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December 24, 2009

Flintoff on the comeback trail

Andrew Flintoff is hopeful that he will resume batting in the New Year as he continues his recovery from knee surgery. The England all-rounder - who hasn't played since the final Ashes Test of the summer - doesn't expect to bowl for some time yet though.

Speaking about his progress to date, Freddie said that it will be 'great to start hitting balls again' as he looks to get himself in adequate condition to compete in the shorter forms of the game for Lancashire and England.

As for the first step in Flintoff's return to cricket, he says that he should 'start batting against a bowling machine' next month, although this is assuming he doesn't have any setbacks in the next couple of weeks. Something he is famous for, it has to be said.

Freddie says that he 'won't be doing anything daft' as this is obviously a crucial stage in his career. It is very important that he doesn't return too early as this could hamper what he is able to achieve in the rest of his life as a cricketer.

This is probably why he is remaining realistic about when he will return. Flintoff says that the prospect of bowling again is 'still some way off'. It could even be a 'good few weeks' until he is able to start practising this form of the game.

Overall, it seems like everyone involved knows how important it is that Flintoff gets the recovery process right. The next aim is to start batting, then he will look to pick up a ball again before hoping to join in with some of Lancashire's training sessions in February.

The 32-year-old will then aim to return to England duties next summer in the one day international and Twenty20 games. If he does return, his presence would provide a boost to England's ODI odds. This may well seem like a long way off, but he has to aim for something. It will be what keeps him going.

The thought of representing his country again and performing to the best of his ability will help him get through this latest bout of rehabilitation. Hopefully it will be a smooth process and he can get back to somewhere near his best before too long, something he thoroughly deserves for everything he has given to English cricket.

Meanwhile, his former international colleagues are preparing for the next match against South Africa as they attempt to enhance England's second Test chances.


September 01, 2009

Will Flintoff play cricket again?

After announcing that he was set to retire from test cricket at the end of the recent Ashes series, Andrew Flintoff spoke of his aim to become the best One Day Internationalplayer in the world.

However, after playing a relatively small part in England’s series clinching victory at The Oval last week, Flintoff has immediately gone under the knife again to have surgery on his troublesome knee injury.

Such is the seriousness of the operation that Flintoff has openly admitted that he may never play cricket at the highest level again. Speaking in his News of The World column, he said that there was a ‘possibility’ that his days as an international cricketer are numbered.

Until he finds out how successful his operation was, Freddie admits that there is a ‘question mark’ in his mind about what the future holds. The 31-year-old will just have to wait and see how the knee is after the operation and then how it feels during the rehabilitation.

On a more positive note though, Flintoff pointed out the fact that the success rate for an operation like the one he has had is ‘pretty good’. It’s not as if the big man isn’t used to recovering from injuries either is it?

Presuming the operation and recovery process does go well, Flintoff says that he is targeting a return for the One Day Internationals against Bangladesh in March. Time will tell how realistic this is though.

Overall, it does seem as though Freddie is as determined as ever to make a comeback. He says that he doesn’t want to end his career in a physio room, instead, he wants to do it by winning the World Cup with England in 2011.

So, in the next two years, Freddie wants to recover from a serious operation, become the best ODI player in the World and somehow turn England’s 50-over sideinto a team that can win the World Cup.

Would be a good way to bow out Fred!!


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 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

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


April 21, 2009

IPL Update – how are Flintoff and Pietersen getting on?


The Indian (or should I say South African) Premier League seems to have got under way with relatively little fuss. The tournament is up and running with some of the biggest names in world cricket doing all they can to justify their large price tags.

This is more relevant to England’s Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen than most as they were the most expensive players in the IPL auction. So, how have they got on so far?

Well, they came up against each other last night as Flintoff’s Chennai Super Kings and Pietersen’s Bangalore Royal Challengers did battle for the first time. Flintoff was the man smiling at the end though as his team ran out comfortable winners.

The England all-rounder hit an unbeaten 22 off 13 deliveries as the Super Kings made a respectable 179-5 off their 20 overs. In reply, the Royal Challengers struggled their way to 87 all out with Pietersen
getting a golden duck.

It was certainly a bad day at the office for the former England captain, who is skipper of the Royal Challengers. They have now won one and lost one of their opening two games. During their first match,
where they won by 75 runs, Pietersen hit an encouraging 32.

As for Flintoff, his team have the same record as Pietersen’s so far – one win and one defeat. In the Super Kings' first game, Flintoff was hit for three sixes as he conceded 44 off his four overs. He then made 24 with the bat as his team lost to the Mumbai Indians.

