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Archive for the ‘The Ashes’ Category

This has been one of the funniest set of video diary clips I’ve ever seen from a sports team. You don’t get comedy like this from £million T.V comics with massive budgets! Down to earth, they all seem to have a sense of humour… It highlights how relaxed all the test match squad were, not many massive ego’s and if there were, Swanny and co would deal with it! The first clip that started off ‘the sprinkler’ was hilarious and if you haven’t seen them, you must! Well done Swanny and the England Cricket Team.

I’m also pleased, and slightly surprised that the ECB decided to show highlights of each session, pretty much instantly, on their home website. Essential resource for people who don’t have Sky.

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I’m sure that a lot of you will have read Will Swanton of Sydney’s Daily Telegraph’s 10 point plan as to why England won’t win the Ashes. So here it is, but with my take on Mr. Swanton’s ludicrous list.

1 Overrated

They walked around The Oval after their dominant home summer like they were God’s gifts to Wisden. Here’s who they really beat. No one. Nuffies and cheats. England clean-swept the worst team on the planet, Bangladesh, and then won three out of four Tests against rotten Pakistan. Now they’re portrayed as superstars.

You can only play who is put in front of you and England easily and nonchalantly dispatched both Bangladesh and Pakistan with ease, they were rightfully ranked above Australia before the Ashes so had every right to feel confident and be rated by the public.

2 Kevin Pietersen

He might be growing a moustache for a very good cause but he’s still getting around looking like Dirk Diggler out of Boogie Nights. His most recent Test efforts have been the biggest joke. John Buchanan was right with his assessment of Pietersen. Buchanan was panned because the truth hurt. There’s more than one ‘I’ in Kevin Pietersen and it hurts morale.

He wore the moustache for a charity that was started in Australia no less, but go ahead and mock anyway. Every batsman has a run of good and bad form but without doubt the Aussies would love KP to have been playing for them. 227 at Adelaide tells its own story too.

3 No top speedster

Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad and Steve Finn are respectable quicks. But they lack the fear factor. Every truly great attack has someone pushing 150km/h, like Mitchell Johnson does for Australia. None of the touring fast bowlers are frightening. Away from swing and seam-friendly England, that doesn’t leave them with much.

As it turns out, pace is overrated; England’s bowlers barely touched 90 mph (or 93.21 mph as they put it) but looked and indeed were, far more dangerous than the random selection of “bowlers” they put up. Johnson was so bad after the 1st test he was dropped for the 2nd, despite bizarre claims he was ‘rested’. The only time Johnson was dangerous was when he was swinging the ball, pace had nothing to do with it.

4 Passive captain

Andrew Strauss has to lead by example because his introverted demeanour doesn’t get the blood pumping too much. Only his scores do. He leads with quiet assurance when things are going well. But he comes across as introverted and submissive when things start going pear-shaped.

I don’t need to defend Strauss so I won’t, but Ponting needs to be questioned as captain surely? That is now three Ashes series defeats and during this series his captaincy was at times a joke. Strange field positioning, wrong bowlers at the wrong time and whatever you read to the contrary, it was Ponting that didn’t want Hauritz in the team. He ducked the last test and left poor pup to face the wrath of the media, he is one of the greatest players of all times but sometimes you need to do what’s right for the team. Learn from Paul Collingwood Mr Ponting.

5 No superstars

Pietersen is as good as anyone when he’s in the mood, but he hasn’t been in the mood for a long time. He couldn’t make a hundred against Bangladesh – his 99 was close but no cigar – and Doug Bollinger, Ben Hilfenhaus and Johnson can smell blood. Graeme Swann is the only Englishman to make a world XI right now. England are successful because they know their limitations. Which means there are limitations?

A current world XI would include more Englishmen than Graeme Swann, I don’t believe however, that any Australians would make it in at all. Bollinger, Hilfenhaus and Johnson smell blood? Between them they didn’t take as many wickets as Anderson took on his own. Oh, and again, KP scored 227 in Adelaide.

6 Over-analysis

They’ve faced bowling machines with footage of Australian speedsters running in at them – and still didn’t want to know about Mitchell Johnson. They’ve given themselves three weeks in Australia to acclimatise but haven’t played on pitches like the monster they’ll encounter at the Gabba. Every breath they take is a part of a suffocating plan. There’s no freedom, nothing instinctive or adventurous. Paralysis by over-analysis.

At no point during the entire series did any of England’s batmen look like they were bothered or scared by the bowling of the Aussies. Is this because they are fearless by nature? Some are, but mostly it is because they prepared themselves and analysed the opposition properly. As for the machines that replicate Johnson’s bowling, you simply couldn’t make a machine be that random, other than one decent swinging spell he was incredibly ordinary. As for the “Monster of the Gabba”….517/1 is all I have to say to that.

