Archive for October, 2010
Tough, uncompromising and determined, Ricky Ponting encapsulates everything that Australian’s love about their sportsmen.
The 35-year-old has a string of records to his name. He Australia’s most successful run-maker and sits below only the great Don Bradman in the overall ratings. He became the most successful captain in Test history after passing Steve Waugh’s 41 wins in the 2009-10 Boxing Day Test against Pakistan. In the same match he overtook Shane Warne’s 92 victories as the most by an individual, he has never lost a World Cup game and only another cricketing legend – Sachin Tendulkar – has more centuries in Tests and ODIs than Ponting.
But what also marks Ponting out is his leadership. After dropping in and out of the team in the late 90s due to personal problems, Ponting eventually took over from Steve Waugh as test captain in 2004. Initially he had the likes of Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath to call on, making his life relatively easy, but as those players slowly retired he had to adapt his game. The 2005 Ashes defeat also hurt Ponting, he was the first Aussie captain to lose the Ashes since 1987, but his determination to put things right perhaps explained the comprehensive 5-0 whitewash down under two years later. The Ashes betting tips make the home side strong favourites and Ponting will be keen to gain revenge again.
That series saw Justin Langer, Warne and McGrath all hang up their boots so Ponting has now taken on role of nurturing skipper, helping the next generation of young Australians adapt to the international stage.
The side couldn’t retain the Ashes in 2009 but as Ponting heads home to what will probably be his last ever Ashes series he will be determined to go out on a high, something the Ashes betting suggests he has every chance of doing.
He remains the cornerstone of the batting line up and the one wicket England will want the most. The destiny of the 2010/11 Ashes series will rest partly on how Ponting performs, both with the bat and as skipper.
The Australians still have a fair few decisions to make before next month’s opening Test in Brisbane. There is the Marcus North, Phillip Hughes issue as well as whether to play a specialist spinner on the pace friendly Gabba pitch. The wicket-keeping position still seems to be far from resolved as well, with Brad Haddin missing much of the season with elbow and finger injuries. In Haddin’s absence, Tim Paine has stepped up and performed admirably behind the stumps, averaging 35 in his four recent appearances against India and Pakistan.
Haddin has insisted he isn’t sweating over his Ashes place and is instead focusing on getting himself match fit. The 32-year-old returned to action for New South Wales last week and will need to prove his fitness to the Aussie selectors. After all, even though the Ashes betting makes the home side favourites, they cannot afford to carry any deadweight.
“In all honesty I haven’t worried about everyone else, I can only worry that I’m available to play,” he said.
Haddin has proved on countless occasions since taking over from Adam Gilchrist that he is a quality Test keeper/batsman and will be hoping to keep his spot with his reputation and anyone looking to bet on the Ashes should remember what he can do.
At 25-years-old, Paine will be the future of Australian wicket-keeping and the management may want him to keep gaining Test match experience. Paine’s performances impressed many in Australia with his captain Ricky Ponting declaring the Tasmanian “every bit a Test keeper”. However, the Ashes is a bigger beast than most other Test series and the Aussie’s may decide Paine is still a bit too raw to be thrown in at the deep end.
Matt Prior has never been allowed to fully enjoy himself as England’s first choice wicket-keeper, since making his debut in 2007. Since Prior took over from Paul Nixon, there has been the constant murmurings from sections of the media about whether or not he is international class. The fact is that when he first started out, Prior was the typical batsman/wicket-keeper. Over the years, Prior has worked tirelessly on his glove work and that has shown over this season.
Prior’s batting quality was never in doubt, the century he made on his debut against the West Indies put any doubters straight. Since then Prior has hit another two centuries and has a Test average of 42.13. His keeping has come on leaps and bounds this year and Prior has cut out nearly all the mistakes he was previously known for. He’ll never be as natural behind the stumps as James Foster, but Prior brings more to the side and he is finally looking like a Test keeper.
Those looking to place an Ashes bet note how Prior will go into the upcoming series in some impressive form after the summer series against Pakistan. The 28 year old averaged 58.50 during the series and hit an unbeaten 102 in the win at Trent Bridge, when none of his other England team-mates passed 30. His catching was also spot-on and he was sharp behind the stumps in all aspects.
Prior will have to stay on his toes with Steven Davis waiting in the wings to take over the keeping duties should he be handed the chance. The 24 year old has jumped ahead of Prior to take the role in the one-day and T20 England sides and will be eyeing up the Test team after being named in the Ashes Test squad, firstly as Prior’s back-up.
Davis has been backed by those giving out cricket betting tips as well as former England great Alec Stewart, who said “Matt Prior will start the first Ashes Test and quite rightly so. He has been outstanding this summer and he is in possession of the gloves and he won’t get left out. He may get his chance if something happens to Matt Prior be it a loss of form or injury and he is ready to take it.”
As it is though Prior is in possession and he won’t give up his place in the side without one hell of a fight.
It’s been dream year for Steven Finn since bursting on the international scene in March against Bangladesh. The 21-year-old was called up when Stuart Broad was ruled out of the series with injury. Since then, Finn hasn’t looked back, including taking nine wickets on his home debut, again against Bangladesh. The youngster then went on to claim a second five-for in the second Test at Old Trafford. The fast bowler finished as player of the series, in what was his international home debut series.
The six foot seven bowler then stepped up to play the Pakistan series, bowling decently to take 13 wickets at an average of 23. Although he wasn’t used as frequently as Stuart Broad and James Anderson, Finn’s extra bounce offered England something different and was effective.
