Thursday, September 28, 2006

Allan Border has hinted that the Aussie's are indeed planning to play all-rounder Shane Watson in the up and coming Ashes series.

Border stopped short of saying whether the plan was to play a 4 pronged pace attack or 2 spinners however. It is probable that if Watson does play then the Aussies will vary their attack, selecting an extra paceman or spinner depending on the ground and pitch conditions. Watson has showed he can bowl with sustained 85mph pace on a good outside-off-stump line and length before.
Watson has looked feeble with the bat when up against top quality international bowling however, so the Aussies must have gained some respect for Englands batsmen since the 2005 series. A few years ago they would have backed McGrath, Gillespie and Warne to bowl England out twice on any surface.
A weaker batting line up including Watson will be good news in some respects for England. Without fast bowlers Simon Jones England are weaker in the bowling department than last time around, however Mahmood does have the potential to take lots of wickets at the highest level with his 90mph plus skiddy deliveries. Englands other option is to play 2 spinners, something that will cause a mixed reaction with the fans no doubt.
The prospect of facing both Warne and McGill, who has taken over 200 test match wickets despite playing secind fiddle all these years, will have England thinking about their batting techniques though. Hopefully they will resist the temptation to play a 4 man attack themselves for the sake of an extra batsman and go for the kill.
With this news about Watson the series is shaping up to be another cracker - don't expect too many boring draws.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

There was an intense escalation in the war of words ahead of the winters Ashes series today. Whilst Brett Lee continued with the Aussies cunning plan of piling pressure on new skipper Andrew Flintoff, Ian Bell insisted he was 'not frightened' of Shane Warne.

Firstly Brett Lee, he knows that the England camp have been watching him make wicket-taking look easy in the DLF cup. He knows he will have an opportunity to intimidate the England batsmen in the group stages of the ICC Champions Trophy. Today he told reporters 'I'm really excited about playing against Freddie' and that there were 'A few things I want to achieve.' Take this as meaning 'I want to get Freddie out'.
Immediately after the annoucement that Freddie had been made skipper Ricky Ponting and Warne unleashed the first attack. Whilst Ponting claimed to be 'surprised' Warne discussed the posibility of sledging him.
It looks like the Aussies are trying to syke Freddie out on his return to international duty in the ICC trophy. The likelyhood is Lee will have a few short balls and fast yorkers up his sleeve to test him. Lee seems to believe dismissing Flintoff in the shorter version of the game, and knocking England out of the tournament, will give him a psychological edge in the test series.
Ian Bell launched the counter attack for England today, saying 'If we can match Australia in terms of the verbals and not get carried away with other things around us I'm sure we'll be fine.'
Bell denied speculation he was frightened of Warne joking 'He can't hit me on the head which is a bonus'. Bell looked as if he suffered from stage-fright in the 2005 series in England, and later against the spin of Kumble in last winters India tour. On both occasions he failed to play at a ball that was on target for his stumps, and just stood there looking Gazzumped. Since the Kumble dismissal Bell has not repeated the error however, and was in good form this summer at home.
Since the last Ashes series Bell has averaged 51 in test cricket and scored 4 centuries. If selected ahead of Paul Collingwood to bat in the number 5 berth, he will have to play in front of the biggest crowds in the game. Having scored two more test centries in the last year than Collingwood, Bell will probably get the nod for the first test at the 'gabba.
Bell's got the technique, but he better get ready for the crowd and the atmosphere. Lee better get ready to be hooked for six.