7 No depth

In such a cramped schedule, injuries are bound to hit both camps. England are in serious strife if they lose any of their first XI. There’s a vast gulf between their top-tier players and those on the standby list. Australia can only hope and pray that off-spinner Monty Panesar is called in for Graeme Swann. Australia have eight Test-standard speedsters in the queue.

This is by far the stupidest of all of these 10 points, England lost Broad after two tests so Tremlett came in and took 17 wickets in 3 tests at an average of 23. Bresnan replaced a jaded Finn who had already taken 14 wickets at 33 and took 11 wickets at 19.5. Lots of numbers and facts but essentially, England’s “back-up” bowlers were almost better than the first choice attack. Also, anybody thinking Eoin Morgan wouldn’t have knocked at least a century against this very poor bowling attack is crazy.

8 Chokers

This is England we’re talking about. Losing is a tradition. Think soccer World Cups. Think Tim Henman at Wimbledon. Think every cricket tour of Australia since 1986-87. They always arrive talking themselves up, vowing they won’t wilt under the heat and pressure and scrutiny, then wilt under the heat and pressure and scrutiny. They’ve hired a self-described Yips Doctor – because they need one.

If they did hire a “Yips Doctor” then it worked a treat, but if we are talking about choking then England certainly isn’t the team that should be mentioned. Traditionally England do struggle in sporting events but when everything clicks, they are more than a match for anybody, the Australian rugby team who played in the  2003 world cup final will testify to that.

9 Warm-ups

Everyone keeps rattling on about England’s perfect preparation. They must be having a laugh. A few of them made runs at Adelaide Oval. It’s like batting on the Hume Highway. Anyone seen the scorecards? Western Australia rolled England for 223. South Australia dismissed them for 288 on the Hume. And Australia A ripped through their top order in Hobart A yesterday. Perfectly prepared? Piffle.

All of those matches showed where the problems were and what mistakes are being made, then they were all corrected when it really mattered, it was the Australians who peaked far, far too early in those games.

10 Scars

Five of their top six batsmen are the same lot who stumbled and bumbled through the 5-0 loss on England’s last trip to Australia. The scarring is deep and real. Jimmy Anderson’s memories of Australia are all nightmarish. He averaged 45.16. Broad and Finn are yet to play a Test series in Australia. Hard surfaces jarring bones and muscles, oppressive heat – they won’t know what or who has hit them.

I would suggest that instead of scarring those players it spurred them on to play at the highest possible level and with a mentality that was “we will not be beaten”. Six of England’s top seven batmen all scored centuries during the series and as for Jimmy Anderson, he was simply unplayable. Hard surfaces jarring bones and muscles, oppressive heat – they won’t know what or who has hit them – this must be how the Aussies feel.

Marcus J Mitchell & Will Swanton (sort of!)

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First and foremost I am a football fan, I love lots of sports but it’s instilled upon me to be a football fan, so I am used to seeing all sorts of players using gamesmanship to gain an advantage over the opposition. It could be making the most of a challenge, wasting time near the end of a match or claiming a corner or throw in when you know it went out off you.

I am also, and disappointingly, used to players outright cheating, it isn’t uncommon to switch on a live match, or highlights and see somebody pretending they have been hurt when tackled, or worst still, making out that they have been punched or kicked to try and get their opponent sent off.

But last night I saw something even worse than that, Philip Hughes fielding at short leg claiming a catch off Cook when he knew it had bounced first. This might seem like nothing to the eyes of a non-cricket fan but cricket is a different sport to football. In fact cricket is different to almost any sport in the world because in some respects the umpires are there just for decisions the players can’t make, but for everything else the players do the work for them.

It is the done thing that a batsman walks before being given out if he knows he hit it, same if a fielder knows he caught it, the umpire would simply ask the fielder if he did indeed catch it, if he said yes you take him at his word and the batsman is out.

That is what makes Hughes’ claim even worse, if you see a replay of it, he knows straight away he hasn’t caught it but is almost convinced by his team mates that he did, Cook stands his ground forcing the umpires to deliberate and check with the video umpire who, along with everyone at the ground and everyone watching around the world, see the ball bounce before going into Hughes’ hands.

Hopefully this isn’t the end of cricket as we know it, but there surely should be repercussions for Hughes, just because he is a dreadful cricketer doesn’t give him the right to cheat. But that is exactly what he attempted yesterday.

Phil, it’s just not cricket.

Marcus J Mitchell.

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After England retained The Ashes yesterday with a very comfortable innings victory, it was left to the man who started the craze in the first place to lead the jubilant team in a perfect rendition of…The Sprinkler.

Lets go to Sydney, destroy the Aussies and leave with a comprehensive 3-1 series victory, then the dancing can really start!

