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
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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