Ashes online betting pundits after a poor run of form.

With young batsman Usman Khawaja know a member of the squad all the batsman are going to need to find their form quickly or face being dropped.

Alternative Australian Ashes XI

Amidst all the talk of the Australians England are facing, here is a side of those who didn’t even make the 17-man squad.
1) Mark Cosgrove
A big left-handed biffer, ‘old school’ in fitness and South Australian to boot: there is rather a lot of Darren Lehman in Cosgrove. His talent, which earned him three ODIs four years ago at the age of 22, is beyond question, as is his hunger for runs – just ask Glamorgan fans – but Cosgrove’s physique just doesn’t fit the template of a modern cricketer.

2) Phil Jaques
Fearless and superb at scything the ball through the offside, Jaques was likened to Adam Gilchrist by Steve Waugh. When given his Test opportunity in 2007/08, Jaques proved he had his technique was good enough, but was injured at the most inopportune of moments; despite averaging 47 in Tests and making 108 in his last innings, he now lacks even one of the 25 Australian contracts. As he scored two hundreds in three days in tour matches during England’s last visit, England may be slightly relieved.

3) Brad Hodge
There are strong suggestions in Australia that Ricky Ponting does not get on with Hodge: conspiracy theories are needed to explain how someone averaging 56 in Tests, including scoring 203* against South Africa, could have been limited to six. Having retired from first-class cricket last year, Hodge’s one-day form has been jaw-dropping, with seven hundreds in his last 16 games and an average of 86 over these, yet he hasn’t played an ODI for three years.

4) David Hussey
Many are saying one Hussey in the Aussie Test side is one too many – but it might be one too few. David is the Stuart Law of his generation – except Law at least got one Test cap. He averages an extraordinary 55 at first-class level, while plundering his runs at a strike-rate of 71, but perceived weaknesses to the short ball have counted against him.

5) Cameron White (captain)
Apparently you need to be more than cocky, blonde and Victorian to be a successful leg-spinner. White played all four Tests in India in 2008, whilst batting at number eight – but if another Test appearance comes, it will be in the middle-order, where his propensity for six-hitting in the limited over’s formats is so impressive.

6) Andrew McDonald
A wicket-to-wicket bowler who puts the military in military medium, MacDonald is not the most glamorous cricketer Australia has ever produced. But his nagging style proved effective in four Tests against South Africa in 2009, whilst his batting is adaptable and increasingly effective, as three state centuries at 93 this season so far attest to. He made his Test debut at six, and is a much better player now; the perception that he lacks sufficient talent may just need revisiting.

7) Luke Ronchi (wicket-keeper)
New-Zealand born, Ronchi’s audacity with the bat resembles the best of Brendan McCullum. That much was shown as he blitzed 64 off 28 balls in his second ODI innings, against West Indies in 2008. A collapse in form followed, but an average of 47 in state cricket last season suggested he could rival Tim Paine to succeed Brad Haddin.

8) Jason Krezja
Krezja is the owner of probably the most extraordinary Test debut figures in the history of the game: 12 for 358. On debut in India two years ago, he bled runs but always turned the ball enough to threaten the perennial tormenters of spin bowling. Still raw, Krezja needed confidence instilled in him, but was instead dispensed with after one poor Test. Self-belief shattered, a place in the Tasmanian side now often eludes him. His career is a textbook study of how not to handle a spinner.

9) Brett Lee
With his arch competitiveness and generous sporting spirit, this Ashes series would cherish Lee – and how he would cherish it. Reoccurring injuries have forced his first-class retirement but he could well terrorise England in the ODIs after the Tests, just as he did last year in England.

10) Shaun Tait
After the 100mph slingers, hostility and stump-shattering accuracy in the ODIs in England this year, there was much talk Tait would end his premature first-class retirement, with Ponting encouraging him to showcase his reverse-swinging skills in Tests. The rumours were ended by the realisation his body wouldn’t be up to it. As with Lee, English fears over the ODI devastation he could cause will be outweighed by relief he won’t be appearing in the Tests.

11) Darren Pattinson
Pattinson could conceivably have been appearing for either side this winter, having lived in Australia from the age of six before playing a Test for England in 2008; and his brother will play for Australia within a few years. Made a scapegoat for England’s defeat, Pattinson has enjoyed a brilliant few months, including a championship for Notts and 8/35 in a game for Victoria. England should be getting advice from him on bowling to Australia’s batsmen in their conditions.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

If Freddie says we'll win - we will!

He often got his own way on the field and England fans will be hoping he gets his own way off it.

Andrew Flintoff has boldly predicted England will win down under and retain the Ashes for the first time in 24 years.

The 32-year-old, who retired in September following a long battle with a knee injury, believes England simply have the better players and singled out Graeme Swann, Kevin Pietersen and James Anderson as potential match winners.

Indeed Swann is highly tipped to be among the top wicket takers in the series. The 31-year-old has come on leaps and bounds in recent years and is now one of the best spinners in the world and the Ashes betting offers reflect this.

For the first time in decades England now have the better spinner going into an Ashes test, the looming spectre of the legendary Shane Warne will hang heavy over debutant Xavier Doherty at the first Test in Brisbane.

James Anderson is another who has added consistency to his game in recent years, but questions still remain about his ability to bowl in non-swing-friendly conditions.

A master under cloudy damp skies on green tinged pitches, the challenge is on for the Lancashire star when bowling under the bright blue skies of Australia.

Kevin Pietersen goes into this game perhaps under more pressure than anyone in the England side. The England batsman, who has just signed for Surrey for the 2011 season, has been in patchy form for his country this year and was dismissed cheaply in the final warm up game against Australia A and anyone looking at the Ashes best odds would have been worried by this.

That dismissal, from left arm spinner Steve O'Keefe, has reportedly prompted the Aussie selectors to go with Xavier Doherty for the first Test in the hope Pietersen's woes will continue.

But if Pietersen is one thing it is a fighter and nothing motivates him more than a clash with Australia. I wouldn't bet against KP being amongst the runs when the action kicks off in Brisbane on Thursday.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Hussey finds timely form

Australia batsman Mike Hussey may have saved his Ashes spot by hitting a timely century for Western Australia in their Sheffield Shield match against Victoria at the MCG. The left-hander has struggled this year and in the recent series loss to India he failed to post a significant score, averaging only 20 from his four innings as Australia suffered a 2-0 defeat.

With some calling for Hussey to be dropped the Australia side, his innings of 118 from 160 could well have saved his spot in the team for next week's opening Test at the Gabba. Usman Khawaja and Callum Ferguson had both been mentioned as possible replacements, but it looks as though the experienced campaigner will cling onto his place after the youngsters failed to impress while turning out for Australia's A side in a match the cricket betting now makes England strong favourites to win.

It seems a trifle unfair on Hussey that his place in the side is being considered. Over the past few years Hussey has probably been Australia's most consistent performer and their fans will be hoping his recent poor form will prove to be nothing more than a blip. The cricket odds suggest a tight series and Hussey could swing it in the home side's favour.

