Ashes Tour 2013: England v Australia 2nd ODI Preview

The second One Day International fixture between England and Australia kicks off tonight at Old Trafford. This portion of the tour seems entirely inconsequential and, frankly, a bit of a waste of time and thus it is difficult to get excited about it. That said, it is an important game for some players on the fringe of selection for the main focus of English and Australian cricket fans coming up in 74 days’ time so it is worth looking at least to see how those players perform.

Neither team has named its final line-up. That said it is a big game for:

· Fawad Ahmed: I have not been a fan of Ahmed’s selection and his fast tracked citizenship. Equally I am intrigued to see how he reacts to the public pressure that has come from his request (granted by Cricket Australia) to not be forced to wear the sponsors logo on his shirt. John Inverarity clearly has him the heart of his plans for the Ashes so another solid performance for him here will be another building bloke in building his case for promotion ahead of Nathan Lyon.

· Michael Clarke: Darren Lehmann has been overt about his view that so long as Clarke is fit he will play. I have to say that every time I see Clarke in the line-up for games that mean nothing I fear he is one game closer to hurting his back and being out of the Ashes series. It is a big game for Clarke to ensure that he does not get hurt: he is that important to the return Ashes series.

· George Bailey: Is only 112 runs away from reaching 1000 runs in one day cricket. There is a gap in Australia’s test match batting line-up at number 6 (or number 5 if Steve Smith moves down the order) so a hundred in this fixture would not only push him over an important milestone but could push him to the forefront of the selectors minds for that vacant slot.

· Steven Finn: Had a test series to forget and was promptly dropped after the first test at Nottingham. He gets his chance to push for a tour to Australia for the return series where one would expect his bowling to more suited to the conditions than they were in England. It has to be said though that Finn often leaks runs and it was obvious that when he bowled at Nottingham any pressure on Australia’s batters was released. He will need to do better in this ODI series to convince those who doubt him in the English set up that he is up to the task in Australia.

· Eoin Morgan: Captaining England in the absence of Alistair Cook, among others, Morgan secured an easy victory an easy victory against Ireland with a quality hundred. Morgan has had a truncated career for England in test matches having not played for England since its series against Pakistan in Dubai. The added pressure of captaincy could play a role in his form in this form of the game, however if he does perform under that pressure he may find himself back in the frame for a test birth.

The last time England and Australia faced each other:

· In this form of the game, England thrashed Australia in the Champions Trophy by 48 runs (exactly 3 months ago) off the back of an inspired bowling performance from Messrs Anderson and Broad (neither of whom are playing in this series).

· At this ground, the rain conspired against Australia as it pressed for what would have been a victory that kept the Ashes series alive for it but only lead to a draw that saw the English retain the Ashes.

Given the changes that have been made to the England line up for this series, the bookmakers have installed Australia as favourites to take the series and this game. I, for one, am less confident. Only time will tell.

The Ashes Wash Up: Winners and Losers

The first instalment of Ashes 2013/14 is now over and the obvious winner was England given that they won the series 3-0. That said, as with any series of sports contests there are winners and losers, either actual or metaphorical, from both sides. Here are my winners and losers from Ashes series part 1:


Ian Bell: The numbers make for excellent reading don’t they: 562 runs at an average of 62.44 and three hundreds. The numbers alone would be impressive but it also must be remembered that often Bell strode to the wicket with his team in trouble and, more often than not, got them out of said trouble. I never thought I would say this about Ian Bell but I don’t think there is a better cover / square driver in the game today save for Hashim Amla at his best. A great series from a batter who has gone from being good to be the precipice of being great.

Ryan Harris: The Australian selectors didn’t think he was up to the rigours of a full test series and thus held him back him from the first test. He played the last 4 tests and was the man of the series for Australia by, it must be said, a fairly long way. Again the numbers make for excellent reading: 24 wickets at an average of 19.58 in a losing team is nothing short of spectacular. More to the point though, every time he had the ball in his hand it looked like things would happen for Australia. One can only hope that Harris will be fit for all 5 tests of the Australian summer because this would have been a very different series for Australia without him.

