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Archive for the ‘Ashes 2009’ Category

Another Exhilarating Series of Ultimate Cricket

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

It was more than a life-saver for the test cricket. More than 60 days of grueling series, Ashes 2009 lived up to the hype that loomed much before the start of the series. There would be significant changes in both teams, when they face-off in the next Ashes in 2013. The Englishmen, who‘ve tasted success in the last couple of series in their home soil will cherish the memories for the next four years. The long wait would be hard for the Australians, who will seek payback in the next edition.

After some fascinating test series since 2008, it is hard to believe that test cricket in on the brink of demise. Though there is a shrink in the spectator- turnouts, the overall quality has increased. Several innovative methods are in the reckoning of ICC to improve the quality of test cricket. Creating ‘Elite’ and ‘Plate’ groups is good suggestion, which will avoid the clash of contest between strong and weak teams, that wouldn’t generate any sort of interest among the spectators.

It has been a series to forget for Ricky Ponting, as Australia were stripped off from the helm of Test cricket. They are being placed at the 4th position, which is the worst after the rankings has been introduced. Australia is finding it hard to make the right combinations to form the core of the Australian team. It will be an uphill task for Australia to regain the supremacy they had till 2007 that made them ‘Invincible’.

England will savor this moment for a long time after having a tough season filled with controversies. Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower have done a fantastic job to regroup the team which had been hit by the Pieterson-Moles spat. Amid the euphoria, England should not lose their focus of getting to the top of rankings.  The immediate task will be to find a replacement for Andrew Flintoff, which apparently is a very big ask.

A Day of Below-par Bowling and Absurd Batting

Friday, August 21st, 2009

The first day of the final test matched promised a lot but delivered little, despite some mesmerizing fast bowling and solid batting performances. Once again, the English middle-order ruined the momentum setup by the top-order, ended the day at 307/8. The pitch was not as fast as Ponting expected; however, the ball was coming on nicely to the bat. Australia will definitely lack a specialist spinner in the coming days as the part-timer Marcus North was getting some zip and turn off the pitch. Brett Lee also could have been reckoned as there was considerable hint of reverse swing from the afternoon.

England piled up 108 runs in 26 overs in the pre-lunch session, despite losing Alastair Cook early. Alastair Cook once again edged a swinging delivery from Siddle to Ponting at slip. The English captain then forged a partnership with Ian Bell and the duo added 102 runs for the second wicket. Ben Hilfenhaus came back to break the partnership by dismissing Andrew Strauss. Peter Siddle made further inroads by dismissing Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell to leave England in tatters. Debutant Jonathon Trott played exceptionally well under pressure. He stayed like a rock at the crease, however he hardly got any support from any one. Andrew Flintoff played his penultimate innings and hardly made any impact. He looked composed in the beginning, however gave away his wicket by chasing a wide delivery from Mitchell Johnson. Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann took England score past 300 runs. Peter Siddle ended Swann’s resistance to complete a memorable day.

Australia wouldn’t be happy with their overall bowling efforts, notwithstanding an inspired performance from Peter Siddle, who’s having a great series so far. After pondering on different combinations for the decider, Australia went with all quickies, relying on Stuart Clark and Mitchell Johnson’s form. Helfenhaus and Peter Siddle were exceptional as usual; however Mitchell Johnson once again showed his wayward approach by bowling 8 wides and three no-balls. Stuart Clark looked like his shadow of Headingly, failed terribly in probing and testing the English batsmen. Australia had to employ Marcus North to step-up the over- rate as it apparently fell short due to the inclusion of 4 pacers. North had puzzled the English batsmen with his flight and turn on a first day pitch, which gives the clear indication that the turf will assist slow bowlers from day 3. Australia will definitely miss Nathan Hauritz, who had bowled well on seamer-friendly tracks too.

