Flintoff Can Complete Ashes Series

After helping England comfortably wrap up the second Ashes Test at Lord’s on Monday, Andrew Flintoff has insisted that he will be fit for the remaining three matches of the series.

All England fans will be praying that this turns out to be the case because let’s face it, without Flintoff, the chances of Andrew Strauss’ men winning the Ashes are reduced significantly. Even from a winning position.

This is because Flintoff inspires players around him like no-one else in world cricket. He carries this England team at times and perhaps most crucially, the Australian team fear him. These are unique attributes for an English cricketer and they are what makes Flintoff such a special player.

During his last three Test matches before retirement, we will hopefully see him at his absolute best as part of a series victory. This would be the perfect way for him to bow out and the thought of this is probably what made his decision about retiring at the end of the series.

What are the chances of him being fit for the remaining three matches though? He has clearly had to push hard to make it through the first two Tests, so surely there is a chance he might have to sit out some of the remaining matches?

Well, as previously mentioned, Flintoff believes he will be available for the remainder of the summer. He says it was never his intention to ‘bow out at Lords’ and that he wants to be ‘part of an Ashes winning team come the last Test at The Oval’.

This is, of course, music to the ears of England cricket fans. Everyone knows that Flintoff is going to have to really push himself and his body to get through these matches, but the thought that he will do so is extremely encouraging for England.

It sums up his character and his personality perfectly. Flintoff’s fast and accurate 10-over spell on Monday morning defied all logic considering his knee problems and perhaps there is more of this to come this summer.

Andy Flower revealed that Flintoff won’t play if he doesn’t pass the relevant fitness Tests, but if Flintoff says he is fit, I would be inclined to believe it.

After the way he bowled on Monday, who would stand in his way? Bowling on one leg or not, Flintoff is the best bowler in this England team!

By Thomas Rooney, a sports blogger who writes about Ashes Test cricket.

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Monkey Man Ponting Is A Window Licker

Ricky Ponting is a window licker
Photo courtesy of DailyHaHa

So after three days of play in the Lord’s Test match, England are 521 runs ahead.

Let me just repeat that in case you’re stupid and/or Australian.

After three days of play in the Lord’s Test match, England are 521 runs ahead.

All the talk this morning was whether Strauss should enforce the follow through on and, in my opinion, he got it spot on. It looked more of a batting day than a bowling day and, in the end, that proved to be the case. There was a strong argument for putting the Aussies back in after the Cardiff Test – having dominated that match for so long, how would they react to being humiliated and made to bat again – but I think Strauss made the right decision and the Aussies are now looking down the barrel.

So. The next question. When to declare?

The fact is that England have now got a 521 run lead. Have I mentioned that yet? Anyway…England have got a substantial lead and history suggests that the cheese stealing convicts have no chance of winning this Test match. No team has scored more than 450 runs in the 4th innings to win a Test match. At Lord’s that figure is 344 (West Indies in 1984 if you’re interested and they did it for 1 wicket) so an Aussie victory is unlikely. Bizarrely, the bookies are being tighter than a gnats chuff and the best I could find was 11/1 with both totesport and Sporting Bet. If I were running a book, I’d give you 50/1 at this point but I guess that’s why I’m not a bookmaker…

Anyway, personally I think Ricky Ponting has lost the plot. His burning ambition to make up for the ’05 Ashes defeat has turned him doolally. As Will says over at The Corridor, in the warm up game at Worcester and in the first Test at Cardiff, Ponting has thrown hissy fits that even Naomi Campbell would be ashamed of. In this Test match he has been on the wrong side of a dismissal verdict – right decision but wrong choice of dismissal – and his dropped catch today couldn’t have been easier if he’d pulled his pants down, done a handstand and caught the ball with his chocolate starfish. The man is on the brink. So what to do?

Piss him off even more!

As a Test match opening bat, I would imagine that you like to get yourself mentally geared up for the new ball onslaught. As a number 3 (I still think of Ricky as a number 2 but there you go..) you are also having to mentally prepare yourself that you might be in second ball of the day so what would really grate your gears?

How’s about Strauss saying “We’re going to carry on batting today, Ricky” and send Fred and Disco Stu out to the middle at 11am. As a fielding side you must start wondering how many runs the oppo need before they declare and the top three batters are contemplating at least an hour in the field before they bat. So how would they feel that, if after precisely one ball from Muff Face Siddle, Strauss calls them back in and declares.

Can you imagine how Ponting would react?

Light the blue touch paper and stand well back.

