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.”


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.