Australia now has the slight edge and with the relatively new ball, they can bowl out the next couple of wickets in no time to seize the advantage. They will have to bat really well to get a good lead, as they will be batting last on this deteriorating pitch. England on the other hand, will be looking to score in excess of 400, which would be a par-score here at the Oval. It will be interesting to see how Stuart Broad extends his innings

All Set for the Final Battle

Monday, August 17th, 2009

Australia and England go into the final test of an ashes series with one victory each. ‘The Oval’ will decide the ‘urn-holder’ on August 24th. England went into the last test with a 2-1 lead; however, Australia hold a slight edge this time as a draw can help them to retain the Ashes  as they had dumped England 5-0 at home in 2006-07’. The Oval test will be the swan song of Andrew Flintoff, who was instrumental in England’s last triumph. He will be keen to end his test career on a high and an Ashes victory would be the best.

After the victory at Headingly, Australians are right on track. Their batting looks solid and they have a ferocious bowling attack, which will have more vigor when Brett Lee comes back. Australian batting has been spot on so far expect for an out-of-form Michael Hussey. Marcus North’s consistency at 6 has been a blessing for Australia after the exit of Gilchrist. Mitchell Johnson’s return to form will make the selection tough for the final test. Stuart Clark proved his worth in the fourth test with a blistering performance with the ball. Brett Lee has been lethal in the practice match at Canterbury and is most certainly to make the cut for The Oval. If Australia goes with 4 seamers as they did at Headingly then Siddle will be left out, but if Hauritz is included for the final test, either Johnson or Stuart Clark would sit out despite their good form.

England will be looking for a big farewell party for ‘Freddie’ by winning the last test and the series. They were the strong contenders for this series victory until the 4th test match at Headingly, where they looked ordinary without Flintoff. Replacement for Ravi Bopara is still a conundrum, even as Mark Ramprakash, the veteran middle-order batsmen, who hasn’t played a test since 2000, was in the reckoning. Finally, Warwickshire batsman Jonathon Trott sealed the spot and gears up for his debut at The Oval.

It will be an electric five days at the Kennington Oval, which awaits another cliffhanger. A big match on the cards!

Aussies are Back at The Helm

Sunday, August 9th, 2009

The Australian cricket team is going through a transition stage, which is probably one of the toughest in their history. They had lot of setbacks recently, ever since their key players, Adam Gilchrist, Mathew Hayden, Glen McGrath and Shane Warne retired. The controversial exit of Andrew Symonds, their utility player, further more put Australia’s ‘invincibility’ tag at stake. Their early exit from the ICC World Twenty had justified the skeptics.

Their Ashes preparation also did not turn out as expected. They lost their strike bowler Brett Lee due to injury during their warm-up match at Worcester. Australia started well in the test match at Cardiff, but fortunes didn’t favor them at the end helping England to seal an unlikely draw. At Lords, Australia was defeated by a bashing margin of 115 runs. As the rain interrupted Edgbaston test ended in draw everyone thought that the encore of 2005 series looked apparent. England came strongly hard at the Australians right through the series and the spectators booed Captain Ricky Ponting whenever he entered the field.

Australia’s main problem was the poor form of Mitchell Johnson, who spearheaded Australia’s bowling attack in the absence of Brett Lee. Johnson struggled to keep the line and length, which hurt Australia’s chances until till the fourth test.

At Leeds, the absence of the duo stalwarts; Kevin Pieterson and Andrew Flintoff, proved too much for England as they were bowled out for 102 runs in the first innings. The solid foundation given by the top-order and a superb century by Marcus North helped to end Australia’s first innings on a high. Johnson came back to form with a fiery piece of fast bowling, claiming 5 English wickets, which helped Australia to seal a mammoth victory by an innings and 80 runs.

After the victory at Leeds, Australia look very much solid, recalling the memories of their vintage form. The Ashes is not yet confirmed for the Australians, however their bid has been reinforced after the victory. Now, England would desperately go for Andrew Flintoff, as they cannot afford another defeat in the series decider at the Oval. It has been a ravishing test series so far and no one expect a blip in the excitement at the Oval. A high-voltage contest beckons from the Kennington Oval.