The Aussies often talk about mental disintegration. Well if Andrew Strauss were to do what I’ve just suggested then Ponting will be not only disentragrated to the point of becoming nothing more than floating particles in the air above St Johns Wood but he may well be licking the windows of the tour bus for the remainder of his trip to England.

Any Aussies care to disagree with me? Well, to quote: Where the bloody hell are you?

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First Test Reaction

If ever you thought that Sky Sports was too expensive, I’d suggest that the look on Pontings face in the closing minutes of the first Ashes Test was worth every single penny. He looked like a bulldog licking piss off a nettle.

Jimmy Anderson may well be the record holder for the most number of innings since debut without a duck but at 6pm yesterday you wouldn’t have bet on him and Monty batting out three quarters of an hour and saving the Test, would you? Let’s be honest here. Panesar only bats at number eleven because you can’t put him at number 12.Yet somehow survive they did and we go to Lord’s all square.

If I’d written this post at lunch on day 5 the title would have been something along the lines of “Spineless” or “Clueless” or “You Bunch Of Fucking Wankers”. However, since I was heading out the door to play cricket myself, I didn’t get a chance to update the blog so, instead, I left this message on Twitter:

Nuts to this. I’m off to play cricket. ECB selectors I’m available if you’re looking for another hopeless batsman who can’t spin the ball

True enough, I bowled 5 overs without the ball deviating so much as a millimetre and I got out playing a soft shot for 7 so I made sure my mobile was on as I headed off to the bar to watch the last knockings in the Cardiff Test. I’d guessed we were nine down by the collective groans from the handful of die hards sitting in front of the TV.

The masochistic tendencies shown by England cricket fans would have the Marquis de Sade wincing. However this random collection of cricket enthusiasts and cricket less than enthusiasts (i.e. their wives) were full of optimism that Jimmy and Monty could save the game. Full of optimism or Kronenbourg. One of the two.

The final 45 minutes of this match proved why Test match cricket is the premium version of the game. To hear a capacity crowd cheering every dot ball. To see the Australian bowlers straining every sinew of their body to get that last wicket. To see monkey man Ponting throwing his toys out the pram when the England physio came on.

Kim Hughes - Almost As Useless As Ricky Ponting

And that brings me nicely on to my next point. This game finished a draw because Ricky Ponting is the worst Australian captain since Kim Hughes. He is a world class batsman but, as a captain, he is shocking. It was easy for him when he could turn to Shane Warne or Glenn McGrath and chuck them the ball. He had players like Hayden, Langer and Gilchrist to get him out of the shit with the bat. Take all of them away and he’s shown up for being what he really is. A crap captain. Just what in the name of Stuart Broads jockstrap was he thinking in bringing on Marcus North to bowl the last few overs?

England were woeful in this Test. Of the 15 sessions of play, you can probably give the convicts Australians all but two. At the time I thought 435 was a below par score but enough for us to make a match of it. However the next few days showed up an alarming lack of application by the England bowlers. Outside of Freddie Flintoff’s opening spell, I never really saw a wicket coming. Credit where it’s due, with the exception of Mister Cricket (who should surely be renamed Mister Ball) the Aussie batsman looked superb.

As I say, I don’t rate his captaincy but Ponting is one of the best Test match batsmen I have seen. Katich was a completely different player to the one we saw here in ’05 and, as predicted by Tony from After Grog Blog Haddins batting average in on the way up. As a batting line up the Aussies look pretty solid.

However, despite taking 19 wickets, I still don’t rate their bowling attack. Mitchell Johnson is a bit Harmisonesque – one minute he looks a world beater, the next he looks like a wife beater. Hilfenhaus is short of the couple of yards of pace that would not only make him a genuinely quick bowler but also make it nigh on impossible for any commentator to finish saying his name before the ball hit the stumps. Peter Siddle will never be taken seriously as a Test bowler whilst he has a whores muff stapled to his chin and after a long bowling spell Nathan Hauritz looks too much like Gareth Gates to be a world class spinner. (Note: I tried to find a picture to illustrate this but after a Google search for “hot and sweaty Gareth Gates” I gave up as I had some sick in my mouth)

England were outplayed in this Test, there’s no question of that, but the fact remains that the series remains level with four to play. It’s interesting to see that Australia’s answer to Mystic Meg – Glenn McGrath – has now changed his prediction to a 4-0 series win. Well done, Glenn. I’m glad to see that you’ve spent your retirement mastering the rudiments of mathematics. Not for the first time, though, I’m going to disagree with you. I still stand by my original prediction of a 2-1 series win.

