Wow – Aussies Blown Away

Wow, just wow. Have you ever seen a test match such as today? Australia were blown away within an hour this morning for a measly 60 runs. This shocking performance can only be put down to bad batting, no matter how good the bowling was there should not be an international test side from Australia being blown away in such manner.

Some credit has to go to Stuart Broad and the other two bowlers who backed him up, they bowled really well. But I feel that over the course of the last two games Australia were just poor. I have a funny feeling that this match will not last more than day two, and if it does then it will be wrapped up very quickly on day three.

So like many others I will make the not so bold statement that England have won the Ashes. Now lets just see if the Aussies are more competitive in the ODI series to follow. For the sake of cricket lets hope for this.

Do not write of the Aussie’s!

Starc

These days the media are very quick to jump on the bandwagon when someone or some team has an off day. All that we have heard over the last week since England’s great victory is about the disharmony in the Australian camp, the age of their senior players and how their confidence is totally smashed.

One game does not make a side bad or conversely doesn’t make an average side into the worlds best. What this one game does mean is that we have two evenly matched sides who will make a great series of test cricket. If I had to pick a winner I would now switch slightly towards England. This is because of their better knowledge of the conditions, this was more evident with England’s batting.

One area where Australia rather disappointed was the spine of their batting, Smith and Clarke are the two batsmen who need to perform both gave their wickets away cheaply. A better showing from these two and the fresh blood of Mitchell Marsh should help the Aussies find better form. A lot will also depend on the fitness of Mitchell Starc, who they should not risk if he is not 100% fit.

Another area where they will undoubtedly improve is Mitchell Johnson, the Cardiff pitch was not any help to him. With a few better pitches he will improve greatly. For England there were encouraging signs especially from Root and Ali, who both performed with the bat and ball. There is no questions being raised of bringing in Rashid just yet, although I think there will be space for him too in the very near future.

All in all we have some great cricket coming up in this series. So I can’t wait, roll on the 2nd test.

The Ashes Key Battles

There is plenty of excitement surrounding English cricket here in the UK at the moment. This is largely due to the great attacking cricket which was played by both England and New Zealand in the first summer series. It was in some ways the perfect build up to the upcoming Ashes series. As with all series there will be key battles that will have a large say in who wins this summers Ashes series. The one that I am looking forward to most is Steve Smith v Joe Root.

Joe Root  v Steve Smith 

These two players have much so much in common, they are both the vice captain of their countries, both are the form batsman in their sides and both are the back up option if the front line spinner fails. Both Root and Smith were involved in the last Ashes series but were not really established fully in the test sides at the time. Root even was dropped for the last match of the series somewhat surprisingly. This is just the start of this rivalry, surely the next time these two sides meet in England these will be the captains. I feel that home conditions will mean that Root will win this battle this time, although Smith can change games with his fielding and his bowling is slightly more reliable if needed.

Alistair Cook v Michael Clarke

The two captains are the highest run scorers in both sides. Clarke is the key wicket for the English bowlers, knocking off his wicket quickly will be a huge psychological blow for Australia. On batting ability there is not much separating these two players, although I much prefer watching Clarke bat over Cook. In terms of captaincy they are polar opposites too, Cook is over cautious while Clarke is very attacking. He is very similar to McCullum in the fact that his sides will play hard and aggressive. If Alistair Cook wants to regain the Ashes he will have to change his ways slightly.

James Anderson/Stuart Broad v Mitchell Jonhson/Starc 

Another good battle a few of the worlds best bowlers. Although Anderson is not the player he was about 2/3 years back he still can turn it on, especially on home soil. Traditionally English pitches have helped bowlers that swing the bowl more (hence why Anderson has always done better in English conditions) which swings the balance a little bit back to Anderson. Broad is still a handy bowler to have too. His batting has now dropped below that of Starc and Johnson though (lower order runs will be vital). On the other side to that the two Mitchell’s are tall and quick. Its a hard one to call, it may actually come down to which of the other bowlers perform. This could be a Stokes v Watson or Wood v Siddle battle also.

In my opinion those are the key battles which will decide which ways the Ashes will go. I predict Australia to slightly edge this series, although England will most defiantly step up their game from the New Zealand test series.

