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.