Sunday, July 29, 2012

South Africa’s Oval hoodoo

South Africa are finalising preparations to play their first Test series in England since 2008. The tourists have been in reasonable form ahead of the first Test at the Kia Oval, yet have drawn both tour matches ahead of the series due to poor weather.

But while preparations have been relatively smooth for Graeme Smith and his side, the history books suggest a tough start to the three-Test series.

Despite favourable Betfair cricket odds on occasion, South Africa have never won at the Oval in 13 Tests. They have lost all three Oval Tests since readmission in 1992, including a nine-wicket demolition in 2003 after England knocked up 604 in their first innings.

Although the Proteas squad will no doubt be aware of this slightly ridiculous record, they should not be concerned of a hoodoo that surrounds South Africa at the Oval ruining their attempts to claim victory.

Ideas of the South African’s struggling to play off an uncertain Oval wicket have been dismissed by Jacques Kallis, who pinpointed the side’s preparatory tour of England as the perfect method to understanding the moist English wickets. South Africa have been in full control throughout their build-up games, and control is the one thing Kallis knows his side can exhibit.

Smith and fellow top-order batsman Alviro Petersen, who has haunted the Betfair Australian cricket community in the past with some dominant displays, are both in fine form and should control the new ball if South Africa bat first on Thursday. This battle of control between the Proteas top order and England’s furious bowling attack of Stuart Broad, James Andersen and Tim Bresnan will dominate attention at the Oval and will be intriguing to watch.

The one concern for South Africa will be the England seamers’ ability to spring the ball up off a cushy pitch. Should England pick off a couple of South African wickets at the start of their first innings, the tourists will soon find themselves staring at fourteenth consecutive Oval loss.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Clarke is crestfallen

The rain set the mood for a miserable night in Manchester and not even the dark clouds could provide cover for a crestfallen Michael Clarke.

The scaffolding set against one of the ends was, in the end, apt too given that Clarke and coach Mickey Arthur must now set about their own rebuilding work ahead of The Ashes 2013.

A seven-wicket win at Old Trafford was England's 10th straight ODI win and moved them up to third in the world rankings. Australia remain at the summit but look anything like a world number one side.

For Clarke and his peers to chew over, cricket bets and stats will tell you that it was the heaviest defeat of an Australian ODI side in any bilateral series in the 41-year history of limited overs internationals.

Far from the duck the issue, Clarke suggested the nature of the defeat was not a surprise and felt they had scraped by against Sri Lanka and India in the Australian summer and, more recently, against West Indies.

He refused to draw any parallels made by many who bet on Australian cricket with the Test side and added defeat by England was "a reminder, not a wake-up call".

Arthur said the NatWest series would provide the perfect platform for some of his fringe players to make a marker but questions must now be asked about the immediate futures of the likes of Peter Forrest and Steve Smith.

The form of Tasmanian top order batsman George Bailey – a 65 at The Oval and 49 not out at Old Trafford - was a rare highlight but the team as a whole must find a way to win – and quick.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

ECB hold firm over Pietersen

Kevin Pietersen’s desire to return to the limited overs fold for England has been dashed after he was left out of the 30-man provisional squad for the T20 World Cup.

Pietersen caused a surprise when he announced his retirement from one-day internationals earlier in the summer, citing fatigue and desire to prolong his international career.

However, under the terms of his ECB central contract, a player cannot pick and choose which limited overs game he is available for; meaning his retirement from ODIs ruled him out of T20s as well.

That means he is unable to help England defend their T20 crown in Sri Lanka in September, something that he admits he finds frustrating.

After missing out on England’s one day rout of Australia  earlier this summer Pietersen again grabbed the headlines by declaring that he had changed his mind and would “love to play for another three or four years in all forms of cricket.”

Great news on the face of things, but his declaration appeared to carry a caveat, with Pietersen keen on reducing his schedule as part of a deal involving his return.

He does raise important issues regarding the strain placed on players in an increasingly hectic calendar, but the ECB cannot allow players to dictate what games they can or cannot play in.

That is certainly the case with a player like Pietersen, who for all his prestigious talent, is considered to be fairly high-maintenance with an ego that needs to be regularly massaged.

However, despite reports that Pietersen’s representatives were in talks with the ECB, coach Andy Flower appeared defiant in his stance and Pietersen’s  eventual exclusion means he will not be playing limited overs cricket for some time.

Is that a bad thing? Well, England will dearly miss a player of his abilities and the online betting at Bet Victor has swung away from England as a result of his latest declaration. But the recent series with Australia suggests they are already moving on.

Plus Pietersen's notorious off-field presence (and that of his advisers) suggests things will be easier without him.

Don't forget to enjoy betting at this summer, with all the latest odds and offers throughout this busy season of cricket.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Kallis not worried by past failures

South African veteran Jacques Kallis says his nation’s poor record at the Oval will not concern them when they step-out in the first Test against England on Thursday.

Despite recording a number of series victories in England, the Proteas haven’t one in their last 10 matches at the Kensington venue and the pitch has regularly outfoxed a number of their players.

It is not surprising therefore that the England Betting markets have the hosts as favourites for the opening Test, though the series is proving much harder to forecast.

Kallis himself has struggled throughout his career while playing in England, most notably during his nation’s last series in the UK in 2008, making barely a hundred runs throughout his seven innings.

However, the 36-year-old isn’t worried about his recent troubles in the British Isles and says he’s not too concerned how he performs, as long as his team win.

