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August 30, 2009

Flower and Strauss the key to Ashes success

What a remarkable day Sunday was for the English cricket fan. England secured a 2-1 victory over Australia by winning at The Oval and it was a special occasion for all concerned. The famous little urn is back in English hands after a second consecutive home series victory over the old enemy.

Quite rightly, a lot of the attention has been on Andrew Flintoff in the aftermath. The win at The Oval was the final test that Freddie will play for England, having announced his retirement from the longest form of the game earlier in the series.

Stuart Broad has got a lot of praise as well after finishing off a productive second half of the series with an excellent bowling display in the final test of the Ashes. The 23-year-old was man-of-the-match at The Oval and has since been touted as the ‘new Flintoff’ as England look ahead to life without their talisman.

Taking nothing away from these two though, there hasn’t been enough praise for the partnership of Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower. In England’s hour of need, these two have been fantastic. Following the situation with Kevin Pietersen and Peter Moores, England needed a partnership that worked.

This is exactly what they got as well. Strauss and Flower have been calm, professional, inspiring and determined. They have been tactically sound for the majority and have stayed focused when things weren’t going England’s way.

The relationship between captain and coach is integral to the team’s success and this is why England should be positive looking forward.Michael Vaughan and Duncan Fletcher were in these roles for the English Ashes win four years ago, but they weren’t able to push on due to Vaughan’s injuries.

This time can be different though. Flower and Strauss can look ahead to the next three or four years and have ambitions for what they want their team to achieve. They will undoubtedly keep their feet on the ground as well, something that wasn’t done after the 2005 success, and hold onto Englands odds of winning the Ashes.

Overall, the future of English cricket is potentially very bright and this is largely down to the hard work of captain and coach. Well done lads.


August 21, 2009

Flintoff focused on Ashes glory

The returning Andrew Flintoff has insisted that he is not thinking about the fact that the Ashes decider at The Oval will be his final ever test match. The all-rounder is calling time on his test career after this series, but he says that this is insignificant compared to the importance of the match itself.

Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s decider, Flintoff revealed that he is ‘not too fussed’ by the fact it is his last test match because the ‘occasion is bigger than that’. He then rightly pointed out that many people have retired during a series before and many will do again, so it isn’t a big deal.

As for his fitness, Flintoff is convinced that he can perform to the best of his ability for England despite missing the defeat at Headingley. He says that he has been ‘working hard with the physio’ and is ‘confident’ that he will come through the game unscathed.

In fact, Flintoff admits that he feels in a better state now than he did going into the third test at Edgbaston. This can only be good for England who need their talisman to lead from the front as they look to win the series.

The Australians are confident after their performance in Leeds, but as Flintoff mentions, the game at The Oval is a ‘one-off test match’, meaning that momentum is much less significant than anyone thinks. There has been plenty of time since the last test and the England players will be fresh and ready to go again.

The talking stops tomorrow morning though with both sides after a decent start. A good morning session could end up deciding the fate of the test match, after all. If Australia start well, England’s heads may drop after what happened in Leeds. If England start well, Ricky Ponting and co will remember that they have a lot of work to do yet.

We should all be prepared for a fantastic five days though. Flintoff believes that victory for England would mean a ‘greater achievement’ than when they won the Ashes in 2005, so imagine the scenes at The Oval on Monday. Bring it on!

Before any Oval Test betting, make sure you stay up to date with the Fifth Test oddsto ensure you're getting the best value possible. 


August 14, 2009

Trescothick and Ramprakash: The next in line?

England’s batting performance at Headingley has led many to suggest that there will be major changes for the final test at The Oval. It is a winner takes all affair with the series squared at 1-1 and a similar display from Andrew Strauss’ men will not be tolerated.

So, what changes to be made? Ravi Bopara has struggled batting at No.3 in this series and he could be the first in line for the chop. Other than that, Ian Bell hasn’t been in inspired form and Paul Collingwood seems to have left his big performances behind at Cardiff.