Stuart Broad: Public enemy number one in cricket in Australia and I reckon he would be pretty happy about that to be honest. He is the blue print for what a bowling all-rounder should look like. An imposing bowler on his day and valuable with the bat. His failure to walk in the first test was lamentable but it should not the main memory of Broad from this series: do not forget his bowling at Chester-le-Street which was some of the best fast bowling I have seen for some time. 22 wickets at 27 and 180 runs at 25 are great returns for a bowling all-rounder.

Steve Smith: I confess that until his century in the last test I still had a bit of a question mark in my mind about Steve Smith and his place batting at number 5 in the Australian batting order. I believed that he had done enough to warrant retaining his place in the batting order but was concerned that batting at number 5 may have been just a little too high for him. His 138 not out at the Oval killed off any lingering thoughts in my brain of that. Probably the only player “on the fringe” to take his opportunity for Australia in this series and he will now go into the Australian summer solid in the knowledge that he will have a clear run at the selection table for some time to come.


Ed Cowan: Selected at number 3 in the first test was out to two ordinary shots in both innings and then jettisoned. He does not appear to be in Darren Lehmann’s plans for Australia moving forward so it would appear that that one test match this series was his one chance to impress the new boss. With Chris Rogers getting the job done with the opportunity he received it look likes Cowan will not be travelling the Sheffield Shield circuit this summer.

Jonathan Trott: At the start of this series was clearly England’s key man with the willow with a record to boot. Australia seemingly have worked out his technical deficiencies and have, successfully, strangled his scoring opportunities so as to render his role in the series minimal. Given his difficulty with the short ball on these, it must be conceded, slow wickets, one can expect that Australia will run a similar game plan on the hard and fast wickets at home. He will have much work to do to regain the aura of the past for this coming home series.

Simon Kerrigan: Brought into the team for the Oval test match as an obvious replacements for the now out of favour Monty Panesar and seemingly on trial for the Australian summer to say that he choked under the spot light would be an understatement. Only given 8 overs by his captain on a spinners wicket is indicative of how well he went in his chance to shine. If not selected for the summer tour, he risks becoming the punch line that Tahir and McGain have already become.

ICC: From umpiring to DRS to bad light issues it has not been the best of tours for the ICC and particularly the elite umpires panel. It is apposite to say that umpires suffer from bad form as much as players do and the umpires in this series have been woefully out of the form at best which, for a series that is one of the jewels in the test cricket crown, has caused a massive black eye for the rulers of the game. This series has also thrown up an obvious problem that the game has: educating the fans on what the rules actually say. The vitriol pointed at the 3rd umpire / DRS official, wrongly as it turns out, is alone indicative of that.

All in all it was an exciting series that was book ended but question behaviour off the field by some of the combatants. It was no 2005 series or even a 1989 series in its excitement or importance for the fans. There are only 86 days to go from today before the first test starts at the Gabba which is a series that promises just as much excitement and, if anything, a more hard-fought series than we have seen this time out.

The Ashes: 5th Test Australia Player Ratings

Given the lack of play in this test match it is a little difficult to hand out ratings for the Australians. There is limited evidence to go off, and a lot of it is more ODI type cricket in nature, but based on that limited evidence this is how I rate Australia’s players:

Chris Rogers: 5 out of 10

Was obdurate in defence in partnership with a rampant Shane Watson and then was dismissed to an innocuous delivery from Swann. Must work on his method against spin bowling. Bizarrely did not get a bat in the second innings.

David Warner: 2 out of 10

Got out in the first innings just way you expect Warner to: fending at a ball outside off stump that he could have left alone. Sick of hearing: “that is just the way he bats”. In a second innings that ought to have been made for him could not get the job done.

Shane Watson: 9 out of 10

Under more pressure than any other player in the Australian team and responded with an attacking innings early that then morphed into a quality hundred. Took a knock to the head and showed immense courage to stay on the field. Elevated to open in the second innings and picked off some quick runs before hitting Swann to long on. Australia is a lesser bowling attack with him not in it.

Michael Clarke: 3.5 out of 10

Has never played a worse 7 than that he did in the first innings. Completely out of sorts albeit scored at a run a ball when chasing a declaration. Tactically courageous with his declaration. Questionable tactics in the field, particularly in the first innings, in not bowling Lyon early enough and not attacking despite his position of strength in the game.