Why?

  1. That losing draw in Cardiff will be the kick up the arse some of those England players needed. Too many of them were believing their own press and they listened to too much of the “this Australian team is the worst to come here for years” nonsense the press have been spouting off for the last few months. Sure, they’re not the Invincibles but you put an Australian dominoes team up against the English and they will fight you every single inch of the way so do not underestimate the old enemy.
  2. As a unit, our bowling attack will not perform as badly as that again. In 30 years of watching Test cricket I’ve not witnessed such an inept display as that shown by Messrs Anderson, Broad, Swann, Flintoff or Panesar so the chances of it happening twice in a couple of months is unlikely.
  3. Kevin Pietersen will have watched his dismissals in this Test match over and over on tape and realised that his lucrative sponsorship deals are at risk if he ever plays shots like that again. Let’s face it, if you were a marketing exec for sadida*would you want your brand associated with a clueless fuckwit?
  4. Likewise Alastair Cook. His eyeliner contract with lemmiR* will be in jeopardy if he fails at Lord’s.
  5. England will drop Monty Panesar. I’m sorry, Monty, I know I’ve championed you in the past but I’m of the same belief as Shane Warne. I don’t believe you’ve learnt enough in your 30+ Test matches to be considered a Test match player. Yes, I know you saved the game this time but, let’s face it, when New Zealand’s Chris Martin looks a better batter and Steven Hawking looks a more mobile fielder, you’ve got to be able to turn it on with the ball. Or just turn it.
  6. The England squad and the entire backroom staff – all 358 of them – would not dare to do anything other than win the series 2-1. They know I have a tenner riding on it and that I will be after them if they fail me. I have connections, you know, and I also know where every single one of them will be on August 24th so let that be a warning.

Despite an exceptionally disappointing performance by England, the series remains all square going into the Lord’s Test match. Mystic McGrath points out that we’ve not won an Ashes Test there since 1934 and, to be honest, I don’t see much changing this time around. However, given the weather forecast, my gut feeling is another draw (11/10 at both Paddy Power and Sportingbet) with England snatching back some pride by playing four seamers and giving the Aussie top order a working over.

*- name changed to prevent expensive lawsuits

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All Change For Lord’s?

First of all let me say how shocked I am that England managed to draw the first Ashes Test match. It was a remarkable effort from Andrew Strauss’ men, especially from Paul Collingwood, Graeme Swann, James Anderson and Monty Panesar.

They batted heroically and deserved their draw in the end. Fair enough, the session lost on Saturday evening helped England. However, at 70-5, even the most optimistic of England fans would have said that defeat was inevitable anyway.

For the first time in the series though, they showed some fight and some passion. They did something we didn’t expect them to. Despite being dominated for the majority of the Test match, they came out with a draw to leave Australia extremely frustrated.

There is no getting away from the fact that England were completely outplayed though and that they were very poor in many areas. The top order didn’t score enough runs, the seamers got their line and length wrong too often and the spin duo of Swann and Panesar only managed one wicket between them.

England have a clean slate to move forward with though and they can go into the second Test at Lord’s knowing that they are still level in the series. This is a huge bonus. What changes should be made though?

Well, one of the spinners has to go as Lord’s is normally rather seam friendly. This probably means that Panesar will have to miss out.

Swann wasn’t at his best in Cardiff, but he is England’s No.1 spinner right now and will stay in the side for consistency purposes.

As for who comes in for Panesar, well there are a number of options. Most would agree that it is between Durham’s Graeme Onions and Steve Harmison, but the likes of Tim Bresnan and Matthew Hoggard shouldn’t be completely ruled out. They have been in the wickets for Yorkshire recently anyway.

Personally, I would go for Harmison – I think. If he can get it right against Australia, they will fear him. After the first Test, they won’t be fearing many England bowlers so this has to be something to consider. The Durham man is fit and in form so has to play.

It doesn’t matter if he won’t be selected this winter in South Africa. We need him to perform this summer against Australia. That’s the most important thing. At home, he can be a very threatening bowler and whether he turns it on or not is probably worth the risk. Elsewhere, there probably won’t be any changes. Stuart Broad was poor with the ball, but he can come back fighting. The top order didn’t score enough runs, but who would you bring in to replace any of them? Ian Bell?!

For England, the Ashes starts this Thursday at Lord’s. Hopefully the momentum from this draw can be used to produce a much more positive performance so make sure you stay on top of the Lord’s Test odds.

Guest post by Thomas Rooney

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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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