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Luck definitely is not a word appearing in the England team’s vocabulary this winter. With 5 ODIs and 3 T20s England managed just one win across both formats.

Whatever happened to Australia over the course of four months I don’t know, or to England for that matter?

Is it bad that I’m going to focus on England’s ODI win? Just for a little bit at least, you have to give me something to be happy about where cricket is concerned.

Again, it was Ben Stokes who stepped up to the mark in the 4th ODI with 70 runs and a nice 4 wickets to accompany that. Bell, Cook and Buttler were also among those who performed, the latter in particular pulling out all the stops to stop what could have been another Australian whitewash.

To be fair England weren’t too bad in the limited overs, ok they were, I mean the scores show that. But Balance, Morgan, Root and Bopara individually made pretty decent contributions across the board.

But like I’ve said so many times already these past few months, and yes Australia revel in your glory, as they were just the better team… again.

As an England fan it’s been tough going sitting through defeat after defeat, all I want is just a glimmer of hope and to take a series win away with us this winter.

Not too much to ask is it?

I hope not as we have the West Indies limited overs series’ coming up at the end of this month, not to forget the World T20 (my hopes will be high, whether that’s a good thing or not).

And whether we win or not it will be without controversy maker number one, yes, KP. As we’ve seen, Pietersen no longer forms a part of the England cricket team and never will. Shall we call it KP-gate? That’s what most people seem to do now.

Regardless, a big shake up is happening, Flower’s resigned, Swanny’s no longer the team joker – yes I’m still in shock – and a new England set-up is already in the making.

Hopefully exciting and new challenges lie ahead, don’t know if you agree but I totally feel it’s time for something different, especially with such poor results Down Under.

All we can do is see what’s to come this summer, but one thing’s for sure, it won’t be the England team we know.

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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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Well, where do I start? I think it’s a little bit of an understatement to say I was hoping for a better result, just the tiniest bit of improvement at The Adelaide Oval.

Instead, we were treated to Australia leading the way, just as we had done in the summer… oh how long ago that now seems.

Australia winning by 218 runs was not my prediction, neither was another great consecutive spell of bowling from Johnson, or Clarke and Warner yet again scoring runs aplenty.

And what’s happened to England? I’d rather not mention our batting if I can avoid it. It’s quite similar to a horror movie, in the sense that you want to hide behind the sofa, scared of what is coming next.

Again, there were glimpses of hope from Carberry, Root, Bell ad KP, but we can’t keep relying on those few individuals.

The question comes about whether we should change the team but I really do hope it’s just a phase – hope being the operative word.

We’ve already introduced debutant, Ben Stokes, into the fold but it looks as if we’ll have to wait and see what he has in store for the test team (runs would be lovely please).

With the third test at Perth arriving quickly it hasn’t left much time to get used to the idea that England are now 2-0 down in  the series already.

It’s not as if we’re renowned for winning at Perth either, 35 years since we last did in fact.

So England aren’t just going to want to win to break that spell but it just happens to be Captain Cook’s 100th Test, Captain Clarke’s too as it goes so Australia will be pulling out all the stops too I guess.

So two big momentous occasions for the captains, but it all depends on the result. Cook I couldn’t say it better myself.

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I don’t just want an England result, of course it would be great, but we need it too – lose at Perth and we lose the series and come on we don’t want that to happen now do we?

So all we can do is watch in suspense, oh and keep our fingers crossed to help secure that England victory.

If not I think I’m just going to stay behind the sofa…

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In what was the first test series of the summer, England did not fail to disappoint as much expectation lies ahead in the rest of the 2013 cricket calendar. With back-to-back Ashes Series and the Champions Trophy soon to get under way, it could be said that the New Zealand Test Series was overshadowed. But, by the calibre of the performances as well as the excitement and support that was seen over the past two weeks, it was clear that this was not the case.

In just a two test match series, Lord’s set the international season off in style. In a low scoring test, many fans were sceptical over England’s chances, as New Zealand’s pace attack kept England to 232 all out. With the young middle-order Yorkshire pair, Root and Bairstow, the highest scorers with 40 and 41 respectively, it seemed as though a lot of hope was pinned on England’s bowlers.

Who could doubt our bowling line up though, when you have the likes of Anderson, Broad and Finn. Knocking New Zealand out for 207 left England with a surprising lead, leaving Jimmy with a five-for and surpassing that amazing 300 test wickets mark. After England scored only 213 in their second innings, New Zealand were chasing 238 as Southee, the pick of the Blackcaps bowlers, claimed seven wickets. This time round however, it was Stuart Broad’s turn to show off his skill, tearing through the New Zealand line up, Broad was left with figures of 7-44. The opposition fell to a measly 68 all out, in what was an amazing couple of hours of test cricket. It was England’s hour of glory as they left the infamous Lord’s ground with a 1-0 lead as they headed off to Headingley.

