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Posts Tagged ‘ricky ponting’

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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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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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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England fans everywhere are carefully considering whether or not to get their hopes up after their side ended the second day of the Second Ashes Test at Lord’s needing only two further wickets to bowl out Australia, who currently languish 69 runs short of the follow-on target.

Jimmy Anderson in particular starred with the ball for the hosts, taking 4-36 in his 17 overs on Day 2, including the wickets of Cardiff centurions Ponting and North. Earlier, the “Burnley Express” had made a career-second-best 29 with the bat, most of which in a tenth-wicket stand of 47 which doubtless added to Australia’s frustration.

For the tourists, the task ahead is incredibly tough, but if they are asked to follow on, it could play into their hands, especially if the showers that are being forecast materialise at the right time (or the wrong time, depending on your viewpoint).

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In all the excitement about England’s remarkable batting to save the First Test (Monty Panesar faced 35 balls, for goodness’ sake), and all the inevitable claims about the effect on the remainder of the series, it’s important to remember that the finish was only as dramatic as it was because England failed spectacularly both in taking Australian wickets and in defending their top-order wickets.

It is to be hoped, as well, that the failure of the bowlers isn’t overshadowed by today’s events (not even by the Ryanair protest which may have saved England). Australia dominated the match from lunch on Day 2, took 14 more wickets than the hosts managed, and nearly won having conceded 435 runs.

Overall, I think an Australian series victory is still pretty much nailed-on, but for now I’m clinging to Paul Collingwood‘s innings as a sign that there is at least some mental strength in the England side. That and the thought of Ricky Ponting being upset (which he probably isn’t – the Aussies will undoubtedly win at Lord’s anyway).

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Much has been made in the build-up to the Ashes about the supposed weakness of Australia’s bowling attack, but it is quickly becoming apparent that England’s isn’t quite as good as some people would have you believe.

Flintoff has bowled plenty of overs without looking particularly menacing; Panesar‘s only wicket was more or less self-inflicted by Ponting; Swann hasn’t proved as dangerous to the left-handers as was predicted, and has been outperformed so far with the ball by Nathan Hauritz, Australia’s alleged weak link; Jimmy Anderson has been Jimmy Anderson, threatening for a spell then innocuous until the second new ball; Stuart Broad has gone for nearly 4 an over.

If England want to bowl Australia out twice in a Test this series, then someone needs to step up. Graham Onions may be feeling confident about his prospects for the Second Test (as indeed may Harmison).

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It’s the Ashes. Everyone’s still talking about the 2005 series. England have made a ‘big’ score, mainly thanks to Pietersen and Collingwood but with contributions from others too, everyone in the UK has got even more excited about this, then Australia have got in and, with no small contribution from Ponting, have made the ‘big’ score look a lot less impressive.

Am I talking about the current Test at Cardiff, or the Test at Adelaide in December 2006?

Whilst England’s cause isn’t quite so parlous a state as it was after throwing away that Test two-and-a-half years ago, the ease with which Ponting and Katich have eaten into England’s lead is more than enough cause for Pommie concern.

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