Thursday, 11 December 2008

Player Profile: Alastair Cook

The Ashes 2009

Player Profile and Prediction

by Chris Smith

Alastair Cook

With the exception of Kevin Pietersen, Alastair Cook has arguably been England’s most consistent batsmen in recent history, with his major problem most recently being converting good starts into hundreds. Cook has always been a fairly limited batsman, with fewer scoring shots than his team mates, but this limited style has brought him success. Cook plays to his strengths and very rarely goes outside of his comfort zone. He is an excellent player of pace bowling and proved this in the Ashes summer of 2005 with a double hundred against the Australians at Chelmsford. He is also a good player of finger spin as his success in India and Sri Lanka show. However, he has sometimes looked a little at sea against good wrist spin. These strengths should arm him well against the Australian team, whose main threat will be pace bowling. Cook’s main weakness is clear for everyone to see, in that he pokes at too many balls outside off-stump and is liable to edge to wicket-keeper and slip. The Australians will be probing away just outside off-stump, particularly Stuart Clarke, to see if Cook fancies a nibble. Cook needs to leave the ball well outside his off-stump and make the Aussies bowl a straighter line to him, which will suit his limited style of play.

Cook is a key player in the series, especially the way the Australian bowling attack looks to be setting up as they all seem to suit his style of play. If he can give England a good consistent start to their innings, this will allow a good stroke making middle-order to play with more freedom. Cook can be the rock around which good totals are set for England.

Cook has only played one series against Australia, and on the whole a disappointing one. However, Shane Warne may have played a large part in this and Australia’s current attack is also lacking Glenn McGrath, Stuart Clarke will be his main threat. Cook should have a successful series and will enjoy the pace of Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson, a key ingredient to enable England to make good starts to their innings.
Career Statistics (as of 7/12/08)

Overall: Matches: 34 Runs: 2573 Ave: 42.88
Vs Australia: Matches: 5 Runs: 276 Ave: 27.60

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Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Player Profile: Michael Hussey

The Ashes 2009

Player Profiles and Predictions

by Chris Smith

Michael Hussey

Australia’s best batsman and has been since his introduction to the team. He is a player that seems to have little or no weaknesses, both technically and mentally. As an Englishman I am straining for a weakness in his batting to exploit. Against all batsmen in world cricket a plan of attack can be made, there are weaknesses that can be probed for. Is there a plan for Hussey? The fact that I cannot think of one and that in every test I have seen Hussey play against all oppositions, there has not been a plan put into place, says a lot about his game. Opposing teams bowl more in hope of getting Hussey out than expectation.

Although Hussey is a difficult man to dislodge, recently I have seen a ‘chink’ in his armour. Hussey, in accumulating his runs is becoming slower and slower. He relies on others around him to take the game on and if England are good enough they can use this to their advantage. Putting pressure on Hussey to score is the best way to get the man out. If they can put pressure on Australia’s batting order either by placing most of the responsibility on Hussey to score runs or by bowling in such a disciplined manner as to force Hussey to play positive cricket when he gets in, they can truly test how Hussey handles pressure. This needs to be coupled with England playing a positive game themselves. If England can play more positive cricket this will force Australia to emulate them and also the Australia team of old. The Australia team of old were an imposing and positive team, possibly the most positive team in the history of test cricket. The new Australia, and this is shown in the style of their best batsman, are not like this. In many ways I think the team still want to play in the positive frame of old, the Australian media want them to play like this and the Australian public want them to play like this. The trick for England is to make Hussey think this way as well, to burst the concentration bubble, which he is so good at getting into.


Australia’s man of the series in my opinion, but whether this due to a series of backs to the wall, match saving innings or the consistent accumulation of totals to put Australia in position to win test matches, remains to be seen.

Career statistics (as of 30/11/08)

Overall: Matches: 31 Runs: 2824 Ave: 64.18

Vs England: Matches: 5 Runs: 458 Ave: 91.60
Read more profile on this site by clicking the following link: Player Profiles

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Player Profile: Andrew Flintoff

The Ashes 2009

Player Profiles and Predictions

by Chris Smith

Andrew Flintoff

England’s talisman and most consistent bowler is the player that the Australians will fear the most in the England team. He can do it with bat and ball and at the same time has the capacity to get the whole country behind him and the England team like no other player can. Flintoff carried England to victory on a wave of emotion in 2005 and evoked a passion for cricket in English people that had been lying dormant for many years. He is an exciting player who wears his heart on his sleeve on the cricket field, something that for most fans of any sport is truly entertaining and inspirational.

It goes without saying that for England to be successful Flintoff needs to be on form and conversely for Australia one of the keys to the series is to subdue him, which will also have the effect of subduing the crowds in England, the best 12th man England have in their ranks (even better than Gary Pratt). Flintoff’s bowling is less of a worry than his batting. I am convinced if there’s swing he’ll find it and he will bowl in the right areas for every batsman, in this he has been very reliable for England for a number of years now and his injury seems not to have diminished his ability to do this. His inconsistency of late has been in his batting. Flintoff was such a key to England’s success when he was batting well and England’s tail didn’t necessarily have to last a long time in support of him for Flintoff to get lots of runs, he was destructive. Flintoff’s batting recently brings back memories of his first few years in test cricket, where his technique and temperament was found wanting. He seems to have a particular weakness against spin at the moment, so he may be fortunate that the Australians may come to England without a world-class spinner. Confidence is the key to Flintoff’s batting and a need to sure up his play outside the off-stump. Even at his best Flintoff never left many balls, but there was a conviction and control when he played them, this is what he needs to rediscover.


Flintoff makes a massive difference to the England team in all departments and I am in no doubt that he will rise to the occasion once again and inspire the England team. However, expect a greater impact with the ball in his hand than with the bat. England’s bowler of the series but may struggle with the bat.

Career statistics (as of 30/11/08)

Overall: Matches: 70 Runs: 3494 Ave: 32.35
Wickets: 206 Ave: 32.21

Vs Australia: Matches: 11 Runs: 706 Ave: 33.61
Wickets: 42 Ave: 29.59

Thursday, 4 December 2008

West Indies to be Englands Ashes Preperation

It has been announced that England will face the West Indies next summer ahead of the much anticipated Ashes series.

The West Indies will tour England in place of Sri Lanka who had originally stepped in to take the place of Zimbabwe. The African side have of course been ruled out after being declared politically unsuitable opponents.

Sri Lanka were originally lined up as replacements for Zimbabwe, but many of their top stars had already signed up to partake in the lucrative Twenty20 cricket league in India at the same time.

Not wanting to play against a second-string side, the England and Wales Cricket Board have now found new opposition to ready the team before Australia visit these shores.

Therefore Chris Gayle's West Indian side will be heading to England in May.


The West Indies will face England in two Test matches, the first at Lord's on May 6 and the second being played in Durham starting on May 14.

Three one-day internationals will also be played, at Headingley on May 21, Bristol on May 24 and Edgbaston on May 26.

"The ECB is delighted that the West Indies will replace Zimbabwe for the 2009 tour to England and Wales," ECB chief executive David Collier said on their website.

"The West Indies are always popular visitors and this completes a wonderful summer of cricket which also includes the Ashes Series and the World Twenty20.

"The ECB is most grateful for the excellent support and co-operation provided by the West Indies Board with whom we have developed an excellent and warm relationship.

"We greatly look forward to welcoming the West Indies team, their officials and supporters next summer."

The West Indies were originally scheduled to tour England in 2010 but have agreed to play a year earlier, although their slot will now have to be filled.

Hopefully the West Indies will warm up and give England a sufficient test and confidence boost prior to the 2009 Ashes series.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Call for Ponting to rest during Games with Little at Stake

Nothing highlights the importance of the ashes more than the recent Herald Sun article calling for Rick Ponting to rest during matches that have little at stake.

