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So that same old feeling returns, the one we haven’t felt for the past couple of years and one we would rather be without. The Ashes are back in Australia’s hands. Just the words alone are painful enough.

I am sat here quite embarrassed, having said in my first post of this 2013/2014 Ashes series that England could still win in from 1-0 down. If only I had hindsight hey?

Having been on such a role recently and with one Ashes win already under our belts from the summer, it was like we had reverted back to the England team of old. Whitewashed and no win to our name.

I’m surprised every England fan isn’t having nightmares about our play this winter in the Land of Oz. Only one simple point can be made, Australia were hands down the far better team.

Our batting line up just ceased to exist, our bowling wasn’t really up to scratch and don’t get me started on team morale (you all know where I’m coming from).

It really is a shame to be honest, so many good players just not a decent result to show for it. It begs the question, was it worth the lack of sleep and dreading the alarm the next morning just to watch the below-par performance?

Wait, silly question… it’s still the Ashes after all!

But it doesn’t go to say that I wouldn’t have like to have seen a win in Adelaide or Melbourne, of course I would. Or even just a sparkling show from Cook, Bell, Anderson or Broad.

Well anyone if truth were told.

Instead it was left up to the young guns, Ben Stokes namely in Melbourne, top scoring for England across both innings and 8 wickets to his name. So maybe England did something right with Stokes’ selection.

The continual changes to the team, however, tells me that something’s not going right – ok well that’s obvious with us not winning anything – but like I said earlier I don’t think team morale is up there with the best.

I suppose all we can hope for now is a tiny miracle, or for a game just to go our way in the limited overs games coming up.

And seeing as keeping my fingers crossed hasn’t worked so well this series I’m not sure that’s the way to go, so we’ll see what we get shall we?

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Hmm, so what was painful watching over the past two tests over in Australia was made even more so at Perth. Yes, as hard as it is for me to say, the little urn is back with the Aussies.

After many late nights and early mornings to catch up on the goings on Down Under, it all seems that little bit disappointing that the England boys couldn’t secure, not just a series win, but at least one win so far.

Yes, I know we have two more tests still left to go, but for us that’s all about regaining form and pride as there’s not much left to do now than avoid that ever-humiliating whitewash.

It has to be said that Australia have played far superior than they have over the past few years, with Smith, Warner and Watson all racking up three figures at Perth.

England did play a somewhat better game, however, breaking the 300 barrier for the first time this series. Mainly this was all down to one man, Ben Stokes.

Now in my last post I did say runs would be lovely from him and well, it seemed to work didn’t it? I did not expect however, a brilliant 120, England’s first centurion of the series that reduced their defeat to a miserly 150 runs.

Bar Stokes’ maiden ton, England yet again seemed outplayed throughout the five days. Moving onto the Boxing Day test at Melbourne we’re definitely going to have to pick up our game.

With Stuart Broad now injured yet again this means our number one wicket-taker spot is up for grabs, so I think we’re going to need a little bit of Jimmy magic.

Especially if we hope to replicate the 2010/11 Ashes score at the MCG, Australia all out for 98 and a victory of an innings and 157 runs.

What a day that was, what a series in fact.

But that’s now all in the past and England are faltering, we may have lost the Ashes but I know we can regain them just as quick as we lost them this year.

Let’s just see if they can keep them as long as we did, yeah?

Well anyway, we’ll leave it with Belly to have the final word…

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“Ohhh, Jimmy Jimmy!”

Talk about edge of your seat stuff, it doesn’t get much better than that.

I don’t know about anyone else but I need to sleep for a week after that nerve-shattering final day at Trent Bridge. England don’t half do it the hard way. I could barely watch those final few overs, will Jimmy do it, or won’t he?

And it all just happened to end in a DRS decision, swaying England’s way. Either way, it didn’t stop me – and by the looks of things, everyone at the ground – fist pumping the air and cheering non-stop as England players, arms aloft, sped round the ground in their usual manner.

Their tweets later on that day replicated this scene, Matty P sums is up for me…

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Then we have Brett Lee, rather 2005-esque wouldn’t you say?

