Five reasons why England have (at least) retained the Ashes

So for the first time in 24 years an England side has gone down under and  retained the Ashes, here are my five reasons why Andrew Strauss’ men have been successful.

Preparation is key to success, without it only comes failure and on recent tours, England have found this out the hard way, not this time however.

They played three warm-up games against strong opposition, acclimatised well to the Australian heat and more importantly got key players into good form.

This is the second one, you need several of your squad to be in good form. Usually your lucky to have two or three guys at the top of their game, England have had five of their six batsmen scoring good runs with the bat.

Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook at the top of the order have been excellent at setting up good positions for England to begin compiling runs. There is no better example of this than at Melbourne on Boxing Day, where they closed the day 157-0 after the bowlers had skittled Australia for 98.

Cook in particular has had by far his best test series, hitting 235* in the opening test in Brisbane to steer the game into a draw, before scoring 148 in the second match in Adelaide a game which England went on to win.

Jonathan Trott has said his job has been made easy this series, coming in at number three with over a hundred already on the board has taken the pressure of him and allowed his own game to flow.

Knocks of 135* and 168* have seen him go second in the most runs scored in this calendar year, whilst three of his five test centuries have come against Australia.

In the bowling department, James Anderson has now propelled himself up the rankings, now appearing in the top three with Graeme Swann and Dale Steyn. However it has been the all round depth of England’s attack that has pleased so many.

Injuries to Stuart Broad and Steven Finn meant the two tour party members who had the most question marks over their selection had to step up to the plate.

However Chris Tremlett and Tim Bresnan have come into the side and performed admirably, Bresnan picking up the wicket which retained the Ashes in Melbourne.

The England coaching staff and management had no worries about bringing in these players, even though both are inexperienced at test level.

But this is one example of the team ethic this England side have, they are a team, play as a team and last night probably drank a lot as a team.

Since Andy Flower and Andrew Strauss took over after the ill-fated West Indies tour in 2008, they’ve really tried to mould a unified squad and that is what they have.

Since then there has been no test series defeats, a Ashes series win and a defence, a World Twenty20 Tournament win, One-Day wins over Australia and South Africa and there is no doubting this team ethic has been key.

With all this success and a strong squad it has breathed confidence into English cricket, something lacking since 2005 and to be honest, this side is probably as good as that one.

But this Confidence exudes out of the players, they don’t go out to compete anymore, they have a hunger to win and that has been very obvious on this tour to Australia. Despite playing less cricket than the tourists, Ricky Ponting and his men look tired.

In comparison, watching the England squad lap up the applause after some ‘Sprinkler Dancing’ at the MCG last night they looked like they could go on and play another five days cricket. Australia are in a transitional period, a mixture of older players and younger ones, chopping and changing to get the right formula. England have had the right formula now for some time, and hopefully that can last a little longer yet.

The fact is before the series the sides were classed as equal and they may be on paper. However, when you compare one team to the other there was only going to be one winner, as realistically, there is only one ‘team’ and that is England.

 

 

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England v Australia third test

After watching Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook dominate the Australian bowling for the opening hour this morning, I went to bed safe in the knowledge England were set for another mammoth total.

Mitchell Johnson had other ideas.

Yes the man who so far this series had played in one game and taken 0-187 before being dropped for his stinker, ripped through England’s batting order taking 6-36 in a superb display of swing bowling.

After the openers farmed the bowling at four an over before the first drinks break, Australia bowled England out for just 187, before the home side reached 119-3 at the close of day three at the WACA.

It was the first day in eight days of test cricket that Australia can say they won outright and it has given them a way back into a series that most people had written them out of.

One thing is for sure though, the way this series has gone so far either side can still win this game, England will need quick wickets in the morning however, if they are to take the win and with it the series.

Pietersen pushes England forward

Kevin Pietersen scored his first test century since March 2009, as he lead England to a commanding lead over Australia, before rain curtailed play on day three in Adelaide.

For the first time in history, England went past 500 in two consecutive innings, ending the day on 551-4, a lead of 306 with Pietersen leading the way with an unbeaten 213.

Resuming on 312-2, ‘KP’ and Alastair Cook began extending the overnight lead of 77, a simple push into the leg side bringing up Pietersen’s 17th test century, however Cook fell for 148 edging to Brad Haddin off Ryan Harris to end his 1068 minute stay at the crease.

Not to be deterred, Pietersen pushed on to his 200 ably supported by Paul Collingwood and then Ian Bell , as the Australian attack toiled in the afternoon heat. It must seem a long time since Australia took more than one wicket in a session, they have to all the way back to day one of the series.

However they got a glimmer of hope in the afternoon session as Paul Collingwood was struck in front to fall LBW to Shane Watson, before the rain set in for the evening at tea.

That first day must seem a while back for Ricky Ponting and his Australia as once again the skipper cut a frustrated picture in the field.

And that is the way England will want to keep it, as they look to win this test at some point over the next two days.

Cook ensures England maintain dominance

If James Anderson was England’s strike bowler yesterday, then Alastair Cook was their star batsmen today, hitting an unbeaten 136 as England reached 315-2 on Day two in Adelaide.

Cook was partnered by both Jonathan Trott (78) and Kevin Pietersen (85*) as England recovered from the early loss of skipper Andrew Strauss.