The call comes in the hope that Ponting would be able to finish off a successful career by trying to win the ashes on home soil in 2010-11.

The article by Jon Pierik is as follows:

THERE'S arguably been no greater street-fighter than Ricky Ponting in Australian cricket, but not even he is immune to the ravages of time.

Soon to turn 34, the Australian captain may have another two years left at the top if he looks after himself and decides what really is important to him.

That must be retaining the Ashes next year in England and ending his glorious career in one final stoush for the famous urn on Australian soil in 2010-11.

This means he must dedicate himself to Test cricket, but Australia may have to use the model adopted by India and Sachin Tendulkar to help him negotiate limited overs and Twenty20 cricket.

Once this summer is over, Australia plays three Tests in South Africa and five in England. Ponting must lead in all.

There's also a Twenty20 World Cup in England on the eve of the Ashes. He must also be there for that.

But surely there needs to be a rethink on whether he is required for five one-day matches in South Africa, seven in England after the Ashes, the rescheduled Champions Trophy tournament and another mindless one-day series in India.

Michael Clarke, 27, has done a good job already in his brief appearances as stand-in skipper, and can continue to develop in this role when Ponting takes a breather.

"There has never been a better time to be a state cricketer," said one CA official recently.

"There's so much cricket for Australia, there's bound to be injuries. But is that a good thing that blokes who may not really deserve to take that step up will be given more opportunities?"
The cricketing public wants to see great and entertaining players, like Ponting, play all the time.

But that's now impossible because of ridiculously crowded schedules.

However, there is no need for Ponting to go cold turkey on one facet of the game - as Tendulkar has from international Twenty20 matches.
Ponting is still one of the game's premier fieldsmen and athletes, as his scorching catch in Adelaide proved, so it's just plain silly to bypass international Twenty20.

But what he may have to do is reconsider his commitment to the riches of the Indian Premier League. Ponting has been told by medicos he needs rest to help heal his aching right wrist. He has also battled back and ankle injuries in recent years.

But will the lure of almighty dollar prove too great?

End of Herald Sun article.

Even if Ponting were to rest during mindless one day matches there is no guarantee that he will be around for the 2010-11 series.

I'm pretty sure that Ponting will be eyeing the game of international cricket as Hayden currently is, and that is one game at a time!

As a sportsman Ponting will want to play every match but will also know when he is mentally and physically drained. As long as he listens to his body he will continue to play world class cricket for a while yet.

But the 2010 ashes series will never be a guarantee.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Player Profile: Ricky Ponting

The Ashes 2009

Player Profiles and Predictions

by Chris Smith

Australian Captain

Ricky Ponting

Ponting has one of the best winning records of any captain in test cricket, but one wonders how long this will last and also if the winning record he has is down to his captaincy or being fortunate to have some of the greatest test cricketers of all time in his team. Some might say a combination of both, but I have always been of the opinion that Ponting is in fact a poor captain particularly with respect to his tactical acumen. This was shown in England in 2005 where Michael Vaughan captained him off the field and more recently in India in the fourth test. On the fourth day Australia had India reeling before tea and with wickets after tea might have had Australia looking at chasing a gettable target to level the series. Instead worrying about over rates, Ponting had his spinners on and even Michael Hussey’s medium pace and not his strike bowlers. Momentum was lost and Australia ended up chasing too many on the last day and subsequently lost the series. I have thought that for a long time, even with quality players Ponting has been a captain that has erred on the side of defence, which can let other teams gain the upper hand. He is also quick to lose his cool in situations that don’t favour his team, he gets easily upset, which can lead to a lack of focus on the field. This seems to be happening more often as wins are harder to come by.

One thing that is not in doubt, despite Harbajhan Singh’s ridiculous comments, is his batting quality and the respect of his players. I’m not sure how you can criticise a batsman who is averaging 57 in a test career spanning 124 matches. Ponting is truly a great batsman, with a good record against England, but perhaps not as good as you might imagine.

His main weakness in his batting is early on in his innings. Ponting has always had a pronounced forward movement when he bats and because of this can be unbalanced to begin with. This can cause two weaknesses that England can probe for at the start of his innings. The first is a tendency to play around his front pad early on, opening up lbw possibilities. This does get better as he goes through an innings though and Ponting then starts to become particularly severe on any balls bowled near his pads. The second is a problem dealing with a ball of extra bounce, just back of a length, I have seen him out a number of times caught in the gully off the shoulder of the bat. But again if the bowler is too short there is no better puller of the cricket ball in the game. The margins for error, as with most great players are small.

Ashes prediction

One of the leading run scorers in the series for Australia, only behind Michael Hussey. Ponting’s wicket will be of vital importance.

Expect Ponting to get frequently flustered when captaining in the field as his side will have many questions to answer without McGrath and Warne in English conditions.

Pontings test record (as of 24/11/08)

Overall: Matches: 124 Runs: 10386 Bat Ave: 57.06

Vs England: Matches: 26 Runs: 1978 Bat Ave: 48.40

Click these links to view our Ashes Preview or Rick Ponting's rival captain's profile and prediction for Kevin Pietersen

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Player Profile: Kevin Pietersen

The Ashes 2009

Player Profiles and Predictions

by Chris Smith

England Captain

Kevin Pietersen

Still an unproven captain but quite possibly England’s finest and most talented batsman of the modern era. He backs up his talent with an amazing work ethic off the field. His planning and preparation for every match are of the highest order. He devises plans against teams and indeed against individual bowlers, the fact that he can carry out what he intends to do shows his talent, the fact that he makes such good and sometimes audacious plans is the measure of the man’s confidence and cricketing brain. This summer’s series against South Africa showed mostly the best but also the worst of his game. His plan against Makhaya Ntini almost rendered the bowler useless against him, using the angle of the bowler against him and playing beautifully through the leg side. In fact throughout the series he had many of the bowlers scratching their heads. Just when you thought he was invincible though, Pietersen showed his fallible side. With such a desire to dominate and a huge ego to boost, he finds it very difficult to hold back when the situation demands it. Pietersen needs to play in a flamboyant and sometimes risky way, this is the character of the man, he cannot graft his way through difficult situations he has to apply his game to the situation. The problem Pietersen has, is knowing that when he is on top and in top gear, to not search for a higher gear still and give his wicket away when games are for the taking. This was never clearer illustrated than in the third test against South Africa when he gave his wicket cheaply to Paul Harris at a crucial time when South Africa were looking ragged. In that moment the game and the series were lost. There probably wouldn’t have been a chance without Pietersen but his greatness rests on winning games for England and he could have won that game for England, South Africa were all out of ideas.

Ashes prediction

Pietersen loves the big games and always raises his game for Australia. This series will be no different, I expect plenty of runs from England’s captain in a very attacking style. His plan will be to not let Australia’s bowlers bowl at him and expect some innovative and exciting batting. England’s player of the series.

Pietersen’s test record (as of 24/11/08)


Matches: 43
Runs: 3890
Bat Ave: 50.51

Vs Australia:

Matches: 10
Runs: 963
Bat Ave: 53.50

Monday, 24 November 2008

Ashes Tickets Available via Ballot

Yorkshire County Cricket Club has announced that in view of high public demand for next summer's fourth ashes test to be held at Headingly; that they have established an online ballot system to decide the allocation of the few remaining tickets that are to be put on sale.

Australia play England at Headingley Carnegie between Friday August 7 to Tuesday August 11, 2009.

The online ballot will open on Monday December 1 and close on January 31 2009. To enter the ballot you simply have to fill out an online form that can be found on the official Yorkshire County Cricket site.

The draw will take place during February with the successful applicants be notified.