I’m not going to lie, but emotion does take over, well what do you expect enduring five days of intense, compelling cricket from both sides? It was like I was a member of that winning side, especially after experiencing the atmosphere myself.

Lucky enough to have tickets for the first day (I know, I still can’t believe it), I witnessed what was the best day of cricket I have seen live. The atmosphere was incredible, the crowd electric, and the cricket was played at a different level.

Both the English and Aussie fans revelled in each other’s misfortunes as the day unfolded. Ashes cricket just brings it out in you.

Over the course of the five days, we saw young number 11 wonders, a match-saving century and decision debacles. If this continues over the next few weeks, I’m telling you now, I don’t know if I can cope with the drama.

Emotional? Yes. Patriotic? Yes? Incredible cricket? Absolutely.

Let’s see who is next to #RISE for England in this Ashes series.

The front page of the Daily Telegraph captures the feelings of players and fans alike.
Photo credit: caughtatslip.wordpress.com

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So, England managed to pull of an impressive win in time for the Champions Trophy this weekend. Despite losing the series 2-1, the outstanding batting performances from Buttler and Morgan, 47* (28) and 49 respectively, have set England’s sights high. Not to mention Broad and Finn are back, fit and ready to take England to supremacy in the 50-over game.

New Zealand did prove to be a tough match in this ODI series, with the likes of Guptill, Southee and Taylor a contest for our side. But, England was not without talented individuals, with Trott, Anderson and Bell all proving their worth; not forgetting Tredwell’s notable first performance in the series, along with Root’s maiden international ODI wicket.

With the Champions Trophy and Ashes series ahead, it could be said that England were in great form heading into the busy summer that awaits.

It wasn’t necessarily the individuals’ performances however, that were catching the attention of the public, media and the commentators themselves. The topic on everybody’s lips over the past One-Day series was the concern over England’s kit in the shorter formats.

Bright, bold and somewhat controversial, England’s vibrant red attire led some fans reminiscing over the kits of previous years. But the question is, is it really that bad?

It isn’t as if we haven’t seen red England shirts in the past, take 2006 and 2009 where red was the “dominant” colour. Some fans and pundits alike just can’t get their heads round the idea, I guess I didn’t even realise that it was such a major part of the game as it is.

Out of interest what do you as the fans think… is it that you just prefer the kits of the recent years, or maybe are you just a die-hard fan of the kits of yesteryear? Let’s see if this year, it really is a big deal, especially with the Champions Trophy about to get underway.

With that debate started, only time will tell as to how England will fare in this year’s competition. With the first game set for this Saturday against our closest rivals, Australia, it sure will be a battle worth watching. Let’s hope for more of the same this weekend where our batting is concerned, as it doesn’t come more entertaining than that.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (espncricinfo.com)

Photo Credit: Getty Images (espncricinfo.com)

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Rest assured everyone, as you may know by now England have secured their position at the top of the table after finally winning a Test match this winter. A thrilling 8-wicket victory saw many twist and turns, as England fought hard for their title, with wonderful results. As both Strauss and Jayawardene made their way to the middle, every expectant fan held their hopes high, and as Sri Lanka chose to bat, they soon looked to trouble England.

It wasn’t a very easy-ride for the Lankans initially though, losing Thirimanne and the experienced Dilshan and Sangakkara for a collective 22 runs, showcased Anderson’s sheer talent with the new ball. Three down for 30 would have worried any captain, Mahela however, is not your ordinary captain. Along with Samaraweera and Mathews, in two fantastic partnerships of 124 and 62 respectively, Jayawardene struck his way to his third century of the series and propelled Sri Lanka to 216 before his dismissal. His wicket was a timely one although reviewing the decision, Jayawardene was unable to reverse the LBW appeal, which saw Swann straightening one to hit smack on the knee roll. The turning point had been made, and no longer could Sri Lanka depend upon their captain for stability, as they slipped from 216-5 to 275 all out, an addition of just 59 runs, Swann walking away with figures of 4-75.

