Archive for Ashes

Ashes Whitewash Woe

Posted in Cricket with tags , , on January 5, 2014 by telescoper

I’m hoping that writing a blog post about the Ashes tour might provide some kind of catharsis, so here goes.

England lost the fifth and final Ashes test today by 281 runs and so have lost all five tests. It’s not that long ago that they suffered a similar fate on tour in Australia (2007, in fact) but I think this series has been a lot worse. None of the matches have been close-fought, as the following summary proves:

21-25 Nov: First Test, Brisbane: Australia won by 381 runs

5-9 Dec: 2nd Test, Adelaide: Australia won by 218 runs

13-17 Dec: 3rd Test, Perth: Australia won by 150 runs

26-30 Dec: 4th Test, Melbourne: Australia won by eight wickets

3-7 Jan 2014: 5th Test, Sydney: Australia won by 281 runs

The final Test summed up the series. England briefly promised with the ball, having Australia in trouble at 97-5, but were unable to push home their advantage as the hosts recovered to 326. England’s batsmen then capitulated for a paltry 155 having been in danger (at 23-5) of being all out for their lowest-ever Ashes total of 45. The Australians amassed another 276 in only 61 overs and then watched England crumble again in pitiful fashion, for 166 in only 32 overs. Hopeless by England, but well played Australia.

So what has gone wrong? The obvious answer is England’s batting; they’ve scored under 200 in six innings in the series, and only one England batsman (Stokes) managed a century. Credit to the Australian bowlers, of course – Mitchell Johnson’s total of 37 wickets at an average of under 14 was truly outstanding – but good bowling can’t be the only factor. Experienced batsmen like Cook, Bell and Pietersen have all been found wanting. I know they had to hostile and determined fast bowling, but this is Test cricket. Top players have to stand up and be counted. The failures of less experienced players such as Carberry and Root are more forgivable, given the poor example set by senior batsmen, but I think they’re also symptomatic of something drastically wrong with the coaching system employed by the England team management. Good batsmen don’t spontaneously turn into bad ones.

The England bowling hasn’t been much to write home about either, with only Stuart Broad turning in a respectable statistic of 21 wickets at 27.52. Jimmy Anderson is a dangerous bowler when the ball swings, but that hasn’t happened for him on this tour and he only managed 14 wickets at an average of 43.92. Swann’s bowling average was a woeful 80 before he threw in the towel.

England coach Andy Flower has stated that this is the End of An Era for English cricket. I hope the powers that be have the courage and vision to take the steps needed to pull English cricket out of its calamitous downward spiral. That means rethinking the entire coaching set-up rather than just tinkering with the team selection.

It will, however, be interesting to see which survivors of this debacle will play Test cricket this summer. Trott and Swann are already out of contention. I’d be surprised if Cook remains as skipper, though he might keep his place as an opener if he shows form in county matches. Carberry does not look like a top class opener to me, and Root is no world class number 3 either. Let’s hope Bell can recover some form and provide some stability while the selectors look to blood new players. I think Pietersen should stay too, exasperating though he is.

The only ray of sunshine I can find is in the performance of young Ben Stokes, who topped the England batting averages with 34.87 and took 15 wickets at 32.80. It’s early days for him, as he is only 22, but has England at last found the genuine all-rounder that it has missed for so long?

An Ashes Lament..

Posted in Cricket with tags , on December 17, 2013 by telescoper

It seems like yesterday that I was celebrating a famous England victory in an Ashes series in Australia. In fact it was a little under three years ago. In that series the difference between the two teams was primarily in the batting, with opener Alastair Cook having a particularly brilliant series. Now England captain, Cook has struggled with the bat on this tour. Yesterday’s dismissal, first ball, more-or-less sums up his team’s weaknesses. The batting has been fragile, their bowling ineffective and their fielding unreliable. A bit more resolve in the batting, a few more opportunities taken in the field and things might have been different. The truth is, however, that since the opening Test in Brisbane England have been playing like a side expecting to be beaten. Once you’ve lost confidence like that it’s difficult to get it back, especially with Test matches coming up in such quick succession. Australia took the initiative early on, and have been ruthless in exploiting it. In the early  hours of this morning, Australia won the Third Test in Perth to lead 3-0, and so take the Ashes having an unassailable lead in the 5 match series..

England had a good run of luck during this summer’s Ashes series in England – the weather getting them out of a couple of rather deep holes – but the Australian summer rarely shows such mercy on visiting teams, and England’s weaknesses have been cruelly exposed. I always thought England would have a tough time trying to retain the Ashes down under, but didn’t expect them to be so thoroughly outplayed.  I wouldn’t bet against a 5-0 whitewash the way things are going. Shades of 2006/7.

But enough of England. I would be churlish not to congratulate the Australians on their deserved victory. They have had a lean time for many years and I’m sure will enjoy the celebrations. There’s no doubt that the better side has won; they have trounced England in all departments. Well played the Aussies!

