Friday, December 31, 2010

To Australia and beyond…

Unless you’ve been nursing a festive hangover in bed or have been spending Christmas under a rock, you won’t need telling that England have retained the Ashes with their biggest triumph over Australia since the 1950s.

Of course, the celebrations amongst the dressing room and the Barmy Army will last a few days down under, despite the hosts still having a match left to square the series for pride.

But when the dust settles from the fifth Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground, be it a win, loss or draw for Andrew Strauss’ side, the 2010/11 tour of Australia will go down as one of the most memorable for England of all-time.

Of course, those who get free bets are aware that retaining the urn will be all-the-sweeter if the series ends two or three matches to one in the tourists’ favour.

Captain Strauss and head coach Andy Flower simply cannot top a series win in Australia given the euphoria that surrounds the Ashes, though according to the ICC, there are bigger fish to fry for England.

So, where to now? The destination has already been established by Strauss. To the top of the Test world rankings.

Sri Lanka are followed by world number one side India in touring England in summer 2011 and two more series victories would go a long way to securing that precious number one spot.

It’ll be easy for Strauss and Flower to deem that if it isn’t broke, not to fix it ahead of their summer programme. But then again, nobody deemed a change necessary ahead of the Melbourne Test, which saw Tim Bresnan come in for the unlucky Steve Finn.

The decision to drop the inexperienced Finn for the Yorkshireman was more than vindicated and perhaps demonstrated that constant evolution of a settled England side is beneficial.

Though those who Bet with Paypal will agree England’s four-pronged attack has bowled magnificently in recent months, a long-term successor to Paul Collingwood could arise soon.

The Durham super-fielder’s cutters and runs are more likely to be replaced by a specialist bowler, allowing Ian Bell and Matt Prior to bat higher up the order.

With Stuart Broad, Bresnan and Graeme Swann at seven, eight and nine respectively, England have three specialist bowlers that are capable to support the middle-order.

With James Anderson and Finn or Chris Tremlett (or even good old Monty on the sub-continent) at 10 and 11, there is an attack which is more than capable of taking 20 wickets on any surface.

And thus, world domination for England. But let’s finish the Aussies off first.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Re-shuffle maybe needed for final Ashes push

The one positive an England fan can take following the horrendous display at Perth is the fact the Ashes series has well and truly come alive.

The Aussie supporters are notoriously fickle and the empty seats at Brisbane and Adelaide on the final day suggested they had all but given up on their side and gone off to support a team that is winning elsewhere.

But since leveling the series at the Waca they have been given a sniff of glory once more. Reports amongst those looking at the Live match score of the Australian cricket team’s demise have been greatly exaggerated, and interest in the series has soared again.

Everyone seems to have an opinion on what could or should happen at the MCG on Boxing Day. Be it issues with the pitch, Ricky Ponting’s finger injury, the enigma that is Mitchell Johnson, Paul Collingwood’s poor form, Ian Bell’s good form or the makeup of England’s bowling attack.

What is clear though is that with the final test at Sydney beginning just three days after the conclusion at Melbourne, England coach Andy Flower will have to closely monitor the fitness of his players.

Steven Finn is one player who looked jaded at Perth. With Flower seemingly determined to stick with four frontline bowlers, and the Melbourne pitch now not expected to take spin (as per Aussie instructions) a lot of pressure and workload will be piled on just three quicks.

The fiery Ajmal Shahzad is waiting in the wings. Shahzad also has the advantage of being able to bowl well to left-handers. With Mike Hussey proving to be an immovable object in the middle, Shahzad maybe Flower’s latest weapon. Tim Bresnan is also waiting in the wings and has the advantage of being able to bat a bit.

With the crowded cricket calendar putting an ever greater strain on players the sport is now well and truly a squad game. Those studying the Latest Test match scores believe that the way Flower utilizes his full complement of players could be the key to their success at Melbourne and Sydney.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Is there another Test happening?

With the Ashes currently dominating the cricketing world, and attracting millions of betting fans seeking out the best odds, and perhaps rightly so as the series carries with it a huge amount of memories and great moments, the current series between cricket's world number one and two sides is currently being left firmly in the shade.

Despite the fact that India and South Africa are battling it out to show who is the best in the world, the glamour and passion of the Ashes has shown that the historic series still ranks as the biggest in test cricket, with only a small percentage of betting fans seeking out fixed odds for the clash between the countries. With Australian and English fans more concerned with seeing their side defeat the other rather concentrating upon their team's ICC world ranking position, or that of any other team, the fact remains that for a test match to be truly popular, there needs to be some history and bad blood between the two sides, something that is clearly the case with the current Ashes series.

However, with Australia suddenly showing themselves to be nothing more than a mediocre cricket team and England firmly on the rise, the fact remains that the Ashes series may begin to lose its allure if it returns to the uncompetitive nature that dominated from the late 1980s to the early 2000s. Should Australia fail to arrest the slide that has seen its cricket side slip to depths that South Africa and India would be devastated to witness then maybe, just maybe, the cricketing world will start to turn its head away from the Ashes series and instead look for more recent rivalries to focus upon.

Having said all this, a sudden twist in the current series, or an Australian comeback would surely cement the Ashes as the best test series in terms of both the quality and passion that is on display.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Johnson eyes Perth Test

Mitchell Johnson will be chomping at the bit to be recalled to the Australia side for this week’s Third Test at Perth. The pitch at the WACA is expected to offer plenty to the fast bowlers and it could well be just what Johnson needs to rediscover the sort of form he has shown in the past.

The 29 year old was unceremoniously dropped from the Aussie side after the First Test at Brisbane, where he finished with match figures of 0-170 as well as fluffing a vital catch from Andrew Strauss. Rather than being sent back to Western Australia to play some matches, Johnson was kept around the Aussie squad and focused on getting his mind right for another chance.

With Doug Bollinger missing out at Perth, online cricket betting pundits note how Johnson has been named alongside fellow quickies Ben Hilfenhaus, Peter Siddle and Ryan Harris in the 12 man squad named for this week’s Third Test. Australia’s bowling coach Troy Cooley has made it clear that Johnson is determined to reclaim his place in the Test side.

“He’s working his backside off. All he wants to do is play well for his country.”

Johnson came into this series with much the same role as he did in 2009 in England, as his side’s premier strike bowler and on both times failed to live up to his billing.

It’s hard for the English to understand what all the fuss is about when it comes to Johnson but the Aussie public are well aware of what a dangerous bowler they have on their side, when the left-armer is on song.

If the cricket betting odds are to back the Aussie’s to have any hope of getting back into this series, then they are going to need Johnson to stand –up and be counted, starting this week.

Beer ready for shock Test bow

A few days ago most cricket fans have never heard of Michael Beer, but now he is at the forefront of people's minds as Australia prepare to take on England in Perth.
Beer is the latest in a long line of spinners called up to the squad as the selectors desperately try and find a long term replacement for the legendary Shane Warne.

Xavier Doherty is the latest failure, he has paid the price for posting figures of 2-148 and 1-158 in the first two Tests.

Like Doherty though Beer is still relatively inexperienced at first class level. The 26-year-old has played only six first-class matches and taken 16 wickets in 10 innings at an average of over 40.

However, he did dismiss England top order batsmen Jonathan Trott, Ian Bell and Matt Prior, Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood in a recent warm-up game for Western Australia, finishing with figures of 5-207.

It was perhaps that performance, on his home ground the Waca, that persuaded the Aussie selectors to give him a go for the full international side on the same ground. Anyone who has bet on the Ashes will be interested to see how he gets on.

Given their poor performances so far I guess the selectors have little choice. They have chopped and changed the side yet again for this test, with Ben Hilfenhaus and Mitchell Johnson returning to the side having been dropped for Adelaide, while Steven Smith earns his first call-up. The Ashes betting offers suggest it could be a very interesting Test.

They are desperately searching for a solution, anxious in the knowledge that another defeat would ensure the Ashes remain in England hands, regardless of the results in the final two Tests.

Beer better get into the spirit quickly, otherwise it could be one hell of a hangover for Australian cricket.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Who will step in for Broad?

The only black mark on what was otherwise magical day for England at the Adelaide Oval on Tuesday was an injury to pace bowler Stuart Broad.

The Nottinghamshire paceman tore a stomach muscle on day four and played no part in the final day rout of the Australians that saw England go 1-0 up in the series.

After being examined by doctors it became clear that Broad will miss the entire series, meaning a place has opened up in Andrew Strauss' rampant side. Anyone who has bet on England to win the Ashes will have been delighted by the way things have gone.

But who will take Broad's place? A warm-up game against Victoria this week will see a three way shoot-out between Ajmal Shahzad, Chris Tremlett and Tim Bresnan.

Tim Bresnan perhaps has the most experience of the trio and has the added bonus of being able to bat. However, England's batting line-up is hardly in need of strengthening right now, meaning Chris Tremlett could be favoured.