Switch-hit causes controversy as KP ton outshines Jayawardene’s

England’s innings was not without its glitches either. A better start could not have been made, with the captain and vice-captain leading the way with a 122-run partnership, 61 and 94 respectively, Cook narrowly missing out on a century of his own.  With the foundations already set, it paved the way for Trott and Pietersen to edge England closer to Sri Lanka’s first innings total with England on only 62 runs behind.  A steady 64 from Trott enabled fans to witness KP at his best, playing his natural game. A blistering 151 runs were scored in just 165 balls nearly a run a ball (in a Test match), along with an astonishing 100 runs accomplished in boundaries. I honestly don’t think I could say I have seen Pietersen play a better innings than we saw on Day 2 of this Test match, he himself not letting up on the celebrations after breaking that 100 mark.

It wasn’t all plain sailing for Pietersen though, as the infamous switch-hit made a return – in glorious style I must add – but not to Dilshan’s approval. Pulling up mid run-up in two successive balls, Dilshan wanted to prevent this notorious shot from recurring, annoyance from the England crowd spread quickly as KP’s innings was momentarily halted. Landing himself with a warning from the umpires you could see Pietersen was clearly unimpressed. Yet this only seemed to spur him on as he raced to the 150 mark before being dismissed one run later after an unsuccessful appeal to reverse a Herath LBW. At 411-6 at the time of KP’s dismissal, England managed 460 all out, with a comprehensive lead of 185.

Swann sends Sri Lanka into a spin

So, with Sri Lanka needing something special to enable them a match-winning total, they somehow did not predict the damage England’s number one spinner would induce. Decent scores from Jayawardene (64), Samaraweera (47) and Mathews (46) yet again, the Sri Lankan batsmen were unable to conjure up that much-needed contribution. Swann tore through the Lankans’ line up snaring the prized wickets of the experienced Dilshan, Sangakkara and captain Jayawardene all caught, at slip, behind to the ‘keeper, and short leg respectively. Whilst Samaraweera, Randiv and Prasanna Jayawardene were all superbly bowled, as Swann beat the bat on all three occasions, his raw bowling talent truly highlighted. Along with Finn, Anderson and Patel, Sri Lanka were dismissed for 278, which meant for England they only had a mere 94 runs to chase in order to secure a test match win. As Swann reaped match figures of 10-181, he was the key bowler who helped England to edge closer to victory.

All that was needed now was 94 runs, and we could all delight in finally seeing England defeat the subcontinent conditions. With Jayawardene opening with 2 spinners, Strauss and Trott fell early for 0 and 5 respectively, leaving it up to Cook and KP to take their team over the line. For Cook, he struck his way to 49 setting the foundations up for KP to once again supremely strike the ball over the boundary rope for 2 magnificent sixes, powering England to a sweet and long awaited victory. In a thrilling show of pure cricketing talent, either side showed off their particular talents, but as England came out on top, they didn’t just level the series, but also saved themselves from humiliation. Luckily, England managed to stay at the top of the International Test rankings, which would have seen them fall to second below South Africa; fortunately, this was not the case.

We must wait until May until the England lads are in action again, until then we can all relax and enjoy the peaceful County Championship! :D

Photo Credit: Getty Images (espncricinfo.com)

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On what would have been the last day of the Test between England and Sri Lanka, I find myself reminiscing about another England defeat, and an opportunity missed. In a struggling position, England had to pull out all the stops to be able to pull off a remarkable run chase in subcontinent conditions. They did manage to get within a small margin of victory, but once again, the batsmen failed to take advantage of a decent start.