Respect to Jonathan Trott

Posted in Cricket with tags , , , on November 25, 2013 by telescoper

News broke this morning that Jonathan Trott who batted at No. 3 for England has left the Ashes tour because of a “long-standing stress related condition”.

Jonathan Trott in happier days

Jonathan Trott in happier days

Jonathan Trott isn’t the first England cricketer to have been forced out of the game in such a fashion – Marcus Trescothick and Michael Yardy are two others who have found themselves unable to cope with the pressures of the modern game; neither Trescothick nor Yardy played for England again and this may indeed be the end of Trott’s career. I hope it isn’t because he’s an immensely talented player but that’s his decision to make. I think he’s right to leave if he feels he can’t give 100% to his team. He will almost certainly be feeling that he’s let his side down, but he hasn’t. Had he been forced to withdraw because of a bad back or a hamstring problem nobody would have said such things; a mental health problem is no different.

I think his decision shows considerable personal courage. It’s not easy to admit that you can’t cope. Whether or not it was triggered by David Warner’s unpleasant comments makes no difference to me. I know which of these two I respect more. I hope he gets all the help he needs to get over his problems, and that he makes a full and speedy recovery unhindered by press intrusion.

In any case, as Mike Selvey put it in today’s Guardian

… when all is said and done, it is just a game. There are more important things in life.

Quite so.

The Ashes: an Apology

Posted in Cricket with tags , , , on November 24, 2013 by telescoper

In common with much of the professional sports media, this blog on a number of occasions has given the impression that England’s cricket team boasts excellent team spirit, a strong batting line-up and powerful bowling attack so, as a consequence, has a realistic prospect of retaining the Ashes on their current tour of Australia.

In the wake of their humiliating defeat in the First Ashes Test in Brisbane, however, I realise that this opinion was misguided and in fact they are poorly prepared, lacking in determination and confidence, their batting is flimsy and prone to collapse, and their bowlers ineffectual and unconvincing.

I would like therefore to apologize for having misrepresented the situation and for any inconvenience caused by this error.

Geoffrey Boycott is 73.

The Ashes Retained

Posted in Cricket with tags , , , on August 5, 2013 by telescoper

I’m back home after a few days’ enforced absence. Don’t worry – nothing too serious! As soon as I got in I nervously switched on the radio to find out the score in the 3rd Ashes Test Match at Old Trafford. To my relief that stalwart of English cricket – The Weather – had intervened in decisive fashion. “Rain stopped play” never sounded so sweet..

It was just as well, actually, because England’s batsmen were struggling along at 37 for 3 chasing a formidable total of 332 to win (or, more realistically, trying to survive all day to secure a draw).

Anyway, with England 2-0 up going into the 3rd Test, this result means that England retain the Ashes; the best Australia can hope for now is that the series of 5 Tests will end 2-2 and in such a case the side holding The Ashes keeps them.

Commiserations to the Australians, though. They batted and bowled much better in this game and without the interruptions for rain and bad light would probably have won.

So do I feel guilty that England keep the Ashes because of the rain? Not at all. Test cricket is played outside, over five days. The changing weather and condition of the pitch have always been part of the game. If Australia had won, would anyone have asked them if they felt guilty that they won the toss? By batting first they had by far the best of the pitch and the weather. Rain is part of the game and long may it remain so. Especially if it plays for England.

The Wonderful Game

Posted in Cricket with tags , , , , on July 14, 2013 by telescoper

Just crept inside out of the sweltering heat to post a quick item for posterity about the First Ashes Test at Trent Bridge, which has just ended in a victory for England by just 14 runs. I missed the first two days of the match, and most of the third, on my travels, apart from the odd update on the internet; it seems that Germans aren’t all that interest in cricket, for some reason. Yesterday I followed the action on the radio. Gripping stuff. Of course as an Englishman I’m delighted with the victory, but the Australians showed incredible pluck in this match, recovering from 117-9 in the first innings to post 280 thanks to an amazing knock of 98 from No. 11, the nineteen-year old Ashton Agar. England began their second innings in a state of shock after Agar’s onslaught and were 11-2 at one point, but gradually clawed their way into it. Ian Bell’s century and a determined contribution from Stuart Broad took them to a total of 375, a lead of 310. I always felt that a target of 300 in the last innings would be beyond Australia, and so it proved – but only just. They fought gallantly to 296 before Haddin was given out on an umpire review. Throughout the match the initiative ebbed and flowed. No quarter was asked and none given. It was magnificent.

It wasn’t quite as close as the famous Edgbaston Ashes Test in 2005, which England won by just two runs, but it certainly had my stomach tingling, nerves churning, and metaphors mixing as the plot twisted one way then another. I couldn’t even eat my lunch. No wickets at all in the first hour, then two in quick succession, then the dramatic fightback, snuffed out by the final twist of a “not out” overturned by the third umpire.

You can say what you like about the DRS system, but it certainly adds an extra element of tension to the proceedings. The world seems to stand still as we wait for the third umpire to ponder the decision with the use of replays, hawkeye, hotspot, snickometer and the rest. One crucial factor in this Test was that Alastair Cook used his reviews much more intelligently than Michael Clarke.