Yet if we thought the first test match was England’s bowlers in top form, Headingley made way for the batsmen to prove their worth.  At 67-3 and losing two wickets in two balls, it seemed as though it was to be yet another low scoring game. Bring on young Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow, both playing for the first time internationally on their home turf. It was Root who stole the limelight, in a sparkling show of talent, skill and maturity at the crease for such a young player. Just missing out on a debut hundred at Lord’s with 71, it then seemed rather fitting for him to finally reach the milestone in front of a home crowd. The emotion was clear for everyone to see, including Bairstow who was equally happy for his fellow team mate. He was not to be overshadowed however, he himself making a brilliant 64, contributing to take England to 354 all out.

Reducing New Zealand therefore to 174 was an even greater achievement for England as they had a 180 run lead at the end of the second day’s play, with Swann finally making an impact in this series. Captain Cook was the next man to rack up three figures with 130, as he and Trott fought long to take England to 287-5dec. New Zealand now required 468 runs to win but having not scored above 207 so far in the series, it was inevitable that England were about to steal the win. Swann for the second time in the match destroyed the batting line up, resulting in a 10 wicket match haul and an England series win as New Zealand were all out for 220.

With winning margins of 170 and 247 runs in the tests respectively, England were by far the dominant team, setting them up perfectly for the summer ahead. And by the look of it, certain players who were in supreme form over both games, show a lot of promise to display some amazing talent over the next few months to come.

The Aussies better watch out this year, as who knows what lies ahead for this England side!

Photo Credit: Getty Images (espncricinfo.com)

Photo Credit: Getty Images (espncricinfo.com)

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Gutted. I knew this day would come eventually but not this soon if I’m honest. The day that Andrew Strauss retired from all forms of the game, including domestic cricket, was destined to be a day that all cricket fans would rather not witness. This just so happened to be true today, as it was announced that Strauss would no longer grace a cricket field with his presence, it would now be Cook’s turn to take on this respected leadership role.

England have not only lost an incredibly talented batsmen, or a treasured member of the England team, but they have also lost a truly great leader of this England side. Being a part of the 2005 winning Ashes squad, captaining the side to a Home and an Away Ashes victory, and then taking the team to Number One in the World in Test cricket, it is fair to say Strauss has been one of England’s most successful captains.

It did come as quite a shock I would say to England cricket fans. However, in his press conference today, Strauss did comment on the fact that he had raised the issue of retirement with Team Director, Andy Flower, a couple of weeks ago. So with retirement already on his mind, it was understandable when Strauss declared that the Kevin Pietersen “issue” had no influence over his decision. The public will obviously make up their own minds on the matter, and there is always speculation over a cricketer’s retirement no matter what the circumstances.

But what is to remain the most important memory here is not the reasons behind Strauss’ retirement, but the reasons as to why he will be justly missed on the field. His determination, skill, talent, composure and at all times the pride he took from leading his country is why Andrew Strauss has become such an important and respected figure within the cricketing world. We will never forget the glorious victories and triumphs Strauss succeeded in as captain, or the crushing defeats and trials endured.

We have been there through every step of his journey as an England player, and as an esteemed captain. This is the reason as to why Strauss will never be forgotten, he got the England side to where they are today, and I could only wish his retirement had been prolonged. But unfortunately for every England fan, we must bid farewell to a thoroughly great England captain!

One of many of Andrew Strauss’ accomplishments! Photo Credit: ECB (ecb.co.uk)

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After a long wait, I’ve finally written another blog post, I’ve had trouble finding the time to write them at the moment; but there has been so much drama on and off the field I decided to give a quick overview of all the jubilations and tribulations England have faced along the way. I suppose you could say a roundup of the latter half of England’s summer cricket campaign, bar the seven matches left in the season.

First up we have the Australian ODI series, yes I know it feels like years ago now, but finishing back on the 10th July I had to give it a mention seeing as we thrashed the Aussies 4-0, it always feels good to get a win over them! With only one rain abandoned match (yes it just happened to be the one I went to), England proved to be the superior team in both batting and bowling abilities, to take the NatWest trophy. Let’s hope the Ashes series next year goes in our favour also!

Then came the South African Test series, a battle for top spot, as South Africa resided in second place in the world rankings. Losing the first test at The Oval by an innings and 12 runs proved to be a shock to the system, whereby a steady 115 from Cook in the 1st innings could not match the abundance of skill that was reflected by the South Africans. Smith, Amla and Kallis between them notched up 637-2 (dec.) in what can only be classed as a show of sheer determination; Amla the star man with an amazing score of 311* breaking many records in the process.