Each applicant will be able to apply for up to four tickets per day on the ballot form. The number of tickets available may be revised to two tickets per person per day in view of the number of applicants who register online.

Please note that Yorkshire CCC have stressed that applications will not be accepted over the telephone or in person under any circumstances. To avoid disappointment, interested parties should not come to the ground or telephone the club on December 1.

Should more ashes tickets become available in the future Yorkshire CCC will hold similar ballots.

Good Luck getting your hands on some ashes tickets!

Aussie Captain Backs Hayden For the Ashes 2009

Australian captain Ricky Ponting has given Aussie opener Matthew Hayden his full support and backing after the openers latest couple of failure's against New Zealand in the recent Test victory over the black caps. These two failures with the bat come on the back of a poor tour to India for Hayden, who admitted last week that his place in the baggy green line up was by no means assured.

Hayden's poor form with the bat has led to great speculation in the Australian media whether or not Hayden will be good enough to partake in next years Ashes series.

The 37 year old batsman who is preparing to play his 100th test match in Adelaide next weekend should gain a degree of confidence after his skipper declared Hayden as the best opener in the country. Ponting also went on to predict that Hayden would celebrate his 100th appearance for Australia in style.

Ponting feels that Matthew Hayden still has the desire and hunger to compete at test level and feels that Hayden will be a key figure during next years ashes tour.

"I feel skills-wise and hunger-wise Matthew Hayden is still my best opener," said Ponting.

"I have seen how hungry Matty is. I think anyone batting in the top order can be excused for their batting here. The ball he got in the second innings would get any player in the world out first ball."

Hayden only got 8 in the 1st innings against New Zealand before getting a peach of a first ball delivery from Chris Martin in the 2nd.

"The pleasing thing for me about it is I got down here early the next day and Matty makes me bring him a coffee from the hotel," Ponting said.

"I put the coffee on his seat because I did not think he was at the ground but he was in the indoor nets already and he had been there for nearly an hour.

"That said to me that real hunger was still there. He has always been one to work extremely hard on his game if he feels there is something not quite right.

"I know Matthy's game as well as anyone because I played so long with him. I have picked things up about the way he thinks and the way he plays and he will say `how did you know that?"

"I haven't seen anything to suggest he is not as good as he used to be. It is only a couple of Tests ago he made a terrific 80. He got a couple of poor decisions in India and when you are not scoring as many runs as you like those things tend to add up pretty quickly.

"I wouldn't be reading too much into Matty's form. He has his 100th Test this week. I know having been there and done that it is one of those things in my career I was most proud of.

"He can reap the benefits of the work he has done this week and I wouldn't be surprised if you see another really good score."

Australia will need all the experience they can get for next years Ashes series, particularly to help support the younger players who are in the process of establishing themselves as international test cricketers, but at the same time Australia cannot afford to carry any particular player in the squad. Everyone will have to earn their place!

As crucial as the home and away test series against South Africa is for Australia's build up to the Ashes, you can't help to think that, that particular series will decide if Matthew Hayden joins the touring ashes party to England next summer or not.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Hayden - The Ashes 2009 No Certainty

Australian opener Matthew Hayden has indicated that he himself has doubts over his involvement in next years ashes series.

I am sure that Hayden would love nothing more than to have the opportunity to finish his career with a victory against England in the ashes, but that is some way off yet.

Hayden's admission comes on the back of a poor series with the bat during Australia's recent tour of India. Australia, of course lost the series 2-0, the first series defeat since the Ashes in 2005.

Hayden is old enough and wise enough to know that international cricket is not to be taken for granted and is currently taking each test game by game.

Hayden knows there is a lot of cricket ahead of next years ashes tour and that he is no certainty for selection but is equally not writing himself and his chances of involvement in the series off.

"I reckon there is a chance of that always. When you get to my age, you get to a point where the next 12 months is a long, long way away. But having said that, I have been really process-driven right the way through my career," said Hayden.

"It's all been about how I was going to present myself for this Test match and whether I was in good shape to play. I feel like both of those are crossed off. Both (wife) Kellie and I have really kept it as simple as that," Hayden told the 'Herald Sun'.

Hayden also said he needs to ask himself whether he has the urge and the fire in his belly to represent Australia. "There are two answers that I need to say to myself before I present myself for Australia. One of them is, am I willing to make the sacrifices to be the best athlete I can be, whatever that takes?"

And the second is, is that fire burning within me to play good cricket for Australia - or anyone else that I'll be playing for, for that matter."

Any athlete, no matter how good they once were, needs drive, ambition and application to succeed. Hayden will, I'm sure be the first to know when that has gone.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Ashes Preperations could be Disrupted

Dave Kidd has reported in today's People Newspaper, that the ECB's preparation plans for next summer's Ashes series could be thrown into turmoil due to England players refusing to sign their central contracts.

Apparently the England players elected not to sign the contracts until after the Stanford match (and we all know how that went). The England players feel miffed that they lost their £650,000 per man match and subsequently came away from the West Indies with nothing.

The centrally-contracted players feel that they are missing out on some big money that is on offer from the IPL (Indian Premier League). Of course the ECB did try and replace the lure of the IPL with the Stanford match, however, as was proven; if a team loses that one-off match the players walk away with nothing, compared with the guaranteed income/wages on offer from IPL franchises.

The ECB have only made the contracted players available to the IPL for twelve days next spring.

That decision by the ECB has led IPL franchise owners to insist that they will not be employing any centrally-contracted England players next season.

This in house fighting could seriously disrupt the England teams preparations for next summer's ashes series. Let's hope the players and the ECB can sort something out and reach an agreement.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Vaughan Begins His Ashes Quest

Michael Vaughan has begun his quest to return to the international cricketing fold today when it was announced that Vaughan would be joining England's performance programme that is due to tour India in ten days time.

Vaughan revealed playing in the 2009 Ashes Series is one of the main motivational reasons behind his inclusion in England's Performance programme squad.

Vaughan has had a three-month layoff from the game. The ECB confirmed today Vaughan will be joining the England Performance Programme, giving a clear indication that Vaughan is prepared to put in the time and effort to fight for his England recall.

The performance programme squad will play two four-day matches during a month-long tour.

Vaughan was surprisingly awarded a 12-month central contract by the ECB in September after being omitted from the final South African test in the summer following his resignation as England captain. Vaughan was also omitted from the full 15-man England squad that is currently in India preparing to play seven one-day internationals and two Tests.

The Yorkshire batsman captained the England side that regained the Ashes in 2005. Vaughan is indeed one of England's most successful captains. He hopes his performances will help him break back into the full side for Australia’s visit next summer.

"That would be the pinnacle, to get back in and try and play in the Ashes,” said Vaughan.

"I just want to try and do as well as I can and get that feeling of batting and scoring runs again. I'm sure it will be just around the corner.

“Ultimately, I'd love another go at Australia and beyond that.

"I've had a good break, it's a break that I would have had at this time of year anyway, so I feel ready to get back and hopefully try and push for a place in the England side."

One of England’s selectors, Geoff Miller, agreed that Michael Vaughan could win back his place in the England side, but warned the Yorkshireman it will not be easy.

Miller said: “He’s had his break, he required it and he has come back refreshed. He’s now in the position that he has to start putting in some performances to get himself back in the side.”

“He’s got to overtake the players who currently occupy those positions in the side and those that are in contention for a Test place, and that can only be done by performances.

“But he’ll work hard at it. I know he wants to get back in the side and he’s a quality player.

“We are a better side when he’s playing well because of his experience, but he’ll have to force his way back in via his performances.”

During their tour of India, the Performance squad will link up with the main England team which will be Vaughans first involvement since handing over the captaincy reigns to Kevin Pietersen. The current England captain was delighted to hear of Vaughan’s call-up.

