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September 24, 2009

Sympathy for Strauss as England trail 6–0

It seemed very unlikely that an extended One Day International serieswas going to put a dampener on England’s excellent Ashes win earlier in the summer.

However, after being humiliated again to go 6-0 down to Australia, England’s cricketers are doing their very best to make it happen. The performances in the limited overs series have got worse by each game and ‘embarrassing’ doesn’t quite do it justice.

The most worrying thing is that Australia have hardly slipped out of the comfort zone. The first game aside, they haven’t really been given anything like a test. They have been superior in every single department.

History does suggest that England have a rather poor ODI side, but they are outdoing themselves on this occasion.

Now, normally the blame would head towards the captain in this situation. However, I have a great deal of sympathy for Andrew Strauss who is in charge of a side that, quite simply, isn’t good enough.

How many ODI games has Owais Shah won for England? How many times has Ravi Bopara built on a decent start? How many times has Matt Prior looked like a top six batsman in the 50 over game? The reality is that you could count the combined total on one hand.

The batting from England has been nothing short of disgraceful. The tactic seems to be - get to 20 slowly and then, out of frustration, try and launch one only to get caught inside the ring.

I say this is what the ‘plan’ is, but to be honest I don’t think England’s batsman have anything like a plan in mind. Perhaps Strauss can take some blame for this, but there seems to be no intent. What is Bopara’s role at three for example?

Strauss has been England’s best batsman, but he hasn’t been supported anywhere near enough. With the likes of Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff in the side, there is no-one that wants to stand up for their country. There seems to be no pride.

I can accept that we are a decent test side, but not quite as good at the 50-over game. However, this is taking it too far. On home soil, to lose every single game to an Australia side in transition is not good enough.

The quicker this series is over the better. As for whether it will be 7-0, of course it will be. What would make anyone think any different? Certainly not the One Day Cricket betting odds. Even when the batsman somehow get 300, we forget how to bowl or field.

Strauss’ ODI side are a bunch of no hopers and the only thing they have achieved is taking the shine off a superb test series win over Australia. That takes some doing.


September 11, 2009

Bopara convinced he is the man for England


In what has been a successful summer for English cricket (despite the recent One Day International performances) Ravi Bopara has had a pretty rough time. He failed to make an impact batting at No.3 in the Ashes, was dropped from the side for the final test and wasn’t present for the series win celebrations.

Since then, he has been given the chance to redeem himself by opening the batting in the One Day International games, but so far it has been the same old story – Bopara is getting a start and then getting out. So, cna he overcome this nightmare run of form and establish himself in the England team?

Well, the man himself thinks so. Speaking after making only 10 in England’s defeat at the Rose Bowl on Wednesday, Bopara said that ‘there is a lot to come’ from him as a batsman yet and that it is just a case of getting his game ‘in order’.

It hasn’t just been Bopara that has been suffering in this series though. We have all been frustratingly put through three mediocre England batting performances in this series with Owais Shah, Matt Prior and Paul Collingwood all struggling to find form as well as Bopara.

It is the Essex man who has come and fighting ahead of the must-win match at Lords on Saturday though. He says that he is determined to ‘go out and get a big one’ and start to become ‘the main man for England’.

This would be a fairly drastic turnaround for the 24-year-old, but it is good that he is staying positive. There is no doubting his talentand every England fan will be hoping he comes good. Perhaps he just needs one decent innings in this form of the game to help him kick on.

Part of me feels sorry for Bopara anyway. He has to opening the batting with Andrew Strauss, with the captain’s role clearly to tryand bat through most of the innings. This means that for England to make a positive start, Bopara has to take plenty of risks.

This isn’t an excuse, but perhaps it explains his struggles a little bit more. The team are missing their best batsman in Kevin Pietersen as well let’s not forget. Again, not an excuse, but it does explain why the ‘X Factor’ is missing from England’s cricket batting line up.

Looking ahead to Saturday’s game, I would make a few changes. Bring in Joe Denly, Stuart Broad and Adil Rashid in for Owais Shah, Eoin Morgan and Tim Bresnan. Then change the batting line-up slightly to relive Bopara of his opening duties and to stop embarrassing Prior at No.3.

So, my team to give us a sniff in this series would be: Strauss, Denly, Bopara, Prior, Collingwood, Wright, Broad, Rashid, Swann, Sidebottom, Anderson.