The Surrey paceman is the same height as Steven Finn 6' 7", so is best able to take advantage of the WACA pitch - which is notoriously hard, fast and bouncy. He also posted the best figures in England's final warm-up game against Australia A in Hobart and the Ashes betting offers suggest he is most likely to come in.

Ajmal Shahzad may be the wildcard option. The 25-yard-old has only played one Test against Bangladesh and was initially travelling with the England A side, but when brought across to play in the game against Australian A he impressed many with his fizzing deliveries and aggressive attitude towards the Australian batsmen.

I would be tempted to go with Tremlett. For me picking Bresnan would be an over cautious move given our momentum in the series while Shahzad is a bit too inexperienced to throw in straight away. Tremlett, who has ensured horrendous injury worries in recent years, finally looks fit and firing and could pick up where Broad left off in terrorising the startled Australian batting line-up.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Is Adelaide bearing witness to the ‘Pietersen test’?

English fans and cricket betting pundits have already witnessed a ‘Botham test’, so named due to the fact that Ian Botham effectively defeated Australia on his own after producing a sublime batting and bowling display, but it may now be the turn of Australian fans to witness the ‘Pietersen test’.

With the England man achieving a stunning double ton with the bat, he may also have taken the crucial wicket as England seek to earn a famous victory in Adelaide. If this does indeed turn out to be the case, then surely nobody could deny that the return to form for Pietersen, who was criticised far and wide in the build-up to the Ashes series, could not have been better timed from an English perspective.

Although his double ton with the bat in his hand isn't a huge surprise, albeit a remarkable achievement, his ability to find some extra bounce in his wicket-taking delivery to Clarke may have helped to guide England’s spinner Graeme Swann in his quest to get some movement at last out of the ball on Aussie soil, something that really would be a massive boost to England’s hopes of keeping hold of the Ashes.

England started the test at Adelaide as slight underdogs with the cricket odds, despite an excellent and spirited fight back that saw them secure a draw in the first test, but now the visitors really are slowly but surely beginning to take the initiative in the 2010 Ashes series. If they can take this initiative and turn it into a decent result, then they may well find themselves in the unfamiliar position of favourites to win the Ashes this year.

However, with Pietersen still in the very early days of his apparent return to form, he will need to show that he can continue his comeback in England’s second innings and beyond if he is to inspire the side to their first win on Australian soil since the days of Botham.

Friday, December 3, 2010

England pick up where they left off

I’m sure most of you at some point have wished you could rewind time and start a disastrous day all over again with a clean slate.

And if I was Ricky Ponting that is exactly how I would feel right now.

England, after dominating with the bat in the first test at Brisbane, did exactly the same with the ball as they took complete control of the second test in Adelaide.

Under bright blue skies on what promised to be a blisteringly hot day in South Australia Ricky Ponting won the toss and duly elected to bat on what looked like another flat Adelaide surface. Strike one to Australia. Those ready to follow the Livescores were expecting a long day in the field for England.

The first test at the Gabba famously began with Strauss’ dramatic third-ball-of-day dismissal. But the increasing trend of this series is ‘whatever Australia can do England can do better,’ and so it followed here.

First, some hesitant running between the wickets and a direct hit from Jonathan Trott accounted for Simon Katich before he had even faced a ball. Ricky Ponting followed straight after, edging a fullish James Anderson delivery to a grateful Graeme Swann at first slip for a golden duck. Things got even better in Anderson’s next over when Michael Clarke edged straight to Swann again and left the hosts reeling at 2-3.

Michael Hussey again proved a thorn in England’s side and a decent recovery job from him and Shane Watson appeared to give Australia at modicum of control at lunch.

But Watson’s frustrating habit of making starts but failing to push on struck again right after lunch to leave England within touching distance of Australia’s flimsy tail. North hung around but barely troubled the scorers. Brad Haddin and Hussey did hit back and thoughts began to creep back to their defiant 307 run stand in Brisbane last week.

But Graeme Swann, under a bit of pressure from those following the latest cricket scores after under performing in Brisbane, wrenched the game firmly into England’s hands with a quick fire double dismissal of Hussey and then Ryan Harris.

That left Australia on 207-7 and the tail would make just 37 runs between them before Anderson wrapped up the innings with the day during to a close.

England survived one brisk over by Ryan Harris to end the day 1-0 but the sight of Ponting berating Strauss as they left the field shows the pressure he is under after another crushing day for his side.

Johnson looks to save his Ashes

Mitchell Johnson has been assured his Ashes' series isn't over despite being dropped for the second Test in Adelaide. The left-armer will still have a chance to prove to the Aussie selectors that he deserves to be a part of the host's plans for the third Test in Perth which starts on December 16th.

Despite missing out on the first 11, Johnson will stay with the squad rather than returning to Western Australia. The Aussie management are hoping that a week with the coaches will iron out his issues from the first Test. The Ashes cricket odds certainly indicate they will need him in top form.

Captain Ricky Ponting said: "Mitchell Johnson is out of the side, so we are down to the other quickies left. He has got a little bit of time now before the Perth Test match to, hopefully, rediscover some of that rhythm."

In Brisbane, Johnson's bowling was erratic and wayward not to mention his dropped catch of Andrew Strauss on 69. The 29-year-old will have to focus on finding some consistency in the nets and hope that one of the current pace line-up fails to perform.

Johnson is now in the awkward place of depending on the form of others for whether he will get chance to put right the wrongs from the first Test. Doug Bollinger looks set to return to the side after missing the first match of the series. Fellow left-armer Bollinger will bring swing into the side, something Johnson fails to do.

The seamer once again failed to show England why he is so highly rated in Australia, finishing with match figures of 0-170 at the Gabba. Johnson's Test record is as good as any in world cricket but when it comes to playing England the left-armer looks a different player. At the moment Australia don't look decent Ashes betting tips to take 20 wickets in a match.

England skipper Strauss expressed his surprise by the decision while insisting his side won't be focusing too much on Johnson's omission. The issue has only gone to highlight the fact that Australia are without a main strike bowler for the first time in recent history.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Back Swann to bounce back in Adelaide

After an enthralling and record breaking first test England and Australia head South to Adelaide to do it all over again on Friday. It is time to stay up all night following the Livescores once again!

England can certainly claim the moral victory, their magnificent fight-back on days three and four drove the Aussies bowlers into the ground and left the hosts pondering changes for the second test.

England have no such problems and injuries aside, will name a unchanged team.

One player who maybe under some pressure though is Greame Sawnn. The off-spinner was heralded before the series as England’s best bowler and the one who could make the difference.

However, Swann looked a little out-of-sorts at the Gabba, having trouble with his length and failing to cope with the aggressive tactics the Aussies employed against him. His final figures of 2-161 were well below par, despite the flat, bat-friendly track in Brisbane.

Historically though the pitch at Adelaide is more spin-friendly, especially on days four and five. England need no reminding of what happened on day five four years ago, when Shane Warne ripped through the England batting line-up to set up a win that seemed improbable at the start of the day.

Swann therefore should head into the game with confidence. If Australia continue their policy of attacking Swann early to try to blast him out of the attack, it should present a few opportunities for wickets.

He is experienced enough to cope with the pressure any brush off any criticism, like many players he is slowly working his way into this series and will improve with each game.

I wouldn’t advise against anyone following the Live cricket scores to bet against Swann taking plenty of wickets at the Adelaide Oval this weekend.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Will the second Test bring changes

With the first Test done and dusted, the focus shifts to Adelaide next week and as to either side will make any changes. The England side looks a pretty settled unit at the moment but the question as to whether a fifth bowler should be included, will still rumble on.

The four bowlers did a decent job in the first innings at the Gabba, apart from the Michael Hussey/Brad Haddin partnership, the English unit looked to have the better of the rest of the Aussie batsmen.

England's management do have the luxury of knowing that all their reserve bowlers are in good nick after impressing in the Australia A match but it looks doubtful that there will be any changes to the line-up at this stage.

The Aussie management will be having a long hard think regarding Mitchell Johnson's continued presence in the team. Doug Bollinger is waiting in the wings to take over from the struggling Johnson and would bring the added bonus of swing into the equation. The Ashes cricket betting certainly suggests they need more firepower.

Michael Clarke hasn't looked fit since recovering from his back injury and he will need to bring more to the side for the Adelaide game. If he isn't fully fit, then he needs to step down and let someone else do a job on a temporary basis. Anyone who has bet on the Ashes should keep a close eye on how this situation develops.

Xavier Doherty has probably done enough to keep his place ahead of Nathan Hauritz and Steven Smith and should continue as the spinning option.

Although the England team is clearly a settled and happy team, the Aussie camp looks a different selection box altogether.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Bell shows his quality

Ian Bell made a pretty strong case for a possible promotion up the order with his impressive opening day innings of 76. Bell was forced to abandon any hopes of playing a longer innings as the succession of batting partners arrived at the crease and quickly left again as Peter Siddle ripped through England's batting line-up.