With this in mind, it seems fair to suggest that at least one batting change will be made. Who comes in though? You would think that Jonathan Trott, Owais Shah or Robert Key would be the men talked about as they have been involved in the England set-up in some shape or form over the last year.

However, the fact that it is a one-off test match seems to have alerted the selectors. This is because returns for Marcus Trescothick and Mark Ramprakash are being talked about. They are apparently both being considered for a dramatic recall in this final Ashes test to shake things up somewhat.

Looking at each player individually, you can see some logic in this. Trescothick in particular has been in superb form this summer and with Somerset chief executive Richard Gould saying that the 33-year-old ‘would consider a return for home internationals’, there could be something in it.

Personally, I would love to see this. Trescothick is a world-class batsman still and he would love the challenge of facing Australia again. I’m pretty certain Ricky Ponting and co would rather bowl at Ravi Bopara or Ian Bell all day long before they would want to at Trescothick.

As for Ramprakash, this one seems a little bit more unlikely. He hasn’t played international cricket since 2002 and it really would be a sign of England’s desperation. Regardless of the form he is in and the fact he would be playing on his home ground, Ponting would be rubbing his hands at the prospect of bowling to a man who averages 27.52 in test cricket.

For me, it is a yes to Trescothick and a not quite to Ramprakash. Bring in the Somerset man for Bopara and let him open the innings with Alistair Cook. This gives Strauss the responsibility of batting at No.3. The line-up would look much more solid. Bringing Flintoff in for Harmison completes the changes.

My England team for The Oval:

Alistair Cook, Marcus Trescothick, Andrew Strauss, Ian Bell, Paul Collingwood, Matt Prior, Andrew Flintoff, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Graeme Onions.

Make sure you take a look at The Oval Test oddsbefore placing your Oval Test bet.



July 30, 2009

The other England v Australia – Fan v Fan!

This summer isn't all about Ricky Ponting v Andrew Strauss, Alistair Cook v Philip Hughes or Graeme Swann v Nathan Hauritz. Instead, one of the biggest rivalries in this Ashes series is between Philip 'Tuffers' Tufnell and Jason 'Dizzy' Gillespie.

The former cricketers have been competing against each other all summer as part of Betfair's fanvfan series. Both competitors attempt to drum up support for their respective nations before going head to head in a number of entertaining challenges!

There have been three so far and you can see them here - enjoy!

Challenge One: Tuffers and Dizzy compete on a pedalo.



Challenge Two: Tuffers and Dizzy take to the lawnmower!



Challenge Three: Tuffers and Dizzy try their hands at horse racing in

the most recent event.



There we have it, three very entertaining videos I'm sure you'll agree. Ian Bell's cameo in the third challenge was especially good!

Next time, Tuffers and Dizzy take part in some 'Zorbing' in Leeds on the 7th August ahead of the fourth test match at Headingley.




Ian Bell talks a good game, but can he deliver?

Unless you have been on a different planet for the last week or so, you will know that Kevin Pietersen is set to miss the remaining three test matches of this year’s Ashes series. You may also know that Ian Bell – who was dropped from the side earlier this year – is the man who will replace him.

It has been confirmed that the Warwickshire man will look to fill KP’s boots by batting at No.4 for England. This means there is plenty of pressure on Bell to deliver the goods. Can he turn his County form into runs against Australia? Can he make sure England don’t miss Pietersen?

Before we go into this, I wanted to bring some of Ian Bell’s Twitter updates to your attention. The fact he calls himself IanBellMBE probably says it all, but it is fair to say that he is rather confident in his ability and his place in the England team! Take a look...

‘Brett Lee out of the first Test - my mum's right, you never know what's going to happen. Maybe Colly will get injured too!’

'Liam has picked Australia - I'm playing as England! I've put myself in at no.3! Bad luck Ravi, you're not on EA Cricket 07!’

‘Had lots of texts from my mates today about KP's injury. The man's a legend but - if selected - I'm determined to step up to the plate’

‘Back where I belong!’ (speaking about being confirmed in the England eleven for Edgbaston)

Anyway, enough about Bell’s tweets. It’s his runs that we should be more focused on and I am confident that he can produce plenty. He is a class player who has performed well at international level in the past and there is no reason why he can’t excel again.