Marcus J MItchell.

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The two captains shake hands. The umpire flips the coin. The coin lands… The game is decided. According to cricket, according to some analysts, according to many fans, the game is over. Whoever wins the toss, wins the match. This may, in hindsight, be wishful thinking while Australia are 50-odd for 4 in the all-important 4th Test, but England have won the coin toss, bowled first, with only four bowlers, and done very well.

So is it crucial? It does give the winning captain a choice. Bowl; or, usually, bat first. ‘Get some runs on the board.’ Set the other team a target. Compared to football, compared to tossing for which ‘end’ to play toward; compared to who serves first in tennis, the flipping of a coin has a direct impact on how a cricket match develops. The captain is in control. Or is he?

It’s a tough choice. If the wicket is flat, then the batsmen are jumping for joy. If it’s green, then the bowler is chomping at the bit trying to pick up early wickets. If it’s in between, a bit green, a bit flat, who knows? The skill of the captain.

I’m not overly convinced the toss has such a great impact. Many commentators claim it’s crucial. I believe if your team is good enough, if your batsmen are better, if your bowlers are better, if your fielders are better, you’ll win. If it’s close, again, it’s the skill and ability that’ll decide the game, not who wins the toss of the coin (unless you’re playing in Sri Lanka or Leeds ;o))

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The crucial word in the title is “upcoming”, it may never happen; England winning The Ashes on Australian soil, as many a cricket fan of my age (29 years and 16 months) knows, just doesn’t happen. I’ve never seen it. The current Australian players may well turn on the ability switch we know they’ve all be pre-programmed with (or so it seemed to me forever) and drag this 3rd Test back from the jaws of obvious frailty and turn it into a dramatic victory. Ending my current state of constant goodmoodedness. Right, now all the superstitious insecurities are out-of-the-way, we can get on with defending the current – and we’ve won two of the last three Ashes series – level of success.

We beat Australia in England in 2005.  That series has been described as the best series of test cricket ever. I agree. It was the first time I’d ever seen an Ashes victory, so I’m somewhat biased. Nevertheless, we did beat an Australian side full of proven world-class performers. Warne, Ponting, McGrath, Hayden, Lee, Gilchrist, Langer, Hussey, Katich and, erm, many would include Clarke and Gillespie/Tait, which kind of makes the listing of individuals pointless. They were all world-class. And we beat them.

They then got revenge. The Ultimate Humiliation. McGrath predicted correct and we lost 5-0 in Australia. Similar sides, reality reinstated.

We fought back. Jimmy Anderson and Monty Panesar held on for a draw in Cardiff and we went on to beat a slightly different set of Aussie players. No McGrath, no Warne, less attitude, less ability, less confidence. Australia weren’t the same team. But they were playing a better England side. A side growing with confidence. Young players fulfilling their potential, long-term positive consequences of central contracts (something the Australians did first), an impressive coach and an even more impressive captain (after the chaos of Flintoff and KP).

So here we are…

What made me think about the upcoming banter, defending the victory from various accusations, was this retweet by the wonderful cricket/sport tweeter Pam Nash or Pam_nAshes

It’s not really England that are winning. We’ve got four players who were born in South Africa. We’re effectively South Africa 2nd team. Strauss moved to England at the age of six whereas KP, Trott and Prior all headed to England looking for new opportunities in their own cricketing careers after failing or not being picked for their sides in South Africa. Not only do they have to qualify over a period of years before they’re eligible for England, but they have to be good enough. Contrast that with the days of Hick, Lamb and many, many other players who were born in other parts of the world. I never heard the claims “ENGLAND ARE CRAP: WHY? THE FOREIGN PLAYERS” I might’ve missed it in the Star, but from memory it was England who were crap. Everything about the game. The county game. The contracts the players were on. The intensity of first-class cricket. The attitude. The pitches. Graeme Hick. The coaching. The coaching and the coaching. Never the non-English-born-but-now-qualified-different-accent-types who filled the middle order, bowled the new ball spells or found drift and turn with the off-spin. It never came up. We blamed Robin Smith, Allan Lamb and Graeme Hick. Not South Africa or Zimbabwe.

Another reminder was this brilliant blog post by Lev Parikian. The title ‘Come back Australia, all is forgiven’ hints at the content. He may, at times, be provocative, or maybe he’s in a state of shock – as I am – with the current on-field success. But this claim takes a shine off any potential England victory.

The worst-case scenario is that the dip in quality in Australia’s domestic scene persists, young athletes look to other sports (notably Australian Rules Football) and Australia become, medium-to-long term, a mediocre team, thus further denuding the pool of competitive Test-playing nations.