Bell was lucky when a thin inside edge saved him from a possible lbw decision first ball, but five balls later he had announced his arrival at the crease with a lovely shot through the covers for four in typical Bell fashion. Throughout his first innings of the series, Bell played every ball on its merits and judged the bounce better than his batting partners and anyone who has placed an Ashes bet on him being England's top batsman would have been pleased by what they saw.

Bell seems a much more confident player than when he last faced the Australians. The look he shot back at Simon Katich after an unsuccessful appeal showed he wasn't going to be intimidated like he had before.

Bell and Alistair Cook had managed to get England back on terms, with a useful 72, until the opener edged Siddle to the slips. After Cook's wicket fell, Siddle took out another two English batsmen for his hat-trick and ended any real chance Bell had of scoring his first century against the Aussies. It also shifted the Ashes odds in the home side's favour.

Bell looks to be in the form of his life though and if he keeps performing like he did at the Gabba, then that century could be very much on his radar.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Aussie press revel in England’s mauling

The Australian media are never ones to miss an opportunity to have a pop at the English and Friday was no different following the tourist's disastrous start to the 2010/11 Ashes series.

Starting the first test brimming with confidence and playing a side out of form and riddled with self-doubt, England gave the sort of performance that only their worst nightmares could imagine.

Skittled out for just 260 after winning the toss, the highlight of a disastrous day was a hat-trick by Peter Siddle that sent England spinning from 172-4 to 172-7 and turned the game on its head.

Ending the final session 25-0 is was most certainly the host’s day and one the press enjoyed immensely.

Every Australian would have loved watching the live match score come in and England’s poor start is a ‘scar that will cut far deeper than their exit for just 260,” according to the Courier-Mail.

Their dismissal 'shunted the tourists back onto the backfoot where they have lived an inferior, downtrodden life in Australia for more than 20 years.”

Ouch!

The Daily Telegraph were less abusive but no less accurate when they described Strauss’ early dismissal as an ‘unmitigated disaster’ and after two ‘incredibly and bizarrely tight’ sessions ‘Siddle ran amok….to leave England on their knees.’

In a battle that will run both on the pitch and in the news stands the first blow is definitely with the Australians, with England collectively gathering their breath after being winded by those
vicious early Australian blows.

Andy Flower’s men arrived down under determined to prove their worth to those studying the live cricket scores as one of the World’s best test teams. Thanks to Siddle and co the gauntlet has been laid down in brutal and comprehensive fashion.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Anderson vows to avoid Harmy fate

If Australia win the toss then they will be widely expected to bat first, handing James Anderson the responsibility of bowling the first ball of this Ashes series.

We all remember sitting down to watch the first ball of the series, big Steve Harmison bounding in before sending his delivery to a somewhat surprised Andrew Flintoff at second slip. While that ball isn’t the only reason England went on to lose the series 5-0, it certainly set a tone for the whitewash according to many Ashes online betting pundits.

Anderson has vowed he won’t crumble under the pressure which affected Harmison four years ago. The Lancashire swinger knows how important the opening ball of any series is, especially at the Ashes. “To bowl the first ball is a big responsibility for me in every game we play but even more than normal on Thursday. It's my job to set the tone for the team.”

Anderson will be under extra pressure during the opening part of this series, knowing his wife is back home, on the verge of popping out their first child at the beginning of next month. The bowler is planning on flying home after the second Test in a bid to be at the birth.

Problems could occur if Anderson junior doesn’t keep to the schedule and fails to arrive on his due date of the 8th. Anderson will have until the third Test starts on the 16th to try and coax the little blighter out so he can return to the front line.
It’s been a tough month for Anderson in his bid to regain fitness in time for the beginning of this series. The bowler had to recover from a broken rib sustained on the training camp in Germany.

Anderson is fighting fit now though and a look at the odds cricket wise tells you that he could be integral to England’s chances of winning their first series on Australian soil in 24 years.

Australia look to open strongly

Australia’s top order is a strong and intimidating one, with openers Simon Katich and Shane Watson, both frustrating and attacking some of the world’s best bowling attacks.

Those looking at ashes live betting note that Katich is more than capable of holding up an end for a full day and his solid technique mean any chances given by the opener need to be taken because it could be a while before another one comes along.

Alongside Katich at the top of the order is the intriguing Shane Watson, probably Test cricket’s only fast bowling opener. After drifting in and out of the team as an all-rounder, Watson has found his niche as an aggressive opener from the Matthew Hayden school of how to open the batting.

It gets more intimidating at number three where Ricky Ponting takes his place. If England can bounce Ponting out early in his innings then that in its self could win England the Ashes, according to england cricket betting pundits.

If they don’t then the Aussie captain has the ability to win Test matches single handily and he will do if he gets the chance.

With Australia’s middle order coming under intense pressure from the Aussie media recently, their top order could play a crucial role. If the English bowlers can get through the top order and get at Clarke, Hussey and North at an early stage in the innings then it could give England the advantage in the series. If the Aussie top order can produce their best form then this Ashes series is still very much up for grabs.

England feel burden of history in Brisbane

They may have had the almost perfect build up but England have to rewrite the history books if they are to get off to the perfect start at the Gabba.

Andrew Strauss' men haven't won at Australia's Queensland home since 1986, when Mike Gatting led England to a seven-wicket win in a series that the tourists would eventually win 2-1.

Since that victory, England have lost four out of five Test matches at Brisbane, with a solitary draw coming in 1998, in fact Australia have not been defeated in a Test match at the ground against any team since a nine-wicket loss to the West Indies in 1988.

If England are to retain the Ashes then a good start is essential, going 1-0 down early on would make their task extremely difficult and the best Ashes odds reflect this.

That was certainly the case four years ago, when Steve Harmison opened up the series with a wide delivery to second slip, setting the tone for a disastrous match and series.

England have certainly worked hard to ensure the same doesn't happen again though, with Andy Flower's meticulous preparations resulting in two wins and a draw from their warm-up games and a team full of in-form players and the Ashes betting suggests they have an excellent chance of clinching the series.

The pitch could yet trip up the England players. The unseasonal wet weather has added a green tinge to a track that has already proved a minefield in a recent domestic Sheffield Shield game and it still isn't clear what Strauss will do should he win the toss on Thursday.

But in terms of preparation England have ticked all the boxes and have given themselves the best possible chance of finally retaining that famous little urn.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Strauss jets off in positive mood

The anticipation and excitement ahead of the Ashes moved up a notch when England boarded a plane bound for Australia on Friday. The squad arrived in Perth on Saturday and immediately began training ahead of their first warm up game with Western Australia in November 5th.

England captain Andrew Strauss understandably faced a barrage of questions both before and after his arrival down under, but his responses were just what fans wanted to hear.

Strauss won't get drawn into any petty slanging matches, despite the provocation from some of the more vocal current and ex Australian players. The home side may be most people's Ashes betting tips, but England still seem up for the challenge.

The England skipper knows the challenge that lies ahead but can legitimately be confident given his side's form over the past 18 months as well Australia's poor run of results which have seem them slip below England in the world rankings.

The difference between now and the disastrous 2006/07 series are already apparent. The squad is a lot more settled than the fractured unit that went to Australia four years ago, and the month long warm-up period, incorporating three practice games, is far better than the rushed job England endured in 2006. The best Ashes odds will no doubt reflect this.

But as Strauss rightly mentioned preparation and planning is only part of it. When it comes to the crunch it is up to the players to show they can handle the pressure of an away Ashes series and do what no English team has done since 1987 - retain that precious little urn down under.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Confidence as important as fitness for KP

If England are to stand a chance against Australia in the Ashes series this winter, then they will need their one genuine world-beater to be on top form. In the case of Kevin Pietersen, his game is as dependent on his mental state as his physical one.

Whilst those assessing the Ashes odds are aware that the South African-born batsman has indeed suffered his fair share of niggling injuries, the true source of his power lies not in staying clear of injury – by his own admission he has played through the pain barrier on a number of occasions – but in maintaining the belief that he has it within himself to become one of the true greats of the sport.

Anyone who has ever held a piece of English willow in his hands, armed for a long stand at the crease, knows all about the ghosts that can plague a batsman when he is out in the middle. Pietersen is no stranger to them either, as he showed with his poor run of form in the recent series against Pakistan:

"The sequence (of low scores) does concern me. I'm always looking to try and improve. I've got to look at the positives and drag my confidence up, which has been hammered in the last 18 months. I'm nowhere near the person I used to be but I've got to keep trying to work at it. I don't think the technique is bad at all. I had a look at the footage from the 2006-07 Ashes the other day and compared it to the other week and there wasn't much different at all, if any.”