A lot could depend on his first innings. If he manages to get a century, or even a fifty at the first time of asking, it will do his confidence no end of good. Then, he has the talent to go on and have a big say on the remainder of this series.

For now, take a good look at the Third Test oddsbefore any Edgbaston test betting.



July 21, 2009

Ashes 2009: Second Test Player Ratings

England are 1-0 up against Australia. Regardless of what sport it is, this sounds very good to me. The fact that it is after two tests of an Ashes series makes it absolutely fantastic. With three matches to go, England are in the box seat and in with a chance of regaining that famous little urn.

Who would have thought this going into the last day at Cardiff? England were on the brink of defeat and any thought of being 1-0 up after two tests would have been greeted with disbelief. However, it has happened and we should enjoy it.

The second test at Lords was deservedly won as well and it was wrapped up without too much trouble on the fifth morning thanks to Andrew Flintoff. Playing in his last test match at Lords, Freddie finished with figures of 5-92 after an extraordinary 10-over spell on Monday morning. He really is a true English cricket great.

It was a team performance though and a number of England players contributed to the victory. With this in mind, let’s take a brief look at the player ratings for Andrew Strauss’ men.

Andrew Strauss – The skipper’s hundred in the first innings was crucial to setting the tone for the test match. His captaincy was decent in my opinion as well. 9 / 10

Alistair Cook – Like Strauss, he batted superbly in the first innings. It would have been nice if he went on to score a big one, but the form he showed suggests we might not have to wait too long. 8 / 10

Ravi Bopara – The Essex man doesn’t look quite at home at the moment. Scores of 18 and 27 aren’t good enough for a No.3 and he must improve. Reminds me a bit of Ian Bell in 2005. 5 / 10

Kevin Pietersen – There is no doubt that the injury to KP’s Achilles is affecting his form and perhaps more significantly, his confidence. Hopefully there is still plenty more to come from him. 6 / 10

Paul Collingwood – To my mind, Collingwood has found his role in this England team and can adapt according to the situation. He seems to know what is needed. His relatively brisk 54 in the second innings was extremely helpful to the situation. 7 / 10

Matt Prior – This is a man that has won me over. I wasn’t convinced that he was up to batting at No.6, but he has proved me wrong by adding a great deal of aggression and flair to the top six. Excellent glove work as well. 8 / 10

Andrew Flintoff – Not much more can be said about the big man. He was superb with the ball and inspires everyone around him like no one ever has before or ever will. 9 / 10

Stuart Broad – The fact he dismissed Ricky Ponting in Australia’s second innings was vital. He needs to produce more moments like this in the coming three matches. 7 / 10

Graeme Swann – I really like Swann as a cricketer. He always gives honest and interesting interviews as well. Helped Freddie finish things off on the final morning and deserved his four wickets. 8 / 10

James Anderson – It was all about the first half of the match for Anderson. First, his 29 with the bat steered England over 400 and then his four wickets with the ball left Australia in deep trouble. 8 / 10

Graeme Onions – In a five-man attack, there is always going to be someone underused. In Australia’s second innings, this was Onions. He managed to take three wickets in the first innings though and contributed well to the last wicket stand with Anderson. 7 / 10

There we are then. A splendid team performance from England, with only Bopara and Pietersen left searching for considerable improvement. Bring on Edgbaston after this one! In the meantime, keep an eye on the Edgbaston Test oddsbefore making your Third Test bet.


By Thomas Rooney


July 15, 2009

Ashes 2009: Thoughts ahead of Lords

A drawn match often suggests that the two teams taking part were relatively even throughout the contest. They started level and they finished level. Well, I think it is safe to say that this was not the case between England and Australia during the first Ashes test of 2009.

The Aussies thoroughly outplayed England in every department at Cardiff and yet the hosts somehow escaped with a draw. A washed out Saturday evening session, a defiant Paul Collingwood and some inspired resilience from the tailenders can be thanked for this.