Well Played New Zealand – Unlucky South Africa

NewZealand v South Africa

Todays semi final saw the two sides who are dubbed as semi final chokers face off. Unlucky for South Africa they still hold the tag. It turned out to be the game of the competition so far. From the moment when the anthems were played to the very last ball, every single player gave it his all. It must really hurt for the players and fans of South Africa to have lost such a game.

The game reminded us all of how good top level 50 over cricket can be. As a neutral it was amazing seeing the big names all perform in a game. Im sure none of that matters for the players of South Africa at the moment, but they should really take some credit in the way they played their cricket. They must feel they are really jinxed with world cup semi finals.

Since the last world cup South Africa have been the stand out side for about three and a half years. They only started to falter in the lead up to the world cup. Conversely New Zealand have really gone a bit under the radar, always having the players but never the right performances when it matters. It does help that they have played every game in their own country so far, but the final will be in Australia.

There is something to having home advantage at a world cup. India and Sri Lanka battled out the last final (the two countries who have most exposure to those types of pitches) and this one possibly could be New Zealand v Australia.

The other semi final should be another cracker. India did not perform against the Aussies all winter, not winning a single match against them all tour. This is the match that matters the most. Can India bring their A game? This is what they have done throughout the world cup, if they do it should be another massive match.

All in all I feel the four best sides were in the semi finals, after that it all depends on what happens over the course of 100 overs. I really have a feeling for India now, but you can never say never with Australia. Bring on Thursday morning.

Steve Smith is the future but Clarke is NOW!

Australia are my favourites to the win the 2015 Cricket World. So I ask myself why they would put themselves through a situation that could rock the boat. The injury situation with Michael Clark is unfortunate but surely any change of ODI permeant captain could wait.

Steve Smith has earned the right to be the heir in waiting, ahead of the likes of George Bailey and Cameron White. The reason for this is that he is guaranteed to play at the moment. Given the strength of Australia’s batting I feel that a risk can be taken on the fitness of Michael Clark. If he is likely to regain fitness at any time during the world cup he has to be in.

If he is not to be fit at all for the world cup then I still feel that announcing a new permanent captain would be (1) disrespectful to Clark who has been a great captain and (2) cause different news right before the world cup. Any such announcement can be brushed aside after the world cup.

If the reason to change him as skipper is political then it is an absolute joke. I feel it probably is more down to fitness concerns. Will Clarke ever play ODI cricket again if he is not able to regain fitness during the world cup? Whatever happens injury has tormented Michael Clark I just hope he can recover in time for us to see the great player that he is.

Cricket World Cup Squads & Predictions (Group A)

CWCFinal

It’s four years since the last cricket world cup, hasn’t that time gone fast. We have seen the retirement of many players since the last world cup including Sachin Tendulkar, Graeme Smith and Jaques Kallis. This tournament will be the last time you will see Jayawardena, Sangakara and most probably MS Dhoni. Here is a small preview of key men to watch out for and my predictions for each team.

Australia:

Star Man: Mitchell Johnson

Watch Out For: Mitchell Starc – He is just waiting to explode to the next level

A youthful but very experience Australia squad has been picked. They have explosive batsmen throughout the side, mixed in with good allrounders and fast bowlers who know the conditions well. They are rightly the favourites for the competition. Lets hope Michael Clark is fit enough to play, as he is a top player. All the players have played in both the Big Bash and IPL. Letting them bat first could give any team a major headache. Predictions: Winners

England:

Star Man: Moeen Ali

Watch Out For: Jos Butler – Could this be his time to show the world what we have seen brief glimpses of?

England go into the tournament as outsiders. They had selection issues involving the captain Alistair Cook. He is now disposed as the captain (rightly so). A lot will depend on the middle order, Bopara, Butler, Broad and Jordan will all have to play well for England to do anything. Morgan was also off form while Joe Root will require help from his team mates, as he has been carrying the side along with Ali. England will either fall at the group stage or go quite far, I feel the earlier. Predictions: Quater Finals

Sri Lanka:

Star Man: Mahela Jayawerdene

Watch Out For: Dinesh Chandimal – It seems we are still waiting for the undoubted talent to step up to the level of past great Sri Lankan players

Do not write Sri Lanka off ever. They have this habit of getting to big finals and loosing. With players such as Sangakara and Jayawerdene in the side they have the quality to beat any team. Where they are lacking is the bowling department. Hearth and Kulasekara are decent but have no one to back them up. They also have an ageing squad, expect them to not be as good in the field as past Sri Lankan sides. Prediction: Quater Finals

Bangladesh:

Star Man: Shakib Al Hassan

Watch Out For: Tamin Iqbal – Still amazingly only 25 years of age, he has not done it in a while. We all know what he can do when he gets it right.