But when Pietersen’s confidence starts to flow and he finds his rhythm, cricket betting pundits note that he becomes an immovable object and the scourge of any bowling attack in world cricket. Last week he claimed to have re-found himself, which can only be great for the travelling Barmy Army, and the worst possible news for Ricky Ponting and his men. There has been plenty Down Under who have made the bold call of naming Pietersen as one of England’s weak links, that sort of pressure usually brings out the best in the batsman and Aussie can’t say they don’t know what that feels like.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Aussie's ponder spin issue

The Gabba in Brisbane may solve what could be a tough decision the Australian selectors. With the pitch being so fast-bowler friendly, it looks as though the Aussie's may decide to leave out a spinner and just pack their bowling attack with pace. That would mean under-fire off-spinner Nathan Hauritz would be left out and an extra fast bowler brought in.

After a tough year for the spinner, there has been talk down under that Hauritz should be dropped in favour of Steve Smith, who has mostly been used in the one-day side. That decision may be delayed until the second Test in Adelaide, when the spinners will have more of a say. The Aussie's shouldn't be too hasty in dismissing the idea of spin in Brisbane, the extra bounce the pitch generates could work to Hauritz's style. Choosing the wrong team could have a massive impact on the Ashes cricket betting.

The lack of bounce in India may have been one of the reasons behind Hauritz's poor performances during the recent India series, where the 29-year-old only took six wickets in the two Test matches and put in another poor display in the one day loss. Earlier in the year Hauritz showed what he can do on Aussie pitches by finishing the Pakistan series as the top wicket taker. He will be hoping to be given the chance to prove his quality again when Australia return from the so far disastrous tour of India. Despite this, the Ashes cricket odds still make them strong favourites.

One thing is guaranteed though, whether or not the Aussie's go for a spinner when the Ashes starts next month, England will be certain to play their spinner, Graeme Swann.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Anderson handed injury blow

Although no-one is accusing Chris Tremlett of deliberately setting out to break James Anderson's ribs when the two were sparing in England's pre-Ashes training camp in Germany, the 6'7" bowler may have given himself a fighting chance of starting next month's opening Test in Brisbane.

If Anderson misses out with the injury then Tremlett will most probably battle it out with Tim Bresnan for the third seamer position. Anyone looking for Ashes betting tips on the top England bowler should bear this in mind.

The training camp was organised as a chance for the England squad to gel before embarking on a long tour of Australia. The ECB may be regretting that decision now, although training accidents can and do happen at any time.

Early reports suggested that Anderson would be out for the first two tests but the ECB have dismissed this, claiming the bowler is still in contention for the opening match, which starts on the 25th of November in Brisbane.

Although it wouldn't be the end of the world if Anderson was missing from the opening test, the Ashes betting suggests England's best hopes of winning their first series on Australian soil in 24 years are if the Lancashire bowler is fully fit and ready.

Anderson is on course to pass 200 Test wickets during the Ashes and will be desperate to get going straight away. Anderson has had another good year for England, with the highlight coming in the opening Test against Pakistan in the now infamous series this summer where he picked up career-best match figures of 11-71.

One thing's for sure though, Australia will fancy their chances much more if Anderson is missing from the opening team sheet.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Top spinners

Spin will play a crucial role in the forthcoming Ashes series. This prominence of the slow men seemed unthinkable when Shane Warne retired to leave a massive hole in Australia’s bowling stocks and it is some time since an English tweaker made an impact downunder.

However, the rapid development of Nathan Hauritz and Graeme Swann over the last 18 months means it is no exaggeration to say they are the key bowlers on each side. Hauritz’s recent travails in India have prompted many to install England as favourites in the basis of this private duel.

Hauritz took six wickets at 65 in the two-Test series on the subcontinent, but Cricket Betting pundits are first to admit that this hardly represents a bad patch. The masterful batting of Sachin Tendulkar and co has blunted many a visiting spin attack and Hauritz was making his comeback after a long injury lay-off.

His form before the foot injury struck was impressive. Hauritz took 29 wickets in his six home Tests last winter and was the match-winning bowler in the three-match series against Pakistan. He knows how to get the best out of Australian wickets and was successful in last year’s Ashes before being harshly dropped.

However, Swann’s development has been even more impressive. He is by far the highest wicket-taker in Tests this year and as the world’s best spin bowler deserves to be the focal point of his team’s attack. He can contain and attack and is now
experienced enough to deal with the expected Aussie plan to attack him.

Only once has an English spinner taken five wickets in an innings downunder in the last three tours and some see it as a sign of the pace bowlers’ weakness that spin is England’s main weapon. Swann is indeed the visitors’ biggest threat, and with good reason. More five wicket hauls should follow and if he out bowls Hauritz, then the Cricket Odds could well back the urn to stay in English hands.

Channelled aggression the key for Broad

Has gained a reputation for being a hot head in the field, but Stuart Broad must keep it in check if he is to thrive in Australia.

Broad has quickly developed into one of England's key players and his tall frame means he is ideally suited to the hard, dry pitches of Australia, somewhere where our more swing orientated bowlers have failed to make an impact.

But as Broad prepares to fly down under with the squad he knows that he cannot afford a repeat of some of the incidents we saw last summer.

England coach Andy Flower had already warned Broad about keeping his temper, especially when dealing with umpires, before he was fined 50 per cent of his match fee for throwing the ball at Pakistan batsman Zulqarnain Haider in August.

That incident will have been lapped up by the Australians, who will seek to take advantage of any players' weakness, be it technical or mental and those who bet on England to win the Ashes will be worried about players falling apart under pressure.

Ponting and co will no doubt seek to wind up 24-year-old Broad in an attempt to unsettle him, so it is vital he keeps his cool. Aggression and passion are great attributes to have - an Ashes series without passion wouldn't be a series worth watching - as long as they are channelled correctly.

If he can do this then he is no question an excellent asset to the England bowling line-up and the Ashes betting tips suggest he could be the side's leading wicket taker, he's also a decent player with the bat lower down the order.

Broad on top form will significantly increase England's chances of returning home with the Ashes still in their possession

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Ashes player preview - Tim Bresnan

Burly Yorkshire pacemen Tim Bresnan is an honest enough player, but I don't think he has that extra class to make the difference down under.

Bresnan took his time before making his mark on the international stage, only establishing himself as a County player with Yorkshire in 2005 before making his England debut in 2006.

But poor form, including some brutal treatment at the hands of Sri Lanka's batsmen, as well as a season-ending injury saw him swiftly dropped. A surprise recall for two tests against the West Indies in 2008 saw him grab his first three test wickets in the dying embers of that series.

Since then Bresnan has been in and out of the side, never really showing enough consistency to warrant a regular place but having enough determination and focus, with both bat and ball, to warrant a second glance by selectors.

Bresnan is one of a number of players not tainted by the harrowing 5-0 whitewash down under in 2006/07 which should be considered an advantage, but I would be surprised if he is included in the starting XI for the first test in Brisbane. Anyone looking to bet on the Ashes probably shouldn't back him to be England's top wicket taker.

He would provide adequate support and is handy batting at number seven, but I just can't see him producing an inspired spell that can decide such tight and competitive games as an Ashes battle. The Ashes betting indicates England are in for a very tough time, and playing Bresnan would be a gamble they can't afford.

For me he is a prime candidate for the one-day side. Capable of quick runs late on while adept at bowling at the start and end of the innings and it's the shorter form of the game which will offer him his best chance of action.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Bell looks to prove worth

The England selectors were given a timely reminder by Ian Bell as to his quality before the upcoming Ashes series in Australia. Bell’s impressive century for Warwickshire against Hampshire showed he is back to fitness after his broken foot kept him out for the last eight weeks. The century also edged Warwickshire closer to safety in Division One of the County Championship.

Bell was clearly delighted with his knock of 104, which included 13 fours from 196 deliveries. The innings was full of the glorious text book shots that have made Bell one of the country’s best batsmen. With Kevin Pietersen currently out of form, Bell’s innings will throw his name into the cricket odds hat as a possible replacement.

The most likely rival will be Eoin Morgan at number six. Bell’s average down the order is far better than when he bats high. After a year in which Morgan has become one of the games most exciting players, Online Cricket Betting pundits note how Bell faces a battle if he wants to get back in the first 11.

Another batsman who will be hoping to be on the plane Down Under, later this year will be Ravi Bopara. The Essex batsman has had another storming season for his county and will be desperate to be part of the Test squad that will be looking to win the Ashes on Australian soil for the first time since 1986/87.

Bell has been labelled one of this country’s most naturally gifted batsmen in recent history. The 28 year old has been through the full mix of emotions from wining the Ashes to be dropped for a year to finally returning to help England regain the Ashes last year. He’ll be hoping for the chance to help his team’s cause this year.

Monday, September 6, 2010

England v Pakistan T20: A series to forget already?

Pakistan made an uneasy return to the cricket field on Thursday for the first time since the match fixing scandal last weekend.

That's not uneasy in terms of their play - Umar Gul and Shahid Afridi were among the wickets in an eight run win over Somerset at Taunton - but the atmosphere among the subdued crowd suggested their thoughts were elsewhere.

That will almost certainly be the case on Sunday in Cardiff when England, the current T20 Champions, take on the former title holders in the first of a five match T20 series.

