Archive for November, 2010
Hopefully those five days silenced all the critics that think test match cricket is a dying trend. Think again, what a rollercoaster five days. Everything happened. There is just something about the Ashes that injects excitement into the longer format of the game. The rivalry was there, the quality was there, the weaknesses were there. Everything was there apart from a result. England were on the back foot from the first over when captain Andrew Strauss guided a long hop into the palms of Mike Hussey.
A nightmare start. After everything that Strauss and Andy Flower would have said to their side before they entered the game about getting off to a great start. Well, this third ball duck was just as bad as Steve Harmison bowling to second slip four years ago.
England were rattled as soon as Peter Siddle claimed a hat-trick. He is a gutsy performer who bowls with fire in his belly and looks the most threatening of the Australian bowlers.
The visitors were skittled for just 260 probably around 50-80 runs too short of a competitive total. Just when you thought the Aussies were in the ascendency at 80 for no wicket, England struck and that’s the beauty of the Ashes. Things can change in a matter of overs, a matter of balls. Who knows where to place your free bets!
140-5 soon became 462 after Hussey and Brad Haddin batted sensationally to give the home side a lead of 202 runs.
England were on the ropes, and the tote betting suggested that they were heading 1-0 down after the first test and brought back down to reality after all the confidence leading into the series. How that changed when they batted out the last two days and ended up 517-1. Unbelievable. Never seen anything like it. Alistair Cook 235 not out, sensational.
People were calling for his head before the series after a poor summer against Pakistan and after a scratchy 60 in the first innings; excelled and played one of the best test innings ever seen in an Ashes series. He played the situation and is a very easy player to watch when he is full of confidence and smacking the ball to all parts of the ground.
As for Strauss, he has a huge amount of mental strength, a duck in the first innings and then a wonderful hundred in the second. What an effort. Then Jonathan Trott gets in on the act as well. England are full of confidence and if you take out the hat-trick and the huge partnership from the game, the visitors battered the hosts and it was only the wicket that proved to be the big difference. Day one was testing, with the ball nibbling all over but as soon as the Aussies got their willow out it flattened out and helped them to accumulate the runs more easily.
What we do know about Australia is that Marcus North can’t bat, Michael Clarke can’t catch and Mitchell Johnson can’t bat, bowl or field! Happy days, things look rosy for England. So much to take in, in such a short space of time! This test has given a flavour of what is to come in this Ashes series and if Brisbane is anything to go by, it’s going to be one hell of a series!
Alistair Cook hit his maiden first-class double century and what a stage to do it on. The Aussie bowling attack are going to have to come up with some different tricks if they are going to get Cook’s wicket cheaper than they have in Brisbane.
It was down to Cook and Andrew Strauss that Australia weren’t able to wrap up the match following their first innings lead. The openers saw off everything the Aussies had to throw at them and pretty much broke their spirit with their partnership. The Ashes betting now suggest he will be England’s top batsman.
The England opener has got his series off to the ideal start, especially after being singled out by the Aussie’s before hand, as England’s weak link. His double century along with his 67 from the first innings, will give the Essex boy a huge confidence boost going into the rest of this winter’s series.
14 Test centuries at 25 years old is pretty much unheard of, Cook has always shown maturity beyond his years but even more so during his performances at Brisbane. As a vice-captain, the pressure is always on Cook to lead by example, putting on 188 for the opening wicket with captain Strauss sets the tone throughout the whole team and that should be transferred to the Adelaide Oval and the Ashes betting tips reflect this.
If the England openers can continue to look as comfortable as they did during their second innings, then the Aussie’s are going to have a tough job finding out if the English batting line-up have any real weaknesses.
If Australia overtake the first innings score set by England, then they will have the efforts of Mike Hussey to thank in particular. The batsman, who came in at number five following the dismissal of Simon Katich, made a spirited start to proceedings and has since moved on to an overnight score of 81, making Australia favourites to win the Test in the Ashes cricket betting in the process.
His innings mirrored that of England’s impressive middle-order form player, who also steered his side away from the brink of a collapse by standing firm at one end and was involved in some impressive partnerships. He survived an early scare when the first delivery he faced turned out to be a virtually unplayable line-and-length number from the impressive Steve Finn which found the outside of his bat, only to drop tantalisingly short of the excited slip cordon.
Since that moment he has looked remarkably steady, seeing off some accurate spells of bowling from all three of England’s pace bowlers, and has really gone after the bowling of Graeme Swann. From Swann’s first delivery it was evident that he was being targeted by an Australian side who clearly see attack as the best form of defence against the influential spin bowler. The Ashes betting tips had suggested Swann would be England’s top bowler, but he has done little to show he will.