Keen to battle on, England stepped up their game in the second test, a KP 149 secured a decent 1st innings score that only just rivalled that of South Africa’s. Despite it being a high scoring game in the 1st innings for both sides, the match fizzled out to be a draw, leaving the last test of the series vital for England. Only a win could save them from losing that much sought after number one spot in test cricket.

The “all or nothing” game soon approached at Lord’s on the 16th August, and it certainly was a nail-biting match as it was left to the final day to decide the outcome. If it wasn’t for Amla’s heroics with another century to secure a steady 2nd innings total, the result may have been very different. Then again if England’s batting line up had not collapsed, namely Strauss, Cook, Bell and Taylor scoring only 12 runs between them, then England would have been able to secure victory. Unfortunately for them, all out for 294 and trailing by 51 runs left the England team and fans devastated, as the Number One World Test ranking was handed over to the touring party, South Africa.

And if that wasn’t a lot for England to contend with, during the middle of the series itself other drama was beginning to unfold. If I mentioned the Kevin Pietersen fiasco, I think you know what I’m about talking about. To cut a long story short, it was discovered that KP sent certain text messages to members of the South African team that could be deemed offensive towards Andrew Strauss, fellow team mates and management. Causing a huge rift between him and the team it was no surprise to see Pietersen dropped from the side in the final test, making way for debutant James Taylor (so happy he has finally been given a chance). Pietersen’s actions quickly reached the attention of the public, and soon it was released that KP, despite coming out of retirement to play in all forms of the game, did not make it into the T20 World Cup squad.

To say cricket isn’t eventful is definitely wrong, in the space of two months anything can happen. From England losing their number one spot, to a senior cricketing star making the headlines for all the wrong reasons. As I said there has been drama on and off the field, but for now I think it is clear that England must focus on the rest of their ODIs and T20s versus South Africa to keep their ODI top spot, and look towards retaining their title as T20 World Cup holders next month!

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So there we have it, the first Test of the summer completed adding yet another victory to England’s tally. Beating the West Indies by a decent margin of 5 wickets, the fans were treated to an array of fantastic performances over the five days, including centuries, wickets galore and Lord’s honours board glory! Not resting on their laurels, Strauss confirmed that they would push hard for victory in order to cement their position in the World Test Rankings, and that is certainly what we witnessed. As always, I have selected a small group of players who I felt over-excelled themselves:

  • Andrew Strauss – Now I could not compile my thoughts on this Test without mentioning the England captain, who after waiting since December 2010 to record another Test century, battled through criticism to reach that ever-important milestone. A composed and steady hundred erased doubts over Strauss’ ability, notching up 121 runs before the close of day 2, ensuring England were well on their way to a 1st innings lead, surpassing the West Indies 243. With a “roar of satisfaction” after completing his feat, Strauss can start relax, in hope that form has returned, something we will only know come Trent Bridge on Friday.
  • Stuart Broad – Definitely the star at Lord’s as his match haul of an astonishing 11 wickets saw Stuart claim the MOTM and with just cause too!  Obtaining career-best figures of 7-72 in the 1st innings, each was caught by a fellow team member, bar one, when he took a beauty of a catch off his own bowling to dismiss Roach for 6. Replicating this feat would have been difficult, Broad did not let this faze him however, taking another 4 wickets for 93 runs, including the crucial wicket of Samuels on 86. In doing so Stuart became the 1st England bowler to take 10 wickets in a Lord’s Test since Ian Botham (1978). Also Broad has now become only the 4th player to complete the hat trick at Lord’s, featuring on each honours board… one huge achievement or what?
  • Shivnarine Chanderpaul – Despite being on the losing team, Shiv certainly gave a winning performance, as he lived up to his status as the current world number one batsman, battling hard to produce 178 runs. Remaining not out on 87 in the 1st innings, he definitely was the West Indies saviour, without his consistent performance, England’s charge to victory would have been far easier. Proving to be the great batsman he is once again in the 2nd innings, England bowlers became frustrated as his persistence wore on with just a 36.40 strike rate! Only to be defeated by the sweep shot just before tea on Day 4, Swann claimed his prized wicket, but Chanderpaul was greeted with rapturous applaud from the crowd, defining his glorious achievements for the West Indies.

It wasn’t just these three either. Just take a look at the scorecard, especially Cook and Bell with 79 and 63 respectively to take us over the line on Day 5, it was fantastic to see Bell replicate his form with Warwickshire for England, and certainly not forgetting debutant Jonny Bairstow. Nerves would have been settled when Jonny executed a superb run out of Edwards for 0, leaving the West Indies on 36-3 in their 2ndinnings run chase. Only making 16 with the bat, I’m sure many like me, are looking forward to see what he has to offer if he makes selection on Friday. It was amazing to see what the West Indies had to offer at Lord’s and I’m sure Trent Bridge will be the same, so roll on Friday!

Photo Credit: Tom Shaw/Getty Images (zimbio.com)

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