Overall, they have had a mixed start and will be hoping that they can push on in the next couple of games. Both of them have shown what they can do in brief spells, but to prove they are money well spent, they need to produce a couple of match-winning performances.

They will get their pay cheque either way, but I am sure that they would like to make a good impression in their first IPL season. Neither of them like losing and it's a safe cricket bet that they will be doing all they can to help their teams win the next couple of games.
By Thomas Rooney – A sports writer who blogs about International Cricket

April 12, 2009

England ODI player rankings

So, England managed to win the One-day international series against the West Indies. I am still quite bemused as to how, but credit must go to them for sticking at their task and winning the final two games of the series.

As ever at the end of a series, ranking each player out of ten is often a good way to analyse how things went. It could be especially interesting in this case because even though England won the series,
there were more than one or two questionable performances along the way.

So, without further to do….let’s take a look at how each player did. Starting with the batsman this week and the bowlers next week.

Andrew Strauss – He has been fantastic hasn’t he? Considering he wasn’t supposed to be a limited overs batsman, his performances with the bat have been awesome. Then, he has led the team with dignity. Top man.
9 / 10

Ravi Bopara – Had he been batting down the order, his average of 29.29 wouldn’t have been that bad. However, if he is going to open the batting, he needs to make more significant scores.
6 / 10

Kevin Pietersen – KP knows that this wasn’t his best series. Not by a long shot. His attitude has been questioned and at times, rightly so. He had a couple of shocking decisions, but overall it’s been a poor few games.
5 / 10

Owais Shah – Normally, Shah has been able to moan about lack of opportunities after a tour. However, this time has been given the chance. Has he taken it? Not really. He looked scratchy and only
averaged 26.72.
5 / 10

Paul Collingwood – Colly is probably the most reliable player in this team. More often than not, when called upon – he will deliver. Far from a fluent player, he always makes the most of what he has got.
Averaged 37.00.
8 / 10

Andrew Flintoff – I am including Freddie in the batting section of this, simply because he batted No.6. His main contributions, as we know, were with the ball. He is England’s main man and will need to be
on his best form this summer. He can create a buzz that no one else can.
8 / 10

Matt Prior – There is no doubt in my mind that Matt Prior is a very good batsman. His wicket keeping is still questionable though and it is not a safe cricket bet to make that he is certain of a place in the Ashes team this summer. Considering he was batting down the order, an average of 37 is very handy.
7 / 10

There we have it then. Next time, I will take a look at the remaining five players of the England ODI party. I will probably argue until my heart's content about how Adil Rashid should have been given a game as well.

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


March 30, 2009

Strauss deserves more credit

Since taking over the captaincy from Kevin Pietersen, Andrew Strauss has been in excellent form with the bat. In the test series against the West Indies he scored three centuries as he averaged 67.62 and so far in the One Day Internationals, he has hit one century and averages 67.

This, by anyone’s standards, is fantastic. However, the fact that Strauss has performed as well as this during what has been a difficult time for England, is something that deserves a lot of praise.

Not many previous England captains have raised their game with the bat and this makes Strauss’ performances all the more impressive. He loves responsibility and he enjoys leading from the front. Two essential attributes if you want to be a successful cricket captain.

Having looked at the statistics, it seems clear to me that Strauss hasn’t received enough credit for his form with the bat. This is probably because the team hasn’t been winning much and, as captain, he
shares some of the blame for this.

However, imagine for a second that Pietersen was still captain. Then imagine that he had scored exactly the same amount of runs that Strauss has this winter. It is fair to say that the press would be
raving about him as one of the best players around.

Strauss hasn’t enjoyed as much attention for his runs and even though this is probably the way he likes it, it seems important to show some appreciation for the job he has been doing. The results haven’t always been great, but this hasn’t been anything to do with Strauss’ role as an opening batsman.

The latest knock from Strauss led England to victory in the 4th ODI yesterday and it was an innings that showed how he can perform in this form of the game. The Middlesex man hit an unbeaten 79 to help his team chase down a revised target of 135 in 20 overs.

It also proved something that I believed to be the case since the humiliating Twenty20 defeat a couple of weeks ago. If Strauss is going to play in the Twenty20 team, he should open the batting. He is capable of scoring quickly and shouldn’t mess around with coming in down the order.

As for the team as a whole, well they have the chance to finish the tour on a high this Friday. With the series tied at 2-2, the game in St Lucia acts as a decider for the two teams.

Victory would not only be an excellent way to end a rather forgettable winter, but it would be an appropriate reward for Strauss and the way he has batted since becoming England captain.


By Thomas Rooney, a sports writer who blogs about English 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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