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November 27, 2006

Ashes First Test – Brisbane

Australia 602-9 dec & 202-1 dec beat England 157 & 370 by 277 runs

I’m sure Olly will do a far more complete review at some point, but here are my thoughts of someone who has only been watching the highlights!

Day 1

What a first ball. Probably safe to say that Harmison was a little tense! Didn’t get any better after that. Flintoff was the pick for England bowling Langer and Hayden.

Man of the day: Ricky Ponting – for staying still being in at close of play

Moment of the day: That unbelievable first ball from Harmison

Day 2

Australia kept racking up the score, eventually declaring on 602-9 and putting the tiring England side in for some late batting. It worked – we lost three wickets.

Man of the day: Hussey – his catch to get Strauss for 12 was awesomely brave

Moment of the day: Hoggard bowling Ponting and Gilchrist on consecutive balls

Day 3

Glen McGrath skittled out the England lower order in time for Australia to rack up 181 runs before the close. Ponting’s decision not to enforce the follow-on seems to reflect their confidence (or should that be arrogance). At least Ian Bell put in a decent performance for a half century.

Man of the day: Glen McGrath

Moment of the day: Flintoff goes to Brett Lee for a duck.

Day 4

The day began with Australia declaring on 202-1. England came out looking for the draw. Strauss went early, but Cook, Pietersen and Collingwood did well. Flintoff again disappointed.

Man of the day: Paul Collingwood – almost reached a century

Moment of the day: Warne and Pietersen’s little moment of ‘friendly’ rivalry

Day 5

England drop to defeat with a bit of a whimper. Pietersen goes early leaving Jones to provide the highlight of a very short days play.

Overall then Australia were better in every area of their play and deservedly gave us a thrashing. Seemingly Brisbane was a batting wicket and this handed the initiative to the Aussies from the start with the England top order looking very weak without Tres or Vaughan. If England are going to get anything from the Ashes, Flintoff in particular will need to step forward. But who knows, four tests left and anything could happen. Well almost.


November 23, 2006

Typical English Reaction

Only one day of the latest Ashes series has been played and already England are being written off. Okay, so clearly we have got a very tough job on our hands to beat the Aussies in Australia, but lets keep a sense of perspective. We may not be that great, but equally we’re not that bad either. One bad day of play doesn’t really effect our overall chances and everyone agrees that the Brisbane wicket favours the batters. So lets just reserve our judgment.


September 12, 2006

Ashes Squads

With the announcement of the winter tour party to Australia announced at 1500 today i thought i’d pre-empt the selectors with a squad of my own.

Batsmen -

AJ Strauss (31 tests)
ME Trescothick (76 Tests)
A Cook (9 Tests)
I Bell (18 Tests)
P Collingwood (15 Tests)
K Pietersen (18 Tests)
E Joyce (uncapped)

No surprises in my selections here, Tres’ definately has to go to Australia if he feels up to it, he is one of the most destructive openers in the world, has over 5,000 Test runs, scoring 1,000+ in each of the last three years for England, to top it all he is the safest pair of hands England have at 1st slip. If he doesn’t make it I would have Cook opening with Strauss, which will be an obdurate but effective partnership. Allowing for all the above batsmen to be available, then Colly and Joyce are the men to miss out, unless we play the extra batsman and Read drops to eight in which case Colly is the man in possession and deserves his place. The main talking point (apart from Tres’ mental state) is Ian Bell’s place, having looked out of his depth against the Aussies last time he has shown this summer that his early talent was no fluke and his extra maturity and run heavy summer mean a very different Ian Bell will face McGrath and co this winter.

Wicketkeeper -

CMW Read (13 Tests)
G Jones (31 Tests)

Perhaps the most hotly debated position in the England XI, the percieved wisdom is that Jones is the better batsman, there is no doubt that Read is the better gloveman, perhaps even the most talented pure Wicketkeeper in Test cricket. I would back Read to play at least the first three tests he deserves a fair crack at the Aussies, and as we saw against Pakistan on the way to his maiden test fifty he has a talent for unorthodox play and will be a positive lower order force while sheparding the tail. If as I suspect England try six batsmen plus Flintoff then Read has to play, he is the only one with the skill to stand up to a quick bowler, take the vital stumping and prevent the ludicrous amount of Extras Jones can concede when not on form.

All-Rounder -

A Flintoff (62 Tests)

No contest, the best all rounder in world cricket and also my pick as Captain, as long as he realises that he can’t rely on himself to do everything. An inspiration, who the Aussies fear perhaps more than any other player.

Bowlers -

S Harmison (45 Tests)
M Hoggard (58 Tests)
M Panesar (10 Tests)
J Anderson (13 Tests)
S Broad (Uncapped)
A Giles (52 Tests)

Harmison and Hoggard have to play, they put pressure on the Aussies last time and are vital to England’s defence of the Ashes. Harmy will especially enjoy the bouncy quick wickets down under, as long as he controls his homesickness he could be the ‘man’ this winter. Monty Panesar also has to play ahead of Giles, while Giles is a better allround cricketer he doesn’t offer the variety or menace of Monty’s spin. Hayden, Ponting et al have already said they want to take the game to Monty, a sure indicator that they respect his ability, he could also be another star performer. My other picks are James Anderson and Stuart Broad, Anderson has has a rough time with injury, providing he comes through his fitness tests and performs well in the warm ups he will be the extra bowler, he will be keen to show that he deserves to be part of the set up for a long time. Broad is the future; already described as like the young McGrath but better, I don’t expect him to play unless we are ravaged by injury or are 3-0 up with 2 to play (if only!) but there is no doubting his talent, this tour will be good for him as a player and as a person – getting used to long periods away from home is perhaps the biggest test for a touring cricketer and he will come back for next summer a more complete player ready for his first cap.
Ashley Giles could be a feature as long as he stays injury free, but the King of Spain is behind Monty in the pecking order and beyond injury or horrific loss of form i can’t see him playing a test (unless Duncan Fletcher wields the axe mid tour….)

