Australia Squad Announced – Who Has The Edge?

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Can anyone else hardly believe that it has been nearly four years since England’s 2005 Ashes victory? Personally, it seems like yesterday.

Simon Katich leaving a ball to hit his stumps off Freddie, Harmy’s slower ball to dismiss Michael Clarke in the second Test – it is all so memorable and it is all about to be done again.

Australia have named their 16-man squad for the series so we can start to analyse their travelling party. As for England, well they don’t have a Test match until the one at Sophia Gardens in July, so we can safely predict the team they may put out as well.

With this in mind, I thought it might be an idea to look at how the two squads line up against each other. It’s a bit of a long winded process to do it all at once, so let’s do five players at a time, starting with the most recognised batsman.

Philip Hughes v Alistair Cook – This one is a close call. The young Australian has made a fabulous start to his Test career and only time will tell if he can handle the pressure of an Ashes series. Cook scored a century in Australia and seems in decent form, so he could have the edge.

Simon Katich v Andrew Strauss – Other than a couple of dodgy declaration decisions in the West Indies, Strauss has been excellent since taking over as captain. He has also excelled with the bat this time. Katich on the other hand had a nightmare in 2005 and Freddie will be desperate to bowl at him again.

Ricky Ponting v Ravi Bopara – The Australian skipper will, once again, be the most important wicket for England to get this series. He leads from the front for his team and how he performs with the bat could well determine which way this series goes. Bopara has shown some promise of late, but has he got what it takes to outshine Ponting?

Mike Hussey v Kevin Pietersen – These are two very different players, but they both perform valuable roles for their team. Neither have been at their absolute best in recent months though, so perhaps they are saving themselves for the biggest series of all.

Michael Clarke v Paul Collingwood – You never quite know what to expect from Collingwood and it is by no means certain that he will be in the team come Cardiff. However, he is a gritty character and often delivers when he needs to most. As for Clarke, he has all the attributes of a future Australian captain. He is also one of the most experienced members of the team now, so he has a crucial role to play.

There you have it then – England and Australia’s top five. To be honest, it seems rather even when you look at it now. It is these head to head battles that could end up deciding the series though so it is interesting to look at.

Next time for Flintoffs Ashes, I will take a look at the all-rounders and wicket keepers of England and Australia.

Until then, enjoy the One Day Internationals against the West Indies.

By Thomas Rooney – A sports writer who blogs about Ashes cricket.

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Helmets for Umpires?

According to this article from Reuters, Daryl Harper is suggesting that Twenty20 umpires start wearing baseball style helmets to protect themselves.

Given the pace with which some of the players hit those shots, it’s becoming really dangerous for us. In one of the games, Sanath’s (Jayasuriya) shot hit me so hard that I was feeling breathless for a while. And (Matthew) Hayden’s hits have brushed my ears a few times as well.
Quote by Daryl Harper

Initially I thought this was a load of old bollocks but then, in a moment of clarity or, indeed, a rare moment of sobriety, I thought why not combine the helmet protection with some modern technology?

US F-35 fighter pilots now use a helmet which effectively allows them to fly the plane just by looking at data superimposed on their visors. They only have to look at a target and – whoosh – their goes another payload of friendly fire. So why not give the umpires a nice, shiny helmet to protect them from getting one in the face and also incorporate stuff like Hawkeye, Snicko, HotSpot and all that other stuff at the same time?

Not only would it protect the little loves from getting a nasty bump on the bonce but it would also improve their decision making. No more hanging around waiting for third umpires. No more LBWs when the ball has pitched outside the line. No more caught behinds off non-existent edges.

It’s genius, I tell you.

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Boycott in negative opinion shocker!

Geoffrey BoycottWhat’s the first thing you think of when someone mentions Geoffrey Boycott? Is it a solid opening batsman? Is it the hat he constantly wears? Or is it the moaning cricket pundit from Yorkshire?

Personally, considering I don’t remember much about Boycott as a player, I always think of the latter. Whenever I think of Boycott, I hear his voice whining on about the various ways in which England have gone wrong.

Don’t get me wrong, Boycott knows his cricket. He knows what it takes to win a Test match, he knows what makes a good Test captain and he knows the type of mentality that an opening batsman needs. However, he puts all of this across in an increasingly negative manner.

Where have these views on Boycott sprung from I hear you ask? Well, the former England man has been having his say on the current crop and hasn’t exactly sung their praises.

Speaking about their chances of winning the Ashes, he says that they haven’t got a hope because they are ‘not in great shape’. He also criticised the ‘fiasco’ surrounding Kevin Pietersen and Peter Moores that occurred this winter.

As for Andrew Strauss, Boycott isn’t convinced that the England skipper is a ‘natural captain’ because he tends to ‘wait for things to happen’ on the field as opposed to ‘thinking ahead’.

Another thing criticised by Boycott was the fact that England have had far from a settled side in recent months. He particularly highlighted the No.3 spot which has been occupied by Michael Vaughan, Ian Bell, Owais Shah and now Ravi Bopara.

Overall, Boycott doesn’t believe that England are ‘getting the best out of what we’ve got’. The Yorkshireman finished by saying that everyone connected with the England cricket team has ‘shot themselves in the head this winter’.

So, how accurate are Boycott’s comments? Well, he is right about the team not being in the best shape, he is right about the Pietersen/Moores situation being a distraction and he is right that having an unsettled side makes it difficult to prepare for the future.

However, I don’t think that it’s as bad as he makes out. Things can turn around very quickly in cricket and this is what the two Test matches against the West Indies can be used for.

A decent performance from a fresh looking England team in these two games could act as a springboard for a successful summer. Then, hopefully, Strauss and co can go some way to proving Boycott wrong even though, at this stage, he is pretty much bang on the money!

By Thomas Rooney – A sports writer who blogs about England Cricket

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