Monday, September 25, 2006

It's now only 12 days before the first qualifier for the ICC Champions Trophy. On October 7th Sri Lanka take on minnows Bangladesh at in Mohali, the question is; will having to qualify be an advantage, essentially acting as 3 warm-up games in Indian conditions for Tom Moody's men?
The Sri Lankan top order have all showed stonking form recently in both the one-day and test area. Openers Jayasuria and Tharanga have both made 4 one-day centuries in the last 12 months. In the middle order Sangakkara and skipper Jayawardene recently shared a test partnership of 624 runs against the South Africans at Columbo. Down the order and Dilshan is averaging just under 35 at a high strike-rate of 89 runs per hundred balls in the last 12 months.
Fast bowler Malinga took 4 wickets in 5 deliveries including a hat-trick fo rthe Sinhalese Cricket Club under 23 squad today. Muralitharan is fit, pace bowler Fernando has been looking good, all-rounder Maharoof has been in form and Vaas can be relied upon to bowl as accurate as ever.
Unlike the Aussies and Indians the Sri Lankans will get three 'warm-up' games, in Indian conditions, against international opponents right before the serious stuff starts. Bangladesh and Zimbabwe are unlikey to hinder their progress to qualification. If the Sri Lankans can hit the ground running, finding form for their batsmen and rhythym for their bowlers, having to qualify might actually prove to be an advantage.
Many of the big names in the the tournament arrive in India for the group stages having spent little or no time at the crease in recent months. If Sri Lanka beat the West Indies on October 14th, which is highly likely given the form of their players, they will also find themselves in the easiest group for the first stage of the tournament.
Expect the Sri Lankans to beat New-Zealand and one of either South Africa or Pakistan to go through to the semi-finals of the tournament. There expect them to face either the Aussie's or India.
Sri Lanka can beat any team on their day, as they have so often proven. With so many match-winning batsmen in their team, the genius of Muralitharan, Indian spinning conditions and 3 easy warm-up games to get them on a roll, don't consider it all that bigger upset if they make the final, or even lift the trophy.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Former Aussie skipper, and Shane Warne's buddy, Ian Chappell has fired a broadside at fast bowler Steve Harmison, signalling the Aussies intent to get under his skin.

Chappell stated 'so much depends on how Steve Harmison bowls' and referred to some of his bowling against Pakistan this summer as 'crap'. Harmison is a prime candidate for sledging from the convicts due to his home-sickness. Chappell does have a point though; if Harmison fires on all cylinders chances are Australia's batsmen won't be able to cope.
Does this then signal that the plan is to attack Harmison's bowling, as the South Africans did a couple of winters ago? During the 2005 Ashes series in England they treated him with respect. Maybe their plan is just to un-nerve him hoping his radar will go on the blink. In the third test at Perth, Harmison will be the man to watch for sure. Perth is the fastest, bounciest wicket in the world. If Harmison can find his line and length, expect to see carnage.
Meanwhile in Kuala Lumpur the Aussie pace men dismissed the Windies for 113. The 4 pronged Aussie pace attack proved to much for Lara and his men. Brett Lee took another 4 wickets, whilst Nathan Bracken impressed the selectors with 7-0-15-3. Bracken will most likely be competing with fellow left armer Mitchell Johnson for a regular place in the World Cup 2007 squad. Johnson returns for the ICC Champions Trophy.
Both men will have their eye on a berth in the Ashes. Watson will have to do much better with the bat if he is to play test cricket again. With intense competition for one bowling place he can only merit selection ahead of Symonds in the batting all-rounder's slot at number 6 or 7. Watson has the edge with the ball, having a couple of yards of pace over Symonds, but is still short of runs.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

