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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. 


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 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*



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


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


February 16, 2007

It's here, but what does it mean?

It was bound to come. Sooner or later it had to. For too long they have got by without it. There were glimpses of it in 2005 and yes, it had an effect but it soon righted itself. I am of course talking of an injury ravaged Australian side. Glenn McGrath suffered two separate injuries in the 2005 Ashes which caused him to miss two tests, the two that England won. But that was just one player. This is something more.

Ricky Ponting is currently out of the Chappell Hadlee Trophy in New Zealand with a sore hip and back. This is not expected to keep him out of action for very long and he should return to the side in the Caribbean with full fitness but it will no doubt hinder his preparations for the tournament.

Andrew Symonds, the big hard-hitting all rounder from Queensland, is recovering from an injury he picked up late in the Commonwealth Bank tri series. His surgery was a success but he is still likely to miss the best part of the early stages of the series.

Symonds was instrumental in Australia’s success in the 2003 World Cup. He was not a sure starter for the tournament, and many were calling for him to be dropped but he stepped up to the mark and produced an outstanding century to win his team’s first match of the tournament against Pakistan.

Australia were 4/86 at the fall of Jimmy Maher’s wicket and looked in trouble. But out walked the Andrew Symonds who, rather than bedding in and consolidating, counter attacked taking a particular liking to Shahid Afridi’s spin. From 40 balls faced against Afridi he smashed 51 runs on his way to a blistering 143* from 125 balls. This innings set the tone for his tournament as he finished with a tournament highest batting average of 163.

The fast bowling has also taken a blow, with Brett Lee injuring his ankle in training in New Zealand and admits himself that he is only 50-50 for appearing in the tournament. Lee, one of the fastest bowlers in the world, is an instrumental part of the Aussie bowling attack. With a career record of one wicket every 28.9 balls he is number three on the list of all time strike rates, the only current player above him is the Kiwi paceman Shane Bond whose career has also been dogged by injury.

Australia’s vice captain for the series in New Zealand, Michael Clarke has also missed the first match of the series with a hip problem. Again, although there are no signs that he will miss the World Cup, he is losing valuable match practice ahead of the World Cup that could have helped him to regain some form and confidence following the defeat to England just last week.

Finally, Adam Gilchrist. Gilly is a hard hitting opening batsman in limited overs cricket. He holds the Australian record for the fastest ODI century. He holds the world record for the most number of sixes in limited overs internationals. Not only that he is a world class wicket keeper, a top class motivator and a handy vice captain. The birth of this third child has meant that he will miss the first 3 weeks of the World Cup, a time when Australia will be hoping to make their mark on the tournament.

His leave of absence will bring Brad Haddin, his long term understudy into the side and the lack of Gilly’s hard hitting approach to the top of the order will be a major blow to the side.

The effects of this are already starting to show. Just today Australia were crushed by New Zealand by ten wickets in the first match of the 3 match series at Wellington after being skittled for 148. The top order burst, the safety net offered by Ricky Ponting and Clarke and the attacking talents of Symonds are not easily replaced, neither is the fire with the new ball that was obviously lacking as the Kiwi openers knocked off the runs with ease.

This does not remove from the fact that Australia have vast banks of quality players in their ranks, but much of it is inexperienced at the highest level. There is still over 3 weeks until the start of the tournament and a few of these injured players will have recovered. The sensible money will still be on Australia for the world cup: they have been world beaters for many years and have shown themselves worthy of overcoming many tough obstacles but it’s not the ideal lead up to a World Cup campaign. That much is certain.


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