What Team Should England Go With For Headingley?

headingley-ashes

The fourth Ashes Test starts at Headingley tomorrow. This excites many people around the country, including me. Not only are we set for another five days of competitive cricket between England and Australia but the series could be decided.

If Andrew Strauss’ men emerge victorious in Leeds, they would have regained the Ashes. A 2-0 series lead would be taken into the final Test at The Oval with Ricky Ponting’s men only able to aim for a consolation victory. (MB: I hope so cuz I’ve got a tenner on 2-1 @17/2!)

This is a long way off at the moment though. Australia are far from done on this tour as yet and will be determined to take the series into a final Test decider.

So, it is all eyes on Headingley and the first point of interest will be the team that England put out. Will they go with an extra batsman? Will they bring in Ryan Sidebottom or Steve Harmison to shake up the bowling line-up?

Well, a lot depends on the fitness of Andrew Flintoff. His all-round ability provides a great balance to the team and if he is unavailable, there are one or two changes that will have to be made. So, I think it is best to go with a ‘Freddie Fit’ team and a ‘Freddie Un-Fit’ team.

Freddie Fit:

Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook, Ravi Bopara, Ian Bell, Paul Collingwood, Matt Prior, Andrew Flintoff, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Graham Onions.

I appreciate that this is a bit boring as I have gone for the same team as the last Test at Edgbaston. However, if Flintoff is fit to bowl, I don’t see the need to change it. There is enough form in this bowling line-up to bowl-out Australia twice and there is enough batting to post at least one score of above 400.

Freddie Un-Fit:

Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook, Ravi Bopara, Ian Bell, Paul Collingwood, Jonathan Trott, Matt Prior, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Steve Harmison, Graham Onions.

This might not be the most popular team choice, but if Flintoff isn’t fit you have to bolster the batting line-up a little bit. This isn’t a negative tactic because England are 1-0 up, it is a sensible tactic to try and ensure that the team scores enough runs to force a result.

So, Trott comes in at No.6 to replace Flintoff. Then, Harmison comes in to replace Broad. This is so England can get someone in their bowling line-up who does a similar job to that of Flintoff. Harmison has had his troubles, but Australia don’t like facing him. Simple as that.

The only worry with this second team is whether the bowling is too light. There will be only four front-line bowlers, after all. If this proved a significant concern after looking at the pitch, Broad would keep his place and bat at No.7 with Harmison coming in as a straight swap for Flintoff.

We won’t know about Freddie’s fitness until the morning, so plenty of decisions to be made for Strauss and Andy Flower before the coin is tossed! Before then, keep a close eye on the Fourth Test odds before making your Headingley Test bet. (MB: Thomas is spot on. Betfair are currently trading at 4.3 for an England win which is miles better than anyone else but get on it before Freddie is declared unfit as the price will drop)

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

Headingley photo credit: Tony Kennick

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The Ashes 2009 Starts Right Here

ashes-graphic

So the wait is finally over. The 2009 Ashes starts tomorrow and, in the spirit of tradition, Old Man McGrath has predicted a 5-0 whitewash for the Aussies. The senile old git.

Looking out the window at the monsoon like conditions, I have to say that I’m not hopeful of a full 5 days play for the first Test but there you go. I’m still as excited as a 6 month old puppy although my little lipstick isn’t poking out. I’ve been anticipating this series more than an unnamed dead pop star used to look forward to school sports day.

I’ve been kind of quiet in the build up to the series. Not because I don’t love you guys – you know I do in that special way only a blogger can love his readers – but because I’ve been busy working on a film project so I hope you didn’t miss me too much. Rest assured I will be covering this Ashes series despite my lack of Sky coverage thanks to the IRA*. I’ll be mainly listening to TMS or finding a pub to watch the game. I think I might be heading to The Beehive in Vauxhall which is where I famously tried to interview folks after the Oval in ’05 so if you’re around and fancy buying me a beer, I won’t stop you :)

Regular readers will know I like the occasional punt so I’ve been looking over the markets for the series. The series winner market doesn’t look overly exciting with Australia at 4/5 and England 15/8 with both Paddy Power and totesport but the outstanding bet in my opinion is and England series win 2-1 at 17/2 with Sportingbet. I can see the weather playing a part and would be surprised if we have 25 days of cricket so expect a couple of draws. All the online bookies are offering £25 in free bets so if you haven’t already opened an account the smart money is picking up England 2-1 for a tenner and then whacking your £25 free bet on Australia at 4/5. Easy, eh?

* – Ickenham Residents Association

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