ASHES 2015: England leave Australia with ‘Impossible task’ To Take Pole Position in 1st Test.

1st Test, Day Three, Cardiff. 

England are in firm control of the first Ashes test in Cardiff, although they may now have more than just the Australians to worry about, as they look to take a 1-0 series lead.

Forecasts for Sunday aren’t looking promising, with heavy rain predicted in the Welsh capital all morning. If anything, that should motivate Alistair Cook and co. to get the job done on Saturday.

England are in a great position to win the first test. After dismissing the rest of the Australian batsman in just over an hour Friday morning, they then had a resurgent Ian Bell to thank as they ended the day 411 runs ahead of their bitter rivals.

The visitors themselves began slowly, with Shane Watson trapped LBW by Stuart Broad during the second over of the day. James Anderson also picked up two wickets, moving him up to 11th in the England all-time test wickets list.

Despite losing Cook and Gary Ballance early on, Bell seemed to re-find his form at the perfect moment, scoring 60 runs to build on England’s 122 run lead ahead of their second innings.

He was eventually cleaned bowled by Mitchell Johnson, his first wicket of the match, but the Warwickshire man had caused the major damage to Australia’s hopes of turning the test around in their favour.

The ever-reliant Joe Root and oh so confident Ben Stokes added more gloss to the England scoreboard before a mini collapse from 207-4 to 245-8 had the home crowd on edge.

Step up Mark Wood, who added 32 with his sluggish method to score more runs for the hosts.

He remained at the crease until Anderson became Nathan Lyon’s fourth wicket of the day, meaning the Aussie is the first spinner from his country to take 150 test wickets.

England were all out for 289, but it means Australia must do the impossible in order to win the match.

Chasing 412 to win, Michael Clarke’s team would need to better the great Don Bradman’s team, who chased down 404 against England at Headingly back in 1948.

“We’re definitely still in it,” said Lyon.

“If we bat two days the result will go our way. There’s no reason why we can’t dig deep.

“We’ve got to learn from our first innings with the bat – be more patient. There were too many 30s in the first innings, so we need to try and push on a bit more and have a couple of our top five get big hundreds.”

The weather seems to be the Aussies’ greatest ally- and if they can still be in the match come stumps Saturday evening, then a draw would be a realistic result.

Right now though, this test looks like England’s to lose.

ASHES 2015: Ali Contributes With Bat and Ball To Give England Upper Hand.

1st Test, Day Two, Cardiff. 

Moeen Ali justified the England selector’s decision to play him over Adil Rashid with an excellent all-round performance, as England gained the upper hand in the first Ashes test in Cardiff.

After scoring 77 with the bat, Ali also took two crucial wickets as visitors Australia ended the second day on 264-5. They are 166 runs behind England, who were dismissed for 430 all out earlier in the day.

Ali added 51 runs to his overnight total as he raced out the blocks in the early morning sunshine in the Welsh capital.

He then claimed the wickets of Australia danger man Steve Smith and captain Michael Clarke to leave England in a commanding position.

The decision to stick with Ali over Rashid was the toughest the selector’s faced ahead of this test match, but they will now feel more than overjoyed with their decision.

Ali looked in top form, and his wickets today also mean that he now boasts a better wicket per ball average (53) than past spinners Graeme Swann (60), Monty Panesar (75) and Phil Tufnell (91).

After being hit for three boundaries in four balls, the spinner confidently decided to again invite Smith on with a bowl, which read ‘come and attack me’. Smith though could only edge the ball, which was caught by Alastair Cook at slip.

He then caught and bowled Clarke on 38, just as the Australian captain was beginning to find his rhythm.

“In the first innings it was important that we got 430 – and the way we put the Australia bowlers under pressure,” said Ali.

“We are slightly ahead. A couple of early wickets tomorrow would put them under pressure. I would rather be in our position than Australia’s.”

Australia had made a decent start to their innings- with veteran opener Chris Rodgers scoring an impressive 95 before being caught behind from a Chris Wood delivery.

It was the seventh consecutive test fifty that Rodgers had scored for the Aussies, however he has failed to convert any of those half centuries into hundreds.

Following his dismissal, the frustration showed as Rodgers kicked the ground in disbelief and grudged off the field of play in a state of disappointment.