Realistically though, England need to prepare for Lords as if they are recovering from a defeat. I say this because their performance was far from the required standard and they will have to make huge improvements if they are to stand a chance of regaining the Ashes.

What does this entail though? What should England do to ensure they are able to compete with Australia at Lords?

The first thing they can do is use the momentum of the final day at Cardiff. The crowd were buzzing, the players showed passion and Australia were left extremely frustrated. England can use this in the early part of the Lords test to make a more positive start to proceedings.

The second thing they can do is make changes to the team. Presuming Andrew Flintoff is fit, (Andrew Strauss seemed confident enough in an interview today) England should still tinker with their side.

Two spinners cannot be justified at Lords, so one of Monty Panesar or Graeme Swann has to be dropped. As for who it should be, I think Monty has to go. He looked low on confidence and as disappointing as Graeme Swann was, he has achieved enough over the last six months to hold onto his place.

Who should come in for Monty? It has to be Steve Harmison I think. Just to add something extra to this attack and to provide someone other than Flintoff who can intimidate the Australians. He seems in decent form as well, so he could work wonders.

The only other change that is possible given the 14-man squad that was announced, is to bring Graeme Onions in for Stuart Broad. Broad was very below par with the ball at Cardiff and is reportedly struggling with a calf injury, so the in-form Onions has every chance.

The most important thing though is that England forget about Cardiff and start performing like they believe they can beat Australia. The support, the interest and the passion for this series is higher than ever and England need to match this with their performances.
Keep checking the Lords Test oddsbefore any Second Test betting

July 07, 2009

The end of the waiting – Ashes 2009 is upon us!

There has been a lot of talking with regards to the 2009 Ashes series. The build up has been substantial and as fun as this has been, the fact that the action is round the corner is very good news.

The first test match between England and Australia starts in Cardiff on Wednesday and every cricket fan around the world will be glued to the action. It is one of the greatest rivalries in sport and you just know that something special is round the corner.

The start of it all is extremely important as well. It may well be the first session of many this summer between the two sides, but is also the most crucial. Whoever sets the tone on the first morning at Sophia Gardens will immediately have the edge so bear this in mind for your Sophia Gardens Test betting!

Remember when England took on Australia in 2005? The tourists lost five wickets in the opening session and Steve Harmison and co bowled with a huge intensity that left Australia skipper Ricky Ponting with a cut cheek.

This sent a message out to Australia that England – for the first time in many series – meant business. In a way, England never looked back from this.

Then, in the return series in Australia during 2006/2007, it was the Aussies that made the first impression on the series. They batted extremely positively and left the England bowlers wondering where the next wicket was coming from.

Overall, it is clear to say that the first session and the first day could go a long way to shaping the rest of the series. It wouldn’t decide anything, but if England could have an extremely productive first session it would plant seeds of doubt in Australia’s minds.

They are vulnerable and can be got at. England have the edge in the build up and seem more relaxed in preparation, so a poor start for Ponting’s men could leave them dreading the long tour ahead.

I will be watching every single ball this week and I hope you will be doing the same. Come on England, make the type of start that can establish us as firm Ashes bettingfavourites in this series.

*By Thomas Rooney*



June 30, 2009

Vaughan set to announce retirement – thanks for the memories!

It appears that Michael Vaughan has played his last game of professional cricket. The former England captain will officially announce his retirement on Tuesday after meeting with Yorkshire officials on Sunday to discuss his
future.

Vaughan was left out of the 2009 Ashes training squad earlier this month and this indicated that his international career was all but over. Therefore, with a return to the England side out of reach, he has decided to call it a day on all first-class cricket.

It is a relatively sad end to what has been a successful career for the 34-year-old. The pinnacle for him was, of course, when he led England to Ashes glory in 2005. It mustn’t be forgotten that he was a world-class international batsman on his day though.

Not only that, he was the most successful captain of all time and a model professional throughout his career. The Ashes win four years ago will be what Vaughan is remembered for in years to come, but it is important topoint out that he achieved more than this during his time as an England cricketer.