"I'm not someone who worries too much about what happened in the last innings or on previous tours," he said. "You don't get ahead start if you've done well in a previous innings or previous tours.

"It would be nice to have a good tour here. But if I have a bad tour and we win, I'll take that," he added.
The three Test series is being talked-up by many as the cricketing highlight of the summer as both teams have almost unlimited class with both bat and ball. In his Michael Vaughan Betting Tips column, former England skipper Vaughan believes Andy Flower’s men have the edge and are good enough to hold on to their world number one Test ranking.

After their meeting at the Oval, the two sides meet again at Headingley and Lord’s in August and with so much talent on show, Kallis believes the clashes have the potential to be some of the best matches of recent years.

"They are two good attacks, certainly as good as any in world cricket at the moment,” he continued. "Both sides have got good batters as well. It's going to be a fantastic series."

Sammy Lauds 'Unplayable' Narine

West Indies captain, Darren Sammy, believes that Sunil Narine is "unplayable" in home conditions, after his series-winning performance in the 4-1 victory over New Zealand.

The 24-year-old spinner bounced back from an indifferent tour of England with a player-of-the-series performance on home soil, taking 13 wickets with an economy rate of 2.92, as well as seven wickets in the two Twenty20s that preceded the one-day internationals.

His performances were a far cry from the results and scores he achieved in England. He was wicketless in a rain-affected Test at Edgbaston, took only one wicket in two ODIs, and none in the T20. 

At home, however, Narine is a different proposition and led West Indies to their first ODI series victory over an established nation since 2009.

"In our conditions, he is unplayable, especially when we post a good total, knowing that I am going to get 60 balls from him. I know what he is going to do," Sammy said.

"Any situation, you can call on him, and it is good to have someone like that in your team who you can turn to at any given time. I know he is going to continue to do well for us and have a very successful career."

West Indies went into the final ODI in St Kitts with an unassailable 3-1 lead in the five-match series, and an equally impressive lead in the latest odds on Bet365. They struggled with the bat, slumping to 104-5, before Dwayne Bravo and Andre Russell lifted the score to 241.   
New Zealand looked on course for a consolation victory, before Narine recorded a career-best haul of 5-27 to bowl West Indies to a 20-run win. 

"This is my first ODI series win for the West Indies and I'm happy it came at home in front of the home supporters. It felt really good that they could celebrate with us," he said.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Rudolph motivated by Boucher absence

South Africa batsman Jacques Rudolph says he and his team-mates will be trying to make the recently retired Mark Boucher proud in the upcoming Test series with England.

Boucher was forced to retire from international cricket last week, after being hit in the eye by a flying bail while keeping wicket in a tour match against Somerset at Taunton.

The 35-year-old suffered a significant injury during the incident and has now flown home to undergo more surgery on the problem.

However, the early signs are good for the 147 Test veteran and doctors are confident that he will retain some sight in his eye, meaning he shouldn’t be too affected by the problem in the future.

Graeme Smith’s men are now set to face England in their first series without Boucher which starts on Thursday at the Oval and will see AB De Villiers take over behind the stumps.

The teams will also meet at both Headingley and Lord’s in August in what promises to be the highlight of the cricketing summer. Punters on betfair  are struggling to separate the two teams, who currently occupy the top two positions in the world rankings.

Rudolph admits that the loss of Boucher has taken its toll on him and his team-mates after playing with the stalwart for so many years. He also confesses that their build-up to the series has not been ‘ideal’. Former England skipper Michael Vaughan Tips his old team to triumph in his latest column, mainly due to the chaotic build-up for the tourists.

However, Rudolph says the incident has given them extra motivation ahead of the series and believes they will be using the wicket-keeper's plight as inspiration.

"What happened in Taunton was quite traumatic for the whole team," said the 31-year-old. "But we made a decision that we've got to try to move on from that as quickly as possible, especially from an emotional point of view.

"Bouch has played a big role in this team. The fact that he is not here will give us a bit more inspiration to do well for him."

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Aussies are here

The Australian cricket team are on British soil ahead of their short-form series against England that will whet the appetite of the online Cricket betting community before another Ashes series next summer.

Michael Clarke and his squad will be looking to continue the nation’s impervious ODI form, for Australia have lost just three in 17 series stretching back to January 2009.

So what can we expect from the Australians this time around?

Well, Clarke’s ODI juggernaut doesn’t look to be losing momentum, with the side undefeated in a 50-overs series since they beat England in winter last year – just after their Ashes humiliation.

They convincingly swept aside Bangladesh in April 2011, before beating Sri Lanka 3-2 on the sub-continent.

In fact, Australia have not played a home ODI series since humbling England 6-1, with schedulers appearing confident enough to let them take on anyone who wants the challenge.

The team was superb in 2009/10, winning every series or one-off game thrown at them, but after the Ashes defeat a new-look Australia has developed.

Their most recent series against South Africa (won 2-1) and a 2-2 draw against the West Indies does show a potential frailty however.

Shane Watson, David Warner, Ricky Ponting and Clarke lacked consistency in Australia’s top order that will need to change if they are to overcome England.

A few new names will need to impress if they are to defy the odds and come away with heads held high.

Warner, along with four other young talents, is facing his first ever international series in England, and may well be nervous about what to expect against a fierce bowling attack.

The series is the start of a congested two-year programme for the tourists that aims to rocket them to top spot in the cricketing charts once again, and Clarke will no doubt meet England on 29 June with that task in mind.

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