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.