Archive for January, 2010
A fresh start can often bring new rewards in cricket. There have been many occasions when county cricketers have been in their comfort zone, playing for the same team for years and not really pushing themselves to be as good as they possibly can be.
This is why I admire players that decide to give themselves a new challenge at a new club. For example, I admire Matthew Hoggard for taking on the captaincy at Leicestershire when he could have happily retired to a job in the media.
On this occasion though, I want to talk to you about another English pace bowler. Chris Tremlett, who has played three test matches for England, has joined Surrey after ten years at Hampshire.
Fair enough, the signings of Kabir Ali and Simon Jones for Hampshire may have made his decision easier, but it is good to see him moving on in an attempt to reignite his international career.
Tremlett has signed a three-year contract at The Oval and there is no doubt that he will be looking to force his way back into the England reckoning. One man who certainly thinks this is achievable is Surrey cricket manager Chris Adams.
The former Sussex captain says that Tremlett is about to “approach the prime of his career” and that his “height, pace and action” mean that he should have plenty of success for his new county.
Hampshire Chairman Rod Bransgrove has had his say on the move too, admitting that he is always “sorry to lose high-quality players”, but that the move gives the 28-year-old the chance to “re-invigorate his career”.
First and foremost, Tremlett will want to sort out any injury concerns he has. By his own admission, he has carried too many knocks to succeed at the highest level, so he will be hoping that a change of scenery might result in a change of luck in this aspect.
The Oval pitch should be more helpful to him than the Rose Bowl one was too, so all in all it seems like a good move for him. A positive, injury free summer might even see him in contention for this year’s Ashes tour, so Tremlett knows how important the next few months are for his career.
Meanwhile, some fear the England’s Test odds could be adversely impacted by the absence of captain Andrew Strauss for the upcoming tour of Bangladesh.
Sports experts have also been casting their eyes over the odds for this year’s Aintree Grand National as the first of the trial races for the even have already taken place.
It will all feel a bit empty for England after capitulating so badly against South Africa in the fourth and final Test. After fighting so staunchly for so long, it was a shame that they couldn’t play any decent cricket at the Wanderers.
Of course all of the umpiring controversy didn’t help and from there it was very difficult for the English to focus on the game at hand. 1-1 is a fair result of the series. With time, South Africa will feel they should have won the series but they did retain the trophy.
The series mirrored the Ashes but at the Oval when England won the toss they made it count. At the Oval, England only scored 332 but were then able to bowl out Australia for 160. That 172 run first innings lead proved the difference as did the 243 run deficit at the Wanderers. That is a difference of 415 runs.
England wicket keeper Matt Prior says that the team is focused on finishing the job in South Africa. The tourists are 1-0 up with one to play in the Test series and Prior has stated that the team will be going all out to win the final rubber.
Some have suggested that England are in a comfort zone after the dramatic draw in Cape Town, a result which meant that Andrew Strauss men can no longer lose the series. This isn’t the case according to Prior. This is because England will want to have their hard work rewarded at the end of this tour by emerging victorious against a side that was ranked number one in the world when the series began.
Speaking ahead of Thursday’s final test, the Sussex man said that the team aren’t in South Africa to draw a series, they are ‘here to win one’. After two great escapes to salvage two draws in the series so far, Prior is determined that England won’t be forced to ‘scrape through’ this time. In fact, he says that a 2-0 victory in the series would be a ‘dream come true’ for the entire squad.
Such an achievement would mean that England have beaten two of the top teams in the world in successive series following the Ashes win against Australia last summer. This would be a huge step towards become the best Test team around, something which is clearly on the minds of the England set-up right now.
Prior is realistic though and knows that they have to take things ‘session by session’ in Johannesburg. The hosts are highly likely to create a results wicket as well, so this is something the team have to be prepared for. Playing for a draw might not be an option come the third or fourth day, so England must try to win from the beginning.
A key factor in this could be the toss. If England can win it and bat first, they have an excellent chance to take the game beyond South Africa. A mammoth first innings score of above 450 would mean that South Africa have to work extremely hard to win the game and therefore salvage the series.
With this in mind, Prior will be hoping that he doesn’t have to be called into action on the opening day. He will be quite happy putting his feet up and watching the top six batsmen pile on the runs. Then, he will look to add to it with a solid contribution down the order before taking any chances that come his way in the field.
Nothing will go as simply as this though and Prior – along with the rest of the England team – will have to be on top of their game to ensure a least a draw against a South Africa side that will be determined to salvage something from the series.
Overall, it is likely to be an enthralling few days of cricket and England’s fourth Test odds reflect this.
In other sports news, the odds for the 2010 Grand National are really starting to hot up and could be worth keeping an eye on.
Once again a Test match in this series ended with South Africa heading into the final over of the match requiring just one wicket for victory. Yet again, Graham Onions took care of that last over by himself. Instead of being 2-1 down, England have a 1-0 lead and will be confident heading into the final Test of the series.
In many ways, this series has mirrored the Ashes. The first Test at Cardiff was a carbon copy of Centurion Park and then in both instances England won the Second Test. The first half of this Test was like the Third Ashes Test at Trent Bridge and the second half of it was like the Leeds Test.