Doubts have rightly been raised regarding the decision to continue with the matches in light of the spot fixing allegations and the damage it has inflicted on the integrity of the sport.

With the England players already admitting they feel uncomfortable about playing on it is little wonder stories have surfaced about fans looking to sell their tickets as quickly as possible. The cricket betting odds suggest we're in for an exciting series, but somehow that matters less now.

Until some firm action is taken, the suspension of the three players involved - Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir - was a start, then any cricketing achievement will be brought into question, with fans asking was that fixed?

In the short term it is a great shame as England wrapped up the test series in fine style last weekend and should be looking forward to a return to the T20 form of the game and a chance to bring back some of the memories of last winter, when they won their first ICC tournament against Australia in the Caribbean.

Instead all the talk will be about what is happening down at Scotland Yard and in the corridors of power in the ICC.

It's no wonder fans and players alike are thinking - what's the point in playing?
But if we have to ensure a few more uncomfortable weeks, months or even years, if it rids the game of such corruption then it is a necessary evil we have to endure in order for cricket to retain its integrity.

Meanwhile, the Ashes odds suggest England will be on the end of another tonking in Australia.

The side has a lot of work to do if they are to retain the urn.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Links : Champions League, Swann, ICC

  • Dominic Cork is never shy of an opinion but he is right that English cricket will suffer from not being included in the T20 Champions League. Of course his Hampshire would have qualified after winning the T20 this year.
  • Graeme Swann is blaming his cat getting stuck under the floor boards and having to get a screwdriver for driving while over the limit. Its such a ridiculous excuse its probably true.
  • An ICC World XI will play some matches in Pakistan though there is no word as to when.

Ponting aims first barb

It is an running joke that came painfully home to roost four years ago but with another Ashes series down under looming the Aussies are once again aiming for a 5-0 whitewash.

Admittedly fed the line by a journalist, captain Ricky Ponting responded to the suggestion that his side could repeat 2006's 5-0 triumph by claiming "it's absolutely possible".

We shouldn't be surprised at this as the Australians are renowned for their bullish confidence and they will use that in the media to try and out-psych the opposition before a ball has even been bowled.

Glenn McGrath predicted 5-0 wins ahead of virtually every series, although he had to wait until his last one for it to come true. That tour was a black mark in the English history books and one they hope not to repeat.

But while McGrath could make those predictions knowing he could help inflict some of the damage, Ponting will not be able to call upon the services of the quick bowler this time round. Neither will he be able to field the likes of Shane Warne, Matthew Hayden or Justin Langer, who have all retired since the last Australian Ashes series.

Australia's confidence exists for a reason and although they will rightly start as favourites in the Ashes betting - they have only lost one Test since they relinquished the urn last summer - they must surely admit in private that England carrying a significant threat. Andy Flower's men have shown their win last year was not just a flash in the pan with a hard-earned draw in South Africa and a wins over Bangladesh and Pakistan this summer.

Batting collapses and a failure to adapt to the conditions were the principal reasons for Aussies' failure last year, if England do the same down under, then Ponting's confidence will not be misplaced. The cricket betting certainly suggests the home side will be hard to beat.

Still, those words could well come back to haunt him if things don't go as planned.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Kiwi’s hammer Indians

The one day triangular tournament in Sri Lanka kicked off this week with an emphatic win for New Zealand over India. The Kiwi’s won the match comfortably by 200 runs in Dambulla. Scott Styris and Ross Taylor put on 190 runs for the fourth wicket as the Black Caps were bowled out for 288 after choosing to bat first.

India collapsed in reply, 88 all out was their fifth lowest one day total. Daryl Tuffey was the pick of the bowlers for New Zealand with 3-34, he was backed up well by Kyle Mills and Jacob Oram who claimed two wickets a piece.

Cricket Betting pundits note how the Kiwi’s innings didn’t get off to a good start as they slumped to 28-3 in the seventh over, Praveen Kumar and Ashish Nehra looked dangerous with the new ball to put pressure on the New Zealand top order. Taylor, who is captaining his country after regular captains Daniel Vettori and Brendan MaCullum were rested for the tournament, saved the innings with help from Styris. Taylor hit eight fours and a six in his innings of 95, while Styris reached 89 off 95 deliveries, including nine fours and a six. Both batsmen fell in quick succession and the tail failed to deliver and the Black Caps were all out for 288 in 48.5 overs, Nehra finishing as India’s best bowler with 4-47.

India would have been confident of reaching the total when they started their innings, that confidence was short lived as Tuffy tore through the top order. Tuffy was also responsible for running out India’s captain M S Dhoni. Mills claimed the key wicket of Virender Sehwag for 19 as India exposed their tail after only 20 overs. Jacob Oram and Mills again cleaned up the India tail end to skittle the Indians all out for 88 after only 29.3 overs. The series continues on August 13, when the Kiwi’s face another battle against the Cricket Odds with a match against the hosts Sri Lanka.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Links : KP Nuts, NZ, Sachin

  • Andy Flower has said KP needs to find a new county next year if he is to remain involved with the England team. Hampshire don't want him anymore and haven't picked him for T20 finals day. Would anyone want him though? KP has also been warned about having meetings with the disgraced former IPL supremo Lalit Modi.
  • New Zealand crushed India in their ODI in Sri Lanka, India made just 88. Are they Pakistan in disguise?
  • Staying with India Sachin Tendulkar all-round greatness is lauded by the Guardian who say he will not be surpassed.
  • Bears bowling coach Graeme Welch remembers his debut as a player back in 1994.

A new beginning

Its about time this blog received a facelift (to bring it in line with my other ones) however the post frequency has dropped a lot this year. There are 2 reasons for this, one is the World Cup which made the cricket season seem totally strange to me for some reason and i've had trouble getting back into "cricket mood". Another reason was that i couldn't see any point in just rewriting existing news stories.

So lets try something different, a regular digest of items of interest and some commentary.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Bopara in the frame

Following Warwickshire is a little like following the Villa now, you hear news of potential exciting new signings but few of them ever come to anything. I suspect Villa will be linked with Messi and Nobby Stiles this Summer but they won't be in the claret and blue next season and i suspect nor will Eoin Morgan and Ravi Bopara be in whatever new colours the Bears wear next season.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Murali – the man who will never be caught

Muttiah Muralitharan today became the first man to reach 800 test match wickets and it seems likely that he will be the last man to do so too.

The magnificent feat – which Muralitharan achieved with his final ball in test cricket – is a record that will be almost impossible to match. He averaged just shy of 6 wickets per test match, of which he competed in 134.

Given the way the game is going, with a renewed emphasis on Twenty20 cricket betting, it would be a remarkable effort for someone to achieve anything like 800 test match wickets.

Perhaps, a more realistic wickets per game average might be 4, but that would involve someone playing 200 test matches! Quite simply, Murali is head and shoulders above the rest and probably always will be.

The list of leading test wicket takers tells its own story. Shane Warne sits in second place, but even his final figure is 92 short of the Sri Lankan spinner. Then, no players competing today make up the top ten, with Curtly Ambrose in 10th position, just the 395 behind Muralitharan.

The overwhelming point is that Murali will go down as one of the best bowlers that ever played the game. He has terrorised batsmen for 18 years and has always had a smile on his face.

Some online sports betting pundits point out that he achieved quite a few wickets against the likes of Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, but this is irrelevant. Had you replaced these weaker teams with Australia, England or India for the same amount of tests, we would still be talking about the great man reaching 800 wickets.

Sri Lanka and the entire sport of cricket will miss him, but we can always look back on the tremendous career he has had. So many matches, so many overs and so, so, so many wickets.

What’s that sound? Why I think it is every single international batsman letting out a big sigh of relief. For the legend that is Muttiah Muralitharan has graced a cricket field for the final time, his final action being the wicket of Pragyan Ojha – his 800th test victim. What a story.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Morgan Bear?

Warwickshire have made an approach for Middlesex's Irish England star Eoin Morgan. It would be a good signing though the way he is going he probably wouldn't get to play for the Bears much!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Aussie response shows how closes Ashes series will be

I think we got a little giddy when England when 3-0 up the recent one-day series with Australia.

With the Ashes and the T20 World Cup already in the bag, a third win over the Aussies in the longer format of the one-day game gave us bragging rights we haven't had for a generation.

It certainly seemed to touch a nerve with Ricky Ponting, who reacted angrily to such questioning by an English journalist, asking said scribe to tot up the number of victories his side have had over England in recent years to truly establish who has the bragging rights.

Rather unsurprisingly Ponting channelled that frustration into leading a fight back on the pitch. England were reminded why Australia have such a formidable reputation with two convincing victories to bring the score to 3-2, making the end result as tight as the cricket betting had suggested it would be.

In fact given the way England nearly surrendered the victory at Old Trafford it could have been Australia celebrating the series win.

