Wednesday, 20 October 2010


Australia look mortal as Ashes approach

Marcus North returns to form with a ton
After Australia had lost the first Test against India in Mohali, many English cricket fans are wondering whether to clap their hands in glee or to take the cautious “they’re Australia, they can do anything” approach.  For me, it is certainly the latter.  India is a particularly tricky place to tour, with pitches that tend to be low and slow; the complete opposite of the hard and fast tracks in Australia.  However, the Aussies are notoriously good at adapting to conditions quickly and this has been shown in the second Test in Bangalore, where they amassed 478 all out in their first innings.  Marcus North, who proved to be a thorn in England’s side in the previous Ashes series, scored 128, with Shane Watson, Tim Paine and skipper Ricky Ponting notching up 50s apiece.

This is why England fans should temper their Ashes enthusiasm.  If England have a good day, Australia are more than capable of adapting and beating England down in the other four days.  Never underestimate the power of a wounded animal, and when Australia are down, this is when they play their most dangerous and fighting cricket.

In previous Ashes tours in Australia of recent times, England have looked clueless to the sheer might of the Australians.  It was like throwing a child into the lions’ den with no weapon with which to defend himself.  This tour, I believe, is England’s best chance of winning away since I’ve been alive.  This time, the child has matured into a man who has a weapon with which to defend himself against the lions.  This weapon, in my opinion, is Graeme Swann, where the turning wicket of Sidney will suit him best.

Many pundits agree that Australia’s weak point is their bowling attack.  I have to agree, but I also believe that England’s bowling attack isn’t the best possible. What England lack, is that talismanic figure, a paceman, who can be called upon in times of need to lift spirits.  Without a Flintoff-esque man in the team, this is where others can be called to become that hero.  Indeed, history has shown that the quickest way to win Down Under is to unearth a menacing fast bowler in the mould of Harold Larwood or Frank Tyson.

Both teams batting line ups seem pretty solid.  On Australian wickets, I predict there to be a run fest this winter, with both sides filling their boots.  Where the Tests will be won, will be down to the bowlers and whether or not they have the ability to take twenty wickets each game.  At this moment in time, it’s anybody's game.

Saturday, 9 October 2010


Strauss' squad looks well set for the toughest test yet

Surprise duo Panesar (left) and Tremlett (right) included
Ashes squad selection sparks debate every time the board of selectors nominate those men set the monumental task of retaining the little urn down under, on the old enemy’s turf.   This year is no exception, namely with the inclusion of Monty Panesar and Chris Tremlett, both of whom have spent the last two seasons in county cricketing exile.

Kevin Pietersen retains his place in the Test squad, after having spent some time at Surrey this summer.  The South African born batsman will be hoping that his omission from the international scene will spark some good form in Australia, where it counts the most.

Eoin Morgan has, of course, secured a spot on the flight out to Australia, after his breakthrough summer included runs in all forms of the game.  His aggressive, but skilfully mastered stroke-play, will add a certain amount of depth to England’s middle and lower order, which has often struggled in the wake of Andrew Flintoff’s retirement.

There have certainly been a few raised eyebrows with the decision not to include Yorkshire paceman, Ajmal Shahzad, in the squad.  It is quite possible that he was not included because, despite his lyrical action, he is too similar to the other the other seamers who have been picked.  Stuart Broad, James Anderson and Steven Finn have proven to be England’s main strike quickies over the last couple of series with wickets to boast and many notable performances between them.

The rest of the squad was a surety before it was announced, with Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott, Paul Collingwood, Matt Prior, Tim Bresnan and Graeme Swann all making the final cut.

Despite his inclusion in the squad, Warwickshire batsman, Ian Bell, must be worried whether or not he will play this tour.  If injuries are kept at bay, he may struggle to see where he will fit into the team.  Strauss and Cook will, undoubtedly, open the batting, with Trott and Pietersen coming in at 3 and 4 respectively.  If Collingwood comes in at 5, Morgan comes in at 6, Prior at 7, that leaves Broad at his usual number 8, Swann at 9, Anderson at 10 and Finn bringing up the rear at 11.  The old battle between Collingwood and Bell may be reignited with both of them fighting to secure the number 5 spot.

It’ll be a tough winter, as all Ashes tours are, but if the pitches turn and a little bit of luck goes our way, I don’t see any reason why Andrew Strauss’ men cannot pull of a victory and secure the Ashes in Australia for the first time since Chris Broad’s annus mirabilis of 1986/87.

Andrew Strauss (*), Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Ian Bell, Eoin Morgan, Matt Prior (†), Steve Davies (†), Stuart Broad, Tim Bresnan, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Steven Finn, Chris Tremlett, Monty Panesar