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.