Steve Smith: 9 out of 10

The fidgeter started with the streakiest of shots but after that put on a masterclass of middle order batting. Benefited from a strange decision to bowl Trott whilst in the 90s. Did not really get going in the declaration chase. Has come of age in 2013 and made the number 5 spot his own.

Brad Haddin: 7 out of 10

Dug in with Smith to get him to his hundred and then attacked when fast runs were needed. Golden duck in the second innings can be excused given the situation. Immaculate with the gloves as always. Did his job again and now holds the dismissals world record.

James Faulkner: 7 out of 10

Came in in a ODI type situation in both innings and got on board with the need for fast runs. Took wickets at key junctures for Australia albeit again in ODI type situations. Bowling on the 5th morning was overshadowed by his big mouth.

Peter Siddle: 5 out of 10

Did his job with the bat as nightwatchman. His limitations with the ball on unhelpful wickets again shown in full colour in England’s innings. Will charge in all day but has a sameness about him when not assisted by the wicket. Only given 3 overs in second innings which is an indictment on his form at the moment.

Ryan Harris: 7.5 out of 10

Looked the pick of Australia’s bowlers whenever he had the ball in his hand and again showed why he is the bowler most feared by this English opposition. Australia’s best by a fair way this series.

Mitchell Starc: 6.5 out of 10

Took two wickets during a good spell of bowling but is still too inconsistent and seemingly unable to bowl line and length on day 3. Sick of hearing “he is a wicket taker” as though that makes releasing all pressure on the batters all ok. Showed as much in the second innings when he could not contain any batter for England in the run chase.

Nathan Lyon: 6 out of 10

Bowled some of his best bowling as a test cricketer for, again, limited rewards. Despite easily being Australia’s best spin prospect does not get the support of his captain by way of attacking fields. In and ODI type situation in the second innings did not take wickets which were needed. Must be wondering what he has to do to get the support of the captain.

The Ashes: 5th Test Day 5 Weather Watch

After a washed out day of play yesterday, the final day of this Ashes series looks also like it could be effected by weather.

Here is the forecast from the BBC Weather service for London for Day 5:

A grey start to the day with the risk of early rain. It will become brighter through the morning with some sunny intervals later. Feeling very warm in light winds.

Certainly some hope there for some play today but really, after yesterday’s wash out does it really matter in the context of the test and the series?

The Ashes: Really James?

If anyone was wondering why most non-Australian cricket fans dislike with a rare vehemence reserved only for the Collingwood Australian Rules Football club one only needs to look at the comments of James Faulkner this morning.

If you missed them here is a compendium of Faulkner’s quotes:

The way they batted yesterday, they chose to bat that way. If you’re 3-0 up there’s no reason why you shouldn’t push and try to be 4-0 up.”

“That’s their choice … I know the fans get a refund for their ticket today but maybe they should’ve for yesterday.”

“It didn’t surprise me. Any time they feel threatened they sort of go in their shell and play pretty defensive cricket. That didn’t really surprise me at all.”

This from a player who is playing in his first test match, who is yet to take a test wicket and in a series, no less, when his team is going to be on the end of a 3-0 thrashing. Really James? Does anyone think these comments are smart or even appropriate from such a junior player in the game?

Don’t get me wrong: I have a massive wrap on James Faulkner as a cricketer. However, these kind of comments smack of over confidence and more than a little bit of ego. Mickey Arthur spoke of the young players coming into the team having egos and pay packets not matching their station in the game and this outburst from Faulkner seems another example of such ego.

In a series which started with David Warner punching an opponent in a pub it now seems that the Australian team is finishing things with more vitriol not less giving the spectacle of Darren Lehmann’s comments at the start of the test and now these from Faulkner.

The arrogance of Faulkner’s comments would have been ok when Australia was a world force in the game and when the comments were coming from someone with the standing and career of Glenn McGrath. However, Australia is not the force it once was and Faulkner is the freshest of new debutantes.

Australia has lost this series 3-0 and has been outplayed in all but for the Old Trafford test match. Maybe it is time for the Australian team to shut up and focus on the cricket because this unwarranted sniping and egotistical commenting is not working and is only enhancing this teams negative reputation with fans of the game.