“It's good because it gives us strength in depth to have a guy like that around with his experience,” he said.

“He's coming back into the fold now and has his head back on - and he's willing to do whatever it takes to get back into the England team, which is great.”

Monty Panesar, who is not part of the England ODI set-up, has also been added to the performance squad ahead of the Test series in India to act as preparation ahead of the Test series against India.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Umpire Bird Expects Warne Ashes Return

Legendary umpire Dickie Bird has told Chris Waters of the Yorkshire post, that he believes Australia will ask Shane Warne to come out of retirement in a bid to retain the ashes in 2009.

This comes in the immediate aftermath of Australia's 2-0 series defeat at the hands of India.

Bird told the Yorkshire post.

"I think Australia will be panicked into trying to bring back Shane Warne, and I think he will respond to the call," said Bird.

"I know that Shane has said he won't come out of retirement, but I think that he will change his mind and that the challenge of the Ashes will inspire him.

"I might be wrong but, deep down, I think Shane will have missed international cricket and that he would dearly love to play against England once more.

"I don't think there's any other way Australia can beat England, I really don't; their bowling attack isn't strong enough otherwise – there's only Brett Lee who is a really world-class bowler – and their only chance of winning the Ashes lies with Shane."

If Australia do call on Warne and as Bird predicts Warne rises to the challenge then it will only add to the magnificent spectacle that is the ashes. Warne is a larger than life character that will ignite any match, event or series.

Fraser - Australia Down But Not Out For The Ashes

Gus Fraser the former Middlesex and England stalwart has written an article in the independent describing, what deep down in our hearts, we all know is true and that is that it is far too early to write of Australia and predict an England ashes win.

Bookmakers across the board have slashed England's odds since Australia's first series defeat since 2005 against what is a very good Indian side (especially in India). Australia are still favorite with the bookies but the gap is closing.

Fraser's article begins "Australia's series defeat in India will hit the cricket-loving inhabitants of Sydney, Melbourne and Perth hard. It gives those who have not rejoiced in an almost 15-year period of Australian dominance the opportunity for bravado too. And it's true, Ricky Ponting's side is a shadow of that which walloped England 5-0 in 2006-07.

Fraser goes on "But if the cricket world believes that from the Aussies, it had better think again. The defeat, like that in the 2005 Ashes, will lead to soul-searching but those in charge of Australian cricket will not sit down and feel sorry for themselves. They will not panic. They will assess what they need to do and plan a way forward."

The defeat in 2005 is indeed exactly what we need to look at in order to see Australia's great resilience and the fact that Australia can bounce back and return to winning. The true indication of an Australian demise will not be apparent until after the Australian vs. South Africa series. The other important issue is that England are currently in India and will face the team that has just beaten Australia very soon. This should provide us with an indication of how competitive this England team under KP is.

Fraser also gave the reason for Australia' s strength being the government's investment into the cricketing academy and sport in general. The other reason Fraser gives is that Australia breeds youngsters who want nothing more than to follow in the footsteps of greats like Bradman, Warne and CO.

England has without doubt bridged the gap and advantage that the Australian institute of sport (AIS) had over us and other nations due to our own form of sporting investment. Lottery funding has provided our youngsters across the sporting board with the opportunity and resources to achieve sporting success.

Fraser also reminds us that we are overlooking another critical point whilst looking at the Australian demise and that is; if England lose to India and South Africa defeat Australia then the Ashes becomes a battle for the 3rd best team in the world.

You can read the full Angus Fraser aricticle here. You can also read our early Ashes preview/prediction by clicking here.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Giles - Momentum Vital Ahead of Ashes

Ashley Giles, the former England spinner who played a crucial part with the bat during England's last ashes series victory in 2005, has reiterated what a number of other players have also stated and that is that form leading into the 2009 ashes series will be vital.

Giles believes it is crucial for the England team to perform well in India over the coming weeks in order to build some positive momentum ahead of next year's Ashes series. In particular as Australia have just slumped to a 2-0 series defeat in India (their first series loss since the 2005 ashes defeat).

England slumped to a 10-wicket defeat to the Stanford Superstars in the 20million-dollar match in Antigua at the start of the month but will now look to pick themselves for a challenging one-day and Test series in India. Of course the Stanford match is completely different to a test series and not a true reflection on the England team's form. A trip to India will be a far sterner test.

"There is no doubt it will be a hard tour. India are always a tough team whether you play one-day cricket or Test cricket," said Giles. "It is a challenge for the team - we have a massive year ahead of us and we want to get some momentum going."

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Flintoff - Captain Needs Support

Andrew Flintoff the England all-rounder feels that a captain needs all of the support he can get, especially when things are not going well. The former England captain seems to have felt very alone during his tenancy as captain during the disastrous 2006/07 Ashes whitewash in Australia.

Calling the aftermath of the 0-5 loss, against the Australians, as the lowest point of his career, Flintoff said that he often felt isolated in the eye of growing criticism while his teammates were busy fending for themselves.

"When we were getting hammered out there, it was a lonely one as well. Blame was flying in all directions and a lot was assigned to me. What happened then was that self-preservation kicked in among some of the players. It was human nature, they started looking after themselves and retreated into their own groups," said Flintoff.

"In hindsight, the captaincy was one job too many for me. I felt isolated. It was the lowest point of my career and, having been through it," said the 29-year-old all-rounder who is currently in India preparing with England for a seven ODI and two Test tour.

Every cloud has a silver lining which England and current captain Kevin Pietersen could benefit from. Flintoff's traumatic experience as captain will prevent the same thing from happening again, indeed Flintoff has pledged his full support to current skipper Kevin Pietersen so that he does not have to go through the same trauma that he went through in Australia.

"I would never let a captain I played for go through that experience. Kevin has started brilliantly and the team have responded. But he has to be ready if things start to go wrong," Flintoff was quoted as saying in the 'Mail on Sunday'.

"Being captain of England is a great job, especially when you are winning. But when you are struggling, it is tough and you can't just do it from 9am to 7pm. It is with you all the time and it plays on you. I hope it never comes to it, but if things start to go wrong I'm going to make sure KP doesn't stand alone."

Kevin Pietersen can rest assured that he can rely on the support of Andrew Flintoff when the chips are down. Flintoff will no doubt rally all of the men behind Pietersen when the time comes, which should make the unit far stronger and harder to beat.

Hick - The Ashes are the Ultimate Battle

Former England batsmen and prolific first-class cricket run machine Graeme Hick, who has scored 40,000 first-class runs, insists that although the current series being held in India between Australia and the hosts may have caught the cricketing world's attention, the Ashes will always remain extra special due to it's underlying history, rivalry and heritage.

Talking in Ahmedabad where Hick is representing the Chandigarh Lions, Hick said.

“Australians like to be the best and have performed consistently where ever they play except in India where they are made to work for their money. Although they (Australia) won the 2004 series, they have always found India hard opposition. And this tussle between the two sides has taken prime importance as the visitors are trying hard to break the jinx,” Hick added, “But the Australia-England rivalry is different. It has history attached and so will always be a head turner.”

The current series in India has raised a number of questions regarding the Australian team. Common consensus is that due to retirements the Australians have slipped back towards the pack.

Even if Australia do lose to India in India, the result won't be catastrophic for the Baggy Green's, the sub-continent is and always has been a very hard place to go and win a series. However it will make Australia's back-to-back series' against a strong South African team crucial for both team morale and the cricketing world's perception of the current Australian team's strength.

If England go into next years ashes believing that they can beat Australia due to poor Aussie form then the Ashes will become that much harder for Australia to retain.