It will be hard for Bangladesh to make a positive impact on this tournament, due to the very different conditions. They do have a talented side all of whom are still young. I still can’t believe that Shakib is only 27 years old, on his day he is one of the worlds best allrounders. Predictions: Group Stage

New Zealand:

Star Man: Brendon McCullum

Watch Out For: Corey Anderson – An exciting allrounder

Home advantage will help New Zealand. I feel this is the best limited overs side that they have produced since I can remember. They are a side that is hard to beat and with players such as McCullum in their side they can be explosive. A lot will depend on Boult and Southee to get the bowling off to a good start. Taylor and Williamson will have to play well in the middle order too. Predictions: Semi Finals

NB: Afghanistan & Scotland also in this group

For group B click here.

The Ashes Player ratings

So the much anticipated Ashes series down under has now finished, with Australia winning every battle. England went into the series having a very settled team but their experience players all let them down. Australia on the other hand only used 11 players. Here are my player ratings for each player:

Australia:

David Warner: Demoralised the English players on and off the pitch. His comments about Jonathan Trott after the first test may have been a little unsportsman like but he backed up his words on the pitch. His aggressive batting was the last thing the English needed after being battered around by the Aussie bowlers. He seems to have re-captured some of the form he showed 3/4 years ago. 7.5

Chris Rogers: A player who came to international cricket late in his career that is making the most of his chance. He is a real battler who probably benefited from Graham Swann’s poor form and subsequent retirement. His two centuries in the last two games showed how important he has become for Australia. He is the opener that Australia had been searching for since Langer retired. Given his age I am not sure how many more series he has got in his legs, so if he were not to play again he can retire proudly. 7.5

Shane Watson: As always Watson showed his value with the ball plugging away with his accurate bowling. Holding up an end for the others to rip through England. His batting was good smashing a fast century at Perth and two half centuries, but batting up number three he has the chance to convert more of these half centuries into big scores. The Perth innings was probably the tipping point for the English bowlers, where lost all confidence in their abilities. 7

Michael Clarke: His batting was good but he scores higher because of his excellent captaincy. He did score two centuries in the series and I feel he has turned the public’s perception of him. It was obvious that if Australia had lost the series he would again be made the scapegoat, another factor increasing his rating. This was pressure he strived on, his creative field positions and aggressiveness signalled  a change in the Australian mind set. 8.5

Steve Smith: Batting at number five for Australia is a tough job, it seems that they have finally found their long term man in Smith. He was good in the Ashes series in England but got even better in this one. Smith went passed 50 on only two occasions but converted these both into centuries. His partnerships with Haddin saved Australia on a few occasions. The only down side to Smith is that he does not bowl at all any more, surely he could be used sparingly sometimes? 7.5

George Bailey: The only Australian who may fear for his place in the side. He was disappointing with the bat but will go down in history for equalling the record for the most runs scored in an over. This was smashing the so called best bowler in the world (Anderson – Says Botham) for 28 runs. He brings leadership and good fielding skills to the side which may give him first opportunity against South Africa. 6

Brad Haddin: Definitely the best batsman in the whole series. Batted well under pressure with the tail enders guiding Australia to huge scores when they were in sometimes struggling positions. His wicketkeeping showed why I consider him to be up there with DeVilliars as the best in the world. A close second for man of the series. Having suffered many Ashes loses it was clear Haddin didn’t want another loss to his name. 9.5

Mitchell Johnson: Man of the Series. He was absolutely immense with the bat and ball. He played a vital role on day one of the first test  rescuing Australia with Haddin’s help. His bowling was unplayable, so much so that all the England players looked scared every time they stepped up. 10

Ryan Harris: If Johnson was not playing he probably would have finished with more wickets to his name. Still he bowled quick and cleverly to cause England major problems. He has shown the world what he could have been if he stayed injury free. A fit Ryan Harris is as good as any other bowler in world cricket, unfortunately for England he did not break down. 9

Peter Siddle: Probably the most under valued player in the Australian side, his good economy rate may have been a reason why the other bowlers got bags of wickets. He has been the only constant in the Australian bowling over the worst period of the last few years. His value is now shinning through. 8