“I started to get some rhythm with my feet and weight. Once you hit some out the middle the confidence comes through,” said Rodgers.

“I’m just disappointed I didn’t make it count.

“The pitch is a bit two-paced now. You saw with the Adam Voges dismissal that kicked a little. It is going to get harder and harder, but if you set your stall out and you are happy to bat a long time there is still the opportunity.

“It has been an excellent day of Test cricket. England maybe have the slight upper hand but hopefully we can get a few more runs.”

If England can get back batting with a lead of 60-100, and then score well themselves in their second innings, they should be able to sneak an early victory over their bitter rivals.

The pitch in Cardiff is becoming more of a batsman’s’ nightmare each passing day. There seems to be less bounce on a wicket, which highly favours the bowlers (both seamers and spinners).

It would seem difficult for Australia to chase anything surpassing 350 in order to win this match, but don’t rule anything out- they are still searching for a first Ashes test victory on English soil for 14 years, that’s more than enough motivation for them to turn this test around in their favour.

ASHES 2015: Root Rescues England On Opening Day Of Test Series.

1st Test, Day One, Cardiff. 

Joe Root was England’s saviour once again as England ended day one of the first Ashes test in a decent position against rivals Australia.

Before Root’s galvanising performance at the crease, the crowd in Cardiff were watching on in fear as the Australian seamers attacked the stumps with relative success, reminiscent of scenes down under 18 months ago.

Adam Lyth’s Ashes debut ended predominantly when he went for just seven runs early on. Captain Alistair Cook went next for just 20 before Ian Bell came and went with just one run to his name.

With the score 43-3, England were in need of a hero, and he came in the form of the ever reliant Root. But it almost wasn’t to be.

When Root slightly edged the ball on zero, England fans’ hearts jumped to their mouths as the world suddenly went slow motion. Seemingly, any England fan praying for his survival had their wish granted as Aussie wicket keeper Brad Haddin dropped the simplest of catches. England fans and players alike blew air from their cheeks. The Australians thought to themselves what could have been.

After the scare, Root was composed, and hit the right shots towards the boundaries left, right and centre. Before long, Gary Ballance and himself contributed 153 runs between them to steady the ship.

Root made it to a half century in just 56 balls and then quickly made it to three figures with a trademark cover drive. His century in 118 deliveries was the fastest ever recorded in the first test match of any Ashes series.

The Yorkshire batsman made it to 137 before he was caught behind, but by then his job was done.

It was another magnificent innings for Root, who is the highest test run scorer in the world in 2015. He has scored 675 runs in 10 innings, with two hundreds and four half century’s altogether.

“I’m really pleased with the way things have gone. I rode my luck at times, especially early on,” said Root.

“It’s a little bit slow. Seeing the first few not carry was a bit of a worry. There’s a little bit there – there are a few little indentations, which could be helpful when we bowl.

“I’m happy to be in the position we are in as a team. Hopefully we can kick on in the morning. The longer we can keep them out there, the better it is for us.

“The guys out there currently are both very capable of scoring big scores – hopefully tomorrow is one of those days where they take it to them and we score 400-plus.”

By the end of the day England, guided by Moeen Ali and Jos Buttler before his late dismissal, surpassed 300 runs and ended on 343-7.

The Australians will still feel that they can turn the tide of the first test should they take wickets early in tomorrow morning. One highlight of their day was the 3-70 bowling figures from Ashes debutant Josh Hazlewood.

Hazlewood dismissed opener Lyth for the first wicket of this summer’s Ashes. He also crucially caught Gary Ballance LBW and got the wicket Jos Buttler late on.

“The game is fairly level at this stage. Hopefully we can clean them up in the morning,” said Hazlewood.

“We were good in patches. We kept it tight for periods but we leaked a few runs. When Root was batting he played fantastically and we need to find a plan for him.

“The wicket is quite slow and nullifies the short stuff but we tried to keep it full and swinging. The Duke ball is good fun – if you get it in the right areas there is always something there. If they get 40 or 50 more I think that’s about par for them.”