Finn’s year got even better when he was named as part of England’s Ashes squad, as well as taking home the award for the ICC’s Emerging Player of the Year in Bangalore earlier this month. Finn won the award after claiming 32 wickets in his eight Test’s so far at an impressive average of 23.31, a stat that’s bound to interest those looking to bet on the Ashes.
Despite his explosive debut year of international cricket, Finn is determined to keep his feet on the ground.
“The last six to eight months have been fantastic and I have enjoyed them thoroughly. It’s gone as well as I thought it could have and better. But there’s a lot of hard work to happen now,” he said.
The Ashes odds make Austrlia strong favourites and Finn and his fellow bowlers will need to be at their very best to take 20 wickets in matches.
Finn will be desperate to be given the chance in the opening Test next month. The Gabba in Brisbane is renowned for its fast bouncy pitches and Finn could well prove to be the difference for England.
The off field version of the Ashes has kicked off this week, with England’s Stuart Broad claiming winning the upcoming Ashes series will be but “a stepping stone” in the side’s bid to become the dominant force in world cricket. The 24 year old said ”Even if we go to Australia and win, that’s only a stepping stone to being the best team in the world, we want to create a legacy for this England team. You don’t achieve that by winning one series, you get that by being fantastic over several years.”
Broad has a point if you think back to the 2005 series between the old rivals. England’s Ashes win five years ago made the whole team national treasures and put cricket firmly in the mainstream, in a way it had never been before. Every member of the Ashes winning squad was made an instant celebrity, which affected their performance. The following year was a whole different box of jelly tots for England though, and they were brought back down to earth with a bang, suffering their 5-0 whitewash defeat in the 2006/07 Ashes in Australia.
Under Andrew Strauss’s captaincy though, those placing a cricket free bet regularly know that this team looks to be a lot better at handling the expectation and pressure brought on by the success they have enjoyed this year. Since reclaiming the Ashes urn last year, the team has keep up their level of performance, something that may not have happened in previous years. The team have performed admirably this summer during the victorious series win over Pakistan. With all the off-field hullaballo surrounding the series, England managed to put that to one side and come out victorious.
Broad’s comments pointing to world domination have gone and gotten the Aussie press in quite the barney, with those Down Under being quick to remind the fast bowler that the last time the English claimed an Ashes win on Aussie soil was 24 years ago, when Broad’s father was in the victorious England side.
Some Ashes betting pundits believe that Broad does have every reason to show a certain degree of arrogance, he was devastating in the victorious series last year and the Aussie’s will be very wary of the fast bowler when the First Test in Brisbane commences next month.
It is a measure of how important the Ashes are to Australia that their current series in India is seen as little more than a warm-up to the battle for the urn. The Baggy Greens are of course desperate to beat the team that has done best against them over the past decade, but every player in Bangalore would happily swap any current success for runs or wickets against the old enemy.
Going into the second Test, cricket betting pundits note how not all of Ricky Ponting’s men would have had that hypothetical choice. Marcus North has been fretting about his place for some time, but he knew he was one failure away from the chop in Bangalore.
Those studying the Cricket Odds for this series are aware that North had scored 46 runs in his previous six innings and whilst a classy century under pressure guarantees his starting place in the Ashes, it somehow does not totally reassure Aussie fans – consistency is the Victorian’s problem.
He now has five Test hundreds in 19 matches, but these are offset by five ducks, 20 scores of 20 or less and only three second-innings scores in excess of 10. He averages 23 on home soil and, most importantly, he has been his team’s top scorer in only three of his 31 innings – his tons are not always crucial.
All this means England will be slightly pleased to see North secure his place for Brisbane. The tourists have plenty of batsmen out of form, but Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood and Alastair Cook have greater experience, and in the case of the former two, a record of success down under.
This winter’s Ashes will be decided by batting collapses, something both teams are prone to. The continued presence of North in the hosts’ batting line-up suggests their middle order might be the softer underbelly.
Alastair Cook may be seen as a future England captain but, as prepares for a trip to Australia, his form with the bat is what he should focus on.
Cook was tipped for greatness when he broke into the team as a 22-year-old in 2006, even more so when he hit a magnificent century on his debut in Nagpur.
But like many England players he struggled down under in the 2006-07 Ashes series. With the Aussies bowlers deliberately targeting him he scored just 276 runs, though he did manage a century in Perth. You can bet on the Ashes being a big priority for him as he looks to make amends for that performance.
By 2009 though he had scored more runs and hit more centuries than any England player of his age (25) – ahead of both David Gower and Ian Botham.
He was appointed vice captain in the wake of Kevin Pietersen’s resignation and Andrew Strauss’ promotion in early 2009. But he again struggled under the glare of an Ashes battle, only scoring above 30 once in the whole series, despite England’s famous win.
He just about held on to his Test place after that, though his patchy form meant he lost is position in the one day side, and a barren run in 2010 saw his Test spot under increasingly threat before a century against Pakistan – albeit a nervy one – proved the doubters wrong.
He now heads down under determined to exorcise the demons of 2006-07, although the Ashes betting suggests the whole side are in for a tough time. He certainly has the ability, but with the Aussie bowlers no doubt intent on targeting his weak front foot problem, it remains to be seen whether he has the mental strength to ride the storm, score runs and help Strauss with the captaincy.