Hussey’s record in Test matches is as good as anyone in world cricket. In his 54 Test appearances, Hussey averages just under 50, with 11 centuries and 21 half centuries. Although England will be staying out of the debate over Hussey, it's fair to say the English bowlers would be delighted to see the batsman's name absent from the team sheet when they line up in Brisbane next week.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Siddle eager for recall

Australian pace bowler Peter Siddle is hoping to return to the Test side for the opening Ashes Test after ten months out with a back injury.

Siddle is one of five seamers in the squad of 17 named for the Brisbane Test. His last appearance for the side came at the start of the year, when he took a five-wicket haul against Pakistan before fractures to his back ruled him out for a significant spell. With the Ashes cricket odds suggesting England are in with an excellent chance of retaining the urn, Siddle could be vital for the home side if he's back to his best.

With Siddle absent from the Test side for much of this year, other bowlers have stepped up and now the Victoria bowler will face a battle to get back in the side, something he is more than aware of.

"I've obviously been out of the game for ten months, and not playing, and those blokes that have come in have performed well and done very well for Australia," he said.

With Ben Hilfenhaus and Mitchell Johnson likely to be named in the side, Siddle may be in a battle with one of those bowlers who has impressed in his absence, Doug Bollinger. The left-armer has looked good since coming into the Test side following Siddle's injury, taking 22 wickets, at an average of 23.40. Bollinger was suffering with an injury picked up in the recent series loss to India but has been declared fit in time for next week's series opener. The Ashes cricket betting suggests bowlers will be vital in the first Test, so the selectors will have to choose wisely.

With the Gabba looking as though it will once again prove to be a seamer friendly pitch, all the Aussie fast bowlers will be desperate to take advantage of it. The Aussie management will now have a week to decide which way they are going to go.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Katich winning fitness race

Australia batsman Simon Katich looks set to win his battle to be fit for the first Ashes Test in Brisbane. The opener is due to represent New South Wales against Tasmania in next week's Sheffield Shield match after recovering from a fractured thumb.

Katich sustained the injury in the build-up to last month's series loss in India. After passing the injury off as bruising, Katich played in the series but was obviously affected by the injury, averaging just 27 Australia went down to a 2-0 series loss.

If the Aussies are going to regain the Ashes then there key batsmen will have to perform. Katich is certainly one of his side's most consistent performers, scoring 4,091 in his 54 Tests including ten centuries. However, only one of those centuries has come against the English and Katich will be determined to add to that total during the upcoming series.

Although Australia's form over the past few months has been far from their usual standards, the openers have consistently put on decent partnerships and the English will be fully aware of the danger posed by Katich and Shane Watson. The openers came together during last year's Ashes series and have given Australia valuable runs at the top of the order, scoring 1,356 runs in their 13 Tests at an average of 56.5 together and the cricket betting reflects just how dangerous they can be.

The ability of the openers to put runs on the board at the top of the order was one of the features that made Australia such a dominant force when Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer led the line. Watson and Katich have so far produced the goods with three centuries and eight half-century stands since coming together last year and could prove to be a thorn in England's side this winter. Anyone thinking about placing a cricket bet should remember this.

If England can find and early breakthrough and expose the fairly soft looking Australia middle order at an early stage in the innings then they will stand a very good chance of winning their first Ashes series on Australian soil in 24 years. Katich certainly won't be giving his wicket away easily and the English will have to be creative when bowling to the opener.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Gabba pitch set to be a 'minefield'

With the first Ashes Test looming Kevin Mitchell, the groundsman at Brisbane's Gabba cricket ground, has warned it could contain a few surprises for both sets of batsmen.
The same track was in use for a domestic Sheffield Shield match between New South Wales and Queensland in which the home side Queensland lost 18 wickets in just two sessions, mainly due to a lush green surface on top of the pitch as well as humid dry weather providing ideal bowling conditions.

If similar weather occurs in the next few weeks the moisture will stay in the surface, keeping its green tinge, meaning it will get unpredictable bounce as well as movement and swing - a worrying combination for batsmen and one that could have an impact on the Ashes betting.

Sunny weather however, will help it dry out and produce a hard, bouncy pitch the Gabba is famous for.

It is hard to say who would benefit more from a greener surface, both sides have talented fast bowlers who would relish bowling on such a friendly surface.
The main winners could be the spectators, who would be treated to plenty of action as it would clearly be a wicket- favouring surface. Anyone looking to bet on top England batsman should bear this in mind.

Australia have Dougie Bollinger and Mitchell Johnson, while England have Stuart Broad and Steven Finn all of whom will relish the prospect of such a pitch.
If a green tinged wicket emerges on November 25th, expect that quartet to be among the wickets from the off.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Can Eoin Morgan prosper down under?

Eoin Morgan, England's adopted Irishman, took his time to break into the Test circuit, but such is his progress he could find himself in the starting XI come the first Ashes match in Brisbane.

Born in Dublin, Morgan originally played hurling but eventually converted to cricket, though his aggressive, sweeping stroke play still echoes back to his past in the Gaelic game.

He established himself as an expansive left hander in the World Cricket League with Ireland, though he endured a difficult World Cup in 2007, despite the success of his team mates.

Despite that disappointment he was selected for the England one day team in 2009. He hit a 34-ball 67 in the Champions Trophy in September 2009 before an unbeaten 45-ball 85 in the opening Twenty20 match of England's tour of South Africa to establish himself as a key player in the short form of the game - as well as earning comparisons to fellow import Kevin Pietersen.

The selectors saw Morgan as a finisher - the kind of player who can wrap up a one day victory or, if batting first, blast key runs at the end of an innings to add an extra 30-40 runs to the total. This was shown in early 2010 when he played a key role in England's World T20 success, their first ever ICC international trophy.

Morgan's success in the short from of the game led to a Test call up for the series against Bangladesh in this summer, he has since played in the Test series with Pakistan and has an average of 32. However, those considering a bet on top England batsman should bear in mind that he may not get a huge amount of time at the crease if the top order do well.

His biggest test lies ahead though as he heads down under to take on Australia. An Ashes debut is tough for any player and Morgan won't be alone in feeling the heat. But when on form he adds steel and bite to England's middle order, and he doesn't carry the baggage from that disastrous 5-0 whitewash four years ago. The best Ashes odds make Australia favourites, but the like of Morgan will feel they have a point to prove.

If he can help prevent any more legendary English batting collapses by holding up the middle order, then Strauss' men have a great chance of retaining the Ashes down under.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Strauss looks to find his feet

The contrast between Andrew Strauss playing an Ashes series at home and one playing over in Australia, couldn’t be more marked. In familiar conditions, he looks comfortable and with a supportive ground of spectators, he looks like one of the most talented men ever to pick up a lump of willow. But over in Australia, on their dry and dusty tracks, a crisis of confidence appears to strike once he realises that he’s made a start, and he suddenly looks like he’s not even sure which end of the bat he should be holding.