Click here to read our ashes 2009 early preview.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Form Crucial Leading into the Ashes

Former Australia opener Justin Langer, who's opening partnership with Matthew Hayden in test matches was one of the most successful of all time, believes the lead-up to next summer's Ashes will prove crucial to the eventual outcome of the series.

The statistics definitely back Langer up; England entered the 2005 Ashes contest on the back of five consecutive Test series victories and went on to clinch the series 2-1, but their form ahead of the 2006-7 series - which Australia won 5-0 - was patchy at best.

"I think it's going to be a really good contest - I think the next few months are going to be significant as to who wins the Ashes," said Langer.

"In 2005 England had gained some great confidence and they'd formulated a really strong team, a core of players and they came into it really confident.

"In the Lord's Test match in 2005 (Steve) Harmison ran in to bowl to me and the first ball flew through to the wicketkeeper, Geraint Jones took it and England were all over us like bees to honey.

"It was unbelievable the body language, the attitude - they were really up for it. The next ball hit me on the elbow and I thought, 'We're in for a fight here' and although we won the first Test, that was the attitude and feeling throughout the whole series.

"Last time (in 2006-7) Harmison ran in to bowl the first ball and it went to second slip.

"The most significant thing was not that it went to second slip but that I was looking round for a fight because we were up for this more than ever before.

"But the England players' body language, everything, was so different.

"If they gain confidence or Australia gain confidence leading into the Ashes, that'll be a telling part as to how the series goes."

Langer himself announced on 1 January 2007 that he would retire on completion of the 5th Ashes test in Sydney. A fitting end to have successfully regained the ashes after what must have been a bitter loss in the 2005 series.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Botham Stokes Ashes Fire

England legend Sir Ian Botham has predicted an "Easy" Ashes series win for England over Australia next summer. Unusual for an Englishman to make this kind of a prediction, it normally comes in the form of a 5-0 to Australia from the likes of of McGrath or Warne. Indeed Shane Warne has already made that exact prediction.

In a radio interview on Radio 5 Live Botham said "We'll win easily. I do believe we'll win quite comfortably over here," he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"The Australians might start banging the drum saying they're going to win next summer, but I don't think so for one moment."

Botham on the other hand completely disagrees with Warne's prediction and instead believes that the outcome will be very different to the 5-0 whitewash during the last series and in favour of England; mainly due to a weaker Australian bowling attack.

"I don't think they've got the bowlers - they're weak in the bowling attack and getting old," added the 52-year-old.

"I predicted it in 2005 and I predict it again now.

"It's never straightforward, but I think we'll dominate because we have the bowlers and that's the one thing Australia are lacking.

"They've got Brett Lee who's a terrific performer and after that there's no spinner, there's no McGrath out there."

Botham used Australia's lack of potency in the bowling attack during their current test series against India (in which they are trailing India 1-0) as a perfect example to highlight his point.

"What I've seen so far, I don't see as too much of a threat and if England's bowlers stay fit then they'll win the series," said Botham.

"Batsmen have obviously got to score runs, but you have to take 20 wickets to win the Test match."

Botham also believes that appointing Kevin Pietersen as captain of England could be an inspirational masterstroke by the selectors.

"Kevin averaged 50 plus runs before he was captain and I think you'll see that go up maybe as much as 10 runs as captain, because I think he'll thrive on it," he said.

This would be unusual as many captains have worse averages once they take over the role. It would indeed be no surprise if Kevin Pietersen was completely the opposite to the average; he seems to take things in his stride and thrives on pressure. Botham continued.

"Little things he's done have impressed me. For instance England players used to come on to the field and have that ridiculous huddle as if they had forgotten what they were talking about 20 yards away, I've never quite worked that out.

"He's got rid of that and said 'come on boys let's get out and get into the opposition'.

"So he's very much an 'up-and-at-'em' captain and I think he will do well."

So that's Sir Ian Botham's view, you can read our prediction of the ashes here ashes preview which also questions Australia's bowling attack.

Hoggard targets Ashes Series Return

Matthew Hoggard believes that his wealth of international experience could give him a crucial edge in his bid to earn an England recall in time for next summer's Ashes. Hoggard still hopes and believes that he could make an international return despite having been omitted by England on a seamer friendly Trent bridge pitch last summer against South Africa. Last summers disappointment seemed to signify the end of Hoggard's England career due to the fact that the selectors required a like-for-like bowler to replace the injured Ryan Sidebottom and chose the unknown Darren Pattison ahead of Matthew Hoggard.

The Yorkshire seamer, who is now 31 years of age, last played in a test match against New Zealand back in March, in a match that England lost convincingly. Hoggard returned disappointing figures of one for 151 and admitted aftewards that he was a little undercooked for the match; something that no international player should ever be. As it happens both Harmison and Hoggard were undercooked and both were subsequently dropped after the Hamilton defeat. The dropping of Hoggard after the Hamilton test came as somewhat of a shock as England had relied heavily on Hoggard (both taking wickets and bowling high numbers of overs throughout the duration of a test). Harmison on the other hand had been carried for a number of years putting in performances well below that of the Harmison who was ranked number 1 in the world only a few years prior. Hoggard seemed to pay the price for Harmison's poor form. Once dropped the pair were replaced by the likes of Sidebottom, Anderson and Broad who have all performed admirably.

Hoggard acknowledges this by saying "There's a lot of good cricketers out there and everyone's vying for that England shirt, the thing that I've got above everyone else that wants to play for England is experience."

He added: "I've played 67 Test matches, got a few wickets and in big series like the Ashes I've got the experience to come in. I'm not making my debut, I know what it's all about."
If Hoggard starts the season by bowling well for Yorkshire and England have a difficult series in India then there is every chance that the selectors may start to look for possible replacements for the summers Ashes series.
"I know how the world turns in Test match cricket so it'll be easier for me to come in to a Test team rather than a new boy making his debut against such strong opponents."

The successful return of Steve Harmison to the international test arena also gives Hoggard hope. Harmison looked certain to have played his last test due to lack of form, not enjoying being away from his family and retiring from international one-day cricket.
"It shows that it's not a closed door," Hoggard said.

"'Harmy' bowled extremely well in county cricket. He was the leading wicket-taker when he got selected so it just shows me that I've got to go back and take a lot of wickets for Yorkshire, hopefully keep banging on the selectors' door, and give them enough of a headache for them to open the door and let me in."

There is always hope for an experienced tryer such as Hoggard, he will always give the team 100%, takes important wickets, he also knows what it is like to beat Australia in a high pressure high drama series.

Apart from Flintoff and Panasar (injury permitting), no bowlers place is cemented in the team. Anderson can be inconsistent, Broad may not take enough wickets yet (although his batting at number eight is an enormous bonus) and Sidebottom (who was England's best performer with the ball post Harmison and Hoggard) struggled with injury and looked to have gained a couple of pounds last summer.

Come the summer we may have a bowling attack consisting of Flintoff, Hoggard, Harmison, Jones and Panasar. Do the seamers look familier?

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Gilchrist full of praise for Pietersen

In an interview with Sun Sports former Australian wicket keeper Adam Gilchrist, has praised the new England captain Kevin Pietersen stating:

"Pietersen is very impressive. In Australia we see that he brings a natural aggression and positive attitude to the side. It could be similar to what Michael Vaughan was able to instill so successfully during the 2005 series. I have always regarded him as a fantastic cricketer and an extremely dangerous opponent".

Although full of praise for Pietersen, Gilchrist also shot a word of warning to the England captain and his charges not to underestimate any Australian team that is sent over to defend the ashes next summer, continuing:

“He is a larger than life character and I can't really think of any weaknesses in his game at all. But I do think that Australia is an extremely resilient cricket nation and our team is still a very formidable one.”"I think that when you lose great players like McGrath and Warne, then any side is going to come back to the field a bit," he added.
Australia, will have they’re work cut out if they are to repeat their 5-0 Ashes whitewash over England in the last series. The 2009 ashes series will definitely be more a case of can Australia win and retain the ashes, rather than by how many.

