Sunday, 26 July 2009

The Longest Record...

Second Test, Lords: England 425 & 311-6 dec beat Australia 215 & 406 by 115 runs

For all that Ricky Ponting is a fantastic batsman, and the biggest risk to Sachin Tendulkar’s reign as test crickets most successful run’s scorer. He has garnered some unwanted records as Australia’s captain. The first Australian captain in 18 years to relinquish the Ashes, the first Australian captain to lose a test series at home in a similar period and he missed captaining Australia (in 2004) to their first series win in India since 1969/70 through injury, only to lose heavily when he did captain Australia when they toured there last autumn. The latest mark on Ponting’s captaincy came on Monday when his team became the first Australian test side to lose an Ashes test at Lords for the first time in 75 years.

The reasons for Australia’s defeat are familiar ones, as they were trotted out when they inexplicably drew in Cardiff. Bowlers taking longer to adapt to “English” conditions seems to be the chief reason, another reason could be that Australia are actually a bit light in the seam/swing bowler department. This is a more likely reason for Australia’s predicament. Witness the strong start England made, the 196 run 1st wicket stand being the platform which Australia could not overcome.

Not to take anything away from Strauss and Cook, but they did cash in from some poor bowling. Mitchell Johnson has been particularly disappointing on this tour, given that he was the fast bowling star of Australia’s series win in South Africa in the spring. Considering he was touted as Australia’s new main strike bowler, he looks to be the main candidate to make way for Brett Lee once he returns from injury. All of which makes the exclusion of England’s destroyer 30 months ago, Stuart Clark, all the more baffling.

England though were fantastic, though 425 somehow doesn’t do justice to their batting performance. Pieterson was in hindsight struggling with injury and Bhopara needs runs quickly as he looks to be struggling in the number 3 position. There are still too many poor shots made by the England batsmen to say that England are on their way to another Ashes series win. How they replace Pieterson will be key to how they get on.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Starting As The Last One Ended...

First Test, Sophia Gardens: England 435 & 252-9 drew with Australia 674-6 declared
So England escaped with a draw in the first test of the 2009 Ashes Series, despite only winning at best 4 out of the 15 sessions. In fact from day one England were in varying degrees of trouble. And it all stems from the poor batting display on day one.

Apart from Collingwood in the second innings, and Prior and Flintoff, who were dismissed by good deliveries by Siddle late on in the first day, none of the recognised batsmen did themselves any justice. Its more annoying that most of the batsmen got themselves in, and promptly got themselves out. The worst culprit here was Kevin Pieterson.

The guy is a talented batsman, but there are times where his concentration is not really test standard. Thursday was one of those moments where had he kept his head, then England would have been in a much better position and KP would have had another Ashes hundred. Instead he went at a wide delivery from Hauritz, and holed out to Katich. The form of the recognised batsmen, who could only muster 435 first time around on a flat slow pitch, is clearly the most worrying aspect fro the England camp. They were given a showing up by the tail-enders, who added 106 runs first time around and took England from 70 for 5 in the second innings. The form of the bowlers could be slightly excused by the slow flat nature of the pitch, but not that much. England’s bowlers need to sharpen up before Thursdays Second Test as well.

Not that England have all the problems. Despite the efforts of Clarke, North and Haddin in making the Australian middle order look at its most stable since the retirement of Steve Waugh, there must be real concern at their inability to kill a game off from 70 for 5. The sign’s were there on the second morning, when England went from 336/7 to 435. Australia missed Brett Lee, and possibly made a blunder in not picking Stuart Clarke, Metronome 2 as the BBC website text commentators took to calling him during the 2006/07 Ashes series. Ponting struggled at times to juggle his misfiring bowlers. Mitchell Johnson looked wayward, not what we were expecting from the man who took an 8 for 61 (in Perth) against South Africa and 33 wickets in the return series in the past year. Then again the last bowler to be singularly unimpressive on his Ashes bow in England would have been Glen McGrath, who went on to take 8 wickets after his thrashing at Edgbaston.

So its still game on as we head to Lords for the second test, starting on Thursday. England have recalled Harmison, possibly to cover an injured Flintoff. Should Harmison play, it would be a return to the stage where he arguably last performed in an England shirt – when he took 5 wickets on the first day of the 2005 Ashes series. It would also be a huge blow to a side who have not won against Australia at Lords for 75 years. History is against England on Thursday.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Some Thoughts About Wimbledon

1) Cherish Federer, His time at the top of his game may be over…

Federer might have just won his 15th Grand Slam event, however there were cracks appearing in Federer’s game. He was only able to break Roddick in the final once, four hours into the final when Roddick was starting to tire.

Until the final, Federer had been imperious, dispatching players who were thought to be tests, notably Karlovic. However both Djockavic and Murray, both players who have been troublesome in recent years, were knocked out. This years championships also saw injury keep Rafael Nadal out. Once Nadal comes back, I suspect we will see less and less of the old imperious Federer. The new guard of Nadal, Murray & Djockavic look ready to take over.

2) Andy Roddick is Back!

The other big story of the All England Championships was the revival in the fortunes of the one time World number one and great white hope for American Tennis, Andy Roddick. When Roddick first emerged, his main weapon was his huge serve. However, as time went on, that serve became more and more Roddicks only weapon.

Roddicks re-emergence as a player can be attributed to Larry Stefanki becoming his coach. Certainly Roddick has not returned better than he did at points in the semi-final and final. That he lost Wimbledon can only really be attributed to the tough matches he came through from the Quarter Finals onwards. He beat Lleyton Hewett in a tough five setter on the Wednesday, followed by another tough semi against Andy Murray. At the end of the final, it was clear that Roddick had very little left in the tank.

3) Murray’s time will come.

At the end of the Semi-final, Murray was out-though and tired as Roddick powered his way to his third Wimbledon final. However, even in defeat, there were positive signs for the Murray camp. Obviously there was disappointment, however he balanced that by stating that he wouldn’t let his exit at Wimbledon ruin his year, and that his next target was the US Open, which starts at the end of next Month. For team Murray, the road to Flushing Meadow started at about 7 o’clock last Friday evening.

4) The Womans Game is in the Doldrums.

With the exception of the Williams sisters, there is not one outstanding woman tennis player. Even more of an indicator of how poor the woman’s game is the fact that the number one seed, Dinara Safina, does not have a single Slam to her name. Her humiliation at the hands of Venus Williams in the semi-final was a reminder of the true quality of the Woman’s game. A shame really as it came straight after one of the best semi finals ever seen at Wimbledon, Serena’s win over Dementieva.

Watching some matches, it appears that baseline tennis dominates the game, with little deviation from this gameplan. A little variety in the tactics employed could do wonders for the game.

5) Please stop the grunting.

It is offputting. It was bad enough with just the shriek’s at serves, but the continued grunting is, quite simply, a deterrent to people tuning in to watch Tennis. My fiancĂ©e won’t watch if there is grunting, how many people are there like her. The worst offender at the moment is Serena Williams, who sounds like a drunken fight on any given Saturday night. It is not pleasant and not called for.