So where did I leave it last, well Sri Lanka ended Day 2 in an uncompromising position on 84-5, but still with a lead of 209 runs. With only 5 more wickets for England, it should have been over and done with pretty early on in the day. What was not forecast though was the gritty innings of Jayawardene, this time Prasanna, not Mahela, which saw Sri Lanka climb to a great 214 all out by which time saw English bowlers flagging. Unable to restrain the tail-enders, whatever option was tried, the wickets were just not falling. Don’t get me wrong, once Chandimal’s wicket fell to Panesar caught at slip, Randiv and Herath soon followed both to Swann, with a beauty coming round the wicket to the latter to have the ball crashing into his stumps. Eight down and England were in a fantastic position to claim the last two, to reduce their deficit. However, with P. Jayawardene still at the crease, Welegedara and Lakmal, individually played a huge supporting role as Jayawardene passed the half-century mark. But it wasn’t as if we didn’t have the chances to dismiss the batsmen, a costly no-ball from Broad, and an easy run-out opportunity were missed, vital causes of Sri Lanka’s final deficit of339, meaning England had to face a mammoth task of chasing 340 to secure a Test match win. Optimism was surely needed at this point, we are currently struggling for runs, as if I haven’t mentioned this before, but I still kept the faith that we could (with very hard graft) achieve the total. And let me tell you, even though we lost both openers within the space of 19 overs for a collective total of 42 between them, finishing up on 111-2 exceeded my expectations. Trott and KP kept composure, and left England on Nelson at the end of Day 3; Trott especially with a steady 40 runs already acquired.

229 runs were needed over the last two days of the Test to ensure an England victory, which now was looking even more possible. Although Pietersen returned to the pavilion with a mere one run added to his overnight score, and Bell had a doubtful umpire decision go against him for 13 runs, all was not lost. I must say though that shot selection has not been our forte on these overseas tours, a chip to midwicket from KP, and Bell pulled out the deadly sweep shot… please guys just forget the sweep shot for the time being! Anyway, this left England on 152-4, Trott joined at the crease by Prior which set up a partnership that witnessed England climb ever closer to that daunting score, and Trott slave away to claim his 7th Test century in the 86th over. This is what England needed, a centurion like Sri Lanka had in their captain, Mahela, in the first innings. So with two batsmen settled in nicely, it was down to these pair to help England over the line, but as we are coming accustomed to, somehow England have a tendency that if they lose one wicket, they lose them all. This time, it was the turn of Prior to spring out that sweep shot, only having it caught at short leg, making way for Patel to take his second chance in Test cricket. Seven overs later, and with spin in full flow, Herath, with four wickets already to his name was not content, and happily had Patel skew one to Dilshan at cover, England 252-6. Trott still standing tall at this time didn’t stay around for long, with increasing pressure all England needed was 88 runs with four wickets remaining, Randiv managed to have the prized wicket of Trott caught at leg sip for 112. And there it was, the moment the game changed.

The lower order of Broad, Swann, Anderson and Panesar collected 11 runs between them, the former being not out at the end of the innings, as the three latter batsmen all fell to spin. Swann was Herath’s 6th and final wicket of the Test as he collected a match haul of 12-171, fantastic figures for a spinner still not highly regarded as world-class on the International stage. England could only manage 264 losing by a margin of 75 runs, their fourth consecutive Test defeat. To make matters worse, if they lose the final game commencing on 3rd April, then England will suffer the devastating loss of their World Number 1 status. I know that I am not alone in saying this, but I will be behind them 100 per cent, as they need to maintain that number 1 ranking as we all know they are capable of achieving.

It was unfortunate that England couldn’t capitalise on their decent start, from 111-2, England looked to have it in the bag, what a difference a day can make. I suppose it is in the makeup of Test cricket though as we should all be expecting the unexpected. There are highlights to be taken from this game though we do show signs of brilliance once again, namely Trott and Swann.

Who impressed over the last 2 days?

Jonathan Trott – The star of England’s 2nd innings, although unable to sustain his form post his century, Trott led the way for England and gave them a glimpse of hope as to achieving victory. Without Trott’s contribution, I can say for sure that the margin England lost by would have been far greater, all he needs to now is carry his form into the last Test of the series.

Rangana Herath – As aforementioned, Herath isn’t widely accredited as one of the world’s greatest spinners. However, with a haul of 12 wickets, not only did he highlight England’s continued weakness against spin in the subcontinent, but only on 7 other occasions have bowling figures exceeded Herath’s. His performance means he is only the 5th Sri Lankan to pick up 10+ wickets in a match.