The Ashes - Quotes and Sledging

Here are some well know ashes quotes with some infamous sledging thrown in as well:

"I don't mind this lot chirping at me but you're just the bus driver" - Nasser Hussain to the Australian opening batsman Justin Langer.

"How anyone can spin a ball the width of Gatting boggles the mind." - Martin Johnson (sports journalist for the Independent) after Shane Warne's magical first ball to Mike Gatting.

"Hell, Gatt, move out of the way, I can't see the stumps." - Dennis Lillee, stopping in the middle of his run up to give Mike Gatting a quick sledging, during the opening match of England's 1994-95 Ashes tour.

"Chappell was a coward. He needed a crowd around him before he would say anything. He was sour like milk that had been sitting in the sun for a week." - Ian Botham on Ian Chappell.

"You've got to bat on this in a minute, Tuffers. Hospital food suit you?" - Craig McDermott to Phil Tufnell after the England spinner had just got him out.

"You're just upset because no one loves you any more" - Kevin Pietersen to Australian all-rounder Shane Watson, who had just been dumped by his girlfriend.

"A cricket tour in Australia would be the most delightful period in your life ... if you were deaf." - Harold Larwood one of England's fast bowlers during the Bodyline series.

"In my day 58 beers between London and Sydney would have virtually classified you as a teetotaller." Ian Chappell on being told that David Boon had drunk a record 58 cans of beer on the team flight to England in 1989. Boon claimed that he was afraid of flying!

"With the possible exception of Rolf Harris, no other Australian has inflicted more pain and grief on Englishmen since Don Bradman." - Mike Walters (The Daily Mirror) reflecting on Steve Waugh's retirement.

"Mate, if you just turn the bat over you'll find the instructions on the other side" - Merv Hughes to Robin Smith, Graeme Hick and pretty much any other England batsman whom he ever bowled at.

"I am not talking to anyone in the British media … they are all pr*cks." Allan Border Australia's captain, during a press conference at Hove in 1993.

"At least I have an identity. You're just Frances Edmonds' husband." - Tim Zoehrer sledging England spinner Phil Edmonds.

"I don't want to see you Mr Warner. There are two teams out there; one is trying to play cricket and the other is not." - Bill Woodfull, the Australian captain, to the England manager Pelham Warner, during the Bodyline series in Adelaide.

"England have only three major problems. They can't bat, they can't bowl and they can't field." Martin Johnson's assessment in The Independent at the start of England's tour of Australia 1986-7. England of course, won the ashes that series which led Johnson to remark: "Right quote; wrong team."

"I'll bowl you a f***ing piano, you Pommie poof. Let's see if you can play that." - Merv Hughes to England opening batsman Michael Atherton.

"I dunno. Maybe it's that tally-ho lads attitude. You know, there'll always be an England, all that Empire crap they dish out. But I never could cop Poms." - Jeff Thomson Australian fast bowler, 1987.

Mark Waugh: "F**k me, look who it is. Mate, what are you doing out here, there's no way you're good enough to play for England." James Ormond: "Maybe not, but at least I'm the best player in my family".

"Don't bother shutting it, son, you won't be there long enough." - Fred Truman to incoming Australian batsman as he opened the gate on his way out to the middle at Lord's.

"Tap that one down you little b*stard." - Tony Lock bowls a bouncer at Richie Benaud following Richie's prolonged spell of gardening.

"Take a good look at this arse of mine, you'll see plenty of it this summer." - David Steele to Rodney Marsh.

"You are a damned lot of sneaks." - WG Grace to Midwinter, The Oval, 1877.

"I think I was saying 3-0 or 4-0 about 12 months ago, thinking there might be a bit of rain around. But with the weather as it is at the moment, I have to say 5-0." - Glenn McGrath ahead of the 2005 series.

"So how's your wife and my kids?" - Rodney Marsh the Australian wicket keeper to Ian Botham. Botham's response “The wife's fine – the kids are retarded.”

"The aim of English cricket is, in fact, mainly to beat Australia." - Jim Laker

"You can't f****** bat." - Merv Hughes to Robin Smith letting him know what he thinks of his batting during the Lords Test of 1989."Hey Merv, we make a fine pair. I can't f****** bat and you can't f****** bowl." - Smith retorts back to Hughes immediately after he cracked one of his ensuing balls to the boundary.

Then on the next tour: "It's four years since I bowled to you and you haven't improved" - Merv Hughes. The next ball goes for four. "Neither have you" responds Smith.

"The traditional dress of the Australian cricketer is the baggy green cap on the head and the chip on the shoulder. Both are ritualistically assumed."" - Simon Barnes (The Times).

"Aussies are big and empty, just like their country." - Ian Botham.

"What do you think this is, a f****** tea party? No you can't have a f****** glass of water, you can f****** wait like the rest of us." - Allan Border to Robin Smith during the Trent Bridge Test in 1989.

"Who's this then? Father bloody Christmas?" - Jeff Thomson to David Steele.

"A six-foot, blond-haired beach bum bowling at 90mph trying to knock your head off and then telling you you're a feeble-minded tosser... where's the problem?" -Michael Atherton on Glenn McGrath.

“I couldn't work out what he was saying, except that every sledge ended with ‘arsewipe’.” - Michael Atherton on Merv Hughes.

“No good hitting me there, mate, nothing to damage.” - Derek Randall to Lillee after being hit on the head by a bouncer.

“All right, which one of you bastards called this bastard a bastard?” - Victor Richardson's response to Douglas Jardine's complaint that a slip fielder had sworn at him.

“Let's have you right under Nasser's nose.” - Ian Healy placing a fielder yards away at cover when Nasser Hussain was batting.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Ashes Tickets Sell Out in First Few Hours

Ashes tickets for the first test (to be held in Cardiff) were put on public sale this morning and sold out in a matter of hours. The SWALEC Stadium (Cardiff) will be the first venue outside of England to host a "home" ashes test match.
Substantial improvements are currently underway at The Swalec Stadium, with a new £600,000 drainage system being installed due to the poor perfomrance of the old drainage sytem during the England vs. South Africa one day series resulting in an abandoned match.
Additional seating is also currently being installed which, on completion will result in additional tickets being released.

Commenting on the ticket sales, Glamorgan Chairman, Paul Russell said: "This was always going to be a hugely popular event and we are thrilled that demand for tickets is so high. With the additional temporary seating being installed over the coming months, we will be able to satisfy many of those that missed out today."

Do not be too despondent if you didn't manage to get any today though, as Glamorgan Cricket is due to release another 6,000 tickets in January.

The county reported that it's website had received over 2.5 million hits in the past 24 hours. The phone lines were of course inundated throughout the mad two hour rush for tickets.

Click here to read our early ashes 2009 preview and prediction.

The Ashes 2009 - Early Preview and Prediction

Our Early 2009 Ashes Preview
This is our early preview and prediction for the the Ashes series that is going to grace England in 2009.

By Chris Smith and Lee Drew

The Ashes series next year promises to be an intriguing encounter, as Australia, now struggling to maintain the success they’ve enjoyed over the last ten years or so, take on an England side gradually improving from the depths of despair of the last Ashes encounter in Australia. The series won’t reach the dizzy highs that the Ashes of 2005 achieved, in what was undoubtedly, not only the most entertaining but the highest standard series of cricket that two sides have played at the same time for many years. It will, however, answer many questions that need answering; will Kevin Pietersen manage to mould England into the world beating side they were in 2005 and in the two years leading up to that where England beat all-comers, are Australia a spent force (at least for the near future) and will Andrew Flintoff be able to recapture his match winning prowess and rekindle the English public’s passion for the game as he did in 2005.

