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Posts Tagged ‘mitchell johnson’

Australia go into their first Test series since the Ashes with a strong desire to bounce back, and one could hardly dispute that the West Indies are in need of a boost following their recent troubles, so both sides should be sufficiently motivated for the three Test series which starts on Thursday.

For Australia, the side is fairly settled, with Doug Bollinger confirmed as the 12th man for the First Test. Mitchell Johnson will be hoping for a return to form following his well-publicised struggles over the English summer, whilst Stuart Clark now seems to have been cut adrift indefinitely. As for the batting line-up, Shane Watson is well established as Katich’s opening partner, and the rest of the top and middle order is similarly predictable. Anything other than a series win for the hosts is unthinkable for captain Ponting, who will desperately be trying to shake off the disappointment (and the stigma) of a second Ashes defeat under his stewardship.

The tourists will be boosted by the return of Chris Gayle from Jamaica in time for the First Test. Much, as ever, rests on the captain’s shoulders, as well as those of Chanderpaul and Dwayne Bravo, with the latter hoping to translate his good form for Trinidad & Tobago across to the Test format. Meanwhile, 19-year-old Adrian Barath looks set to open the batting alongside Gayle in a partnership that will have to gel quickly in the face of the formidable Aussie pace attack, not to mention the pace-friendly conditions at the Gabba. The Windies face an uphil struggle, to say the least.

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Australia’s well-documented injury problems in India have allowed one or two players the chance to break into the side. The man with possibly the most masculine name ever, Burt Cockley, may not have made it into the side, but Doug Bollinger did, and took 3-38 on Monday and 5-35 today to move his way up the pecking order of Aussie quicks (Mitchell Johnson also had a good match, so he probably still pecks first).

Bollinger has been on the fringes of the Australian side for some time, having often been a non-playing tourist with the Test side, and having played only 3 ODIs before the current series (in the relatively low-profile series against Pakistan over in the UAE). Given Australia’s problems with bowlers this year, perhaps the Champagne puns that have been (ahem) ‘on ice’ since Dominic Cork’s international retirement will get more regular outings in future.

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The Champions Trophy, even though it’s only the Carling Cup of international cricket tournaments, has – partly due to its timing – taken on a disproportionate significance in many people’s minds with regard to the future of 50-over cricket.

Leaving aside wider questions about whether the format is enjoying a renaissance, whether the tournament’s design (which avoids the overkill of most ODI series) is the way forward, and of whether England fans just liked it because their team was winning for a bit and there was no other cricket to watch, there’s also the matter of who the best ODI side in the world is.

Australia’s tournament might be seen as symbolic, with the side which has dominated cricket for the last decade or two facing a series of challenges from various pretenders to their throne. With the exception of the side masquerading as the West Indies (who, to be fair, gave the Aussies a brief scare in their match, reducing them to 171-7 before Mitchell Johnson rescued the situation), most sides seem capable of beating one another, so the Number 1 spot in the rankings could change hands with some regularity over the next few months.

The other finalists, New Zealand, have raised a few eyebrows by making it this far, having been in poor form in the run-up to the tournament, and their progress arguably provides evidence for the fluid nature of the ODI pecking order at the moment. Whilst few will expect them to beat Australia, they did have some success against the same opposition back in February. If the big names perform well, then the Black Caps could spring another surprise.

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The second most prestigious tournament in everyone’s third-favourite format of the game is nearly here. Can you contain yourself? Here are the Group A runners and riders:

  • Australia will no doubt have had a confidence boost from driving a steamroller over England over the latter part of the summer, but doubts remain over how they will perform when faced with tougher opposition. Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson are a potent combination with the ball, and there seems to be no shortage of batsmen able to make runs (foremost amongst which, of course, is Ricky Ponting).
  • India may be missing Virender Sehwag, but will be amongst the favourites as they look to improve on their last showing at a 50-over tournament, when they didn’t make it past the first round of the 2007 World Cup. Since then, however, India have won an ICC tournament in South Africa – the same year’s World Twenty20 – and there is enough quality in the side to beat any opponent on the right day.
  • The West Indies go into the competition still in disarray, with a side full of reserves as the contract dispute rumbles on. Although progress seems to have been made on that front, this competition is likely to be little more than a further embarrassment for the WICB.

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England go into the One Day series against Australia still riding relatively high on the euphoria of Ashes victory, althouhg their confidence must surely have taken a serious knock following their close escape in Ireland and their awful start to a rain-interrupted innings in Manchester on Sunday. The prospect of 7 ODI matches without KP or Freddie may not be enough to keep the interest of the casual viewer (or even the Australian coach), but there is still likely to be plenty of interest from fans keen to sample a little post-Ashes bonhomie from a side which, lest we forget, is actually in good ODI form.

For Australia, the 50-over matches are a chance to salvage something from a disappointing summer of World Twenty20 and Ashes failure. The return of Brett Lee to the side added some potency at Old Trafford, and with him opening the attack alongside Mitchell Johnson, England’s top order will have to show a lot more solidity than has been traditional if the home side are to have any success.

The two sides haven’t actually met in a ‘traditional’ One Day International since the 2007 World Cup, but Australia’s dominance is such that England will do well to win even two or three of the seven matches, particularly without their strongest One Day players.

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Mitchell Johnson isn’t having the Ashes tour he was supposed to. His form is erratic, his mum and his girlfriend are complaining about each other in the press and the same papers are calling for him to be dropped.