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. 


July 30, 2009

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 22, 2009

World Twenty20 best XI

I really enjoyed the World Twenty20 and I think it is fair to say that it was a huge success. There were upsets, fantastic bowling performances, huge hitting and relatively decent weather. All in all, it went according to plan for the organisers.

Today though, I want to focus on which players made the biggest impact. What would be the ultimate Twenty20 eleven based on this most recent tournament? Which team would have the most representatives?


Let’s take a look.


Tillakaratne Dilshan – Sri Lanka

Chris Gayle – West Indies

Kevin Pietersen – England

Kumar Sangakkara – Sri Lanka

AB De Villiers – South Africa

Jacques Kallis – South Africa

Shahid Afridi – Pakistan

Umar Gul - Pakistan

Ajantha Mendis – Sri Lanka

Muttiah Muralitharan – Sri Lanka

Lasith Malinga – Sri Lanka


Not a bad team for any form of the game I’m sure you will agree! It has absolutely everything for Twenty20 cricket though and represents the best players from this year’s competition in England. The batting line-up is destructive and contains plenty of experience. Imagine preparing to bowl against this lot!


As for key roles in the team, Kumar Sangakkara would be the wicket-keeper and the captain. Sri Lanka may have lost in the final against Pakistan, but the Sri Lanka skipper impressed me a great deal. He has a fabulous cricket brain and speaks a great deal of sense in post-match interviews as well. Plus, he is a world-class batsman which

helps!


Opening the bowling would be Gul and Malinga. They both have a fantastic record in the shortest form of the game and took 25 wickets between them in the World Twenty20.


These two would be backed up by Kallis in the seam department before the spin kings Murali and Mendis took over. Even if these two didn’t come off for some reason, there is Afridi and Gayle to get through a couple of overs.


Sri Lanka have the most representatives which is testament to their consistent form throughout the tournament. World Twenty20 champions Pakistan have only two players in this eleven, but what an impact Afridi and Gul had!


Overall, this is a fantastic group of players who each helped the 2009 World Twenty20 become a huge success. For now, we can look forward to Ashes 2009 bettingand, if you're looking to get in the betting mood, check out Betfair's fanvfansite.


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


June 03, 2009

Collingwood confident of Twenty20 success

Ahead of England’s World Twenty20 campaign, captain Paul Collingwood has claimed that home advantage could be enough for his side to have a genuine chance of winning the tournament which gets underway on Friday.

The hosts take on Holland at Lords in the opening game and Collingwood is confident that this can be the start of a successful couple of weeks. He says that he and his team ‘know the wickets and venues well’, something which could give them an advantage over the other teams.

England’s confidence is certainly high after the comfortable Test and ODI series victories over the West Indies, so perhaps Collingwood is right to feel optimistic. The combination of self-belief, being familiar with the conditions and having the fans behind them could be enough to make England contenders.

They must surely do better than they did in the inaugural World Twenty20 tournament back in 2007. During their time in South Africa, Collingwood’s men only won once in five matches and had a thoroughly miserable time.

England are in much better shape this time though with players such as Ravi Bopara, Stuart Broad, James Anderson and Graeme Swann starting to establish themselves as world-class cricketers. Then, there is the returning Kevin Pietersen to throw into the mix. Overall, the squad looks strong.

Speaking about Pietersen, Collingwood said that the former captain is ‘raring to go’ in this tournament after failing to make an appearance in the recent ODI series against the West Indies. KP hasn’t got the best record in Twenty20 games, so perhaps it is time he put this right.

As for England’s chances of winning the tournament, Collingwood reminded everyone how no England team have won an ICC event before. However, ahead of the warm-up games, the temporary skipper believes that he and his side have a ‘huge opportunity’ to continue the momentum picked up in the early part of the summer.

If you're looking to make a Twenty20 bet, personally, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if England made the semi-finals, at least. They are a happy dressing room right now and should have enough to progress in the competition. As for winning the whole thing, well I can’t look too far beyond current holders India. Their line-up looks formidable.

And, by the time all this is over, we might be able to make slightly more informed Ashes bets!

By the way, if you fancy seeing what I am up to, you can follow me on Twitter @Thomas_Rooney


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