All 3 entries tagged Ashes

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May 11, 2009

Another surprise as Sidebottom and Bell are recalled


It seems as though the England selectors are keen to surprise us all this summer. First of all there was the inclusion of Graeme Onions, Ravi Bopara and Tim Bresnan in the first test of the summer and now two men have been recalled much earlier than many expected.

Ryan Sidebottom and Ian Bell have both been named in a 13-man squad for the second (and final) test against the West Indies. To the majority of us, this was undoubtedly a surprise.

Let’s talk about Sidebottom first. To be honest, the Nottinghamshire bowler has had so many injury problems in the last year or so that you would have thought he needed to do more to earn a recall.

Since returning from injury, Sidebottom has played only two County Championship matches and even though he has performed OK, it has been
nothing to suggest that he is back to his best. Overall, he has claimed seven wickets at an average of 31.42.

His inclusion does give Andy Flower another seam option though and there is an outside chance he could be preferred to Bresnan who only
bowled seven overs on his test debut. If anything though, I would say that Sidebottom’s inclusion is just a sign that he is still part of
England’s plans. (I wonder what Hoggard makes of all of this!)

Anyway, what about Bell? His situation has been talked about for a number of weeks now and there was no doubt he was disappointed to be
left out for the first test. However, with there being increasing uncertainties over Paul Collingwood’s form, he has been selected as part of the latest test squad.

It is probably deserved as well. If Sidebottom has done enough to warrant a recall, then so has Bell. The Warwickshire man has scored
320 runs in seven first-class innings, including two centuries early on in the season.

Bell could be called upon should England believe that an extra batsman is needed in what are expected to be bowler friendly conditions at the
Riverside. There is also the possibility that Bell is pushing Collingwood for a place in the side.

To come in at No.5 for England would probably suit Bell down to the ground and Collingwood hasn’t exactly been in the runs of late. Knowing Collingwood though, he will probably record a century in the next test. It is at his home ground after all!

The most significant thing for Bell and Sidebottom though, even if they don’t manage to force their way into the side for this match, is that they are still in England’s plans. They still have a chance of playing a part in this remarkably busy summer for English cricket.

This should give them a huge boost.

By Thomas Rooney – A sports writer who blogs about international cricket


May 05, 2009

Boycott raised concerns over England – now there’s a thing!

Geoffrey Boycott has never been the most positive of pundits when it comes to talking about the England cricket team. Ahead of a very important summer, he has voiced his opinion once again and it is fair to say he isn’t convinced by the current regime.

Below is a run down of what the former England opener has had to say. As much as he is being negative, it is hard to find too many faults in what he says. This probably sums up the direction England has gone in since the last time Australia came to town four years ago.

Boycott on The Ashes – He says that England are ‘not in great shape’ ahead of Australia’s Ashes visit. Boycott also firmly states that England cannot win the test series against Ricky Ponting’s men.

Boycott on the troublesome winter – He says that the whole winter was a ‘fiasco’ with the controversy of Peter Moores and Kevin Pietersen’s departures combined with Alan Stanford and his millions. Overall, it is a winter that could set England back a number of years according to Boycott.

Boycott on Andrew Strauss – The former Yorkshire man believes that Strauss ‘isn’t a natural captain’. This is because Strauss has been guilty of ‘waiting for things to happen’ as opposed to ‘thinking ahead’ like the majority of great test captains.

Boycott on the No.3 position – This has been a problem for England for a while now and Boycott is concerned about the increasingly unsettled team that is being put out. He highlights how Michael Vaughan, Ian Bell, Owais Shah and now Ravi Bopara have all had a go at the No.3 spot in recent months.

Boycott on the future – The TMS commentator finished by saying that although he didn’t think international cricket was at its strongest right now, England are ‘not getting the best’ out of what they’ve got.

As ever, these are strong views from Boycott. Hopefully, over the course of this summer, the England team can prove each of his points wrong. This is more in hope than expectation though, so don't waste your next cricket bet trying to prove him wrong.

By Thomas Rooney – A sports writer who blogs about international cricket.


February 02, 2009

England and Australia – who is in better shape for the Ashes?

England and Australia – who is in better shape for the Ashes?

Back in the build-up to the 2005 Ashes series, Australia were comfortably the best side in the world and England were the form team of international cricket having won several test series in a row. Even if the rankings didn’t quite suggest it, it was the battle between the best two sides in the world.

However, looking ahead to the 2009 Ashes series, everything is a little bit different. Australia are having their first shaky spell for a number of years and England made losing a habit prior to the controversial saga which saw their captain and coach leave their positions. Even if the rankings don’t quite suggest it, it is a battle between the third and fifth best sides in the world.

Does this undermine the significance of the Ashes this year? No, I don’t think so. Whenever these two sides meet, it will always be tense, competitive and eagerly anticipated. Besides, Australia will be determined to prove they are still the No.1 test team in the world and England will want to get the Andrew Strauss era off to the best possible start. If anything, there is more at stake than ever before.

Who is in the best shape ahead of this summer though? Obviously a lot could happen between now and the start of the series which could change this, but right now – which team is worse off? Which team is cricket betting favouring? Let’s take a look.

Five reasons why England are the team in trouble:

  1. Their bowling line up – Hopefully things will go well in West Indies, but right now, there aren’t many England bowlers on top of their game.
  2. The number three slot – This is a position that no England batsman can nail down. Ian Bell is in shocking form and the selectors don’t seem to trust Owais Shah enough.
  3. Pietersen’s Ego – How will things go with former captain Pietersen and Andrew Strauss? The party line is that they get on fine, but what if things start going badly?
  4. The uncertainty over the coach – At this time we have no idea who will be England coach come the Ashes. This should be a time where we are preparing for the summer, so this isn’t ideal.
  5. The losing habit – England, quite simply, have lost a lot of test matches over the last few years. The belief that was so apparent in 2005 seems to have gone. Can they recapture it after the West Indies tour?

Five reasons why Australia are the team in trouble:

  1. The loss of key personal – No team in the world could cope with the amount of senior players that Australia have lost in recent years. They are having to start again.
  2. The losing habit – Not quite to the extent of England, but two test series have been lost in a row. Plus an ODI series. This is quite something for Australia.
  3. Ricky Ponting – The Australia captain has been ruled out of the remaining two ODI’s against New Zealand to rest up ahead of the South Africa tour. Is he feeling the pressure?
  4. No Spinner – The loss of Shane Warne is obviously huge for them, but especially when they can’t seem to find a half decent replacement. The quality of Warne has often been the difference between England and Australia.
  5. Mike Hussey – Mr Cricket has had a tough time of late and this is causing problems for Australia’s middle order. Perhaps he is human after all.

Having weighed up all of these factors, I would say that England have the edge. Just. Barring a poor showing against West Indies over the next couple of months, I think the cricket odds will expect England to regain the Ashes. The atmosphere in England has to be taken into account as well because Australia are more fragile than last time and the ‘Barmy Army’ could affect them even more than usual.

By Thomas Rooney – A sports writer who blogs about England cricket


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