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Posts Tagged ‘headingley’

The prospect of England going into a crucial Fourth Ashes Test at Headingley without either Kevin Pietersen or Andrew Flintoff is enough to fill any Pom with dread, and it looks like it might be about to happen. Pietersen, of course, is out with an Achillies injury, and Flintoff is looking doubtful, to say the least.

Although the absence of their only two undoubtedly world-class players didn’t cause England too many problems against the West Indies over the summer, the Australians – however lacking in ‘aura‘ – are a different proposition entirely. Watch out – the Aussie fightback may just start here.

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Australia are facing the prospect of losing their ranking as the world’s best Test side for the first time since 2003. Only victory at both Headingley and The Oval would see the Aussies hold on to top spot, whilst defeat in the Ashes series could see them sink below South Africa, India and Sri Lanka to fourth, which would be their lowest ranking since the current system began. With the weather forecast for Leeds not looking great (as well as the fact that the pitch no longer favours bowlers as it used to) and The Oval’s growing resemblance to a pancake, the tourists could be facing a serious rankings slump.

To be honest, Australia have long since ceased to enjoy the level of dominance that, for younger cricket fans, they seemed to have possessed for eons. The ultimate humiliation, although very unlikely, could come later in the summer – at the time of writing, Australia only lead England in the ODI rankings by 8 points (Australia are in third with 119 points, England are fourth with 111).

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The ten-day weather forecast for Leeds (or at least the one available at the time of writing, these forecasts have a habit of changing) doesn’t make pleasant reading for an Australian side one Test down with two to play. Given the impact that losing a day’s play (or more) tends to have on Test matches – and the growing feeling that Headingley’s reputation as a bowler’s pitch with a wicket that “is variable, and – particularly when there is cloud cover, too – aids seam bowling” may be based more on the past than the present – means that the draw is the favourite.

If things do turn out that way, then the last Test at the Oval could be a repeat of the dramatic match at the same venue in 2005, with England needing merely to hold out for a draw to regain the Ashes. If the weather doesn’t improve in South London, then not even shares in Altrincham will be enough to cheer up Ricky Ponting. The long-range outlook is for sunshine and showers, which in the UK is a bit like saying ‘same as usual, but maybe slightly warmer’.

On most levels, it would be a shame to see the series decided by the weather, but I’ll wager that there are more than a few England fans out there perfecting their rain dances.

UPDATE: The forecast is now looking a fair bit brighter, but things have been so changeable recently that it’s difficult to be sure.

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Another draw at Lords has got people thinking – why have there been six drawn Tests in a row there? Is it the new outfield and the heavy roller producing a flat pitch? Is it a part of a cynical London-centric moneymaking scheme? Is it because England are naturally conservative in their style (hardly a new criticism)?

It’s probably a combination of many factors. For those who hold to an ‘England are boring’ thesis, it’s worth noting that whilst England scored at a decent rate, South Africa’s batsmen contributed considerably to the general dullness of the 4th and 5th days by failing to set the world alight.

In any case, it’s Headingley next, where there hasn’t been a draw for ages.

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Andrew Flintoff made 56 yesterday (albeit in a losing cause) for the Lancashire Second XI in their game against Durham, nearly breaking a pavilion window in the process. The English talisman is now in line to make a comeback for the main Lancashire side in the Twenty20 Cup game against Yorkshire.

The two sides met earlier this week at Headingley, with Darren Gough hitting the winning runs for the home side with two balls remaining.

Flintoff’s return has already got the Saffers worried, a little prematurely if you ask me. Actually, quite a bit prematurely if you ask me.

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