William Hill make the West Indies 2-1 rank outsiders to life the DLF Cup tomorrow. Both sides have now named their final 11 and 2-1 is looking like good value.
Australia have dropped in-form Matthew Hayden and reverted to opening up with all-rounder Shane Watson, who is a massive 15-2 to top score and will be partnered by Simon Katich. Most of the Aussie batsmen have not spent enough time at the crease to be considered in-form and the game should be more evenly matched than the bookies suggest.
West Indies skipper Brian Lara will revert to batting at number 4 and is 4-1 to top score for his side. The Windies have chosen a side that bats deep and will be relying on Gayle, Smith and Bravo to bowl a full allotment of 10 overs.
In terms of betting then, perhaps have a decent sized gamble on the Windies to win the game, Chris Gayle and Lara have both showed form and there is lots of batting talent in their line-up. There is no sense in backing Ponting's men at 4-11.
For those who fancy a smaller punt on top scorer, 15/2 on Watson is good value as he will be opening up, but 6-1 on fellow all-rounder Andrew Symonds might be a better bet. For the men from the Caribbean, take the 4-1 on in-form skipper Brian Lara. He has been scoring freely in the tournament and is more than capable of taking the attack to left-armer Nathan Bracken and the slower bowling of Symonds and Hogg.
The Windies batsmen will need to watch out for youngsters Watson and Bracken however, both will be looking to impress the selectors tomorrow, there is big competition for places in the 2007 World Cup squad and, of course, for the Ashes.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Brett Lee returned figures of 8.5-0-38-5 to secure Australia's place in the DLF Cup final with the West Indies. Austalia's fast bowlers are all looking in good touch as competition for Ashes places heats up.

India are now out of the DLF triangular tournament, their batsmen are out of form and apart from Tendulkar have spent precious little time at the crease. As predicted yesterday, Dravid dropped himself down to the number 4 slot. After yet another shuffle Dinesh Mongia was the only batsman to perform today, he was left stranded on 63 not out, India 19 runs short of victory.
Indias bowlers have all performed well through the tournament, today they bowled out the Aussies for just 213. Dravid will be pleased with his bowlers but will be worrying about his out of sorts batting line up.
It is difficult to decide what the attribute Indias fall from grace to. The form of their batsman is the obvious culprit, but how did they sink this low? Dravid has been tinkering and shuffling his line up ever since he was made one-day captain. Perhaps now he should stop doing so and decide on his best team in order to start building confidence for the World Cup.
Tendulkar is the only Indian batsman that can be sure what number he will be batting at in the World Cup, now only 6 months or so away. Dravid should stick with his decision to bat at 4 and decide who opens with Tendulkar. This will probably be Sehwag, however Dravid has experimented with pinch hitters Dhoni and Pathan in the opening berth, and with some success. However neither have made one-day centuries and Sehway has 7 to his name, all made when opening. Sehwag should open for India from now until he World Cup.
India has competition for middle order places as Mongia showed today. Dravid needs to decide who bats where and stick with it until a player fails so often he is dropped and replaced. If he keeps on shuffling and changing his line up every game India's players will not be ready for the World Cup, they will not know where they stand, be unsure of their role and will come home from the Carribean upstaged and disappointed.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Binit, Indian cricket-nut and author of 'It's Only Cricket', suggests India should stick with their opening combination of Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tedulkar, with Verinder Sehwag to bat in the number 4 slot for tomorrows big game against Australia in the DLF Cup.
Dravid has tinkered with his team and batting line-up non-stop for the best part of a year. He has captained India in 31 one-day internationals, winning 19 of them. In this time Dravid has batted in every position from 1 to 7 and has averaged 45.6 overall and 39.5 when opening.
He has, however, suffered from the lack of form that has blighted so many of India's prolific batsmen, failing to pass 50 runs in his last 8 matches. Many of India's superstar hitters lack time in the middle ahead of the ICC Champions Trophy, where they will be thrust into the spotlight of the Indian media and expected by many home fans to lift the trophy.
In their last 9 matches, since their opening game against the West Indies on 18th May 2006, India's top order have averaged as follows:
Dravid - 23.75, Tendulkar - 110, Sehwag - 31.88, Y. Singh - 30.5, Dhoni - 19.17, Raina - 19.17, Pathan - 14.67.
Tomorrows game could be India's last before the ICC tournament gets underway and perhaps the time has come from Dravid to decide what his batting line-up will be. With the lower order in such uncharacteristic poor form one option for Dravid would be to bat at number 4 himself and try to sure up the middle order with his trademark grit.
Whoever opens will be facing the new-ball pairing of Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee with Tendulkar, they will need their wits about them and a straight bat. Binit, in his analysis, worries about Sehwags technical flaws, it is true to say that he has a weakness against the swinging new ball. Both McGrath and Lee may be able to exploit this if Sehwag goes in first up. Having said that Sehwag is an opening batsman and should be expected to cope with a bit of movement by using his head and leaving the ball when appropriate.
If India bat first they need to try and put a 250+ score on the board in order to get the Aussies under pressure. It would therefore be tempting to allow big-hitters Dhoni and Singh to spend more time at the crease and bat in the number 3 and 5 positions respectively. With Dravid in the middle of them at number 4. Talented youngsteres Raina and Pathan could occupy 6 and 7 positions, looking for quick runs at the end of the innings against the old ball. The weather in Kuala Lumpur has been unpredicable and the humidity has helped the bowlers. India should look to make a solid start to their innings and accelerate as the ball loses its shine, and against the spin of Brad Hogg.
With the atmospheric conditions helping fast-medium swingers of the ball India may also want to opt for a 4 pronged pace bowling attack. Australia seem to be expecting this and have countered by bolstering their batting, naming Andrew Symonds in their squad ahead of Shane Watson as all-rounder. India can bolster their batting by keeping Ajit Agarkar in their squad ahead of fast bowler Rudra Singh.
Steven_L would therefore recommend the following line-up for India:
Sehwag, Tendulkar, Dhoni (W), Dravid (C), Y. Singh, Raina, Pathan, Akarkar, H. Singh, Patel, Sreenath.
Though only tomorrow will tell what Dravid has on his mind.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

