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Posts Tagged ‘Ashes’

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.

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.

The 4 Stalwarts From Down Under

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

The Australian team is facing tough times since their great players are frequently hanging their boots after every tournament. The present situation of the team could be attributed to the retirement of their all-time great players like Matthew Hayden, Adam Gilchrist, Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne.

These folks have changed the entire dynamics of the game through their peerless career. Each one of them was special in their expertise and niche; when they played, they ruled the game and history was rewritten on several occasions. They were truly instrumental in getting the ‘Invincible’ tag for Australia. They carried on the legacy given by Steve Waugh, who enlivened the Australian team in the mid 90’s to perform at a different level and to become the world-beaters. These players have been the backbone of Australian cricket for the past few years and the void created by their exit is hard to fill.

Biggie Haydos

Mathew Hayden’s debut hasn’t been a mesmerizing one and it had triggered his exile from the national side for some time. He cemented his place in the Australian team with the help of an astonishing batting display against India in its own backyard.

Later, he alongside Adam Gilchrist forged one of the best opening partnership pair ever in the history of One Day Cricket. He seized the record of highest individual scorer in test cricket from Brian Lara. However, Lara retrieved it back after a short period of time.

He is known for his behemoth presence, which intimidates the opposition bowlers. To add to the bowlers’ woes, he comes down to the track before the ball is bowled, which forces the bowlers to keep it short, which eventually is Hayden’s strength.

Mathew Hayden will always be remembered for his powerful stroke plays, true dominance over all types of bowlers and his prowess in all formats of the game.

Dazzling Gilly

‘Just hit the ball’ is the philosophy of Adam Gilchrist, when it comes to batting irrespective of the format. He has revolutionized the role of the wicket-keeper batsman with his explosive batting. He has de-railed several lethal attacks, which includes the onslaught against Sri Lanka in the 2007 World Cup and several other matches.

Gilly’s overwhelming strike-rate of 96.94 in ODI’s, after playing 287 matches is indeed incredible. He was at the helm of the Australian cricket team, when they posted their first series triumph in India in 2004 after a long gap, when Ponting left out due to injury.

His entry into the test team changed the whole dynamics. His presence at No.7 helped the top order and middle order to play with sheer confidence, which apparently made the Aussies stronger than before. Australian batting has gained a lot from the solid starts provided by Gilchrist. His physical & mental fitness has been tremendous during his playing days.

When he came joined IPL after a gap of 14 months from his retirement, he exhibited the same energy he had when he played for Australia. When he led the Deccan Charges to triumph after their dismal performance in the previous version, it was yet another epic in his dazzling cricketing career.

Conjurer Warne

Shane Warne has been a surprise factor for Australia, ever since his debut. His first delivery during The Ashes, the one that pitched outside leg and hit the offstump of Mike Gatting, is considered as the ‘ball of the century’. He has been an aberration for Australia’s pace bowling legacy, which produced several legendary fast bowlers like Dennis Lillie and Glenn McGrath. It is still a mystery on how he could perform like this, which his predecessors and successors couldn’t do.

He has got 700 odd test wickets, majority of which came from the seamer-friendly tracks in Australia. His flippers were the deadliest in his arsenal and it was effective on all types of wickets. It was a paradox that Warne couldn’t replicate these performances against India. He had haunting memories each time Australia toured India. Finally, in 2004, on his last tour, he helped Australia to seal their solitary series triumph in India after 1967.

Like his cricketing skills, he has been always in the headlines for his flamboyant character, which finally led to separation from his wife. Despite all controversies, his contributions to the Australian cricket are peerless as Australia is still struggling to fill the shoes left by him.

Accurate Pigeon

If you want to know what ‘surgical precision’ is, then look at the video clips of Glenn McGrath’s bowling. The lanky fast bowler from New South Wales has fascinated the cricketing world with the accuracy of his bowling.

He could neither bowl at the pace generated by Brett Lee nor could he swing the ball like Wasim Akram. His run-up was quite simple, just like a warm up, and then followed by a smooth action. His main weapons were the steep bounce that he got due to his height and the line, which he bowls just a whisker outside the off-stump that leaves the batsmen clueless. When his fellow bowlers struggled, he has come up with magical spells that have won several matches for the Aussies.

Aggression was another attribute of Glenn McGrath, a typical Australian trait. That pedigree has led to several bickers on the field, which also got him the appointment with the match referee. McGrath was the Man of the Tournament in the 2007 world cup. The final match, which was won by Australia, has been his last appearance in the Australian colors.

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.

Battle For The ‘Ashes’ Starts Today

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

Now it is back to good old test cricket after we witnessed a hemorrhage of T20 matches in the IPL and the World Twenty 20. Since inception, T20 has been a major threat to test cricket because it is short and thrilling and the kind of money it generates is unparalleled. But Test cricket still remains as the ultimate test for the cricketers. Ashes has a unique place among the list of elite series in test cricket, thanks to the arch rivalry between Australia and England. Australia are still struggling to fill the vacuum created by the exit of Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne. Their preparations have been put in complete disarray after Brett Lee was ruled out of the series opener at Cardiff. Apart from Lee, none of the other Aussie fast bowlers have played test cricket in England before and this gives England a slight edge over Australia. England have the likes of Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff  who are potential match winners in present-day cricket.

Phil Hughes was the surprise package against South Africa and emerged as one of the future prospects for Australian batting. But his tentativeness against short-pitch bowling was well exposed in the warm up match against the England Lions. Besides that, the inexperienced bowling attack, in the absence of Brett Lee, will have to toil hard to contain the strong English batting line up. Apparently, the current Australian outfit doesn’t look as ominous as their predecessors have been in the past . However, few will write off an Australian triumph this time around also.

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