Sangakkara Helps Sri Lanka to Draw First Test Against England At Lords

Kumar Sangakkara proved that even at his age, he is one of the best test batsmen in the world. He was calm, steady and played well timed shots in two innings of pure class in Sri Lanka’s first test against England at Lord’s. Sangakkara hit 208 runs in his two innings including a 147 in the first of those innings. It’s arguable that without his experienced batting, his team may have struggled to come away with the draw.

Take nothing away from Sri Lanka; other team members played pivotal roles in securing the draw. Angelo Mathews hit a century in his first innings. Both Herath and Eranga bowled extremely well to stop an England onslaught in the three lions second innings. Ultimately, they deserved a draw for the hard effort the team made.

For England, it was a positive sign of what’s to come for this relatively new and young fresh team. Robson, Ali and Jordan made steady starts in their test debuts. Robson perhaps had the weakest game out of the three new boys, only scoring one in his first innings for England and only making thirteen in his second. Ali and Jordan hit vital runs when they were required to bat and Jordan also got some big wickets.

Joe Root, who has been moved about countless times in the batting order looked like he was a number 5 when he scored his first double century for England- a joy to watch. He looked calm and collective and steadied the ship for an England team that had lost wickets early. Prior, Bell, Plunkett, Ali and Broad helped the team to a huge 575-9d, the first time they scored over 400 runs since their tour of New Zealand last year.

The second innings proved trickier. As England tried to cement a score that set them up for the win, Sri Lanka made it difficult for the batsman. At one point the score was 102-5 and England looked like they may have blown their chances at securing a 1-0 test series lead. But Gary Ballance hit an unbeaten century to calm the nerves in the home dressing room.

For me the draw was a fair result. On a flat pitch, both teams found it easy to score high at the start of the test match. As the pitch wore, players like Herath and Ali became more important in their teams quest for victory. Everyone who watched the final few overs yesterday will have enjoyed some excellent drama, with England requiring two wickets in the final over. Broad managed to get one with his first delivery, although Herath had his glove off the bat, meaning according to the laws of the game he wasn’t out. Had England of got the final wicket, Herath may have found himself in the shadows of the Sri Lankan dressing room. England thought they had got victory when Broad’s fifth delivery of the final over smacked the pad of Eranga, but the review showed an inside edge on the bat, and celebrations ceased in a matter of moments.

I for one am looking forward to Headingly, the second test should prove to be a lot more entertaining. The pitch I’m guessing will not be as flat as at Lords, making it harder to score as many runs. I hope we see an England win, otherwise it will have been a Sri Lankan dominated summer, and with India to come in July/August, a test series win would be perfect preparation.

Australia Humiliate England to go 1-0 Up in Ashes Series

“It had started so well.”

The Ashes series has started humiliatingly for England. They werent only just defeated but crushed by the Australians, who won their first test match in nine. A massive 381 run winning margin shows that England must perform better (mostly the bat) before the second test.

Day one was a decent day for England, Australia were on 279-8 at Stumps, with Stuart Broad responding to the criticism and abuse he had to endure leading up to the test match with six wickets.  The only Australian partnership which seemed tricky to stop was Brad Haddin and Mitchell Johnson.  However this was as good as it got from England.

The Australians controlled the rest of the test after their first innings was over.  Firstly they ripped through the England batting line up with England only scoring a measly 130. Fast bowler Mitchell Johnson took most of the wickets with his troublesome bouncing deliveries which caught almost all the England batsman by surprise. This was just after two days!  Only rain seemed to be the only element which could condemn the test to a draw.

Day three; and Australia knew they were in a commanding position. They had a lead of nearly 150 before their second innings. They used the wicket to full effect and for England- a tough exhausting day laid ahead. Centuries from David Warner and Captain Michael Clarke helped toddle Australia to 407-4 when they declared, England needed 541 to win.

The second England innings was very reminiscent of the first. Only Alistair Cook seemed to be resilient to the pressure put on the England team by the Australian players and public. He made a respectful half century before being caught out by the spin of Nathan Lyon. England were hanging on by a tightrope and finally James Anderson was caught and the game was over.

Australia will now for the first time, feel confident they can regain the Ashes. It has been a period of dominance by England, but now we are perhaps the underdogs. I originally predicted a 1-2 or 2-2 in the series with England winning the ashes yet again. If that is to be the way this Ashes plays out- we need to be better in the next four tests.