One of the highlights of Australia's fight back was the re-emergence of Shaun Tait. His devastating 100 mph rockets gave England no end of trouble and made you wonder what difference he could have in last year's Ashes had injury problems not cut short his Test career.

There will no doubt be clamours for Tait to reconsider his retirement and rejoin the Test arena but I don't think he will listen. He knows his body well enough by now to appreciate the rigours of five day cricket may be too much to bear.

However, the way the stumps of Andrew Strauss, Michael Yardy and Paul Collingwood were blasted apart but Tait's electric deliveries shows how England struggle with raw pace.

And ominously when these two teams meet again it will not be on the lush, swing friendly green pitches of England but the hard, dry, pace-hungry squares of Australia, with a partisan crowd desperate for a repeat of the 5-0 thrashing dealt out to England four years ago. The Ashes cricket betting still makes the home side strong favourites, so clearly things will not be straightforward.

England have definitely improved over the past 12 months and shown they can compete with the best, but if they want to even entertain the thought of retaining the Ashes down under the hard work is yet to begin.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Earthshattering news

Imagine my shock, when perusing a book i had bought on Warwickshire in 1790 (as in the county not the team, they were not that good back then) then according to a reproduced map Birmingham was not in Warwickshire back then! It seemed to be nestling on the Worcestershire - Staffordshire border. Indeed though the map was a bit unclear (Google Maps doesn't go back that far) Edgbaston may have indeed been in Worcestershire. Clarification from anyone around back then would be great, a few of the older members look like they could have been.

What is an even greater shock is that Warwickshire might be going down the Kolpak-ish route and have signed an Aussie pro for the rest of the season. Michael Dighton is his name, he seems a bit of a fringe player in the Aussie first class scene though is probably a very good solid pro. The batting needs shoring up, at times it looks as fragile as the shelves i put up a few weeks ago.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

New membership options

This week i (like all members) received a letter outlining changes to membership and the introduction of a two-tier membership. If you want to sit in the shiny new pavilion then you will have to pay extra! Even the "city membership" option for the plebeians is more expensive than this year (though inflation et cetera). In this you get the existing facilities at the opposite side of the ground to the new pavilion.

If you are flushed with cash you can pay for 6 years all at once and get a discount, you'll have to dole out a lot of cash though.

I can't afford that but am unsure yet what to do with my membership, maybe its time to just get a season ticket as i seldom sit in the members' area anyway. Though i have this dilemma every year and always renew...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Aldi at the Home Of Cricket

"Plans for a budget supermarket store to be built next to Edgbaston Cricket Ground has been approved despite complaints from some residents that it will lower the tone of the area.

As well as worries over traffic congestion, particularly on busy Test Match days, residents turned their noses up at the Aldi scheme, saying that the cut price grocer did not fit in the area and would drive down house prices..."

Ohhh get them! The real rich shop at places like Aldi and Lidl all the time.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Morgan strikes first blood in lengthy Ashes battle

They say you can have too much of a good thing and although I agree we are rapidly heading for Ashes overkill, Tuesday’s ODI win over the old enemy was gratefully welcomed given our appalling performance against them in limited overs matches last year.

This summer's series, part of the Aussies rescheduled tour of Pakistan, is very much a precursor for this winter's Ashes series down under. Normally both parties would now be studiously planning their tactics, examining the opposition and pointing out any weaknesses.

But with the teams thrown together in international competition six months too early, what we have is an Ashes cold war, with both teams psyching each out and seeking to give away as little as possible.

It is perhaps no surprise then that the firs t game at Hampshire’s Rose bowl was so tightly contested. After 20 overs England were 97 for 4 while Australia's similar early wobble left them at 98 for 4 after 21.2. Then, at the half way point of each innings, Australia were 112 for 4, England were 115 for 4. All specialist batsmen on each side got into double figures, with just one on each side going on and claiming a half century. In a match as tight as this it is often down to one individual to push on and produce a world-class spell, with either bat or ball, to swing the game.

Australia had Michael Clarke to thank with a battling 87 to nudge their score up to 267. England had Eoin Morgan, who hit 14 boundaries across all areas of the ground to make a splendid maiden ODI century.

It is Morgan's ability to finish off games which has really turned the one day side from a competent outfit to one that can nudge over the line when things are tight.
I freely admit the levelling between the two sides is as much to do with a decline among the Australia squad as it is an improvement within England's ranks. But after generation of bowing down to arguably the greatest Aussie team in history a chance to play them - and beat them - on a level playing field is a welcome one. The Ashes odds still suggest Australia are the most likely victors, but this will give England hope.

This win is a happy follow up to the T20 World Cup victory over Australia and long may it continue - all the way to the Gabba on November 25th.

Meanwhile, the England football team are still looking to justify their World Cup odds as they attempt to progress to the second round of the tournament.
They face a crucial game with Slovenia later this afternoon and only a win will guarantee their progression.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

On (fairly) local ground

Walmley CC is my local(ish) cricket ground. Well the nearest ground where a Warwickshire team play anyway. Not that Edgbaston is that far away. Anyway the Warwickshire 2nd XI started their annual game at Walmley today, this year a friendly against Derbyshire. I always go and see a bit of this game when i can. Its a bit earlier this year, the last few years the game has either been in August (which is one of the few times in the year i am holiday restricted) or the weather has been terrible. Today the weather was fine, if a bit cool. The Bears were batting, and here are some pics from the first couple of hours play.
Now this pic i am quite proud of. 80% luck though. I need a better camera to be honest.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

T20 glory amid reality TV overload

Men cannot multi-task they claim. Last night i proved that was nonsense! I managed to watch the Junior Apprentice, the Big Brother housemate entrances and the Bears' T20 match against Derbyshire at the same time (on TV the latter not live). And tweet about all 3 at the same time too! I must admit though that the Apprentice had most of my attention. Those strange helmets the Bears were wearing though probably came a close second. The Bears won, but if they hadn't the dissappointment would only have been second to Mr T not entering the BB house.

Lawrence Booth: Trott a victim of media narrative

"The cover line on Monday’s g2 – the Guardian’s supplement – had prospective London mayor and former Labour MP Oona King complaining: ‘As a black woman you have to be ten times as good to get a tenth as far.’ While leaving that one to the sociologists – and retreating inevitably into a cricketing analogy – I was put in mind of Jonathan Trott: the white South African who has to score twice as many runs to get half as far.

This is to simplify of course (neither is it intended to belittle Oona King). But it’s possible that no England Test double-centurion has been greeted quite so lukewarmly since Geoff Boycott was dropped after taking 183 overs to score 246 against India at Headingley in 1967..."

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Is Finn our Ashes secret weapon?

After snaring 15 wickets in two tests against Bangladesh Steven Finn is seen by many as a shoo-in for the Ashes test squad next winter.

The six foot seven inch tall Middlesex paceman appears to have all the attributes required to be a success on the hard bouncy pitches down under, and his recent impressive performances add credence to that. The cricket betting always suggested Bangladesh would be brushed aside, but he still managed to impress.

However, Finn is to be withdrawn from the international arena as quickly as he burst on it, after the ECB confirmed he is to miss the upcoming one day matches with Australia in order to undergo strength and conditioning programme, similar to the one recently undertaken by Stuart Broad.

The fact his absence denies the Aussies a close look someone who will surely be one of their opponents next winter has certainly raised a few eyebrows. However, I don't believe the ECB have deliberately taken him out of the firing line to hinder the Australian preparations for next winter. They obviously have a long-term development plan with Finn and such strengthening exercises are part of that. But the fact it is Australia who miss out on seeing his talents first hand must be seen as an added bonus.

A key weakness in England's bowling attack last time out in Australia was their failure to utilise pace and bounce. Humid, clouds covered days are not a common occurrence in the Aussie summer as they are here, so the England selectors have obviously pin pointed Broad and Finn as having the attributes required to adapt to local conditions. The Ashes cricket odds suggest England will struggle to retain the urn and a lot will rest on their bowlers if they're to cause an upset.

I think once more the media have got slightly carried away with Finns' progress - comparisons to Glenn McGrath and Curtly Ambrose are laughable at present. But he certainly has potential and the most pleasing aspect of it is the ECB appear to know how to help him realise it.

Friday, May 28, 2010

My first published sports photograph

A proud day, one of my cricket photographs appears in the Birmingham Post this week via their flickr group. And the picture is this one of Neil Carter. I am genuinely proud of that picture but there was more luck than skill involved, at the distance the players are usually away from me in the ground i am pushing my little Olympus' zoom to the limit.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Well done Graeme Swann

The naming of Graeme Swann as ECB Cricketer of the year was thoroughly deserved after a fantastic 12 months for the Nottinghamshire spinner.

It is a personal reward that recognises his contribution to England's success, which has seen them reclaim the Ashes and win their first ICC trophy - the T20 World Cup.
He beat off competition from Stuart Broad, Andrew Strauss, Paul Collingwood and James Anderson – a strong category that reflected England's promising year.