South African wicketkeeper Mark Boucher has hit back, literally, at talented Tatenda Taibu's admission that he is gunning for his place in the South Africa side.

Boucher made short work of Zimbabwe's bowlers today, smashing an unbeaten 147 runs off an unbelievable 68 balls. Twenty-three year old Taibu has 7 one day half-centuries to his name and a test best of 153. He has not played international cricket since his family were theatened in Zimbabwe. He recently told reporters that playing for South Africa was his 'best option' to return to test cricket.
Taibu must spend a 4 year qualfication period playing domestic cricket in the RSA before he can be selected for the national squad. Boucher's onslaught in today's match was his first one-day century, although he has 4 test tons under his belt.
There is no immediate threat to Boucher's position as wicketkeeper from Taibu, but in four years time Taibu will be in his prime at 27, Boucher will be getting on at 33 years old. Taibu was the youngest ever test captain and is undoubtedly a very talented player. Boucher better watch his back over the next four years then, and ensure he doesn't become too complacent. If today's performance was anything to go by he doesn't intend to either.
Brian Lara made the curious decison today to bat at number 9, and was left stranded on 40 not out, with the Windies needing another 17 runs for victory over India.

Lara's men have already qualified for the final of the DLF triangular tournament and will meet the winner of Friday's game between the Aussies and India in the final. India's batsmen performed woefully again today with the exception of Sachin Tendulkar, who made 65, as they were bowled out for 162.
Dwayne Smith took 4-31 and had good support from Dwayne Bravo (6-0-16-1) and Chris Gayle (5.3-0-15-2). Lara can be pleased with his bowlers and his own batting today. However he will have to be less complacent in order to win the final and bat in his favourite number 4 position. Tendulkar is in cracking form, as is Mike Hussey for the Aussies, so whoever Lara faces in the final there will be no room for mistakes.
Expect two more close games to end this interesting tournament, Friday's match definately promises to be a cracker. India and Australia have been drawn in the same group for the ICC Champions Trophy and both sides will now look to gather momentum.
England are also in this tough group and can take some solace from the poor form of India's batsmen. The return of Jimmy Anderson, who has had previous success in the subcontinent, and his Lancashire team mate Andrew Flintoff as skipper should also serve as a big boost in the England camp. Anderson's 75 one-day wickets have come at a strike rate of 32.7, notibly better than Flintoff's 35.3, Muttiah Muralitharan's 36.2 and Glenn McGrath's 35.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