Like every captain-batsman in the world, questions are inevitably asked by those looking at cricket betting tips about his ability to juggle personal performances with his other role whenever he posts a low score, and it’s hard to argue that it’s easy – possible even – to truly focus on the bigger picture rather than one’s own personal problems, and not see a dip in performance. But with only one half century from his tour down under at an average score of 25, it looked as though that demon had claimed another victim.

Fast forward to 2009 however, and we saw the real Andrew Strauss – a man leading by example and conviction, backed up with the bat. His choice of which bowler to employ in any given situation and more aggressive field placements showed up the more experienced Ricky Ponting and suddenly we were in with a sniff. But if England were going to win the series then he knew he would have to push home this advantage by putting in a shift at the crease too, and promptly delivered with 474 runs across his 9 innings, resulting in an average of over 53.

The question remains amongst those placing a cricket free bet this winter as to whether or not he can battle the demons which plague him when he sets foot in Australia – he has admitted to the previous success of the Aussie’s mind-games which in 2006 included leaving a banner to welcome the England plane which simply read: “tonk a pom” – but England need him to stand up and be counted if our bowlers are to have some respectable totals to defend.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Bell eyes Ashes spot

One of the issues that will need resolving before next month's opening Ashes Test is who bats at number six for England. Eoin Morgan currently fills that role and he has quickly gained a reputation throughout world cricket as being one of the most exciting batsmen around. Morgan's breakthrough into the Test side was down to Ian Bell's broken foot, which kept him out of the Pakistan series. Morgan stepped up from the one day side and took to the longer format of the game like the proverbial duck to water hitting a century in his debut match.

With Bell returning to action for Warwickshire in the final part of the summer and carrying on his previous good form, the England selectors need to make a decision on who takes the number six spot.

It looks as though Bell's experience may be the deciding factor in the decision, although anyone looking to place an Ashes bet should bear in mind this isn't set in stone. Bell has shown his quality over the past year, after going through a difficult spell. Bell was part of the Ashes squad of 2006/07 that got given an old fashioned spanking, losing the series 5-0 and thankfully the Ashes betting tips suggest a repeat of this should be avoided.

Since then Bell has showed that he has added a toughness to his game to accompany his world-class talent. After being dropped from the Test side, Bell returned to the team to help England reclaim the Ashes in the 2009 series, with two battling performances, where he scored 53 and 72 as he proved character on cricket's most pressurised stage. His first century against Australia still eludes Bell and he will be determined to put that right this series.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Giles backs Swann to prove a hit down under

Former England spinner Ashley Giles has backed Graeme Swann to prove to be the difference during the upcoming Ashes series. Giles played in two unsuccessful Ashes tours in Australia before retiring to become Warwickshire's director of cricket, he is also a part of the English selection committee.

Although Giles was always a very decent spin bowler, he was never truly world class and has admitted he wasn't in the same league as Swann is now.

"Graeme Swann will play a lot bigger role than I ever played in Australia, I think he's a phenomenal bowler at the moment," Giles said.

Giles was part of the 2006/07 squad that suffered the humiliating 5-0 series whitewash but is convinced the same won't happen with this group of players.

"I think it's the most realistic chance we have of going there and winning the Ashes in quite a while, including some of the trips I went on," he added.

Swann is looking likely to be the difference between the two sides going into the opening Test at the end of next month. On paper both teams look pretty even, with the only real edge lying with England in the spin department, although the Ashes cricket betting makes the home side strong favourites.

While England have the current world's best spin bowler in their ranks, Australia are struggling to decide whether to play the out of form Nathan Hauritz or replace him with the youngster Steve Smith. Anyone thinking about placing an Ashes bet should remember this.

Certainly in the Brisbane Test, it looks as though the Aussie's will pack their team with fast bowlers, who will be more likely to get something out of the bouncy Gabba pitch, leaving their spinner to plug the gaps while they have a rest.

Friday, 22 October 2010

England selectors must be pragmatic

England rightly head downunder with high expectations. This confidence is not entirely due to their own form, as Australia’s limitations provide nearly as much encouragement. The Baggy Greens have just lost three successive Tests for the first time since 1988, which suggests England should be less daunted ahead of an away Ashes series than they have been for some time.

Many cricket betting observers suggest recent results should not have too much emphasis placed upon them. This is partially true – England’s regular batting collapses have not been reflected by their results against South Africa and Pakistan this year, just as losing in India is no disgrace for any visiting team – but the recent form of players cannot be ignored.

Both teams are keen to give the incumbents as much time as possible to return to form. There are plenty of batsmen living off past records and whilst Paul Collingwood and Kevin Pietersen in particular deserve the chance to rediscover the form that served them well downunder in 2006/07, the selectors cannot afford to place blind faith in them.

Jonathan Trott, Matt Prior and Ian Bell are the only batsmen to have good figures behind them over the last few months, although Andrew Strauss is playing well without proper reward. The captain remains the most important batsmen in the team according to the latest cricket odds.

Eoin Morgan’s runs dried up after a dazzling century in his third Test, but if he, the only batting reserve, is thought to be a better prospect for runs than Pietersen, Collingwood or Alastair Cook, then he must be selected promptly.

It might seem harsh to discard a batsman after twin failures at Brisbane, but England so often start slowly downunder that that they must be proactive this time around. Similarly, an out-of-form bowler cannot be carried through the series.
Chris Tremlett has been recalled to pose a different threat and it should not be ignored until it is too late, especially as three proper warm-up matches prevent the excuse of lack of preparation being used.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Can Graeme Swann make the difference?

Graeme Swann is making the most of a second chance at international level, and he has a key role to play in Australia.

The 31-year-old made his international debut against South Africa all the way back in 1999 after being called up - but not selected - for the Test series with New Zealand the previous summer.

However, his cheeky-chappy persona was perceived by some as over confidence and even arrogance. The selectors were not impressed with Swann's attitude and he was dropped from the international squad the following summer.

It was five years later that his form began to pick up. After leaving Northamptonshire for Nottinghamshire he became a key member of the side that won the 2005 County Championship. His domestic form eventually earned him a recall to the England one day squad in 2007's tour of Sri Lanka and he soon made his Test debut the same winter against India in Chennai.

To say Swann has never looked back is an understatement. He found consistent bounce and turn, regularly taking key wickets that saw him quickly become England's first choice spinner in all forms of the game. During the 2009 Ashes series he grabbed four crucial wickets in England's two victories - including the famous removal of Aussie skipper Ricky Ponting's middle stump. His batting lower down the order also adds crucial runs to England's tally. The best Ashes odds make England strong favourites, and he will have to be at his very best.

His recent performances in South Africa and at the T20 World Cup - where he was England's leading wicket taker - has sent him up to number three bowler in the world and for the first time in decades England have the better spinner going into a series against Australia and the Ashes betting offers reflect this.

Swann remains a joker and often likes to have a laugh, but unlike in 1999 he now also has the ability to perform when it matters.