So what about the stats? Well he snared 99 wickets at 26.26 and picked up five five-wicket hauls in 45 matches for England, across all forms of the game. His best effort was 5 for 28 against Australia at the Riverside last September in an ODI, after he played a key role in England's successful bid to reclaim the Ashes.

Following a career-best ten-wicket haul in the Chittagong Test against Bangladesh in March, he rose to become the world's number two bowler. As a batsman, he averaged over 25 with a top-score of 85 against South Africa in the first Test at Centurion in December.

But apart from being handy with both bat and ball Swann, out of all the England players, encapsulates the spirit of the side that is so key to its success. From the outside he appears carefree, the joker who never takes anything seriously. However, scratch the surface and you realise he is a fiercely determined cricketer who is grateful for the chance to represent his country after appearing to miss the international boat earlier in his career.

Swann doesn't have much time to savour his award as he prepares to take on Bangladesh in the first Test of the English summer. It is the start of a hectic calendar for the players with the Ashes series Down Under on the horizon. The cricket betting odds suggest England will have a tough time retaining the urn.

That is clearly on the minds of the selectors with Stuart Broad and Paul Collingwood rested for the first Test, while the inclusion of pacemen Steven Finn and Ajmal Shahzad shows the selectors are looking to find a pace bowler who can utilise those hard, bouncy pitches in Australia. I expect England to wrap up a series win against the Bangladeshis but far greater challenges lie ahead.

Meanwhile, in football news, the World Cup 2010 betting still makes England third favourites for the tournament despite an unconvincing win over Mexico on Monday night.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Can we dream the impossible dream

Following the dramatic events in the Warwickshire 1st innings in their current match against Lankyshire at Edgbaston when the Bears amassed 113ao in reply to 354 (and 69 of those coming from Carter - no one else made double figures) the Bears looked to be in trouble to say the least.

Especially when the northerners scored 199 in their next innings and set the Bears an Earth shattering target of 441. No doubt the Bears felt like Liechtenstein having to face the Red Army in battle. They didn't get off to a good start either in what looked to be "interesting" conditions with 3 down in short order.

But cometh the hour cometh the... er... Trott! The Bears ended the day on 263-6 with Trott still there on 102*. 178 more to win but with only 4 wickets left... can we dream the impossible dream? You never know. Well i think this every time there is a lottery and i am not a millionaire yet so i am not getting my hopes up.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

England win the cup

England have won the World T20, the first ICC world limited overs title they have won. During the final with Australia (which England won comfortably in the end) the commentators listed the previous 4 finals England had been in and lost. I remember the second final, which was the world cup final against Australia in India.

Well i remember only 1 things from it really, when England were on the verge of defeat and the scoreboard in those days was an all-screen graphic with a little window for the live video and i remember seeing Gladstone Small going out to bat in that little window. A surreal memory.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Can England go all the way?

It is an unusual thing for an England cricket fan to experience, but after another convincing win at the World Twenty20 in the West Indies, there is growing belief the side can win the whole competition.

Too often in the past England have stumbled along in major tournaments and relied on other results to drag them through to the later rounds. With Pakistan's win over South Africa ensuring England's progress this time round, the stage was set for a New Zealand win that would have sealed their place in the last four and highlighted England’s deficiencies.

But instead, England romped home far comfortably than the final score line suggested. Their progress in the Caribbean has been smooth and efficient, suggesting England have finally cracked the shortest form of the game. Indeed, this is reflected in the cricket betting which now makes them second favourites for the competition.

Coach Andy Flower certainly seems to have hit upon a winning formula in his team selection. The long wait for an effective opening partnership in this form of the game looks to be over, with Craig Kieswetter and Michael Lumb's lusty blows at the top of the innings finally giving England a consistent platform for victory that has been absent in previous matches.

In the middle order Owain Morgan has provided a steady influence, while Tim Bresnan's blossoming international career was highlighted by a miserly one for 20 with the ball before a battling 23 not out with the bat.

The presence of two spinners, with Greame Swann and Michael Yardy working in tandem, also adds balance of the team - the suffocation of the South African batsmen was a case in point.

Some doubts still remain, the form of captain Paul Collingwood is worrying and the departure of Kevin Pietersen is definitely a blow, but England's performances so far suggest they have hit upon a winning system.

If they can maintain the momentum gain in the Caribbean so far, there no reason why they can't go on and end their 35 year wait for an international trophy.

Meanwhile, in football news, England remain second favourites in the World Cup 2010 betting after Fabio Capello named a provisional 30-man squad for the tournament.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Unstoppable Bears

Amid the chaos of a general election one fact has come to the fore which truly shakes the world to it's foundations. Learned men in the great capitals of the world are rubbing their heads in puzzlement, computers furiously number crunch petabytes of data but to no avail. This mystery has baffled the world and taken up countless hours of TV across the world. The Bears have seemingly become unbeatable.

Today's victory over Durham in the CB40 is yet another Earth shattering event of such magnitude the LHC operators in CERN ran panic stricken from their laboratories for a while as they mistook the events unfolding at Edgbaston as a black hole opening up deep below Switzerland.

It followed on from a famous victory over Kent at Canterbury which was probably the greatest victory since Trafalgar and last week's rout of the Foxes who will probably wish they had been shot instead like the one at Hove. And of course can we forget the awesome victory over Hampshire? No we never will. Er which one was that again?

Can this amazing run continue? Lets just enjoy it while it lasts, maybe everything we have grown up to know and expect is wrong. Maybe up will now be down. Maybe ants will take over the world. Maybe something even more weird could happen like the Liberal Democrats get into power?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Third time lucky for England?

The obsession with the shortest form of cricket continues with the start of the ICC World Twenty/20 in the West Indies this week, just days after the IPL came to an end.
For England it is another chance to show how they have adapted to the version of the game pioneered in their own country seven years ago.

The previous two tournaments have been disappointing, with an opening game defeat to the Netherlands at Lord's last June a particular lowlight.

However, encouraging performances in Pakistan, South Africa and Bangladesh has given the squad renewed optimism ahead of the latest tournament. The IPL also means five of England's batsmen will be well and truly tuned into T20 mode when they reach the Caribbean.

Something that could also be in their favour is the freshness of pacemen James Anderson and Stuart Broad. Both made sensible decisions earlier this year to take some time away from the modern day all-year-round cricketing conveyor belt.

I have long been sceptical of the ever expanding cricket calendar, with the inevitable injuries and fatigue that will arise from it. So I was relieved when Anderson opted out of the tour of Bangladesh to rest a chronic knee injury, while Broad decided not to play in the IPL to in order to rest after the long winter tour.
The result was 12 wickets between them in their respective county matches last week. Refreshed and refocused, their sharpness could be a real asset.

The biggest gamble by coach Andy Flower is at the top of the order. Newcomers Michael Lumb and Craig Kieswetter look set to open the batting despite never playing a T20 international. However, Flower knows England's lethargy in the opening powerplay has cost them time and time again and something needs to be down to ensure early runs are put on the scoreboard. The fact Lumb and Kieswetter could become the 16th opening pair in 25 T20 matches emphasises the conundrum England have faced, and flower will hope the new partnership hits the ground running.

To be honest, I can't see England winning this tournament. Indeed, the cricket betting reflects this. Despite their pretournament bullishness I still don't think the players have really mastered the tactics of the game. However, progress to the knockout stages would be considered satisfactory as Flower continues to tinker with his side, with greater challenges lying ahead.

Meanwhile, on football news, England are currently third favourites in the World Cup online betting ahead of the start of the tournament in June.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Bears vs Hampshire

Was at the ground today to see the first day (or session rather) of the Bears latest county championship match against Hampshire. Good entertainment too as Michael Carberry looked in good form but the Bears' bowlers also! Pics from the morning are here. Some very large drills appeared to be whirring away in the new development area, presumably drilling holes for the foundations? Certainly made plenty of racket anyway!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A very good day

Today was a good day if you were a Villa fan or a Warwickshire fan or a Chennai Super Kings fan. And if you are a fan of all three like me a very good day! Of the 3 matches the only one i saw was the latter and that was a solid professional performance by the Super Kings, Mumbai made a possible error in not bringing the awesome Kieron Pollard in earlier (though of course it is hard to say what could have changed, he might have been out first ball!). His 107m 6 was a box office shot for sure. Great game in any event, even Mandira returned!

Not that good a day for Lalit Modi though...

So that was the end of IPL 3.0, who knows how the cricket landscape will have changed by the time of version 4.0...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Gilo wants a 7 strong premiership

The King Of Spain wants the county championship to have a 7 team premiership and the other 11 teams in a first division. Its better than a conference idea anyway though why 7-11 and not 8-10 which would seem neater? Also do we have to copy the namby pamby idea of a "premiership" and a "first division" from football which logically doesn't make any sense and has always appauled me.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Get your hands off of our man!