William Hill make India favourites in tomorrows must-win game against the West Indies in Kuala Lumpur. However in what promises to be an even contest, against Lara's resurgent men from the Carribean, only a small flutter on top scorer is recommended.
Rahul Dravid's men have been unable to decide on their batting order for quite some time now, in fact it seems to change every game, keeping everyone guessing. Hard-hitting wicket-keeper Mahendra Dhoni has batted in all positions from 2 to 8, whilst all-rounder Irfan Pathan has now batted in all 11 positions during his one-day career.
Both players are capable of big knocks, Dhoni moreso than Pathan. Pathan has occupied the number 3 position so far in the DLF cup, scoring 64 in the previous wash-out against the Windies and a golden duck against the Aussies. Dhoni has batted at number 5 and number 7 so far in the tournament, making 2 in the first game and not batting in the second.
There is a chance Pathan will stay in his pinch hitting role at number 3 in tomorrows game, however Dravid may want to make changes. Two games have so far been washed out, and fast scoring at the top of the order may be needed if India bat second. For this reason Dhoni may be promoted up the order. The explosive Yuvraj Singh batted 5 last time whilst Dravid opened with Sachin Tendulkar. Dravid will have to decide whether to continue opening the batting, to re-instate Verinder Sehwag, or to promote Dhoni or Pathan.
Hills are offering 5/1 on Singh, 13/2 on Dhoni and 9/1 on Pathan to top score for India. All the above seem good value but personally I would have a small bet on Dhoni, who having not batted last time around against the Aussies might be given a warm-up for the ICC Champions Trophy in this match. Dhoni has proved he is a big hundreds man, India need him to fire, and he is due runs. Perhaps Dravid will give him a chance to bat himself into form tomorrow. The experienced and accurate Corey Collimore also returns for the West Indies, meaning the chance of early wickets going down increases.

Monday, September 18, 2006

West Indies big guns Brian Lara and Chris Gayle showed sparkling form ahead of the ICC Champions Trophy today in a stand of 151 at Kuala Lumpur.

Mike Hussey's unbeaten 109 was to no avail as Lara cut loose, making 88 off 80 balls, to set up victory with 16 balls to spare. Gayle chipped in at the top of the order with 79 runs, including 3 sixes. With Sri Lanka resurgent under Tom Moody's leadership, and South Africa also on promising form, the ICC Champions Trophy could prove to be a much more open a competition than the markets suggest.

Both the West Indies and Sri Lanka have yet to qualify for the competition, but only minnows Zimbabwe and Bangladesh stand in their way. William Hill were still offering 12/1 on the Windies to keep the title and 6/1 on Sri Lanka, who will be used to conditions in the Subcontinent. Australia were still favourites today at 3/1.
Now that all the tall, strong kids in the Carribean are learning basketball, rather than fast bowling, the Windies are no longer a force in test cricket. However their combination of cavalier batsmen, coupled with accurate medium pace and spin bowlers, suits the one-day area perfectly. Get your bets on quick though, they won't be out at 12/1 with England for much longer if this form continues. 12-1 is great value on Lara and his men in a knock-out tournament any side could win.
South Africa are warming up for the ICC Trophy tournament at home against Zimbabwe, and are 7/1 to return from India with the trophy. Today and Zimbabwe were reeling at 55-4 after 17 overs.

Mike Hussey's unstoppable form (he averages over 75 in both forms of the game) will, however, be a worry for England ahead of the ashes battle this winter. England struggled to dismiss Hussey in the one-day pre-ashes action last summer, now he is in the test team they will have to work him out, and fast.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Good news for Englands ICC Champions trophy and possibly World Cup bids today as Jimmy Anderson returned 2-31 off 7 overs in his comeback game for Lancashire.

