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.