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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.




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


December 23, 2008

Two test matches in a series is such a waste of time

So, the second and final test match between England and India has ended in a draw. After the home side were rather negative in their second innings, they eventually declared on 251-7 to set England over 400 to win the game. This was never going to happen though and with the game destined for a draw, the captains shook hands with the tourists 64-1.

It meant that India secured a 1-0 series victory and that England finished the tour without winning a single match. Not the most encouraging few weeks results wise, but there have been some positives of which I will discuss in a moment.

The thing that really bothers me though is that only two test matches were scheduled for the series. India and England are two of the most cricket mad countries in the world, they are two of the best teams in the world and yet only two test matches are played. Are the organisers trying to assist in the death of test cricket or something?

Not only is it disappointing that the series is shortened, but it also means that once the first game has been won by a team, the second match is more likely to be a dull finish. That’s exactly what happened in this series.

There was some excellent cricket played throughout and the entertainment levels were high, but during the latter stages of the Mohali test, India were happy to play out for a draw. They had won the first test, so it was job done as far as they are concerned.

The series should have been at least three matches long. This way, England would have had the chance to respond again to going behind. I appreciate that I may sound like a bitter England fan, but it’s more than that. For the sake of the fans watching, two test matches just isn’t enough.

There isn’t enough time for the twists and turns that make test cricket so fantastic, or for the one-on-one battles between the likes of Kevin Pietersen and Yuvraj Singh to well and truly develop. Overall, I hope two test match series are a thing of the past.

Unfortunately though, this is not something I will be putting any of my sport betting money on. The significance of Twenty20 cricket is more valid than ever and perhaps shortened test series will become to norm. This bothers me, but there you go.

Anyway, onto the reflection part of today’s blog. Despite losing the series, Pietersen says that he is ‘really proud’ of the team’s efforts and I have to say I agree. So what are the positives to come out of the tour?

The fact they were there – It took great courage for the England players to get on a plane to India again. They have been a credit to cricket and the Indian people will never forget this.

Andrew Strauss – The opener well and truly confirmed his place in the team with two centuries in the first test. Well done Straussy.

Andrew Flintoff – Bowled with just as much heart as ever and his batting is improving. Could he be back to his peak for Australia next year?

Greame Swann – Performed admirably in his first two test matches and should push Monty Panesar for a place against the West Indies after Christmas.

Kevin Pietersen – Ok, it may only have been one good innings for KP, but what an innings it was. This and the way he led the team in a difficult time deserves credit.

So, that’s that for the Indian tour. The England players will now travel home to enjoy Christmas with their families before flying out to the West Indies at the end of January. The sport odds are more likely to favour an England win in this series and it is important that momentum is developed ahead of an important English summer.

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


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