England have won 24 out of the 50 one day games Anderson has played in, not a remarkable record, but considering Englands woeful one-day form over recent years a welcome return of a match winning bowler.
The opening combination of Anderson and Stephen Harmison, with Andrew Flintoff as first change should be what Engalnd are aiming at for the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies. However Anderson will now be facing stiff competition from Jon Lewis for the spot of swing bowler. Lewis is probably the batter batsman of the two and arguably has more control with the white ball. Anderson, however, has pace on his side and the proven ability to get good batsmen out.
Some would beg the question of whether Anderson and Lewis could play together in a four pronged pace attack. With James Dalrymple looking more and more likely to play in the World Cup as spinner and Kevin Pietersen's off breaks looking more and more match worthy this could be a combination worth thinking about.
However wickets in the West Indies are being prepared low and slow. Two swing bowlers might not be a good strategy. The West Indies have had recent success at limiting the scoring using a combination of medium pace and finger spin in the middle of the innings.
The ICC trophy and the one day triangular series against Australia and New Zealand are now the only opportunities left for England to test their options. So far, Steven_L's World Cup England eleven would be as follows:
Trescothick, Strauss, Bell, Pietersen, Flintoff, Collingwood, Dalrymple, Read, Harmison, Anderson, Panesar
Panesar you all ask? He's not even in the ICC squad! No, but he can be relied upon to bowl 10 good overs every time you throw him the ball.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

On 23rd November England take on Australia at the Woolloongabba, Brisbane in the first test and William Hill are offering you 11/2 that England win. Steven_L says you would be a fool not to take it.
Shane Warne has played 10 test matches at the 'gabba, and Australia have won 9 of them. In 2002 Nasser Hussein famously won the toss and put Australia into bat. Hussein could only watch as first Simon Jones was stretchered off the field and Australia went onto pile up the runs, making 492 in the first innings and winning the game easily.
Flintoff will not make the same mistake. This is the first reason you should back England. If England bat first and make a respectable start expect that 11/2 to start dropping fast. Secondly good pace bowlers take wickets at the 'gabba. England will probably open up with Stephen Harmison and Matthew Hoggard, with Andrew Flintoff first change. If the aussies bat first up don't be surprised if early wickets fall, and again, the 11/2 price on England shortens.
Thirdly the 'gabba often produces results. The pitch usually bats well for the first 3 days, but does offer pace bowlers some assistance and the ball can swing. It's 50/50 who wins the toss, and unless there are unusual overhead conditions it is likely that team will bat first.
Monty Panesar might find the 4th and 5th day 'gabba wicket to his liking. Ashely Giles bowled well there in 2002 taking 4 first innings wickets. Warney has taken 64 wickets at an average of under 20 at the 'gabba. 11/2 looks just far too long in what should be an even match that produces a result.
Aussie cricket legend and serial love cheat Shane Warne has launched a picture book aimed at aussie cricket fans.

'My Illustrated Career' was launched yesterday by Warne, whilst nursing the black eye he received courtesy of fellow aussie and Worcestershire paceman Matt Mason. 'I feel a bit drowsy and have a headache,' Warne told press at the book launch, sporting several butterfly stitches over his right eye.

Warne went on to comment about sledging, the coming Ashes series and the selection of Andrew Flintoff as England skipper. 'We tried it [sledging] with Sachin Tendulkar and it didn't work. Andrew Flintoff is an inspirational type of player. It's pretty hard to get under his skin' said Warne, commenting on the tactics that the aussies will employ to un-nerve England during the coming must-win home Ashes series.