Ably supported by Brad Haddin, and with a tail that has great potential to wag, if Hussey can keep his focus and go on to carry his bat, there is every chance that Australia will not only surpass the total set for them, they could give their bowlers a few relatively comfortable overs against a batting line up onto their second innings, still playing catch up from the first.
After all the build up and expectation to this year’s Ashes series the last thing England wanted was to lose their captain early.
Sadly, England’s worst fears were realised as Andrew Strauss cut straight to Mike Hussey in the third ball of the match and set the tone for a nightmarish day for the tourists at the GABBA.
Everytime England looked to have recovered from a setback Australia roared back, defying pre-match predictions that this was a side out of form and in decline.
The highlight for the hosts was undoubtedly the hat trick from Peter Siddle that ripped through the heart of England’s middle order.
Those keeping up with the live match score until 172-4 would have gone to bed with England well set for a decent score, but Siddle’s dismissal of Alastair Cook, Matt Prior and Stuart Broad was the decisive moment of the day.
England, winded from the triple blow, limped to a score of 260 that looks well below par on what is a decent pitch in Brisbane. Australia will feel a smug sense of satisfaction so far after the build up was
dominated about their apparent weaknesses and England’s supreme confidence.
England emotions couldn’t have been more different. The opening blows of this contest have left them spinning. The only positive is perhaps this will erase any signs of over confidence and make the players fully aware of the task that lies ahead of them.
Those assessing the latest Ashes scores know that their bowlers need to hit the ground running on day two if they are to have any chance of winning this game. If Australia are allowed to build up a sizeable lead then it is hard to see a way back.
Four years ago Steve Harmison’s wild, wayward opening delivery that went to second slip set the tone for a disastrous series. England fans will be hoping their side’s similarly disastrous start this time round doesn’t mean the same.
Since making his Test debut six years ago, Ian Bell has been constantly tipped by those who bet on cricket match action to be on the brink of exploding into a world beater. After going through his fair share of ups and downs in that time, Bell looks as though he could finally be ready to step up.
This will be Bell’s fourth Ashes series and he has so far failed to hit a century against the Aussies. The batsman looks well placed to break that duck after hitting a delicious century in England’s final warm-up game against Australia A last week. His century was full of the sort of well timed, nicely selected shots that make Bell so dangerous on his day.
Bell will do well to remember four years ago, when he hit a similarly attractive century against South Australia, before going on to score just 331 runs in his 10 innings as England were slapped about in their 5-0 series defeat.
Bell and Collingwood put on a partnership of 240 runs for the sixth wicket and the ashes odds suggests that the two could have a big part to play in the series. Bell and Collingwood’s partnerships have been integral to a lot of England’s recent success and they will be hoping to carry it on into this series.
Bell has had an up and down 18 months since returning to the England Test side during last summer’s Ashes series. His form after returning was as good as it has ever been during his Test career, only for him to suffer a broken foot in the summer. The injury meant he missed much of the summer and had to watch Eoin Morgan step in and perform admirably.
The England selectors reinstated Bell upon his return to fitness and the batsman will be desperate to prove them right and hit that first century against the Aussie’s.
Alistair Cook will be looking to improve his somewhat disappointing average against Australia, when this Ashes series commences this week. The opener has struggled against the Aussie’s in the previous two series, averaging only 26.21, a significant drop from his overall Test score of 42.78.
In his 10 Tests against Australia, those who study the cricket betting odds note that the batsman has only two significant innings, his brave 116 at Perth in the doomed 2006/07 series and a score of 95 at Lord’s in the victorious 2009 series.
His lack of runs against the Aussie’s is something Cook is determined to improve during the upcoming series. He told reporters, “It’s obviously something that I’ve got to prove to people, it’s one side that I haven’t done as well against as I have against other sides.”
Cook will go into this week’s opener on the end of some particularly patchy form. After starting the year well, by leading England to a 2-0 series win in Bangladesh, his year went downhill after that.
Cook’s lack of form during the summer prompted calls for the opener to be dropped, only a timely century against Pakistan towards the end of the summer probably saving his place. The Ashes betting odds of his touring were back in his favour.
That inconsistent form continued into England’s warm-up games and only picked up when he faced South Australia, scoring a well constructed 111.
The Essex man’s return to form continued into final warm-up match against Australia A and the opener gained some more valuable crease time. With his opening partner Andrew Strauss in such good form, Cook will be looking to provide valuable support to his skipper.