25-year-old Cook has now spent over 1000 minutes at the crease without being dismissed, this century following up his 235 not out in Brisbane last week, as England made scoring look easy whilst Australia whimpered in the field.

After the early loss of Strauss, England should have lost Trott as well, Mike Hussey the guilty party dropping him in the Gully, before Trott and Cook guided England safely to lunch. In the afternoon heat the host’s bowlers tired, all struggling to find the same rhythm as their opponents the day before, spinner Xavier Docherty finding it tough going especially.

Not that Cook and Trott seemed to mind, batting through the majority of the afternoon before Trott fell to Harris for 78. Pietersen took his time to get going, which is unsurprising since he has been waiting to bat for over ten hours if you include the Brisbane test, however for the man most in need of runs this series, he found it as easy as the others.

Flogging the Australian attack around the Adelaide Oval, similar to how he did four years ago on his way to a memorable century, Pietersen notched up some much needed runs, albeit against a much weaker attack than the McGrath’s, Warne’s and Lee’s of 2006.

Again similar to four years ago Pietersen’s partner kept plodding along nicely.

There is something serene about Alastair Cook’s batting, he is never rushed, he has batted conservatively, saving his energy, making sure he can be there from start to finish, if he carries on in a similar fashion there is a good chance he will repeat last week’s heroics of a ‘big daddy hundred’

Arguably the two men at the crease were the two most under fire England batsmen in the summer, both frantically searching for form.

Now they are the men setting up a fantastic chance for England to take a one nil lead and at the minute, Australia don’t look like winning a session, let alone two of the three remaining test matches.

No suprises over World Cup host decisions

Why did people think that FIFA would give England the 2018 World Cup? Why did we waste all that money on bidding for it? Do we not know FIFA?

First of all the man in charge of FIFA hates England, Sepp Blatter is probably one of the least popular sporting men in this country.

I am pretty sure if France had come up with the idea of goal-line technology being needed in football, even Lincoln City in the depths of League Two would have it by now.

He dislikes how the press and the public perceive him here but perhaps he should think about what he and FIFA do before wondering why we think of him so negatively?

The 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Surely there isn’t much coincidence that these two ‘footballing superpowers’ are among the richest countries in the world right now?

Perhaps Panorama could have opened a can of worms, perhaps money is the root to FIFA’s good books, either money or the ability to do something groundbreaking like take the tournament to South Africa.

Look at all the other countries in competition, they all have a good league base bar Australia and even they are on a rise at the moment.

Giving it to Russia and Qatar allows FIFA to come out with the line of ‘we want to be able to build new footballing structures.’ If that is the case Western Europe has no chance of hosting the world’s biggest revenue maker until every country has hosted one.

Qatar may be building its football structure, but  2022 will be the only tournament they appear in.

Perhaps Spain have the right idea, whoever wins the World Cup should host it next. However it is quite conceivable that if that was the case EasyJet would be raking in the cash every four years flying people to Madrid and Barcelona for the summer.

With the rise of club football being ever greater than before, combined with the fact that people are beginning to see through FIFA’s web of deceit perhaps the World Cup might not be what it once was.

 

Confident England take ascendency against Australia

A superb bowling display from James Anderson (4-51) saw England take control of the second test in Adelaide, bowling Australia all out for 245.

There is something refreshing about a day of cricket where England barely put a foot wrong, however today on a good wicket for batting, England excelled with the ball and in the field to put themselves well on the front foot.

It didn’t used to be this way, the team usually frustrated and buckling under the pressure is England, but there is this aura of confidence that rises from this England side, which is far more than you can say for Australia.

Having made two changes from the first test in Brisbane, Ricky Ponting’s men decided on a fresh start in Adelaide, however just 16 minutes into the test they had three men back in the hutch with only two runs on the board.

England had spent more time celebrating than actually bowling in the opening overs, first Jonathan Trott ran out Simon Katich with a superb throw down at one stump from Square-leg. Ponting lasted one ball, thrusting forward and edging to Graeme Swann at second slip off James Anderson, before in his next over Anderson snared Michael Clarke into doing the same.

In the past few years England have gone from the worst fielding side in the world, to probably the best and it showed. First with Trott’s run-out, then later good work between Andrew Strauss at mid-wicket and Alastair Cook at Short-leg relayed the ball the Matt Prior before Xavier Docherty could make his ground.

Graeme Swann took two sharp catches, Kevin Pietersen’s diving effort in the Gully got rid of Shane Watson and Steve Finn took a difficult chance out in the deep to end the innings. And it all comes down to one thing, confidence.

Anderson lead the attack with confidence, knowing if he pitches the ball up he will find edges and Graeme Swann looked somewhat back to his best, providing a snorter to get rid of Mike Hussey (93) before trapping Ryan Harris next ball leg before.

This confidence looked shot after three days in Brisbane last week. But since then England have not lost a session to Australia, batting superbly in Brisbane before bowling just as well in Adelaide today.

And in series as big as these it can come down to who wins the key sessions, if England can play out the next three days in the same form then they will take a 1-0 lead to Perth in ten days.

Obviously it would be daft to completely rule Ponting out of it, however they will need quick wickets tomorrow morning, if they don’t get them it could be another long couple of days in the field.