I don’t mind if this happens. As long as we’re a little bit better “mediocre team”. Of course we all want to see barnstorming, edge of the seat, nail-biting test matches like we saw in 2005. Overcoming the very best in the world. It was amazing. But then,

They then got revenge. The Ultimate Humiliation. McGrath predicted correct and we lost 5-0 in Australia. Similar sides, reality reinstated.

I don’t want that. I’d much rather they were in disarray. Changing the system. Doubting the attitude, blaming the coaches, introducing different contracts, laying different pitches…anything but long-term stability. I want them to select the wrong players. I want them to select players who are out of form. I want them to drop players who could do a job. I want them to be nostalgically hoping Warne might turn his arm over again. I bloody love it. And if any Australian fan has to endure 20 years of defeats, humiliating defeats, constant defeats, only defeats; I’ll be smiling. And I’m prepared.

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Before play started we were given the news that Stuart Broad has torn a muscle in his side and will play no further part in this tour, it’s a great shame for him and for England as he would have been perfect for Perth with its bouncy pitch, but in Chris Tremlett we have an able replacement, I feel that both Bresnan and Shahzad are better bowlers but for Perth, Chris Tremlett was made to bowl there.

Still feeling rough with my headaches, went back to the doctors who assured me I have nothing more wrong than was first diagnosed, I cannot question it as I do not have a medical degree but I will see how I feel come the end of the week, due to not feeling well I have no snacks whatsoever!

23.32pm: I missed the first two overs of the day as I was unaware that play was starting early again, missed nothing important so no harm done.

23.39pm: Beardy Prior misses a catching chance of Hussey, this could prove disastrous as Hussey can bat all day if needed to and also plays spin very well so negates the danger that Swann possesses.

23.54pm: Fortunately that miss from Hussey didn’t prove too costly as he plays a terrible shot from a high delivery from Finn and hooks it skywards and into Jimmy Anderson’s hands.

00.00am: Anderson is really causing Haddin some problems, his bowling is accurate and you feel Haddin really wants to play at one but just can’t, 272/5.

00.12am: Swann is back bowling, he needs to stay in now until the Aussies are all out.

00.20am: Finally the consistency of Anderson’s bowling pays dividends when Haddin caught one with his bat and it went straight into Beardy Priors gloves. 286/6.

00.24am: Harris comes in on a king pair (when you get out with the first ball you face in both innings) and duly obliges by getting trapped first ball LBW by Anderson, he reviews it with an expectant shrug and the review confirms the decision, Australia struggling now on 286/7.

00.27am: A massive appeal goes up for LBW against North, the umpire says no, England review and it was given out, a massive blow as Australia’s last recognised ‘batsman’ is out and the tail is exposed.

00.36am: I remember one of the commentators of TMSofa saying yesterday that he had something in common with X-Doh, they were both going to play the same amount of test matches from the end of this test until the day they die, none!

00.41am: Australia’s tail enders momentarily are putting up a little fight by both scoring 4’s.

00.42am: The resistance is short lived and X-Doh is bowled between bat and pad by Swann.

00.49am: Doug the rug plays a couple of decent shots and the Australian total moves past 300, they are still a long way from avoiding an innings defeat.

00.55am: Swann clean bowls Siddle with a peach of a ball and it is over, Australia are out for 304, England win by an innings and 71 runs.

It has been a truly fantastic performance from England and they have dominated from the beginning, we now head to Perth 1-0 in the series and because we are the holders only need 1 win from the last 3 tests to retain the Ashes.

A nice stat to end, Peter Siddle’s wicket fell at 10.55am local time, at 1.42 the rain started falling and did not stop all day, the Aussies only needed to bat on for 90 minutes or so to have secured the draw, wonder if Mike Hussey will be thinking about that when he sees a replay of the shite shot he played to get out.

Oh and also, yesterday was Adelaide’s wettest December day since records began in 1839. Good timing boys…….

See you in Perth (not actually of course)

Marcus.

Sleep total for 1st test – 28.5 hours (still quite respectable but remember bad head + painkillers)

Sleep count for 2nd test – 25.5 hours

Food count for 1st test – 2 Cheese, Ham and Tomato toasties, 2 Ham and tomato ketchup sandwiches,1 Chicken and Mushroom pot Noodle, 2 slices of bread and butter, 2 mallow chocs, 1 WS&V, 1 WC&O, 1 Steak kettle chips (150g), 1 Roysters, 1 crunch corner, Faye’s leftover Cantonese chicken, 4 pints of diet Pepsi, 1 pint of Beck Vier, 1 bottle of diet coke (200ml) and 1 pint of water.

Food count for 2nd test – 5 pints of diet Pepsi, 2 WC&O, 1 pickled onion monster munch, 2 cheese and ham toasties, a pack of custard creams.

FIFA record P11 W10 D1 L1 – F25 A13.

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