So that concludes this first Test match, which sees Sri Lanka take a 1-0 lead, and with only one more game to play, it is all or nothing for England. With one bowler down, having announced Stuart Broad will not be fit for the last Test, another bowler will be making his way into the side; will it be Finn or Bresnan? We are yet to know, but I think that all that matters at the moment is England put in their best performance to seal a victory from Tuesday onwards!

Photo Credit: AFP (espncricinfo.com)

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As Day 2 drew to a close in this first Test match in Sri Lanka, we witnessed yet another batting collapse, that of the Sri Lankans, all in the same day that we saw England reduced to 193 all out. But what is the current state of the game itself? After Sri Lanka dominated Day 1, it saw them recover from a poor start at 15-3, to 289-8 all down to one man, Jayawardene. With a classy, well-timed century, the Sri Lankan captain ended the day on 168* virtually saving the Lankans innings, with Chandimal the second highest-scorer with a mere 27. Resuming Day 2, Jayawardene added 12 to his total, whilst Jimmy Anderson, the bowler of the innings claimed the last two wickets needed to end Sri Lanka’s run, finally prizing Mahela from the crease with an edge to Prior behind. With a 5-for to his name, Jimmy helped reduce Sri Lanka to 318, a score that daunted England, a score at least 30 runs more than desired.

Putting doubts over the subcontinent behind, England’s batters hoped for a long hard day at the crease. What was to be was, well, far from that, as their batting woes returned once England were on 65-4. Ungainly shots, and a rather bizarre dismissal from Trott, saw England struggling, whilst Prior and Test debutant Patel didn’t help the cause departing with 9 between them. So six wickets down, it was left to the out of form Bell and Number 8 Broad to “rescue” England’s innings, at this time it must be said I wasn’t overly optimistic. Nevertheless, my two favourite players at the crease did not disappoint, with Bell showing glimpses of returning back to his best, this was fantastic as when Bell is in form, you can’t find a more stylish, cleaner stroke player as him – well in my opinion anyway! A half-century was well deserved, and much needed for this Warwickshire batsman, and along with an array of tail-end runs from Broad (28), Swann (24) and even Jimmy (23*), hauled England up to a still inadequate 193, 125 runs behind.

So, it was fair to say a little magic was needed in the Lankans 2nd innings from the England bowlers. A wicket in the second over from Broad certainly helped dismissing Dilshan for a 7-ball duck, after the early breakthrough the wickets slowly began to tumble, as the work of the spinners got under way. England were happy to see the two big threats, Jayawardene and Sangakarra return to the pavilion, the latter especially after the damage caused yesterday. Swann starred taking 4-28, the pick of the bowlers as he took two late wickets to really put Sri Lanka in a tricky position, even though they still had a comprehensive lead. Ending the day on 84-5, the latter half of Day 2 was definitely England’s time; the Test however, has certainly been Sri Lankan dominated, and England need very quick wickets early on tomorrow to have a chance of winning this Test. If the deficit continues to grow, the subcontinent conditions I feel will prove too much for England, so let’s hope the Lankans lead remains achievable!

Who has impressed so far?

Day 1 – Mahela Jayawardene– A powerful, dominant century saw Mahela steal the limelight on Day 1. Setting up the Sri Lankan innings, he was able to steer them towards a very decent score, one that was too much for England to compete against. Jayawardene saved his side from a humiliating collapse, and definitely deserved the appraisals.

Day 2 – Graeme Swann– On a disappointing day for both sides, concerning the batting collapses, Swann was the man that provided hope for England at the end of tiring day. With a 4-wicket haul already obtained, it was his last two crucial wickets before the close of play, that of Sangakarra and Samaraweera, that really placed the advantage in England’s hands. Tomorrow will certainly provide more optimism for England, if they can finish what Swann started late today.

With 3 days still left to play, no-one knows what will occur as the day unfolds, who expected to see Sri Lanka 5 down in their 2ndinnings and only two days in. Quick wickets are key for England tomorrow morning, so let’s hope they can keep that deficit manageable, and then we have a decent chance of claiming victory… but only time will tell! 

Photo Credit: AFP (espncricinfo.com)

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