Let’s begin with Australia. Although results have been going their way in recent series, they are without doubt not the side they once were. The retirements of McGrath and Warne in particular have left them with a bowling attack, which although is not toothless with the likes of Lee and Clarke, is now looking a lot more comfortable for other teams. If Cameron White is their best spin option at the moment then England should be rubbing their hands with glee. There will be no surprise if Warne makes a return, if White is still number one choice come next summer. It’s not just the spin department either, the back-up seam bowling to Clarke and Lee is not looking as strong as it could be. I’ve watched Mitchell Johnson now in a number of test matches, and am still unconvinced. He bowls with good pace, but seems not to have mastery over the swinging ball and does not consistently get the ball to swing in to the right-hander. He often wastes too many balls by not getting the batsmen to play and his current test record to date (11 matches, Ave. 32.57), suggests this. In England it will be vitally important that he can control his bowling when the ball is swinging, only time will tell if he can manage to do this. I have also yet to be convinced that Shane Watson is a world class player who can replicate his form in county cricket to that of the international stage. Both parts of his game seem better suited to One-Day cricket than to test cricket, he looks weak in defence with the bat and has a lack of penetration with the ball. Watson may well have a holding job with the ball next summer, but I can’t help but picture Kevin Pietersen dancing across his stumps and doing serious damage to his bowling figures.

Australia’s two most experienced, and best bowlers now are Brett Lee and Stuart Clarke. The later, I believe to be the greatest threat to England’s batsmen next summer and Australia will be hoping that his age doesn’t catch up with him and that he gets over the injury problems that have seen him take little part in the series against India. Brett Lee has now, dangerously for Australia, turned into a bit of a stock bowling option for Ricky Ponting. He is in danger of over-using his potent strike bowler. Although England shouldn’t worry about Lee too much, his record in England does not make good viewing if you’re an Australian, 10 matches, 29 wickets at an average of 45.44. If you put together, Lee’s test record against England, worries over Clarke’s fitness, lack of a spin option and the unproven aspect of the rest of the bowling attack, I think Ricky Ponting must be more than a little worried about his bowling options. Confidence in the bowling ranks might also be damaged by the difficult recent series in India and a tough back to back series with South Africa home and away.

South Africa now have the strongest batting side in the world and their seam bowling department has the balance and general nastiness that England’s did in 2005. I would not be at all surprised if Australia are rolled over in both series and if they are defeated in India as well, momentum will certainly not be on their side. I believe if both sides play to their potential South Africa will win. But South Africa as a team need to be able to produce their best when it counts, something that all but captain Graeme Smith have failed to do in the past.

Australia’ strength will be in their batting, they still have four genuine world class batsmen, in Hayden, Ponting, Hussey and Clarke. Simon Katich too has the ability to score lots of runs, although not of the class of Justin Langer. To bowl Australia out is still going to be tough, but one feels that the days of Australia rocketing along at over 4 an over are now gone. Even their class batsmen seem to have gone into their shells lately and the retirement of Gilchrist also has a big impact on the teams run rate. This is another reason why the series next summer will not be of the same excitement and standard of cricket as in 2005. Watching the Aussies over the last 12 months or so just isn’t the same experience, Australia were dominating attacks now they are making themselves hard to get out, grinding out a score. The mind set is changing, but I guess that’s what happens when confidence is low and quality players retire or get injured. You only have to look how England’s style of play changed from that winning attacking formula in 2005 to a more conservative approach when confidence ebbed away with series losses and injury problems.

On to England and is it all rosy in the garden? On the surface it appears so with Pietersen proving an inspirational new captain, but beneath Pietersen’s positive exterior, there are still some issues to address. The batting order still seems very capable of collapsing and much of the batting still has much to prove. England’s batsmen, with the exception of Pieterson, have the uncanny ability to go through very bad patches of form and then just as they face the axe, pull out an outstanding performance that keeps them in the side. Classic examples of this come in the form of Andrew Strauss and Paul Collingwood. Strauss who struggled for a couple of years and then was left out for the tour to Sri Lanka , only to return in New Zealand, was in last chance saloon until a brilliant 177 in the final test innings of the tour. Has he done much before that innings and since? Paul Collingwood too was in dire straits with his game last summer, it looked as if he had never picked up a bat before and was painful to watch. Then in the third test at Edgbaston everyone witnessed Collingwood play an almost miraculous innings, rescuing his test career. A failure surely would not have seen him play in the final test of the series.

The rest of the batting also has problems, Cook is consistent but needs to build on solid starts to his innings and score hundreds. Ian Bell looks like such a class act sometimes and frustratingly disappoints too often and Flintoff has a vulnerability with the bat at the moment which reminds me of his early years in test cricket. Pietersen needs support from the rest of his batting, he is a match winner. He will take risks, he will get himself out playing silly shots, but the last thing England need is for him to go into his shell. Pietersen at his best is on the edge all the time, looking like he could spoon a ball straight up in the air or hit it out of the park, his character is not conservative or sensible if he plays this way his best batting will not shine through. With the rest of England’s batting inconsistent this puts more responsibility and pressure on Pietersen and the more likely he will have to tone down his game. To win against Australia next summer, the rest of the batting needs to let Pietersen play with freedom, if they can do this England can dominate the weakest attack Australia will have sent to England in the modern era.

Decisions need to be made in the bowling department also and the winter tests in India and the West Indies will decide which bowlers take the field in the first Ashes test next summer. For me Flintoff and Panesar are the only sure fire selections (injury permitting). James Anderson has improved his control greatly over the last year or so and when the ball is swinging there are few more dangerous bowlers in the world. His confidence is a fragile thing however and this can cause dramatic slumps in form, this is a problem that Steve Harmison also shares. Harmison made a good comeback at the end of the summer against South Africa, but what Harmison will turn up on any given day is anyone’s guess, how often has he really disappointed. Ryan Sidebottom was the first name on the team sheet until last summer, his accuracy and subtle swing bowling proved a real asset, but he let his fitness slide and by the end of the summer was looking a little portly, injury soon followed. Sidebottom bowling well can cause real problems to Australia, especially to their two dominant left handers, Hayden and Hussey. Hayden in the recent India series has had major problems with left-armer Zaheer Khan in less swing-friendly conditions than in England.

With lots of factors to weigh up the result of the series is uncertain, but England do have a very real chance to claim the Ashes once again. One feels that England is a team again heading in the right direction, a team that after a bit of a crisis caused by retirements and injuries is improving. Australia, on the hand, is for the first time in a long time vulnerable and capable of losing to a team that are not world beaters. England’s winter tests will be important for the team to build momentum and form and much will depend on how Australia do against a good South African team in their back to back series in Australia and South Africa.

Australia will start marginal favourites but I think England have the players to win. It will be a close series but my prediction is 2-1 England, with two draws; as I think both sides may find it difficult to take 20 wickets unless helped by the conditions.

Friday, 31 October 2008

Ashes Cricket Books Reviewed

We will be featuring regular reviews of ashes related cricket books.

To buy any of the featured books visit the
ashes 2009 amazon astore

The Ashes, Cricket Related Books.

Feature #1

The Ashes Miscellany.

This is the 2nd edition of the enormously successful Ashes Miscellany (it was a best seller at the time of the 2006 Ashes series). The book is compiled by Clive Batty featuring a short foreword by David Gower.

The Ashes Miscellany contains a huge amount of miscellaneous ashes information including profiles, stories, statistics and trivia:

Which two cricket legends have taken the most catches in Ashes matches?
Which player holds the record for the most beers drunk on a flight between London and Sydney?
Which England star missed an Ashes series after being run over by his own car?
Find out all of the above answers in this fully revised and updated edition of "The Ashes Miscellany". The book is packed with brilliant facts, stats, lists, quotes and anecdotes from one of the greatest sporting rivalries, this book comes in the form of a neat hardback and is the perfect appetiser for the up and coming 2009 Ashes series.