Ashes are coming: What we can Expect…

Since 2009, England have dominated the Ashes. As some of the most successful Australian cricketers retired (Warne, McGrath and Ponting to name just a few), England have gained superstars of their own. The England team is now full of quality in every position. With Captain Alistair Cook and Joe Root scoring freely (Carbury is also scoring many runs in the warm ups), Pieterson and Prior steading the ship with the middle order batting and for the latter wicket-keeping at the highest level. Swann and Broad keep the batting going with their improving skills with the bat and also with the ball. And then we have James Anderson, the King of Swing, leading the bowling attack.

Australia hasn’t got the same team they had before. Clarke has struggled to captain a world class cricket side. Their batting isn’t as strong- only Shane Watson the only recognisable danger batsman for the Aussies. This problem is similar in their Bowling line-up. Ryan Harris is their go to man for wickets but with injury problems, he isn’t deemed fit enough to complete what is a tough and challenging Ashes series.

England in the summer produced World Class cricket, destroying the Australians at Lords the most enjoyable memory for an England fan. Australia had some players who put in a good performance in certain games. Who can forget Agar’s debut century in the first test?

This winter though is going to be different for a number of reasons. The Australian coach Lehmann has already tried to get the Australians to get tough and make the tests a tough venue for the England side and especially Stuart Broad, who Australia deemed to cheat when he wouldn’t walk after being given out.  The team obviously also want revenge on England, after the embarrassment of the 2010/11 series which England dominated- and the fact England were comfortable for the majority of the summer series.

Ian Botham believes England will win the series 5-0. I can’t agree with that. Although I am predicting another England triumph come the final test in Sydney. Our squad will be stronger and we have got the better cricketers.  What we need to get to grips with are the pitches and the atmosphere. The pitches will be better suited to fast bowlers with not as much spin as there is in England. The Australian crowd will also be less supportive of the England team.

I predict a 2-1 win for England possibly 2-2. The tests will be closely fought and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a rejuvenated Australia. I can’t see the Aussies winning more tests then England so don’t  panic, the ashes will be coming home in the new year.

Umpires Pull Curtain over 2013 Ashes Series; England comfortable win 3-0 to Retain Urn

Well it truly was the Umpire’s call last night. England required 21 runs from 4 overs to win the Ashes series 4-0. The Oval was packed and fans were looking forward to the blockbuster finish, but the Umpires decided to call time on the action due to bad light and although they were following rules and regulations by the ICC, common sense should’ve surely twisted the rule just this once.

It certainly ended an entertaining day’s play as the 2013 Ashes series drew to a close with the final days play. A day which saw England bowled all out for 377. Australia then pushed on before declaring with a lead of 247, in which England had only the evening session to acquire the runs.

The session started positively for Captain Alastair Cook, who hit a early boundary in the first over. However for Joe Root things weren’t as straight forward as the young opener was caught from behind on 13.  The real star of the innings was England’s golden boy Kevin Pieterson who managed to woo the crowd with boundaries here, there and everywhere.

As the wickets tumbled and the runs scoring promptly, things looked to be heading for a magnificent end to a quite entertaining series which England have somewhat cruised to victory, Australia still angry with Stuart Broad failing to walk when being given out in the first test at Trent Bridge which recently was the main outburst from the Australia coach on local radio and resulted in a 20% match day fine. England have played top quality cricket, Ian Bell the main man guiding the three lions to victory with three hundreds in the series, without him England may have found themselves in tougher situations. Another key figure was James Anderson whose swing, pace bowling destroyed the Australian batting line up.

Ultimately England were the better side over the five tests and for now both teams can rest up and prepare for the T20s and ODIs coming up before the return Ashes series begins in Brisbane this winter. For England, more of the same will do nicely and hopefully they can replicate their famous victory down under in 2010/11. Australia need to improve, and on their own turf and home support it won’t be as easy for England in Australia as it was this summer.

Panesar joins Essex on Loan after Leaving Sussex by Mutual Consent

This week Essex will hand new signing Monty Panesar a debut in their County Championship Division Two match, just a couple of weeks after the spinner was included in the England ashes team for the fourth test against Australia. But since then Panesar and former county Sussex have fallen out over a nightclub incident resulting in the spinners contracts being terminated in the summer and a instant loan move to Essex.