The shadow of Shane Warne looms large over Australian cricket and they may miss him just a little bit more when they see Swann line up against them this winter.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Ponting still the right man

Ricky Ponting has come under pressure this week from an two Aussie legends. The Australia captain has been criticised by Shane Warne and Geoff Lawson, after India beat the Aussies by seven wickets, to win the Border-Gavaskar Trophy series 2-0.

The loss maintained Ponting’s record of never captaining a series winning side in India.

Warne’s main point of contempt was with the Aussie’s field positions whenever Nathan Hauritz’s was bowling. The off-spinner was spanked to all parts of the Bangalore ground and wasn’t helped by the baffling field positions. Ponting has come out saying Hauritz himself was responsible for setting the field, as well as attempting to play down Warne’s comments. While Hauritz may have set his field, as captain, Ponting should have taken control when it was clear things weren’t working out as planned.

Former paceman Lawson has gone further with his comments, claiming Ponting should step down from skippering the team and hand over power to Michael Clarke before next month’s Ashes series starts. Lawson’s criticism come during Australia’s worst losing streak in 22 years. The fact the it’s been a three test losing streak, shows the dominance of Australia in world cricket for that 22 years.

The result of the loss in India, was that Australia’s ICC world ranking dropped down to fifth, ironically elevating England up a place into fourth. The ranking is Australia’s lowest since 1988, coincidently a year after England had won the Ashes on Aussie soil.

Those looking at Ashes cricket odds note how England will be looking at the Aussie’s situation with a wry smile on their faces. This is surely England’s best chance of winning their first series in Australia in 24 years. Australia’s loss against India, highlighted a host of weaknesses that the English will be hoping to exploit when the Brisbane Test starts on the 25th of November.

Although the Aussie batting line-up is far from the intimidating force of a few years ago, it shouldn’t be underestimated. Ponting is still one of the best batsmen in the world and Marcus North’s century in the Bangalore Test proved he’s back to his best.

Clarke has proved to be a thorn in English sides on more than one occasion will be keen for the battles to start. England’s best chance is to take advantage of their opponents suspect bowling attack. Hauritz isn’t enjoying the best spell in his career and the Aussie’s don’t currently have a fast bowler who those placing a cricket bet would back to consistently perform at a high level.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Ashes player preview - Andrew Strauss

Andrew Strauss is hoping to do what no England captain has done for over 20 years - retain the Ashes down under.

The 33-year-old is not only burdened with that particular statistic, but also the lingering memory of 2007 when England suffered a humiliating 5-0 whitewash at the hands of the Aussies, meaning they lost their short grip on the urn won in such style in 2005. The best Ashes odds suggest England will be in for a tough time again.

Strauss was merely a squad member back then, albeit one that opened the innings with Alastair Cook. He endured a miserable series however, making only one notable score - 50 at Melbourne in the Boxing Day Test, though he will be remembered more for becoming Shane Warne's 700th test victim in that game.

Strauss was eventually dropped from the test squad the following year after an extended dip in form but he returned refreshed and revived for the 2007 visit of New Zealand and South Africa.

A rift between then captain Kevin Pietersen and coach Peter Moores saw Strauss take the captaincy in early 2009. With the Ashes on the horizon Strauss and new coach Andy Flower had a job on their hands to unite the squad in time for the series - a poor early performance in the West Indies didn't help.

Thankfully for England the team and Strauss were much improved by the time Ricky Ponting and co arrived in England in May. Two tense draws sandwiched a historic win at Lord's, where Strauss claimed the highest individual score of the series - 161.

With the series tied at 1-1 going into the final game at the Oval a convincing 197 run victory meant the Ashes returned into England's grasp and Strauss was named man of the series by Australia coach Tim Neilsen. Anyone who wants to bet on top English batsman this time around should bear him in mind.

Australia may not be the all conquering team they once were, but on the hard pitches of their home grounds they are a formidable team, and wounded by the events of 2009, they will be as determined as ever to reclaim the urn. For Strauss, the hard work starts here.

Friday, 17 September 2010

McCullem shifts focus

Brendon McCullem is probably the best wicket-keeper/batsmen since Adam Gilchrist. The New Zealander has now decided to hang up his gloves and focus on his batting. This is a brave call from McCullem, who won’t be guaranteed a place in the side on his batting alone. The Kiwi knows the risk he is taking stating "You go from being one of the major certainties in the team to now being in the mix and being relatively unproven. It's a huge challenge and hopefully it'll be the right decision."

Luckily for the 28 year old has proved his quality over the years and should keep his place. The hard hitting batsman was just awarded his country’s best ODI batting prize along with the best all-rounder award but will still need to perform to keep his place.

While McCullem will carry on behind the stumps during the shorter forms of the game, he will give up the gloves for Test matches. The main reason is that as a keeper, Online Cricket Betting pundits note how McCullem very rarely gets the chance to bat higher than number seven in the Test side.

His current average of 35 indicates he could do a good job for the Kiwi’s further up the order. Giving up the extra pressure of keeping should extend McCullem’s career with his national side.

While New Zealand will miss McCullem’s glove work behind the stumps, Gareth Hopkins will be a very capable replacement who should maintain the team’s Cricket odds in matches.With McCullem further up the order in their Test side, they will go into future matches knowing their batting line up has been significantly strengthened.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Magnificent seventh would be welcome distraction from off-field dramas

England's seamless transition from Test cricket to T20 was achieved with only the minimum of fuss on Sunday as they lived up to their mantle of T20 World Champions with an ultimately comfortable win over Pakistan in Cardiff.

It wasn't a totally straightforward victory though - a mid-innings wobble saw them reduced to 62-5, with Luke Wright failing with the bat again, before Michael Yardy and Eoin Morgan dug England out of a hole. The Three Lions weren't totally convincing in the field either and the two dropped catches were a disappointment. However, there was some good work out on the boundary and the bowling of Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann stood out.

It was the sides sixth consecutive T20 win and a seventh would secure a 2-0 series victory to go with their Test series triumph, the England cricket odds suggest they should wrap up the win.

It is a shame that the series will be tainted by the ongoing spot fixing controversy, and also hasn't been helped by the Twitter outbursts of first Kevin Pietersen and Dimitri Mascarenhas, who have both subsequently been fined.

But the fact England have stayed focused and adapted to the short form of the game so quickly is testament to the players and the coaching staff.

All they can do is go out and try to win matches and try to put off-field distractions to one side. Pakistan are understandably coping worse with the scandal. They are no strangers to chaotic off-field preparations though, and the rumoured recall of Younus Khan as test captain - despite the lifetime ban he received in March - is symptomatic of their inconsistent management.

With a one-day series still to come there is plenty of cricket left in this tour, but given what is going on between games, I get the impression both sides just want it over and done with.

Meanwhile, the Ashes cricket betting suggests England are in for another tough series Downunder.

They will have to iron out several problems in their game if they are to retain the urn.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Sri Lanka destroy India

Sri Lanka have secured their place in the final of the triangular series, which features themselves, India and New Zealand.

The hosts booked their place thanks to a convincing eight wicket victory over India in Dambulla and now wait to see who they will face – keep checking the latest cricket betting for odds on the match.