I would say, though, that I think this was a game England should have won much more easily. The hapless Finn  fell apart when Agar had a go at him and contributed very little to the rest of the match. With only four bowlers to start with, England can’t afford to have anyone underperform. I strongly suspect Finn will not figure in the next match, but I remain uncomfortable with the policy of picking only four bowlers. If only England had a proper all-rounder. Still, at least they’ve got Jimmy Anderson, who bowled magnificently and took ten wickets in the match.

Anyway, there are four more Tests in this series and if they’re all like this one was it will be like 2005 all over again. Except that series began with a defeat for England.

Test Cricket is the best game in the world. Discuss.

All that matters in football….

Posted in Cricket, Football with tags , , , on May 19, 2013 by telescoper

..is the relative position of the two teams in 16th and 17th place in the final Premiership table!

league

Of course, it would have been more satisfying if Sunderland had finished one place lower but then you can’t have everything!

Anyway, that’s the Premiership over for another season. Time to concentrate on the cricket. If the Ashes Tests producing anything like today’s play against New Zealand then it should be an exciting summer!

Ashes Victory

Posted in Cricket, Poetry with tags , , , , , on January 7, 2011 by telescoper

Well, there you have it. England’s cricketers finally won the final Test of the Ashes series in Sydney by an innings and 83 runs, to win the series outright. It has been a wonderful performance by the England team down under which has warmed the cold English (and Welsh) winter.

Commiserations to Australian cricket fans. Their team just wasn’t as good as England, with bat or ball. They have a lot of rebuilding to do, but you can be sure they’ll be back challenging for the Ashes again before long.

I thought I’d put up a poem to celebrate. This one is called The Game and was written by John Groves. It represents an idyllic view of what many English crickets fans surely regard as the match of any season – the Lord’s Test – which we can now look forward to with relish in the summer. However, I chose this poem for this occasion primarily because of the final couplet which takes us far beyond the boundaries of St John’s Wood.

A painter’s sky over Lord’s.
A gentle zephyr, blowing without brace,
The crowd engaged in all that joy affords
And England batting with admired grace.
The sun ablaze, an unforgiving pitch,
A bowler with a patriotic itch,
A ticking scoreboard and a close-run thing,
A resolute gull, high on a drowsy wing.

Though one team triumph, victory’s all the same:
The winner is the beauty of the game.


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The Ashes Retained

Posted in Cricket, Poetry with tags , , , , , , on December 29, 2010 by telescoper

I couldn’t resist a short post to mark the success of England’s cricketers down under in successfully retaining The Ashes. After getting themselves comprehensively thrashed in the Third Test of the Ashes series in Perth, to tie the level the series 1-1 (with one match drawn), the pressure was on when the Fourth Test started on Boxing Day in Melbourne. However, it all seemed to get to the Australians more than the English: Australia were dismissed for a paltry 98 after being put into bat by England captain Andrew Strauss who won the toss. England finished the day on 157 without loss, with defeat for Australia already probable at stumps on the opening day. England batted all the second day and a bit of the third, amassing 513 all out, and then had Australia 169 for 6 at the end of Day Three. Although the last few Australian batsmen showed a bit of spirit on Day Four, they were eventually all out for 258, leaving England the victors by an innings and 157 runs, their second innings victory of the series.

Now they are 2-1 up in the series with one Test to play (at Sydney), which means they can’t lose the series and therefore keep the Ashes, which they won in England last year (2009). I hope England keep their focus and go on to win at Sydney too. I’d like to see them win the series outright. Incidentally, if I’ve done my sums right, Australia have now won 123 Ashes tests since the first in 1882, to England’s 99, so if England can win in Sydney it will be their 100th.

My Australian friends and colleagues will be wincing at this outcome, but although England have proved worthy winners this time I’m sure Australia will be back to winning ways before too long. As an English cricket fan, I’ve endured enough disappointments to make this victory especially sweet. I dare say when the Australians do reclaim the Ashes at some point in the future their supporters will feel the same. As it is in life, so it is in cricket – the good times make the bad times worth enduring.

I thought I’d mark this very special occasion with a poem called Brahma by Andrew Lang. It’s a clever parody of a poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson, and the reference to Hinduism seems to fit with the theme of a cyclic universe of sporting success and failure.

If the wild bowler thinks he bowls,
Or if the batsman thinks he’s bowled,
They know not, poor misguided souls,
They too shall perish unconsoled.

I am the batsman and the bat,
I am the bowler and the ball,
The umpire, the pavilion cat,
The roller, pitch, and stumps, and all.


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Meanwhile, Down Under…

Posted in Cricket with tags , , , , , , on December 4, 2010 by telescoper

At the end of day two of the Second Ashes Test between England and Australia, England were 317 for 2 in response to Australia’s 245 all out. Cook is 136 not out and Petersen 85 not out. Going well for England down under in the heat of Adelaide, I’d say. Australian captain Ricky Ponting seems to be hoping for help from above..

..although, given that this is in Australia, surely his hands are actually pointing downwards?


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