Panesar had allegedly urinated over a nightclub bouncer in Brighton, triggering a misconduct element of his contract with the south coast county. Panesar has apologised for his actions stating he is “disappointed at letting the club, fans and colleagues down”.

A club spokesman from Sussex confirmed a investigation had taken place since the 5th of August which concluded yesterday, and as of 27th September, Monty Panesar will become a free agent.

Essex have revealed they are over the moon to sign a world class bowler for the remainder of the season and may even considering offering Panesar a full time contract in the summer; and he will make his debut against Northants on Thursday.

Panesar has vowed to bounce back from this off the field incident and is excited about playing for Essex and trying to push for Promotion to LV Division One.

Australian cricket going DOWN Under behind the scenes???

After last week’s 1st Investec Ashes test, I think Australia showed the nation and the world that they are not a test side that will be walked over and humiliated  as some of the  press had made it sound in the months building up to this ashes series.

The performance of the Aussies was terrific and it made the match exciting to watch- especially on the final day. Obviously the stand out player for the team from down under was the 19 year old Ashton Agar who scored an impressive 98 in his first innings and bowled effectively. He is a star in the making, maybe not as prolific as Shane Warne, but he can reach superstardom if he continues to perform as he did at Trent Bridge.

The Australia camp however isn’t as united as again portrayed by the media. Former Australia coach Mickey Arthur is suing Cricket Australia for unfair dismissal and is demanding a hefty £2.4 million. This had outraged some greats of the Aussie game such as Shane Warne, who simply stated that Arthur is “out of order”.

It took a press conference from Australia captain Michael Clark, who insisted that the wallabies camp is united and are ready for the 2nd test at Lords which commencing tomorrow. However, some of the body language of other cricketers, most noticeably Shane Watson, seems to contradict Clarke and show that the team are not communicating or united.

Whatever happens, England will know they have a tougher job of retaining the Ashes as many had predicted, even if the Aussies are quite happy bouncing kangaroos.

India Triumph in ICC Champions Trophy Final Thriller

India defeated a brave England by 5 runs in the final of a rain affected ICC Champions Trophy final at Edgbaston. Play didn’t commence until four o’clock due to the horrid weather, which reduced the game to 20 overs but with 50 over rules.

England won the toss and decided to field first, and this proved a decent decision to begin with as Broad bowled Sharma on 9 runs to make it 19-1 off 3.5 overs. A short rush of wickets tumbled as India were standing at a measly 66-5 off 12 overs. A late partnership built between Kohli and Ashwin as England struggled to find their sixth wicket. Eventually Anderson managed to find his maiden wicket of the match to break the India resistance and make it 113-6. Ashwin was run out late on as India finished with a reasonable score of 129-7 of their 20 overs.

England should have believed this was a relatively easy chase to win, and many would have perhaps considered the hosts favourites for victory, But the England innings began slowly and it wasn’t long before Captain Alistair Cook was gone, with the score just 3-1. Jonathan Trott was looking in good form until he was stumped magnificently by Dhoni. Root and bell soon followed and England, very much like India in their innings, looked in trouble at 46-4. The brilliance of Bopara and Morgan did settle the ship and England all of a sudden look comfortable, after 17 overs the side only needed 26 runs to win.

But the 18th over changed the concept once again as the pendulum of glory again swung back towards the visitors. Sharma’s second delivery was smashed for 6 by Morgan so the India field moved in closer and this worked in their favour as Sharma not only get Morgan out, but also Bopara next ball.

England looked all over the shop, two new batsmen at the crease that aren’t known to well for their batting ability. Both Buttler and Bresanan however failed to contribute much and the 19th over ended 115-8, with England needing 15 to win their maiden one day trophy. Tredwell and Broad managed to give England fans some hope with a couple of boundaries. England needed a six off the final delivery and unfortunately poor James Tredwell gave it a swing and a miss.

India and all their support (the majority of the stadium) could celebrate yet another competition triumph and to be honest were the best side in the tournament. For England, the hunt for one day glory goes on…