Thisara Perera’s career best of 5-28 helped restrict India to a meagre 103 all out. Lasith Malinga and Nuwan Kulasekara also got involved with two wickets apiece as India were skittled out in a disappointing 33.4 overs.

Yuvaj Singh was the only Indian batsmen to put up any real resistance with his 38 from 64 balls, which featured five fours and a six. He had little help from his colleagues though, with Virender Sehwag’s 12 the second highest score until he was trapped lbw by Kulasekara.

India never settled into their stride after they lost their opening wicket for 20. 21 year old Thisara Perera completed his first international five wicket haul by clean bowling number 11 Ishant Sharma to end the Indian innings.

Sri Lanka exploded out of the traps as they looked to knock off 104 with minimum fuss. Openers Tillakaratne Dilshan and Mahela Jayawardene put on 50 inside the opening six overs but Sharma got both of them in consecutive balls with the score on 75. It was therefore left to captain Kumar Sangakkara and Upul Tharanga to see their side home in the 15th over to secure the emphatic win.

India will have another chance to reach the final when they go head to head with New Zealand in the remaining match of the tournament but for those who bet on cricket match outcomes, you will wonder whether a smarting India can bounce back.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Will England learn from the Mad Professor?

England are once again utilising an Australian expert in order to gain insider knowledge on the opposition ahead of this winter's Ashes aeries. For Troy Cooley in 2005 read John Buchanan in 2010.

Five years ago it worked with devastating effect with Cooley forging the four-man pace attack that ripped through the Australian top order during that thrilling summer.
Now Andy Flower's side have employed another man from down under, controversial former Australian team coach Buchanan, who is nicknamed the Mad Professor.

His slightly off-the-wall methods when in charge of the all-conquering Aussie team of the late 90s and early 2000s were often derided in the media and sometimes by his own players as being the ideas of a crackpot. Whatever the reason, Australia dominated the cricket odds during his time in charge.

A forward thinker, Buchanan sought to keep his team of winners motivated by methods such as poetry, the teachings of fifth century Chinese warlord Sun Tzu, lectures on a range of bizarre subjects including Hulk Hogan and the Bee Gees and even a military-style bush boot camp.

I would be surprised of any such methods filtered through to the England side, even though Buchanan is set to take on a major role. But his knowledge of the Australian players and perhaps crucially the Australian pitches could be, as former England batsman Mike Gatting said, "that extra one per cent that might help them win a match or two". The Ashes cricket betting make the home side firm favourites, so England need to try something to swing things in their favour.

Matches nowadays are won off the field as well as on it and I think it is encouraging that the ECB are seeking to gain every possible advantage ahead of the series.
On the other hand it could be more like what Shane Warne called it: "a load of verbal diarrhoea".

I guess we will find out at the Gabba in November.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Pakistan recall Yousuf

After losing the first two tests due to some seriously suspect top order batting, Pakistan look set to recall former captain Mohammad Yousuf for the third test at the Oval.

Yousuf was initially called up before the last test match at Edgbaston but wasn’t included in the team as he only arrived in the country 18 hours previously. Yousuf had been unable to practice in Pakistan due to the severe floods there but he has been able to do some work since arriving in England and looks set to be named in the team.

Cricket Betting pundits note how none of the Pakistani top order has made a 50 in the four innings they’ve batted. With their bowlers producing the goods, the batting has been the main reason for Pakistan being so comprehensively beaten in the opening two tests, along with their fielding. Yousuf will add some much needed quality and experience to his teams batting to boost their Cricket Odds for the Oval.

His record in test cricket is up there with the best. Yousuf has scored 7,431 runs at an average of 53.07 in his 88 Test matches. England have sufficient reason to be a little bit worried about Yousuf’s return to the team, on his last tour of England in 2006, the 36 year old posted scores of 202 (Lord's), 192 (Headingley) and 128 (The Oval).

Yousuf’s return comes just four months after he retired from international cricket. The reason for his retirement was due to a falling out with the PCB resulting in the player being banned indefinitely from playing for his country. He has seemingly made up with those in charge of the team and will look to restore some pride for his country in this series.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Swing master Anderson does it again

Cloudy skies, moist air and a green tinged wicket - perfect conditions for England's James Anderson.

The 'Burnley Express' can be infuriatingly inconsistent but when he is on form there are few better bowlers out there.

This is certainly the case on a swing friendly pitch like the one at Trent Bridge last week. The 28-year-old blitzed his way through the Pakistan batting line up, taking 5-54 and then 6-17 to finish with impressive looking figures of 11-71 and his first ever international ten wicket haul.

He is not quite the complete bowler and I suppose very few are. But what coach Andy Flower is keen to develop is a varied attack capable of adapting to different bowling conditions. And Anderson is the undisputed star of the show when it comes to swing - Broad can get some movement but not to the same extent.

The key for the Lancastrian is to not try too hard when the conditions aren't in his favour, this will be true in Australia and it's probably why the Ashes betting still favours the home side.

Too often in the past his determination to do well has turned to frustration, leading to a wayward and erratic line and consequently expensive figures.

There will be times when Anderson will have to play the support role - ably filled by Steven Finn and Stuart Broad this week - in order for England's bowlers to act as a unit, rather than individuals. This would boost their cricket betting odds no end.

If he can do that then coach Flower will have a talented set of bowlers collectively far greater than the sun of their parts.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Strauss issues social media warning

England captain Andrew Strauss has issued a warning to his players about using social networking sites such as Twitter. The comments come after Azeem Rafiq’s rant on the site about being dropped for an England Under-19 match.

The Yorkshire bowler used his Twitter account to launch an explosive attack on Coach John Abrahams after being left out for disciplinary reasons.

Strauss’ advice for Rafiq and other England players was to “be careful” and “be aware that what they write is going to be seen by people they might not want it to be seen by.”

Cricket Betting pundits note that several England cricketers have Twitter accounts now. James Anderson and Graeme Swann have been on there for a while, Paul Collingwood has had a go and recent additions include Kevin Pietersen and Steven Finn.

Then there is Tim Bresnan who got in trouble with the ECB after swearing on his page last year. All of these players should certainly take Strauss’ advice of being careful, especially during a series against Pakistan, which online sports betting odds expect to be incredibly tight.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Chennai expecting Flintoff comeback

It would be harsh to describe Andrew Flintoff as the forgotten man of English cricket. However, after his retirement from tests, his continued injury problems and the success of the national team in recent months – it is fair to say that England have moved on.

This doesn’t take anything away from what Flintoff achieved for England. He was their talisman for a number of years and one of the most influential all-rounders to ever grace a cricket field.

It is good that England have moved on too. Had Cricket Betting pundits been been waiting on the fitness of Flintoff at this stage, you just know that it would have been an unsuccessful few months in limited overs cricket.

That has been far from the case though, with the World Twenty20 title in the bag along with ODI series victories over Australia and Bangladesh. In truth, it is hard to see where Flintoff would fit into the team at the moment.