We Say: This book is a must for any ashes fan.

R.R.P £9.99
Our price: new £6.99 or used from £4.38

Rating: 4 out of 5

If you have a book that you wish to give an opinion or review on please send it in via the comments form.

Buy the above book here at the ashes 2009 amazon astore.

The Ashes and Controversy - Bodyline 1932-33

What makes the ashes cricket series so special? Exceptional bowling, spectacular fielding, majestic batting, fierce competitive rivalry between two proud nations, bad losers or controversy – the answer is probably that they have all played a vital and integral part in making the ashes what it is today.

I want to talk about Controversy in this article and in particular the infamous “Bodyline” series of 1932-33.

The tactics in question were reportedly conceived during a meeting at a London hotel by Douglas Jardine (captain of England during the series in question), Arthur Carr (the Nottinghamshire captain) and two of his fast bowlers Harold Larwood and Bill Voce to try and combat the mercurial talent of Don Bradman.

The tactics were referred to by different names in England and Australia. The English players, press and public referred to the tactic as “Fast Leg Theory” bowling whilst their Australian counterparts referred to the tactic by a far more damning name and that was “Bodyline”.

Because the term “Leg Theory” was being used by the England team and press out in Australia and was a common tactic amongst slow bowlers, the English Cricketing Authorities and public back home thought that the Australians were merely bad losers and making a mountain out of a molehill.

“Fast Leg Theory” or “Bodyline” involved bowling a short of length delivery aimed on leg stump that veered up at the batsman (either into the body or head height). A leg-side field of at least five catchers positioned in close proximity to the batsman would be set, meaning that the batsman would either have to take evasive action or fend the ball away with his bat (with the chance of offering an easy catch to one of the close fielders).

The concept behind the tactic was based on the belief that Bradman jolted to the leg side when faced with a short delivery; he was very rarely known to hook the ball. This was seen as a chink in the great mans armoury.

Six members of the English touring party privately opposed the tactic being employed, including Gubby Allen (the fourth fast bowler, who refused to bowl short on the leg side). Gubby Allen was also only critical of the tactic behind closed doors (to the public and press the squad portrayed a united front) but he also sent a number of letters home to England criticising Jardine.

The tactic was successful so far as England succeeded in regaining the ashes with a 4-1 victory. It also kept Bradman’s average down at 56.57 instead of his career average of 99.94. Bradman’s compatriots however, were far worse off with only one other Australian (Stan McCabe) scoring a century in the series.

Matters came to a head when a number of Australians including the Aussie captain Bill Woodfall were hit by the ball. The Australian crowd was incensed with the English tactics and a riot seemed likely.

With their players being placed at risk and a potential riot on their hands, the Australian Board of Control for Cricket sent an urgent cable to the MCC, it read:

Bodyline bowling has assumed such proportions as to menace the best interests of the game, making protection of the body by the batsman the main consideration. This is causing intensely bitter feeling between the players, as well as injury. In our opinion it is unsportsmanlike. Unless stopped at once it is likely to upset the friendly relations existing between Australia and England.

The above cable was sent after the third test and prior to the fourth test. Jardine and the MCC vehemently denied the above accusations of unsportsmanlike behavior, with Jardine insisting that it is up to the Australian batsmen to play themselves out of trouble.

The cable and bodyline tactic caused outrage in both Australia and England with the public of each nation showing anger towards the other. The matter was only settled when the Australian Prime Minister stepped in, pointing out to the Australian Board of Control for Cricket that there would be severe hardship ahead for the Australian public should Britain boycott Australian trade.

The board withdrew the allegation of unsportsmanlike behavior following the intervention by the Australian Prime Minister and England continued to employ the tactic for the remaining two tests. A premature end to the tour was therefore avoided with England winning the series 4-1.

After the 1932-33 series and a number of articles and books later the MCC amended the laws of cricket to prevent anything like it happening again. Umpires were given the power to intervene if they considered a batsman was being deliberately targeted by the bowler with the intention of causing the batsman harm.

Douglas Jardine himself had to face “Bodyline” bowling when the West Indies toured England in 1933 and used the tactic (to much less effect). Jardine didn’t flinch and scored 127 runs.

The author A.A Milne was one of many writers to pen an article on the “Bodyline” tactic; he was incensed by the tactics employed by England and wrote a letter to the Times. In it he stated:

“The game ceases to be cricket as soon as it can no longer be called a batsman's paradise”

There is nothing wrong with aggressive fast bowling, in fact it is exhilarating to watch the pacemen mark out their long run up and hurtle up to the crease with a degree of menace. The popularity and success of the West Indies are proof of that alone. It creates a buzz around the ground when you have Brett Lee or Shoaib Akhtar trying to reach 100 mph. However the line is crossed when the bowling becomes dangerous and the batsman is targeted; no one wants to see people getting hurt in the name of sporting victory.


Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Jones aims for Ashes Return

Simon Jones the reverse swinging England seamer who caused Australia all sorts of problems in the 2005 ashes series is on another comeback trail from yet another injury and subsequent operation. Jones has now set his sights on forcing himself into contention for the ashes series next summer but is also making sure that he takes this latest comeback one step at a time.

Jones told Setanta "I definitely feel like I am coming back, and was playing well last season."

"I have always had confidence in myself, it is something that has followed me through my career."

"I still have massive hopes to play for England and The Ashes are coming up next summer but my first goal is to get back on the field, get back into pre-season and be as fit as I possibly can because if I am not on the field then I am not in contention."

Jones was bowling very impressively for Worcestershire last season before the body broke down again; he took 42 wickets at an average of 18.02 in 2008 with best figures of 5-30 in the county championship. There was, in my opinion, a very strong case to include Jones in the disastrous Darren Pattinson test match against South Africa. It's hard to understand why Jones was over looked for that match, perhaps the selectors spoke to someone within Worcestershire and were told that Jones was not physically ready for a test return (which was obviously proven correct later in the season).

Of course a lot has changed within the England set up since Jones was last involved in 2005, there is a new coach Peter Moores to impress and of course Kevin Pietersen the new England captain since the departure of Michael Vaughan.

I wish Simon Jones all the best in his latest comeback quest; it is so frustrating for an athlete with such talent to be sidelined for long periods, plus we need his reverse swing back!

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Cardiff Ashes Ticket Sale Date Announced

Cardiff has announced that tickets for the eagerly awaited first ashes test of the 2009 series will go on public sale on:

Monday 3rd November at 9am.

You can purchase tickets via the website or via the dedicated hotline
: +44 (0)844 967 0701

The test match will take place between 8-12 July 2009 at Sophia Gardens, Cardiff and is the first test in the five test series.

The ashes will be coming to Cardiff for the first time after the venue beat won the honor ahead of two established grounds in Old Trafford and The Riverside Stadium, Durham.

The Demand for ashes tickets has been imense ever since ashes fever gripped the nation during that nail biting series of 2005; even the whitewash of the last series in Australia hasn't dampened our spirits.

Glamorgan chairman Paul Russell was quoted as saying "As expected, the biggest box office event in cricket, the 1st npower Ashes Test match is a big hit."

6,000 tickets are to be made available to the public on Monday 3rd November with a further 6,000 to go on public sale in January 2009.

"This will give as many fans as possible the chance to watch the biggest Cricket match ever to be played here in Wales."

Don't forget to phone the glamorgan hotline or visit the website first thing on Monday 3rd November to confirm your tickets for the hottest sporting event of the summer.