Surrey, whose fingers were apparently not burned in signing Chris Lewis a couple of seasons ago, are going for another 40 something who hasn't played for ages. This time it is the Warwickshire legend Brian Lara (i believe he may have played for the West Indies too). It may be a ploy by BCL to increase his value because he has been rumoured of going to try IPL. I'd rather he came here though, i never saw him playing for the Bears (except on TV).

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Birmingham Super Kings

English cricket is looking at city franchises again (yawn), and apparently the latest thinking would be to have a city based franchise EPL T20, another T20 with 18 counties, kill the P40 and then have conference county cricket. Why don't they just kill the domestic game off now and save us all a bit of time.

George Dobell thinks the game is heading for the abyss, lets hope not though!

Friday, April 9, 2010

One man and his dog

The start of the county cricket season and of course the stadium was empty, with just the proverbial one man and his dog shivering with misery in the stands... but wait what was this? Queuing to get in? A really decent crowd (which i expertly managed to miss out of most of the below shot)? Well of course its no surprise to me though it might be a surprise to the various well-paid journalists who spout out the usual cliched bollocks this time of the year. Maybe because i actually visit the ground and not rely on reusing tired out cliches and hobnobbing with England players in the hope that other people might think they are friends.

Some photos from the first session of play are on my Flickr account. The Sun was out but it didn't really shine on the Bears who struggled.

The season begins...

April 9th! Yes the county championship season begins very early this year, the earliest ever isn't it? I shall be going along to the ground later. I awoke to glorious sunshine yet a hint of frosty dew on the lawn outside so i suspect the toss today will be fairly important...

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Team for the Yorkshire game

Ian Westwood (Captain)
Varun Chopra
Ian Bell
Jonathan Trott
Jim Troughton
Tim Ambrose (wk)
Rikki Clarke
Chris Woakes
Neil Carter
Ant Botha
Naqaash Tahir
Imran Tahir
Andrew Miller

The season starts in a couple of days, who knows what the 2011 season will be like but lets enjoy 2010 first!

New membership card received... countdown to the new season

My new membership card arrived at the weekend now i am waiting for the start of the county championship season on Friday when Yorkshire come down to Edgbaston for a good hiding (well we can hope). I shall be there, at the moment the weather forecast looks promising.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Where is she?

Not been watching IPL for the last few days, did put it on on Sunday but as Jim Rosenthal appeared on the screen i assumed my TV was on the blink. So i put it on today... where is Mandira?! Did they get rid of her or something. Oh well better put a picture of her on here to ...erm... illustrate this posting.

Conference call

Switching the county championship from 2 divisions to 3 conferences is being mooted again and may well happen this time. It is something i could live with as long as there were semis and a final to decide the county champions (3 conference winners and best runner up). A 5 day grand final at Lords at the end of August could be pretty good. I disagree with Rob Steen though in that the conferences should be regionally based and not randomly drawn every season. After a few years it could get boring seeing the same teams over and over again.

Monday, March 29, 2010

We're off

The 2010 season is days away and the Bears are playing against Oxford UCCE in a 2 day match at The Parks over the next 2 days. Just in time for the cricket the weather has gone cold and wet after a few days of glorious Spring sunshine!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Homes to be demolished

The council is to ask the government to approve a compulsory purchase order so Warwickshire can buy 12 properties on the Pershore Road which will be demolished to make way for the new ground development. Some properties have already been bought by the club. It has been suggested that the gardens may be used for overflow car parking during big matches because of some spaces being taken up by building work. Carrots and onions today Fiestas and Jaguars tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

England win - but do people want more?

A victory margin of 181 run with three hours of the final day to spare can be considered pretty convincing, but a spirited rearguard effort from Bangladesh and a flat dry pitch has turned this victory into a laboured win for England.

True England should be beating sides like Bangladesh by clear margins, but to dismiss the absence of key players and the growing confidence and development of the Bangladeshis as a factor in the weary nature of the victory would be naive.

This was a mixture of A-teamers and first choice England players with the emphasis very much on experimentation or, in Kevin Petersen's case, a desperate attempt to claw back some form.
New skipper Alastair Cook, leader in place of the absent and influential Andrew Strauss, made some tactical errors on the final day, admitting after the game that he was conservative in his field placing. But this is a nursery ground for his development as a skipper - the time to make mistakes is now.

By only playing three pacemen, two of them relative rookies at this level, England left themselves exposed should they not dismiss the opposition quickly and long hard sessions took their toll. This is exactly what happened as the likes of Junaid Siddique and Mushfiqur Rahim dug in to frustrate the bowlers. In the end it was the brilliance of Graeme Swann, who bowled nearly 79 overs in the entire match, who let his weary pacemen off the hook.

Speaking of Swann, the Nottinghamshire spinner entered the record books after becoming the first England off-spinner to take ten wickets in a match since Jim Laker took 19 for 90 at Old Trafford in 1954. It s fitting reward for a player who has grasped his second chance at an international career by the scruff of the neck and turned himself into one of England's most reliable performers.

Bangladesh meanwhile are improving as a Test playing nation and surprised many with their resistance in the final two days of the test. Siddique and Rahim in particular batted superbly as they stayed together for two sessions, just short of 70 overs, racking up 167 runs in the process.
Siddique himself hit a marvellous century while only a rush of blood from Rahim, bowled while charging down the wicket to Swann, cost him a three figure score.

In the end it was a game where everyone can be satisfied. A weakened England side did what was expected of them, while the hosts showed they can hold their own in the test match arena. The cricket odds make England strong favourites to win the second Test, but Bangladesh will certainly be able to take positives out of the series.

Meanwhile, in football news, England remain third favourites in the World Cup 2010 betting despite the fact a number of important players are struggling with serious injuries.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Angry man suffers injury setback

Darren Maddy has suffered a setback on his return to the team following a knee injury last year that saw him miss most of the season. He suffered a facial injury in a nets session during the Warwickshire pre-season trip to South Africa. He will now require an operation. Its not known when he will be able to return to the team. Get well soon Darren!

IPL-a-go-go

Three cheers for ITV4 as finally i have been able to see some IPL on TV and what i have seen so far has been pretty good. The excitement, the colour, the big 6s, the hot chicks in the crowd which the cameraMEN always dwell on. What is not to like?

Well the infamy of that last over bowled by Tyagi (who didn't even get to finish it as he bowled 2 over the waist height balls so he ended up with the superb figures of 1.5-0-39-0). What was Dhoni doing bowling him in the last over after his previous over had been so badly mauled? So my adopted team of the Chennai Super Kings didn't get off to a very good start (my great-great-great-aunt was born in Chennai in case you were wondering how i picked them).

Seeing the old stars like Shane Warne and some exciting new Indian players makes the IPL some excellent cricket in my opinion.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Pre-season friendlies

Just a few weeks away now.

Oxford  UCCE, The Parks (March 30th-31st)
Leicestershire, Grace Road (April 1st-2nd)

Meet Craig Kieswetter – England’s latest South African

"It's something that I'm going to have to put up with for my whole career."

That's Craig Kieswetter view on criticism of his South African heritage, both from the Bangladeshi bowlers and, rather bizarrely, Michael Vaughan - who also works for his management team.

But the 22-year old Somerset batsmen, the son of an Afrikaner father and Scottish mother, doesn't appear affected by such jibes, answering his critics both verbally and with his sturdy cricket bat.

"I was born with a British passport, I've done my four years, I am British, and I don't see it as an issue. Everyone is entitled to their opinions, but for me it's about putting performances in on the park and helping England win," he said.

He certainly did the latter in Chittagong, blasting a magnificent 107 to form the backbone of England's 284 for 5, which proved good enough to secure a series whitewash. At 22 years and 97 days it also saw him become the second-youngest England batsman - after David Gower - to score an ODI hundred.

The score was, ironically, achieved in a patient, steady style, rather than with the gung ho spirit that earned him his international call-up in the first place. His aggressive style, born from the hard pitches of South Africa, raised hopes that England had finally found that quick scoring powerplay batsmen at the top of the order their limited overs side needs.

After two steady seasons of progress with his county in 2007 and 2008, 2009 saw Kieswetter begin to fulfil his potential. He averaged 65.83 opening the batting in the Friends Provident Trophy and he scored an unbeaten 138 off just 131 balls in the opening group match against Warwickshire. He notched 248 runs in the Twenty20 Cup and 1,242 runs at an average of almost 60 in the County Championship.

It is little wonder he was awarded his first cap the moment he qualified for England.
After two nervy innings in his opening matches it is encouraging to see him learn so quickly at this level, adapting his game to react to the match situation, showing a maturity and adaptability beyond his years.

With Andrew Strauss to return to the side and Alastair Cook doing a solid job as stand in, Kieswetter may just have given the selectors an unexpected, if welcome, headache.

Anyone considering a cricket bet on England to win the forthcoming Test series with Bangladesh can get odds of 2/7 on this happening.

Meanwhile, in football news, the World Cup betting still makes Spain favourites to win this year's tournament which will be held in South Africa.