Retiring From Test Match Cricket

You’ll have noticed that I haven’t posted anything on the site since England’s humiliating defeat at Headingley. Despite what our Aussie readers might be thinking, it’s not because I’ve been sulking or because I only write stuff when England win. Let’s face it. If the latter were true I’d never write anything.

The reason I’ve not updated Flintoff’s Ashes is because I’ve spent the last week getting ready for my Test match debut at The Oval.

As I read the newspapers on the Monday after England’s shocking performance in Leeds it became quite clear that there were going to be some major changes to the team for the Oval Test match. Looking at some of the names suggested, it struck me that I might be in with a chance of selection. After all it seemed that age was not going to be a barrier, being a window licking mentalist wouldn’t preclude me and the fact I like a pie and a pint seemed to indicate that I was a shoo in for the vacant number three position.

The last week has been spent honing my batting technique in the nets, working on the cardio vascular machines in the gym to get my fitness levels right for a gruelling three day Test match and preparing myself for the inevitable ‘mental disintegration’ from the Aussies by getting my nephew to hurl insults at me for hours on end. It was an interesting week. I didn’t realise my nephew was of the belief that I have had carnal knowledge of his grandmother.

Anyway, after a sleepless night I sat by the phone this morning waiting for the call from Geoff Miller. A scene, I imagine, played out across the country by anyone who has ever held a cricket bat in their life. After all, Mr Miller had gone on record as saying he wasn’t ruling anyone out so if he was true to his word then I was in with a chance of playing. And so were you. However I bet you hadn’t spent the week preparing for the game, had you? That’s why I had the edge. That’s why I was confident I would get the call.

However, as you’ll probably know by now, Miller reneged on the deal and ended up picking someone who plays county cricket. Again.

Why, Mr Miller? Why? Why do this to me us? Why give us all a hope of playing for England in the deciding match of the Ashes series and then go back on your word? You’re not fooling anyone. When you said “I’m not ruling anyone out” you didn’t mean it, did you? You never intended on picking anyone outside of your little circle of buddies, did you? If the England cricket team isn’t an Old Boys Club then I don’t know what is.

Well here’s a thing, Miller. I never trusted you back in the 70′s. That tash made you look like a geography teacher. A geography teacher with an unhealthy interest in helping out on sports day. I could see through your corduroy jacket with leather elbows patches back then and you’ve done nothing since to convince me that you’re anything other than a liar and a charlatan.

You made a big statement and then couldn’t or wouldn’t back it up. You’re a fraud.

As a result of your shameless about face I hereby announce my immediate retirement from Test cricket. It’s clear that despite your assurances that I figured in your plans that you’ll continue to pick the England team from the minute pool of talent that is the County Championship. Maybe if I’d been born in South Africa things would have been different but somehow I doubt it.

Headline Photo: Mark Hillary

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The Ashes 2009 Starts Right Here

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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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Ashes Tickets Available – First Test Cardiff

Looking for tickets for the Ashes cricket? They’re like rocking horse shit aren’t they? However I’ve got some good news for you.

A limited number of tickets will be made available for the first Ashes Test in Cardiff at 9am Thursday 25 June.

Tickets can only be purchased online at www.glamorgancricket.com and are available for all four days, priced at £50, £70 and £85, with junior tickets priced at £25. An additional booking fee of £2.50 will be charged to the face value of each ticket.

Tickets are on a first come first served basis so set your alarm clocks and dust down the redial button cuz you’re gonna need it!

If you miss out then it might be worth giving Sky Sports a call. They’re offering a free Sky+ box at the moment so you can record the look on Pontings face when he’s told that the SWALEC Stadium really is the venue for the first Test and not the practice ground…

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England v Australia – Who Has The Edge? Part Two

australia-outI think it’s fairly safe to say that every single England cricket fan enjoyed Australia’s early exit from the ICC World Twenty20. It isn’t too often that us English have a chance to mock the Aussies, so we shall make the most of it. As one spectator put it – ‘enjoy Leicester Ricky’!

This is because the Australian team now have a two week training camp in Leicester to help them prepare for the 2009 Ashes series. Their first warm up game starts against Sussex on the 24th June, so until then they are being left to contemplate their weaknesses in the Twenty20 game.

In all honesty though, the World Twenty20 was the least important part of the summer for Australia. In just under a month’s time, they will be taking on England in the Ashes series and this is what they will be judged on. This is what they will be going back to Australia talking about.

With this in mind, let me continue my look at the two Ashes squads. This time I have a mixture of all-rounders, wicket-keepers and bowlers. Who has the edge in these areas? Let’s find out.

Brad Haddin v Matt Prior – The Australian has the edge in terms of his work with the gloves. Since taking over the reigns from Adam Gilchrist, he has been very tidy indeed. With the bat though, it is much tighter. Prior has the edge with a average closer to 50 than 40, but Haddin can be a very dangerous stroke player.

Mitchell Johnson v Andrew Flintoff – In my opinion, this is the most crucial battle of the lot. I have said for a while that Johnson’s form could be huge for Australia and we all know what Freddie can do when he turns it on. Could both be the ‘turn to bowler’ for their captain’s as well. Johnson probably edges Fred on batting at the minute though.

Andrew McDonald v Stuart Broad – Broad is turning into a fantastic Test cricketer. His batting is continuing to improve and his wicket taking ability is becoming more and more threatening. He seems to have increased his pace as well. McDonald on the other hand, is more of a container than a genuine threat with the ball and has yet to perform too well for Australia.

Nathan Hauritz v Graeme Swann – Everyone knows that Australia are struggling to replace Shane Warne in terms of finding a world-class spinner for their team. Hauritz has impressed in limited overs cricket, but can he make the adjustment to the Test arena? Swann has managed to do it for England by having a fantastic winter and start to the summer. It will be a test for him against the Aussie’s though.

Peter Siddle v James Anderson – Siddle bowls at 90mph and swings it. Anderson bowls around 90mph and swings it. Therefore, these two are very closely matched. Both can be a real threat to the opposing batting line-up. Anderson has more experience though and this could give him the edge.

That concludes the latest look at the England and Australia squads. In terms of these five contests, it is very even once again. The pace attacks are actually quite similar, England have the edge in the spin department though.

Next time we will be taking a look at the remaining English and Australian players. This includes Brett Lee, Graeme Onions, Stuart Clark and Ryan Sidebottom. You wouldn’t want to miss that would you?

Until next time – good luck England in the Super Eights!

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

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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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