The war of words is not yet full underway, Freddie's men have stayed silent so far and Glen McGrath is yet treat us to a few words of wisdom from his famously loose tongue. Steven_L does however have a few words of tactical advice to Warne: In the 3rd test at Perth, when Harmison bounces you, duck!
All-rounder Shane Watson surprised today as he opened the batting against India in Kuala Lumpur and made his highest one-day score of 79 in only 74 balls.
Watson struck 10 fours and 2 sixes as he helped Australia post 244 all out. The question England have to ask is whether or not this is a sign that the Aussies are planning on playing a 5 man bowling attack in this winters Ashes. Watson has made 3 previous appearances in the baggy green and dissappointed averaging 20 with the bat and only taking 2 wickets at over 60 runs a piece.
Twenty-five year old Queensland all rounder Watson, who played a stint in the County Championship with Hampshire last season, bowled with pace and accuracy during the 2005 one-day series against England. He never really looked like he could cut the mustard at the highest level with the bat however, and was overlooked by Australia for the final test at the Oval that saw England take the series 2-1. Whilst his countrymen were toiling in South London, Watson struck a double-hundred in the County Championship for Hampshire.
Watson is Australia's only bona-fide all-rounder. If the Aussies decide to slot him in the test side at number 6 or 7 this would allow them to play either their two leg spinners or a four pronged pace attack. It might be the case that the Aussies are experimenting for the coming world cup in the West Indies next year however and in any case Watson has a lot of work to do in order to earn a test recall.
Australia rested Nathan Bracken today and called up another 25 year old Queensland man, left arm paceman Mitchell Johnson. Before rain stopped play at Kuala Lumpur Johnson had India in serious trouble, having taken 4-11 off 4 overs, his victims including Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar. No doubt one to watch throughout the ICC Champions Trophy, especially if you are an England batsman.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Duncan Fletcher is taking no chances on the fitness of England's fast bowlers after Matthew Hoggard's injury scare yesterday, pulling Durham legend Stephen Harmison out of their forthcoming Championship match against Yorkshire.

Australia, India and the West Indies are warming up for the ICC Champions Trophy in South-East Asia. Australia play their first match against India this coming Saturday and this blog will be watching for any clues in the selection of their bowling attack.
Andrew Strauss today annouced he will be 'having dinner' with Ashes skipper Freddie Flintoff to review the summers action and discuss tactics for down under. The first ashes test match is due to begin 23rd November at Brisbane and Australia are yet to annouce their squad.
William Hill are offering 4/1 on England to win the series outright, however the 33/1 on england winning 3-2 looks like a very good price, with a hard fought, face paced series looking likely. Sachin Tendulkar today hit an unbeaten 141 against the West Indies. India are 10/3 to win the ICC Champions Trophy, the West Indies are out at 12/1. Young Alistair Cook is tempting to be top England batsmen during the 5 match Ashes battle at 6/1, although Andrew Flintoff also looks good value at 11/2.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

With a bit of help from Shane Warne, Australian skipper Ricky Ponting has let loose his tongue and kicked off the build up to this winters Ashes series down under.

Responding to yesterday's announcement that larger than life Freddie Flintoff will captain England down-under this winter Ponting claimed to be surprised saying 'I did think Strauss would get the nod. We will have to wait and see what sort of job Flintoff does'. Shane Warne has chipped into the Ashes War of Words, commenting in a recent interview that Englands two contenders for the captaincy reminded him of 'Laurel and Hardy'.

Perhaps Ponting should start looking at his own selection worries, in particular his bowling attack, which still looks like they have the same worries as during the famous 2005 England victory at the Oval. With Shane Watson, Austrialia's only bona fide all-rounder, dropped after three disappointing test matches, Australia look likely to play a four man bowling attack consisting of Glen McGrath, Brett Lee and either one other paceman or Stuart MacGill as a second wrist spinner.

After a disappointing season with Yorkshire Jason Gillespie contends with Nathan Bracken and Stuart Clarke for the third seamer's position. Both Gillespie and Clarke are over thirty and Bracken has little experience at test level, his 12 wickets costing 42 a piece.

Australia struggled against England's 5 man bowling attack in the 2005 series. Now that McGrath and Warne are both over 35, two of their third seamers over 30 the Aussies are looking like they the ones that will be prone to injury this time around. They could even be depleated towhat was effectively a 3 man attack like last time around yet again. For this reason I fancy a flutter on England winning the 5 match series.