Anyway, back to the man himself and his plans for the future. Well, one team expecting to come back into the fold before long is the Chennai Super Kings. They have included Flintoff in a preliminary 20-man squad for the Champions League Twenty20 in South Africa in September.

They will be forced to trim their squad down to 15 on the 9th August and online sports betting experts would expect them to assess Flintoff’s fitness then.

The 32-year-old is said to be a fortnight away from making a comeback, so he is cutting it fine in terms of proving his fitness before the Champions League Twenty20 final squad is announced.

As ever, all England fans will be wishing him well and hope that he can have an impact for the Chennai Super Kings this year, even if a return to the England squad seems a long way off at the moment.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Muralitharan prepares for final bow

One of the world's greatest and most controversial cricketers, Muttiah Muralitharan, is finally set to bring the curtain down on an illustrious Test career.

Why the greatest? Well the stats speak for themselves: A world record 792 test victims from 132 matches at an average of less than 23. He picked up a further 515 in the one day games with an average of just over 23 and he has even had time to squeeze in 13 wickets in 11 T20 matches at an average of less than 21.

Whatever the pitch, whatever the venue and whatever the game, Muralitharan has been the man every Sri Lanka captain has called on in a crisis - and he more often than not delivered. He certainly helped the side upset the Test cricket odds on a few occasions.

Why controversial? Because of the long standing debate about throwing was ripped open again each time a fussy umpire questioned his unusual action.

A deformed elbow was part of the reason but he also had exceptionally flexible wrists and a shoulder that rotated as rapidly as a fast bowler's at the time of delivery. This allowed him to achieve an exceptional level of spin. His killer delivery though was the doosra - the one that went the other way or held its line.

All of a sudden Murali could tee up his victims before bamboozling with a wicked delivery, putting him up there with the greats.

Umpires haven't been so kind to him though. Darrell Hair called him for throwing on the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne 1995 and the same happened in Brisbane and Adelaide. Another umpire Ross Emerson followed suit three years later. Even former Australian prime minister John Howard once labelled him a chucker - though he later apologised.

Murali even bowled on television in a special cast, going through his entire repertoire of deliveries to try and convince the critics.

He finally won the day and despite the controversy he has kept a dignified stance throughout. He is often accused of lacking that passion and fire in the belly that marks out the great players.

And although I agree that determination often put the elite players above the rest, Murali's unassuming nature betrays his devastating affect with the ball. He has no need to shout and bawl - his actions speak for themselves. Sri Lanka's cricket odds will no doubt take a hit after his departure.

He finally brings the curtain down on his Test career against India this week - I'm sure much to the authorities and opposition batsmen's relief.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Derbyshire v Surrey

Chance lost for me.

200 to win, even on the last day at Chesterfield, should be attainable with 9 wickets in hand hand.

Very disappointing, especially for Wayne Madsen with two tons and still on the losing side.

More in due course but thought we had that sussed at lunchtime with their bowlers limping.

England hold all the aces over Australia

England find themselves in an unusual position at the moment. After securing the one day series against Australia with two games to spare they can now laud it over their great rivals in every format of the game.

The Ashes are in their possession after last year's dramatic home victory, while their first ever ICC trophy was secured in the form of the World T20 where they beat the Aussies in the final.

The feel-good factor among the players is in stark contrast to England's footballers, whose 4-1 hammering by Germany threatened to ruin the afternoon for the supporters packed into Old Trafford on Sunday, before Tim Bresnan's late pushed nervously sealed a series deciding victory. Graeme Swann even went as to say they were the "golden generation" of England cricketers, a title rather embarrassingly applied to England's failed footballers.

The football side, who were third favourites in the World Cup online odds, could learn a thing or two from their cricketing counterparts.

Swann's argument certainly seems to hold water as the side are backing up their talent with results. England are historically weak at the shorter forms of the game but it appears they are flourishing in all forms of the game - don't forget this is just a year after England lost to the Netherlands in the T20 World Cup and were hammered by Australia in the post-Ashes One day series.

Each win in this series was achieved via different methods. The first at Rose Bowl was all about the bat with Eoin Morgan's superb century leading them comfortably home. The second in Cardiff was all about the bowlers, with the short bouncing, skidding deliveries of Broad and co skittling through the Aussie top order. The third was achieved with grit, determination and nerve.

Too often in the past England have bottled it at the crucial moment so a win of this nature is another sign of an emerging side determined to win at all costs. This is reflected in the cricket odds.

Andy Flower deserves a lot of credit for setting England on a path to complete cricket domination. Flower gathered his players last year and stated his ambition to be number one at all forms of the game. It sounds ambitious but the self-belief and confidence flooding through the players suggests they agree with his vision and ethos.

Don't write off the Aussies yet though. Listening to Ricky Ponting after the game suggested he is as determined as ever to gain the last laugh and that could come when the Ashes kick off next November.

But the fact we have barely mentioned Freddie Flintoff shows just how far England have come and the genuine threat they pose in the world game.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Steven Finn latest victim of England Ashes hype machine

A battling Bangladesh side, who showed they are rapidly improving as a Test outfit, were eventually defeated by England on the final day at Lord's.

The eight wicket win hides the fact that England's bowlers were made to toil for much of the game, with the decision to only field four strike bowlers brought into question.

However, the biggest positive to come out of the game was the performance of paceman Steve Finn, who was the standout bowler of the match, claiming 5-87 in the second innings to achieve match figures of 9 for 187.

The 21-year-old is 6"7', so is clearly earmarked for a key role on the hard, bouncy pitches of Australia next winter. His huge frame and solid action mean he will be able to achieve plenty of pace and bounce, something our often swing dominated attack has failed to do in recent excursions down under. The Ashes betting will make England second favourites for the contest, so they will need some special performances to pull off a win.

But Finn also displayed encouraging versatility - sensibly slowing his action down on the final morning in order to take advantage of the extra swing and movement the cloud cover above Lord's would bring. The Test series odds always suggested Bangladesh would be defeated, but Finn did well to ensure this happened.

Like any young player in this country who displays even a glimpse of potential a series of sensational headlines soon splurge out from the newsstands. Some of the articles regarding the Middlesex bowler have compared him to Glen McGrath and Curtly Ambrose.

I don't think I need to tell you that Finn is not at the level of those all-time greats, few Englishmen have ever got close to their sky-high standards.
But given the figures he has achieved so far, plus the maturity he displays on and off the field, he is certainly a great talent to be nurtured and one that is one the right track. He's definitely one to watch this summer.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

England hit on winning formula

England fans are still taking in their side's dramatic World T20 final win on Sunday, their first ICC triumph in a one-day tournament after 35 years of trying.
What made the win more satisfying was the manner in which it was achieved. England played the best cricket in this tournament by a distance and no one can argue with their win.

In the West Indies, England upset the cricket betting odds but they did it with such ease you would have thought they were favourites before the start of the competition.

The old question marks that hung over the team in recent years England have been eradicated and credit has to go to the selectors for dealing with those problems.
Firstly, England's repeated failure to take advantage of the powerplay was solved by the selection of Craig Kieswetter and Michael Lumb. The pair may not be technically the best cricketers in the country, but they know how to hit a ball and aren't afraid to do so.