It’s been 4 Years now, the wound hasn’t healed yet

Friday, August 7th, 2009

Apparently, none of the Aussie players, the spectators and the former players would ever forget the Edgbaston test of the 2005 Ashes. It is still a wound that is hard to heal for every Australian. We can never forget the grim face of the helpless Glenn McGrath when Kasprowicz was given out (though it wasn’t a catch) as Australia fell 2 runs short of victory. McGrath could not play the match due to injury.

England scored a speedy 407 runs in the first innings with good contributions from Trescothick, Pietersen and Flintoff. A few lusty blows from the tail-enders helped England to score above 400 runs, which proved good on a deteriorating track.

Australia lost Hayden in the second over, however Ponting and Langer steadied the ship. At one stage they were 115/2 then bundled out for 308 runs and England gained a valuable 99 runs lead. Lee bowled with fiery pace to remove the English top-order before Shane Warne ran into the middle order with 6 wickets. Amid this hiccup, Andrew Flintoff played a gem to take England to 182 runs, giving Australia a target of 282 with more than 5 sessions to complete.

Australia lost wickets at regular intervals and they ended the 3rd day at 175/8. The target looked very tough with 2 wickets in hand. However Brett Lee and Shane Warne weren’t ready to give it up. After Warne departed, Kasprowicz, the last man joined Brett Lee to continue the fight and in the end, a wrong decision from the umpire helped England to seal the victory in a cliffhanger.

Today, when Ricky Ponting goes for the toss, this defeat would be in his mind than ever before. Australians will have to work their tail off to win over the enthusiastic England, who look solid even without Kevin Pietersen. If Brett Lee makes the cut to the final XI,  it will bolster the bowling department, however doubt remains over his lack of match practice.

© The Daily Mirror

© The Daily Mirror

Australia Looks Solid On A Rain Curtailed Day

Friday, July 31st, 2009

There were not many surprises in the Australian team apart from the omission of Phil Hughes and Mitchell Johnson being retained. Shane Watson made a good come back to the test side by scoring an unbeaten 62 on a truncated day at Edgbaston.

Ricky Ponting won the toss for the first time in this series. Australian openers started off the day cautiously but once they got their eye on, the strokes flowed from their willows. Greame Swann came in to break the partnership trapping Simon Katich in front of wicket, but by that time Australia had laid a solid foundation. Ricky Ponting gave good support to Watson despite edging a few deliveries of Flintoff.

England went to the match with Ian Bell as the solitary change as Steve Harmison finds his place in the sidelines. Their bowling looked ordinary and lacked energy compared to the Lord’s Test and Australia dominated the useable 30 overs with a glorious run rate of above 4. As expected, Flintoff struggled against right-handers though few of his deliveries probed Ponting in the last over of the day.

The pitch is absolutely flat and will be a graveyard for the bowlers. If there are any major interventions of rain on day 2, then England will go into the penultimate test match with the 1-0 lead. If Australia want to seal a victory in this test match, then they have to score 450+ runs before tea on Day2.Given the nature of the pitch, it would be very easy. However, if England emulates Australia’s effort, then a draggy draw would be the apparent result.

Australia Feels The Heat As Battle Resumes Today

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

The inclusion of Shane Watson at the top-order will be a gamble that Australia takes after dropping specialist opener Phil Hughes. The biggest advantage of Watson’s come back will be the boost that the bowling department gets, considering the lack of form of their ‘spearhead’- Mitchell Johnson. Johnson has had a forgettable tour in which he has struggled terribly. This is quite contrary to what we witnessed in South Africa, where the hosts were probed and tested by ferocious fast bowling from Johnson.

Phil Hughes has been a weak link at the top as he finds it difficult to combat the short deliveries. Flintoff dismissed him in similar fashion in both innings at Lords where Australia lost to England after long 75 years. Though Phil Hughes is a teenage prodigy and has the potential to play at the international level, his techniques need refinement. Playing first class cricket would be the best option for him to improve, as Australia is famous for their strong domestic circuit.