Nathan Lyon: Proved many doubters wrong, bowled with good control. He was rightly praised by his skipper after the series. Lyon will now look to push on and establish himself up there with the top spinners in world cricket. 8

England:

Alistair Cook: A series that will make the England captain sick every time someone mentions it. Pressure of captaincy got to him and affected his batting. He was called out by Shane Warne prior to the series as being a captain who doesnt know how to set attacking aggressive fields, this proved to be correct. In the first test Prior was moving fielders without the consent of Cook. This shows real issues of leadership. It did not help Cook that all his senior players all deserted him. Basic mistakes by Cook have caused speculation that his captaincy could be cut short. 4

Michael Carberry: This probably will be his last series as England’s test opener. He started off well but seemed to give his wicket away every innings. He does have the talent to succeed but age is not on his side, especially because England will want to rebuild with youngsters. 5

Jonathan Trott: We all wish him a speedy recovery in his battle against his mental demons. The cricket he did play was very off character. 2

Joe Root: Dropped surprisingly for the last test, his reputation for being England’s best young player has been slightly tainted. In my opinion he has to be put back to the top of the order and given the chances offered to others. Root did no worse than any other batsman. He will come back better for this tour. 5

Kevin Pietersen: It was evident that he tried hard to change his game for the situations. For a player of his experience he should have performed far better. Johnson and co must have really annoyed him. This disappointment will have to be put right. 5.5

Ian Bell: Did a similar to job to what Haddin did in the English series, but failed to do anything noteworthy in this series. Not the worst batsman in the England side but not the best either. Could be in line to take over the captaincy if Cook is axed. 5

Gary Balance: Showed that he can be someone for the future for England. His cameo in the last game showed promise that he will look to develop over the next few years. Cant blame him for anything as he is only young and played only one match. 5.5

Ben Stokes: England best player through the series. They seemed to have unearthed a real gem. He reminds me of a potential Flintoff type figure in the way he bats and bowls all out. He is England’s future, so they will need to wrap him cotton wool and nurture him well. Already taken a five wicket haul and a century in his first series. 8

Matt Prior: It seems the pressure of captaincy also affected Prior. He was the official vice captain at the start of the series, but no one told him he was not the captain. His usual batting and wicket-keeping was poor. He was later dropped in the series .I feel we have seen the last of Prior for England as they will stick with the younger Bairstow. 4

Johnny Bairstow: He started the series as a contender to play as a pure batsman and ended the series playing as a wicketkeeper. Having been overtaken in the batting line up by both Balance and Stokes. Its unfair to criticise him for little mistakes keeping in his first few matches, improved his keeping as the series went on. Needs to work on his batting again. 5.5

Stuart Broad: He was up there as England’s best bowler and also made a few handy runs while batting. Broad got booed everywhere he went, the press also hammered him. He showed a bit of fight which the other bowlers did not show. 6

Scott Borthwick: One match is too early to judge Borthwick, he seems to have the ability and personality to replace Swann. He wasn’t great in the match that he played but showed enough to suggest that England can work with him. Maybe he has been drafted in a few series too early but he will learn at the deep end. 5.5

Tim Bresnan: There was a time when England didn’t lose when he played. That all changed after one loss, he was injured to start off the series and didn’t do much when he came in. He was no worse than any other bowler. 5

Graham Swann: Was this a case of Swann retiring before he was pushed out? His display in the games he did play suggested he was to be dropped. Not a great way to go out. I did not like the fact that he left a sinking ship half way through. 3

James Anderson: Went into the series touted as one of the worlds best. His legacy in the world game will almost certainly be that he is only good in favourable conditions. Not helped out by the batsman, always bowling under pressure. When the times were tough he did not perform to his high standards. He was not terrible but England expected more. 5

Monty Panasar: As always Monty did nothing wrong. He bowled well but not to the standards of Lyon. He was overlooked by Cook for Root, this signals the end for Monty. If only he fielded and batted better then he would have been a mainstay in England’s squad. Borthwick is the long term option, Monty is a backup now. 5.5

Chris Tremlett: Bowled no where to the standards of the last Australian tour. Unfortunately he clearly was not up to the job. 5

Boyd Rankin: How did he even get in the squad? Preferred to Onions in the squad and preferred to Finn in the last test. I guess we will never know if he got cramp or strained a hamstring. Whatever it was he will be remembered more for going to hospital and coming back to bowl and going off again. 5