For those unfamiliar with the finer details of cricket it would hard to imagine how the type of cricket ball could decide the outcome of this year’s Ashes series.
But alongside factors such as the pitch and the weather, the behaviour of the Kookaburra ball, and the England’s bowlers’ ability to cope with it, is key to the tourists’ success.
The ball has subtle differences to the Duke ball which is used in England. A brand new Kookaburra swings immediately, whereas a Duke tends to swing more when it’s around six to ten overs old.
With the Aussie pitches harder and rougher than the green tinged tracks of home the ball is more likely to scuff quicker, meaning the England bowlers have to get the ball moving quickly before it becomes too worn and anyone looking to bet on the Ashes should remember this.
This means an almost complete change in tactics from the England bowlers if they are to find the variance in pace and bounce needed to bamboozle the Aussie batsmen. If you’ve bet on England to win the Ashes, this will be a key battle.
Coach Andy Flower has done his best to get his players used to the ball. They have been using it in training for the past five months and looked comfortable bowling with it in the three warm up games, which yielded two wins and a draw.
If they do manage to tame the Kookaburra then it is just another reason to back Strauss and Flower’s resurgent side, who seem determined to erase the memories of that 5-0 whitewash four years ago and keep the urn in England’s hands.
On paper, England and Australia have pretty even teams and which way the upcoming Ashes series will go is still far from obvious and the world-class players on each side will have to step-up to the plate.
For the Aussies their best players are their two leaders, Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke. On their day the two batsmen can destroy any bowling attack in world cricket and if they find their form against England then they have the ability to have a huge say in who wins the series. Anyone thinking about having a cricket bet should remember this.
However, Ponting’s side may struggle in the bowling department. Unlike previous Australian team this one doesn’t boast any of the world’s elite bowlers among their ranks. The current Aussie bowlers were never going to really replace the line-up of Shane Warne, Glen McGrath and Brett Lee who featured in the last Ashes series in Australia. That being said Australia are going to need someone who can take that wicket when all seems lost and currently it is hard to see who that could be.
England’s key men will most likely be Kevin Pietersen and Graeme Swann with one in the best form of his life and the other in some of his worst. With all the hype surrounding KP’s lack of form this year, the pressure will be heaped on the batsman to find the Pietersen of old when the series starts. If the KP of a few seasons ago turns up, then England will have a great chance of retaining the hard won urn and the Ashes odds reflect this.
It looks increasingly likely England will favour a four pronged bowling attack for much of this series, so Graeme Swann will be expected to bowl his fair share of overs. After dominating the spin world since returning to the international scene two years ago, the Aussies will be more than aware of the threat Swann will bring this series. The Australian batsmen will be out to attack the off-spinner in an attempt to nullify the threat and that could play straight into his hands.
If Swann can work his magic this series, his bowling could make all the difference.
England’s arrival in Australia last weekend has also triggered a rush of sarcastic articles in the Aussie press, full of sly digs at the visitors.
The main source of their irritation seems to be the number of foreign-born players in the England side. The Australian newspaper said England were using “Britannia’s old faded rule” to pick up players born in other countries.
Is this an issue? I don’t think so, and considering Australia is a country built by European migrants they shouldn’t really have a problem either.
But part of the build up to the Ashes is the banter in the famously biased Aussie press. The Australian also claimed England’s victories down under in the mid 1980s weren’t “legitimate” because the rebel tours of South Africa took away many of their players. They claim therefore that the last proper English win down under was in 1970-71, before any of the current squad was born.
Add to that the stunt involving an image of Ricky Ponitng and Michael Clarke being projected on to Big Ben reminding England not to forget to pack the Urn and it is clear our cousins down under are determined to get one up in the war of words before the cricket begins on November 25th. However, anyone thinking about placing a bet on England to win the Ashes shouldn’t worry about it too much.
Indeed, the English players, far from getting wound up by the coverage should take it as a compliment and use it as motivation.
Why are the Aussies making such a fuss? Because they know it will be a tough ride against a team who haven’t lost a series since the sides last May and are now above them in the world rankings. The Ashes best odds may make them favourites, but the home side won’t have things all their own way.
They would rather fill the pages deploring the number of foreign players in the England line up to score cheap points rather than worry about their own team who, incidentally, are on their worst run of results for 22 years.
If they need to talk over their problems, England just need to prepare quietly and do their talking on the place that matters, the pitch, starting in Brisbane later this month.