Shane Watson, perhaps one of best all-rounders in world cricket today, will also have a point to prove after coming back from a short break. Australia will be under a lot of pressure to make it 1-1 after the demoralizing defeat at Lords. They will be relieved by the exclusion news of Kevin Pieterson due to injury, however would be wary of the presence of Andrew Flintoff, who annihilated the Australians at the home of cricket.

Edgbaston Awaits Another Humdinger

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

‘Never ever give up’ is the motto of the Aussies when they enter the cricket field. This is perhaps the legacy carried forward from Steve Waugh, one of the greatest Australian captains in the history of the game. The Australian team has displayed this character on several occasions and they have managed to pull off many stunners. Ricky Ponting, though not as charismatic as Waugh, infused the same theory into every game they played. Australia’s 2 runs defeat in their 2005 Ashes encounter is a wound the team still carries after long 4 years.

The second test of the 2005 Ashes series was a cliffhanger and England held their nerve to beat Australia by mere 2 runs, which eventually cost Australia the Ashes. England started the final day as favorites to win the match. Australia needed 107 runs to win with just a couple of wickets in hand. As the day progressed, we saw a determined Shane Warne, Brett Lee and Michael Kasprowicz fighting hard with all their limited batting skills in pursuit of an highly unlikely victory. The last pair added a valuable 59 runs before Kasprowicz was given out for a ball he didn’t nick.

The grieving memory of that blip is still haunting the Australians and if they manage to defeat England this time around, they can make a come back to the series and can heal the wounds of the defeat in 2005.

Will Australia Overcome The Menace Of Freddie?

Sunday, July 26th, 2009

As the countdown to Edgbaston begins, the Australians are pondering on different issues ahead of the crucial third test. With Brett Lee ruled out and the dismal form of Mitchell Johnson, Australia will have to rely a lot on their rookie fast bowlers– Ben Hilfenhaus and Peter Siddle for making early inroads into the formidable English batting. Above all, the main cause of concern will be their batsmen playing against Andrew Flintoff, who has been a menace for Australia right through this Ashes series.

Though everyone lauds the effort of Flintoff at Lords, we cannot forget the fact that his performance against the right-handers has been a blot in his resume. In his 12 Ashes Tests, He has picked up 42 wickets out of which only 18 have been the right-handers. Out of that 18 wickets, there were only 6 specialist batsmen. The current Australian XI consists of 6 lefties, which is an apparent advantage for Flintoff.

The best strategy to combat Flintoff will be mixing up the right-handers at the top of the order and including Shane Watson ahead of Marcus North. Watson will be handier than North in English conditions, as Australia will be desperate to seize a win in order to stay alive in this series.

Lord of the Lords

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

It can’t get any better than this! The long hard wait of 75 years is over and what a way Flintoff has wrapped up the Australian innings with a hostile and fiery spell. It was his final appearance for England in the longest version of the game at lords and nothing less than yesterday’s feat would have satisfied ‘Freddie’.

The final day started off with England as the favorites. However Australia too looked upbeat about clinching a thriller with Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin at the crease. England was in search for that solitary wicket which would expose the Australian tail. Flintoff drew the first blood of the day by removing Haddin in his first over and put England on the brink of the historic win. Mitchell Johnson had provided an excellent support to Clarke, who was bowled by Greame Swann, when he tried to play on the up. After the exit of Clarke, it was just formality, but Johnson showed some character and played some magnificent shots. Finally Swann removed Johnson to complete an emphatic win and recapture the castle after 75 years.

Flintoff was firing on all cylinders in his last match at Lords. His reverse swinging inswingers against the right-handers proved lethal during his fiery spell. All the wickets he got on the last day were of peach deliveries. It would not have answers even from the batting maestros. He was right on the money from the first ball and his length perplexed the Aussie batsmen. Flintoff showed with his performance, why he is being called as ‘People’s Hero’ and he has given them the best gift, which the Brits will cherish for long.

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