Archive for August, 2010
With the Ashes series edging ever closer, the mind games have begun in earnest. Australian captain Ricky Ponting has made it clear his side will be putting the pressure on England from the very first ball. England will begin the defence of the urn in Brisbane on November 25, hoping to avoid a repeat from the 2006/7 tour in which they were whitewashed 5-0.
Cricket betting pundits note how that series was the last for many of Australia’s golden generation with Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Damien Martyn and Justin Langer all retiring after the victorious final Test.
Ponting is convinced England won’t be able to replicate their recent good form in Australian conditions. England have won six Tests out of their last seven suffering their only loss in their latest match with Pakistan. While acknowledging England have come a long way under the leadership of coach Andy Flower and captain Andrew Strauss, Ponting has confidence in his side who have been unstoppable since losing the Ashes last summer 2-1.
It has been rumoured by those that regularly bet on cricket match outcomes that the upcoming Ashes series will be captain Ponting’s swansong. The 35 year old has skippered the side since 2004 but has come under some scrutiny since last summer’s Ashes defeat. The batsman is averaging 4o since last summer – no mean feat – it is down from his career average of nearly 55 however. If this does prove to be his final Test series then Ponting will go out as one of his country’s greatest ever captains as well as batsmen. The Tasmanian will be desperate to regain the urn before hi hangs his boots up for good.
Despite being an England supporter it was actually encouraging to see Pakistan finally play to their true potential at the Oval in the third Test, keeping the series alive and setting up what should be a thrilling decider at Lord’s this week.
England’s victories in the first two Tests were as much down to the Pakistani’s tendency to collapse with the bat than England’s skill with the ball.
But as soon as they got their act together and put England under pressure they flourished. The Test cricket betting suggests the final match should be very interesting.
The defeat may not necessarily be a bad thing for England either as it has finally highlighted some of their short comings. The batting has not been up to scratch this series, though this wasn’t critical in the first two Tests as England’s bowlers steamed through the tourists batting line up, dismissing them double figure totals on two occasions.
But in a more competitive third Test two batting collapses – the second of which saw England score just 28 at the expense of seven wickets – has given coach Andy Flower plenty to think about as he heads to Lord’s.
Ironically the man closest to the chop was Alastair Cook, but his timely return to form at the Oval should ensure he keeps his place.
But captain Strauss himself, Kevin Pietersen, and Eoin Morgan should all show more resilience in the middle – less than 90 runs between them last time out just isn’t good enough.
A few weeks ago I was lauding the England players for their impressive displays and even predicting Ashes glory this coming winter. But maybe I like many others were caught up in the thrill of it all and got complacent. The Ashes betting odds still make the Australians favourites after all.
Being brought back down to earth with a bump is no bad thing if you learn from it – which is exactly what England need to do.
In what was another ultimately comfortable win for England against Pakistan the performances of two bowlers stood out.
First of all we have Graeme Swann, whose handy knack of snaring wickets in the first over of a spell is becoming a deadly weapon for Andrew Strauss’ men.
The spinner had cut a frustrated figure in the slips as he was consistently overlooked by, but he eventually took his opportunity with both hands.
His second innings wickets eventually helped to break the tourists’ resistance after they finally found some spirit on the third day.
But his six wicket haul – his first in international cricket – pales into insignificance when compared to that ball to Imran Farhat.
Seventeen years ago Shane Warne introduced himself to the English cricketing public with a pearler of a delivery that pitched outside Mike Gatting’s leg stump and ripped back to take out his off. Gatting’s stunned expression was befitting of a delivery that was later dubbed the ‘ball of the century’.
Now to compare Swann to Warne is stretching things I admit, but his almost identical delivery, albeit it to a left hander this time, suggests that Swann will be a real threat to the Aussies down under. The Ashes betting still makes the home side favourites, but England will fancy their chances.
But although Ponting and co will have been taking note of Swann’s displays they will have taken equal interest in the petulance of Stuart Broad.
Indeed the Aussie press have already taken great delight in the bowler’s foolish act of throwing the ball at Zulqarnain Haider during a frustrating third day, seeking to exploit an apparent weakness to the full.
And a weakness it is. The ruthless Aussies will waste no time in goading young Broad when the Ashes kick off this winter. They are the masters of sledging after all. It’s something that could help swing the cricket odds in their favour.
Let’s hope Broad will learn his lesson and channel his aggression and frustration in the right way next time – just ask Greame Swann how to do it.
With England producing another dominant display to take a 2-0 lead over Pakistan, there were plenty of positives to take from the series so far.
One of the few negatives for England according to cricket betting pundits was the continued poor form from opener Alistair Cook. Since his unbeaten 109 against Bangladesh in Dhaka earlier in the year, Cook has mustered only 100 runs in seven Test innings this summer, with a top score of 29.
In his two most recent innings Cook looked massively out of touch. He made a mess of a pull shot – usually Cook’s best shot – off short Mohammad Asif delivery in the first innings and had his stumps violently assaulted by Mohammad Ameer in the second innings. His footwork has been dismal so far in this series and he will need to address that before this winter’s Ashes tour.
Cook’s average against Australia is far from great: 26 in 10 Tests, two big innings in Perth and Lord’s are his only shining points amongst a host a failures. But England have invested heavily in Cook and he proved his growing maturity as a captain in Bangladesh last winter.
Unless he can find some runs in the remaining two tests against Pakistan, the cricket odds suggest Cook could struggle to make the Ashes side. There are players out their more than capable of replacing Cook. Jonathan Trott has opened before and looked good, Michael Carberry was decent in Bangladesh in the winter and has had a good domestic season.
Cook still has the backing of his captain and coach. His place should be safe as long as that continues.
It is hard to find anything negative to say about England at present following a thumping 354 run win over Pakistan.
James Anderson was the star of the show, ripping through the Pakistan batting line up with a devastating spell of swing bowling. His 6-17 in the second innings gave him match figures of 11-71, his first ever international 10 wicket haul.
But although Anderson will take the headlines this time, the best thing about this current group of players is their ability to share the workload and function as a team.
The Lancashire bowler’s match winning spell was ably supported by Stuart Broad and Steven Finn, while 10 pouches behind the stumps shared between Paul Collingwood, Graeme Swann and Andrew Strauss, proved the old age ‘catches win matches’ as true as ever.
The overcast skies and moist conditions played into Anderson hand but in Broad and Finn – fresh from their strengthening and conditioning programmes – England have two bowlers who should be able to take advantage of harder, drier pitches. While Graeme Swann, England’s leading wicket taker last year, is ready to exploit any turn lurking in the wicket. The Ashes betting odds still make Australia favourites, but this could be wrong.
It can’t be denied that Pakistan were poor, with infighting and internal politics continuing to sabotage their on-field performances. They were always going to struggle to live up to their cricket odds.
But their recent win over Australia proves they are capable of performing in England.
So on this occasion it is time to praise Andy Flower’s men and revel in their performance rather than pointing out any flaws in the opposition.