English conditions are being blamed by some, his mum is being blamed by others, but whatever the cause the decline from top-ranked fast bowler to potential liability has been as striking and sudden as Steve Harmison’s. Nevertheless, with Brett Lee still sidelined, Johnson may well feature at Edgbaston, and it wouldn’t be too surprising if his mind is concentrated by all the criticism that has come his way over the last couple of weeks.

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The first day of the 2009 Ashes was quite a day. It had a spectacular catch from Mike Hussey, Mitchell Johnson scaring the horses, Pietersen and Collingwood losing their heads (and their wickets), Prior and Flintoff going ballistic, a wholly unnecessary nightwatchman being employed to protect Stuart Broad, who ended up batting anyway, and Katherine Jenkins, for those of you who like that sort of thing.

On balance, both sides will find plenty of encouragement, as well as plenty of areas for improvement. It seems at least some of the hype about the entertainment value of this series will be borne out.

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Unless you’ve been hiding away in a University tower for the last couple of months, it can hardly have escaped your notice that the Ashes starts tomorrow with the First Test in Cardiff.

England’s fans (and some sections of the media) seem to have suffered a bout of collective amnesia (or perhaps repression), with the last series (which, of course, Australia won 5-0) as infrequently referred to as an old copy of the Encyclopedia Britannica or an Atlas that still has Yugoslavia and the USSR on it, and with many non-experts apparently believing that the 2005 series was in fact the last time these two sides met.

Nevertheless, the events of four years ago are likely to foremost in the mind of Ricky Ponting, who will be desperate to restore his reputation and prove the doubters (such as a certain Mr. Thomson) wrong. If Mitchell Johnson can bowl at his best and the openers can cope with reverse swing more competently than Langer and Hayden managed four years ago, then the tourists can more than justify their status as favourites.

The home side, meanwhile, are – as ever – reliant on Pietersen and Flintoff. The emergence of Graeme Swann as a genuine spin threat who can hold a bat (and a catch) adds some balance to the lower order, but there is a lot of pressure on Broad, Anderson and the fifth bowler (a position that my be filled by a number of players throughout the series) to take wickets, something which Flintoff hasn’t done much of in recent years. The top order needs to display more solidity than it did over the winter, and while Ravi Bopara may have the element of surprise (although not to the extent that KP did four years ago), he will struggle to sustain his brilliant early-season form against a bowling attach which – for all its much-heralded weaknesses – will be far more motivated than the Windies were (and, of course, won’t suffer from as many misfields).

Although it pains me to admit it, it’s tough to see past an Aussie series win.

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Brett Lee is injured, and may yet miss the whole (or at least the bulk) of the Ashes series. For English fans, the temptation to make a comparison with Glenn McGrath’s injury in 2005 is almost irresistable, but Lee in 2009 is not quite the frightening prospect that McGrath was four years agoMitchell Johnson has well and truly supplanted Lee as Australia’s most threatening pace bowler, and until his strong showing against the England Lions, the latter wasn’t necessarily an obvious selection for the First Test.

Lee’s injury does, however, raise one or two interesting questions about Australia’s selection for the First Test. Although Lee was absent throughout Australia’s ‘comeback’ series in South Africa, his experience (and in particular his familiarity with English conditions) would have been invaluable for the tourists. But in his absence, there are opportunities for others. Will Nathan Hauritz play? Does this injury give Shane Watson or Andrew McDonald a chance to play? I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.

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The ECB have announced that Pakistan will play two Tests and two Twenty20 matches (no ODIs, interestingly) against Australia in England (and possibly Wales – the venues are yet to be confirmed) next July.

Previously, hosting matches in England had been considered too expensive for the PCB, but that obstacle seems to have been overcome. English fans (as well as UK-based Aussies or Pakistan fans) can now look forward to Afridi vs Johnson and Gul vs Ponting at a ground near them.

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Australia begin their Ashes warm-up in earnest tomorrow with a tour match against Sussex, and all eyes will be on the bowlers as the Aussies try to determine what their strongest attack is. Of the five pace bowlers in the squad, only Mitchell Johnson can feel confident of his place in the side for the First Test in two weeks’ time. That leaves Brett Lee, Stuart Clark, Peter Siddle and Ben Hiflenhaus to battle it out for the remaining places. Leaving aside the various possibilities regarding spinner Nathan Hauritz and all-rounders Shane Watson and Andrew McDonald, the Sussex match (and next week’s match against the England Lions) could be seen as a shoot-out between the four pacemen. But who should play?

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It’s more than a year now since I named my 11 to watch, so it’s probably time to weigh up (briefly) who’s lived up to their potential and who hasn’t:

Nasir Jamshed is still under 20, but had little chance to impress this year given Pakistan’s effective exile from international cricket; Virat Kohli made some waves, and is still well-placed for a call-up to the Indian Test side after some good ODI performances and a strong showing in domestic cricket; Tamim Iqbal has shown some promise, but Bangladesh’s continued position at the bottom of the cricketing pile has frustrated his ability to shine; Fawad Alam is probably the one that got away; Steve Davies has finally been called up to the England side, and looked good for a while when he got his chance; Adil Rashid has also won some recognition from the ECB, and will probably play Test cricket in the next year or two; Beau Casson has sunk from the international picture seemingly without trace; Sulieman Benn gave England a torrid time in the Tests and looks set to be a part of the Windies side for some time to come; Tim Southee hasn’t quite lived up to the early hype but still shows promise; Ishant Sharma continues to scare batsmen (especially Ricky Ponting) the world over; Mitchell Johnson continues to do the same to everyone that isn’t Australian.

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