Their lusty blows at the top of the innings gave England a solid platform on which to build on. They duly did so with the likes of Kevin Pietersen and Eoin Morgan ensuring that the momentum gained by the openers was not lost. This is backed up by the statistics which reveal all but one of England's batsmen had a strike rate of over 100.

The pressure was kept on the opposition in the field as well. England had no 'out' bowlers, a player who the opposition knew would bowl a few loose ones allowing them to hit a few boundaries to release the pressure.

The opening pair of Sidebottom and Bresnan were on the money from the off, no looseners there. While Stuart Broad as first change bamboozled the batsmen using the full compliant of deliveries in his armoury.

With the powerplay out of the way spin pairing of Graeme Swann and Michael Yardy choked the middle of the innings, meaning when the pacemen were brought on at the end they were bowling to frustrated batsmen. Desperate to boost their side's low score they took more risks, usually resulting in their dismissal.

Coach Andy Flower was quick to put things in perspective and urged calm, saying this was only one format of the game. But the confidence taken from this win should spur the players on to greater things in 50 over and test matches. With the Ashes on the horizon, that is definitely something to get excited about.

Meanwhile, the England football team will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of their cricketing compatriots this year when they travel to South Africa for the World Cup.

The World Cup betting makes the Three Lions third favourites for the tournament, but they will face some stiff competition.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

England see both sides of Duckworth-Lewis

Being in Paul Collingwood's company would not have been pleasant had the complicated maths involved in the Duckworth-Lewis method gone against England once more.

The England captain couldn't hide his frustration after England lost to the West Indies under the method, despite posting a tournament high of 191 in their 20 overs. But a sloppy start by England's bowlers was compounded as the rain came down in Guyana.

The mathematical system, which was introduced in 2001, set the Windies a target of just 60 from six overs with all their wickets in hand. The system isn't ideal, but it was also designed with 50 over cricket in mind, not T20.

As Collingwood said a score of 191 would win the game 95 per cent of the time so for the system to skew the odds the other way is proof it is flawed in this format.
England then had a dreaded sense of deja vu as the rain came down again during their match with Ireland. In truth they weren't as impressive with the bat as they were against the Windies, and credit has to go to the Irish, in particular pace bowler Trent Johnson and young leg spinner George Dockrell.

However, it was Irish-born Eoin Morgan, who made a composed 45, who dragged England to 120-8.

Ireland were 14-1 from three-and-a-half overs in reply, but found themselves dodging the rain. There was a real worry in the England dressing room that the maths would fail then once more. The cricket betting suggested England are in with an outside chance of winning the competition, but had things gone wrong they could have fallen at the first hurdle.

After a prolonged break, Ireland were set a revised target of just 47 from 33 balls before a final burst of rain ended the contest without a result being reached.
No one would argue against using Duckworth-Lewis to decide a game - using run-rate ratios or best scoring overs is unthinkable, as past experience shows.

However, the past two games have shown adjustments need to be made for its use in the T20 format of the game. After all, losing a match because a formula needs rejigging is not what cricket is about.

Meanwhile, in other sports news, England remain third favourites in the FIFA World Cup odds as this year's tournament approaches.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Telegraph Fantasy Cricket 2010

It's that time again! The Third Umpire Super League is once again up and running:

League Name: Third Umpire

PIN: 8001093

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Who are we?

What is Third Umpire?

Well we write about cricket - obviously.

Third Umpire was formed in 2005 and has been on blogger since late 2006.

We write about all aspects of cricket, trying to be interesting/original/thought-provoking along the way.

As the we suggests we are a group blog, and there are a few of us contributing.

There's quite a lot on the site - over 700 articles - so we have covered a pretty wide range of topics. We're fairly big on county coverage, have written heaps on England and quite a lot on the development / future of cricket too, with stuff on Ireland, Afghanistan and ideas on how cricket can improve. We've covered quite a wide and eclectic range of stuff - the 'highlights' on the right-hand side is probably the best place to start if you are suitably bored.

If any of you fancied writing the odd piece you'd be very welcome - email cricketingworld(at)

Thursday, 8 April 2010

England’s Ashes ladder

April 7th marks the halfway point between the end of the 2009 Ashes series and the start of the 2010/11 one. Tim Wigmore assesses and rates the 25 Englishmen most likely to feature down under.

1) Andrew Strauss (170 runs @ 24.28 post-Ashes ‘09)

Endured a miserable series in South Africa, save for a brilliant 54 to seize the momentum in the second Test. But, after his controversial break, England will be reassured to have him back where he belongs at the top of the order. Especially if his coin-tossing form is undiminished.

2) Graeme Swann (209 runs @ 26.12; 37 wickets @ 28.72)

Swann’s ebullience with bat and ball earned him Man of the Series awards on both winter tours – all signs indicate he has actually improved since claiming Mike Hussey with the last delivery of the 2009 Ashes, with his first innings showings in South Africa particularly impressive. Australia will be well aware of Swann’s importance: currently, he is single-handedly vindicating England’s four-bowler strategy.

3) Kevin Pietersen (427 runs @ 42.70)

After a miserable return post-injury, Pietersen returned to form impressively in Bangladesh. Intriguingly, he batted at number three for the first time in the second Test. And there is a very powerful argument indeed that that is where he should remain.

4) Paul Collingwood (492 runs @ 54.66)

It now seems incredible, but Collingwood’s place was under some threat after averaging just 27 in the Ashes. He was exceptional in South Africa, making day five match-saving into a fine art. As his recent brilliant ODI form has showcased, Collingwood has expanded his game, and, at almost 34, transformed himself into a regular six-hitter. But it would be nice to know what has happened to his bowling in Tests, which will be needed if England continue playing four bowlers.

5) Jimmy Anderson (16 wickets @ 34.25)

His series in South Africa may have been typical Anderson – one very good Test and three distinctly underwhelming ones. He remains both England’s best fast bowler and one who is worryingly short of potency when swing is absent. A rest will have done him much good: the next Ashes series could define his career.

6) Alastair Cook (629 runs @ 62.90)

After a double failure in the first Test in South Africa, the vultures were circling, irked by the ease with which he was being handed the captaincy. But his 118 in England’s victory in the second Test was perhaps his best century yet. After an impressive enough start to captaincy in Bangladesh, marked by two centuries, he is looking more secure than for some time. England value his tenacity at the top, and he will get an opportunity to work on that Ashes average of 26.

7) Ian Bell (574 runs @ 63.77)

No one gained more this winter. Bell’s 140 in Durban felt like the start of a new dawn, after frustrating for 50 Tests. And his courageous and technically faultless 78 to salvage a draw in Cape Town seemed to confirm as much. A century in Bangladesh, when his form looked incandescent, even erased the oft-quoted statistic that Bell had never been the sole century maker in an England innings. Cue inevitable jibes about the quality of opposition. He can erase those, once and for all, if he takes his winter form down under.