On standby in Perth -

R Key, S Mahmood, N Compton, L Plunkett, R Bopara

My reserve tourists are a mixed bunch, Rob Key is talented but has lost ground, he is batting cover with Tres’ particularly in mind. Mahmood is an enigma, fast and accurate or fast and hit all over the place, not quite good enough for me the Aussies will certainly go after him, one for the next tour. Plunkett likewise, good cover for our frontline attack, behing Mahmood in the pecking order, another one for the future. With our array of batsmen i don’t expect either of my final choices to feature, Bopara is prodigiously talented and deserves to be part of the set up and Compton has been in fine form this season, is young and is my wildcard, maybe if he continues his current form the selectors may take notice soon, his batting is stylish but will perhaps be part of the 2009 vintage rather than todays.

Finally this will be a very close series, with for me the Aussies slight favourites, however if England’s best side turns up and plays well we will win. Perhaps the Australian’s undoing will be their age, as we saw in 2005, their bowlers cannot manage a full 5 test series and perhaps the bowling as in 2005 will be where th series is won and lost. England to win 2-1. Feel free to tell me i’m wrong….


August 25, 2006

Ball Tampering?

On Sunday the cricketing world was enthralled by the events taking place at the Oval. During the afternoon session, the on–field umpires Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove performed a routine examination of the match ball, and found what they believed to be evidence that some form of 'ball tampering' had taken place, invoking law 42.3 (b) of the 'Laws of Cricket' that "It is unfair for anyone to rub the ball on the ground for any reason, interfere with any of the seams or the surface of the ball, use any implement, or take any action whatsoever which is likely to alter the condition of the ball, except as permitted in (a)" In the event of such an incident law 42.3 goes on to state that the umpires shall change the ball forthwith, inform the respective captains as soon as possible and award five penalty runs to the batting side. All this took place in about five minutes, and the game was swiftly recommenced with the mercurial KP in devestating form, and the audience both in the ground and in the media were enjoying the spectacle again after a largely confusing interlude. The only clue that something was amiss was that Bob Woolmer, the Pakistan Coach was observed striding to the match referee's office rule book in hand.

About an hour and a half later bad light stopped play with England on 298–4 (Collingwood 26*, Bell 9*) and Tea was taken. At about 1620 the umpires and England batsmen were ready to resume play, however the Pakistanis were still in the dressing room, the batsmen and umpires returned indoors, then thirty minutes later amidst frantic discussion and diplomacy the umpires and England batsmen returned to the field and Darrell Hair removed the Bails, apparently signalling the end of the match. Shortly afterwards the Pakistani team did return to the field of play only to be informed that the umpires would not stand as under law 21.3 the match had been forfeited and an England victory declared; England win the series 3–0, this was confirmed late on Sunday evening by the ICC, PCB and ECB.

What is clear is that debacle was played out entirely within the 'Laws of Cricket' and that the on–field umpires had applied the letter of these laws correctly. What is also clear is that the Pakistan team felt sufficiently aggrieved by the actions of umpires Hair and Doctrove to take this stance. Much of this can be attributed to the fact that many 50/50 decsions had gone 'Englands way' during the series, and that Inzamam felt that the integrity and honour of his team and country were being called into question, by a decision which essentially accused them of cheating.

Can any of this be blamed on the umpires? No, as has already been said, in this instance the umpires while perhaps being a little officious applied the laws correctly. However, Darrell Hair has for a long time been a controversial figure on world cricket. It was he who called Murali for 'chucking' in 1995 and also it was he who called Shahid Afridi for damaging the pitch in England's winter tour of the sub–continent. As the senior umpire it was also his 'call' as to the application of the laws and communicating this to the teams. Perhaps on cricticism that could be levelled at the umpires is that their communication could have been clearer at a time when cool heads were needed, the Pakistan dressing room could not have fully understood the ramifications of their actions as I am sure that they did not mean to forfeit the Test. However, much of the blame must sit squarely on the shoulders of the Pakistan team and their Captain Inzamam–Ul–Haq. By ignoring the legitimate methods of appeal after the close of play, when they could quite plausibly have been on the verge of winning the Test, instead taking matters in to their own hands and staging a 'sit in' they left the match officials with little choice but to protect the integrity of the game and obey their set procedures.

The game of Cricket is bigger than one match, thus it was imperative that this conclusion was reached, any other response would have been to undermine the fabric of the game and open up the umpires to 'blackmail' whenever they made a decision that was difficult or contentious. Without doubt the cricket loving public lost out in the short term, the match was after all finely poised, but hopefully the game will have been strengthened by these events and the ICC will be encouraged to review this incident closely. Bring on the Aussies!


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