As a batsman he scored 5,719 test match runs at an average of over 40, notching 18 centuries along the way. Vaughan wasn’t always on top form – especially during the latter stages of his England career – but when he was on his game, he was one of the most attractive batsmen to watch in world cricket.

It was as a captain that Vaughan really shone though. Nasser Hussain’s England were hard to beat, but Vaughan turned them in to winners. His relaxed approach and excellent tactical nous were to the benefit of English cricket and this will always be looked back on fondly.

Critics will argue that he never quite achieved enough as a batsman and given his ability – they could be right. His average of 41.44 doesn’t really reflect his talent and definitely took a nose dive in the last couple of years. He also failed to make a name for himself in the One-day game during his career.

For his sheer talent, sublime batting technique and captaincy success though, he can bow out of professional cricket with his head held high. His determination to play for England was higher than ever in the early parts of the summer, but the failure to score runs for Yorkshire cost him his place in the Ashes training party.

Vaughan then knew that there wouldn’t be a way back for him. As difficult as it may seem, this may have been for the better. Yes, to play a part in regaining the Ashes would have been the perfect way to head into retirement.

What if he had come in and failed though? What if he played the first two tests, didn’t score any runs and was dropped? That would have been a poor way to end. At least this way he has ended it on his own terms. He even ‘took a break’ from international cricket after his resignation as captain, so he has never been dropped as such.

Like the headline says – thanks for the memories Michael. You were a fantastic captain for England and will go down in English cricket history as one of the greatest. Now, go and land yourself a job on Sky Sports. At least you will be involved in the Ashes that way!

Make sure you keep up to date with the Ashes odds before making your 2009 Ashes bet. If you need to get in the mood for some good old-fashioned rivalry this summer, visit Betfair's new fanvfan site.

*By Thomas Rooney*


May 27, 2009

Strauss can enjoy his break after England thrash woeful Windies

The next time Andrew Strauss plays international cricket will be on the 8th July in Cardiff against Ricky Ponting’s Australia. The England captain will play no part in next month’s World Twenty20 tournament, meaning that he has a significant break from playing for his country.

Strauss can go back to Middlesex with his head held high though after leading England to the perfect start to their very busy summer of cricket. Strauss’ men secured a 2-0 One Day International series
victory against the West Indies yesterday by thrashing the tourists by 58 runs at Edgbaston.

This follows the 2-0 test series victory over the same opposition and it is fair to say that England have looked very commanding on home soil. Yesterday’s display in particular was extremely ruthless. This
isn’t something we have associated with England recently, so it has to be taken as a positive sign.

In fact, the whole summer has been positive so far. The only downer has probably been the low crowds that have turned out to watch England play so well. On field matters are looking firmly under control though and credit must go to the partnership of Strauss and Andy Flower.

It seems like they have created a happy and united dressing room that is brimming with confidence. The likes of Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Ravi Bopara are all stepping up to the
plate in the absence of Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff as well. New heroes are developing and the England team is moving in the right direction.

Whether this will be enough to defeat Australia this summer, nobody knows. It is likely to be a very close series against an impressive Aussie side, but England have every chance of winning. With regards to Ashes bets, I am much more likely to back them now than I was a year ago anyway.

Before Australia come to town though, there is the ICC World Twenty20 tournament to deal with. Paul Collingwood will lead the team in Strauss’ absence as England look to improve on their showing in the
same tournament two years ago.

Despite not being involved, Strauss has claimed that the hosts will be a ‘good outside bet’ to win the competition because playing in familiar conditions can give them ‘the edge’ over the other teams. This, combined with the fact that the team are ‘playing with confidence’ mean that Strauss expects England to be there or there abouts come the end of the competition.

Personally, I think England have every chance of emerging victorious if they play with the aggression and belief that they have done so far this summer. They haven’t played too much Twenty20 cricket though, so this could end up costing them.

Overall, as long as the momentum gained from the two series wins over the West Indies can be maintained somewhat, England are in good shape to face the biggest test of them all – the Ashes.

By Thomas Rooney


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