8) Stuart Broad (79 runs @ 9.87; 19 wickets @ 37.42)

It was looking so good during a brilliant spell at Durban, when Broad relocated the full-length and late movement that had won England the Ashes. Thereafter, it was a tale of tantrums with the ball and a first international slump with the bat. England, and the man himself, still don’t seem quite sure what his role should be. Which, after 28 Tests, is something of an indictment. Some more first-class cricket wouldn’t hurt, but there is no time for him to play it.

9) Matt Prior (227 runs @ 25.22)

Though the quality of his keeping continued to improve, Prior had a winter to forget, culminating in being dropped from the World Twenty20 squad. Only twice did he pass 14 in seven innings in South Africa – although they were both very good knocks. Irony of ironies, Prior is now the keeper’s man, with Kieswetter’s batting threatening to do to Prior what Prior did to Read.

10) Jonathan Trott (326 runs @ 29.63)

A fine display in the first Test of the winter exuded comparisons with Graham Thorpe. By winter’s end, Trott had not bettered his stubborn 69 at Centurion. A resolute display as stand-in opener in Bangladesh raised nearly as many questions as answers – he took 271 minutes over 64, suggesting he can be becalmed all too easily. He will cling on for now, though his brilliant Ashes debut is a fading memory, but he will be for the chop if England think they can manage ok with only five batsmen. Trott’s madcap display in the fourth Test in South Africa was emphatically not that of a Test match number three. Tellingly, Bell bats there for Warwickshire, with Trott in the middle order.

11) Graeme Onions (8 wickets @ 45.75)

Onions will have been particularly disappointed to miss the tour to Bangladesh, having had more to gain than most from it. His near-heroic batting at Centurion and Cape Town was the most memorable aspect of England’s winter. Onions bowled well, but with unflattering figures, until being controversially omitted for Sidebottom for the fourth Test, and deserves to return when he is fit. Some variations would increase his potency on Australian wickets.

12) Tim Bresnan (91 runs @ 91.00; 7 wickets @ 32.28)

Bresnan’s performances in Bangladesh, after being catapulted into the squad following a wave of injuries, led Andy Flower to describe him as the “stand-out seamer”. The ball to dismiss Tamim Iqbal would have dismissed any of the three left-handers in Australia’s top six, while his 91 justified his position at seven, too. The consummate squad man, could Bresnan be England’s Andy Bichel?

13) Steven Finn (4 wickets @ 44.25)

Like Bresnan, Finn forced his way into the side ahead of those in the original touring party. Though obviously raw, he looked a Test match natural. On the bouncier wickets of Australia, Finn’s 6ft 7 frame could cause real damage. It is imperative workload and expectations are managed sagaciously, as has conspicuously not been the case with Adil Rashid.

14) Craig Kieswetter

His rise since qualification has evoked Kevin Pietersen’s, as a mature century in his third ODI propelled him into the Twenty20 squad. The surprise was that Prior was dropped altogether. If Kieswetter scores runs for England in the one-day game – and, as importantly, can improve his wicket-keeping – then Prior will be getting very jittery indeed over his Test place as well. Either way, Kieswetter has surely made himself England’s Test match number two in the keeping department. And one day, perhaps soon, he will be their number one.

15) Michael Carberry (64 runs @ 32.00)

A Test debut was fitting reward for a man who could easily have drifted out of the game but fought back. It was solid, but two middling scores – 30 and 34 – are criminal for an opener in Bangladesh, and Carberry will need a combination of luck and another fine domestic season to prevent it being his only Test.

16) Monty Panesar

Panesar’s winter was spent playing for the Highveld Lions in South Africa. His wickets came at a shade under 40, which is less than spectacular, but the experience of being the overseas player in an unfamiliar environment will serve him well. He needs to impress for his new county Sussex to come close to an England recall as second spinner.

17) James Tredwell (37 runs @ 37.00; 6 wickets @ 30.16)

Tredwell should be very content with his all-round contribution in Bangladesh, which included a phenomenal catch as a substitute in the first Test. But, nonetheless, the feeling persists that he would be unlikely to trouble Australia. Even at Sydney, would England really play two off-spinners? Tredwell’s only chance of Ashes action is the unthinkable – an injury to Graeme Swann.

18) Eoin Morgan

Morgan could hardly have enjoyed a better winter, playing a series of breathtaking innings that have fused calculation with inventive brilliance, culminating with single-handedly winning the second ODI in Bangladesh. But his record for Middlesex in the second division last season was abysmal – averaging just 24 – as he proved susceptible to being caught behind the wicket. Yet some players – think of Vaughan and Trescothick – have the talent and temperament to thrive in Tests despite struggling in the County Championship. If Morgan keeps producing sublime innings for England, the selectors will want to find out if he is one of them.

19) Steve Harmison

Yes, yes. We have been here too many times before. And it’s true that Harmison has a dire record in Australia, averaging 51 in 10 Tests. But his pace and bounce, if all functioning, provide a problem Australia wouldn’t like to see. He refrained from retiring from international cricket after the Ashes win, and could yet get his revenge for that ball.

20) Ravi Bopara

To his immense credit, Bopara responded to his miserable Ashes summer by playing for Auckland in New Zealand. His first-class returns were hardly spectacular – 294 runs at just 32.66 – but impressive form in the IPL earned him a recall to the England set-up for the World Twenty20. Mitchell Johnson et al would surely relish the prospect of bowling to him down under, though, and Bopara would need to provide real evidence he has improved to merit even a squad place.

21) Luke Wright

Selected for both Test squads, England clearly do not trust him, and by the end of the Bangladesh tour, most people had forgotten Wright was even in the squad. England would love a Test-class number seven, but few are convinced Wright is.

22) Adil Rashid

After a winter that witnessed four international overs at an expense of 52 runs, there have already been premature fears Rashid could become another Chris Schofield. For a player of his talent that is very unlikely, but there have justifiably been trenchant criticisms of the England management’s treatment of Rashid, with Micky Arthur calling it “criminal”. Still, how England would love him and Swann to bowl England to Ashes triumph at Sydney.

23) Ajmal Shazhad

A ‘wildcard’ inclusion for the tour to Bangladesh, Shazhad took two wickets in his first international over, against Pakistan in Dubai, but faded thereafter. With just 53 first-class wickets to his name, Shazhad is emphatically ‘raw’, but his ability to reverse swing at pace and to score quick runs means he should not be discounted completely.

24) Ryan Sidebottom (2 wickets @ 49.00)

Surprisingly selected for the last Test in South Africa, Sidebottom in fact bowled pretty well. But then those perennial injury nightmares struck yet again, leaving his glorious 12 months as attack leader in 07/08 looking further away than ever. Still, he was selected for England’s World Twenty20 squad, though faith he can last five days every again must be thin.

25) Robert Key

England’s nearly man will probably never add to his 15 Test caps. But an average of 50 in Kent’s promotion in 2009 ensured Key remains on the periphery. Rumoured discontents when he was in the World Twenty20 squad in 2009 will not have helped his cause, though.