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Four days have passed and it has just, only just, sunk in that England now have three consecutive Ashes series wins under their belt.

I had a sneaky feeling back in July that it was again our year, come on don’t say you didn’t either, I think most people across the country had written Australia off before they had even started.

You could say I was slightly shocked of how much of a fight Australia put up after seeing their performance at Trent Bridge, and fair play to them as well.

But for me, every moment that had passed in the series was all forgotten as that little urn was held aloft, in front of an ecstatic England crowd at The Oval.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (zimbio.com)

Photo Credit: Getty Images (zimbio.com)

Despite the fifth and final test being a draw and we all know why – I won’t go into it, as I feel a rant may ensue – it just doesn’t take away that special feeling does it?

With the 5th Test initially going Australia’s way with Watson and Smith both scoring centuries, of equal importance in their careers, it was England who were in with the chance of yet another victory.

Whether it was a win or draw however, the test result, much to my delight, prevented the Aussies from claiming a single win.

The 3-0 win margin, just looks oh so more attractive… surely that now gives us bragging rights over in Australia later this year?

The challenge I set myself for this blog though, was to look back over the 2013 Ashes as a whole and pick my favourite moment. I failed.

Now I am known for my exaggeration, but to pick one moment for me was truly impossible. How can you do it?

As I got thinking, I built up a small collection of moments that would always stick in my mind of how great a series this was. Where to start…

Well there was Bell’s fantastic form throughout the series, then Root’s maiden century at no other than the Home of Cricket, as well as Broad’s magical bowling spell to secure that amazing series win.

It’s been one extraordinary series, one that makes so much more excited for the winter. Is it too early to hope for yet another English success Down Under?

Nah, course it isn’t, because for me, England just keep on surpassing all expectation over recent years.

Roll on the T20 and ODI series!

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“The Root, the Root, the Root”

Come on, don’t say that you didn’t join in the chants with the rest of the Lord’s crowd. It was hard not to as England’s newest member of the team, stepped up to the occasion to appear as if he had been playing Ashes cricket all his life.

I think (no, I know) Root has cemented himself as opening batsman after that stunning knock at the Home of Cricket merely hours ago.

Honestly, I have rooted (sorry had to be done) for him to be in the England side for the past two years and after his ‘honour’s board worthy’ 180, and fantastic figures of 2-9 I don’t know how anyone can argue against the young guy’s talent.

I’m still sat here now, saying to myself 2-0. Is it really 2-0? England lead 2-0 in the Ashes. Yeah… it still hasn’t sunk in.

But what do the lads think?

 

I don’t want to jinx anything but could we go all the way, *cough* whitewash.

I don’t see why we can’t, Bell’s in superior form, our bowlers are excelling and we have Captain Cook at the fore.

With now a 10-day break between the next Ashes Test at Old Trafford, we are going to have to wait even longer to see if England can actually win the Ashes. As yes, if we win the next test that Ashes Urn will remain in English hands!

Could this battle be any more tense? I think not. #RISE

And to sum it up in the words of Graeme Swann… 

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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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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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Well, what a long time since my last post! Sorry about that, but at this time of year revision, and revision alone becomes your life, well okay that may be a slight exaggeration. Finding time to fit in a blog post has been hard, but today I have dedicated my time to give you a quick review of how the Championship is looking so far in 2012.

Both the Division 1 and Division 2 tables are shaping up nicely, what has been witnessed though, is that nearly every county game to date this season has been thwarted by rain, leaving many drawn games appearing in the table. This is the reason I want to allocate to Durham for so far residing at the bottom of Division 1, I can’t help but feel this is not the case however, take Somerset for example, in the same position as Durham (in terms of drawn games) but they remain in 4th, having taken 9 more bowling points. If I am honest, I did not expect Durham to have fared so badly this season, a crop of younger players, namely Borthwick and Stokes along with the experience of Benkenstein, Collingwood and Di Venuto highlights the strength of their side. Although, it is only early days with 11 games still left to play, I am sure they can pull something out of the bag, the Championship title I fear will not be one of them though.

Nonetheless, those who are in contention for the title are clearly making their mark in the Championship, as Nottinghamshire and Warwickshire have a clear lead at the top. Although Notts currently have 78 points, Warwickshire are proving to be the ones to beat, just 7 points behind the 2010 Champions the Bears have played 2 less games and look set to continue their great form. Both bowling and batting units have impressed for the Bears this season, and after narrowly missing out on the title last year to Lancashire, I am going to say that Warwickshire look like they could come home with the silverware in 2012… and no it isn’t just because I am a huge Bears fan, well okay, maybe to some extent!

Also, looking towards who is in with a chance of promotion this season, we have the Division 2 teams. Well, one of last year’s relegation sides, Yorkshire, are proving why fans were extremely disappointed with moving down into Division 2 after last season’s disappointing performance. Currently joint at the top of the table with Derbyshire, both sides have won 2 of their 5 games, leaving them in a comfortable position with a lead of 9 points. It is surprising to see Yorkshire’s transformation in just a short space of time, but with the likes of Sayers, Gale and Ballance in the batting line up, Yorkshire have been impressive. Along with England Lions players, Root and Bairstow, the latter today selected for the senior side for the West Indies Test at Lord’s, Yorkshire look to have a promising season. Promotion is certainly their main goal, as it is for Hampshire, but as of yet Derby, Yorkshire and Kent are all in contention as they near the halfway stage.

At the other end of the scale, we have Glamorgan who are yet to win a game this season. With just 17 points secured from 5 games, it’s the batting that is letting this Welsh side down. There is no disputing that their bowlers are making the breakthroughs, but having not yet surpassed the 200 mark in any match, it is the lack of runs, which is causing Glamorgan a serious problem. Any chances of promotion look unlikely this year unless a serious turn of events occur, all Glamorgan can really do is improve their position in the table, as Leicestershire who remained at the bottom of the table in 2011 are already a clear 18 points ahead.

With the CB40 competition also underway, it won’t be long until the cricket season is in full flow without any weather-affected games, fingers crossed! The Championship gets back underway on Wednesday, only to be followed on Thursday for what we have been waiting for since April, the return of English Test cricket. Taking on the West Indies at Lord’s kick-starts England’s 2012 summer, let’s hope for some fantastic performances and results… until then that’s me done :)

Photo Credit: Getty Images (espncricinfo.com)

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Trent Bridge lived up to the high expectations of Lord’s that’s for sure… in fact it held many a surprise and had several treats in-store.It all started off on what I can only really call a wrong note, batsmen after batsmen failed to suppress the Indian bowlers as each fell over one-by-one like skittles… low score after low score. Supporters had their head in their hands, of which I was one, in despair as England looked like this test would end in a crumbling defeat. Not all hope was lost though in the form of the two home boys, Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann. First things first… as Broad comes to the crease on 117-7 the future looked abysmal, (and no I am not over-exaggerating!) but the bowling all-rounder soon took centre stage as Ian Bell departed and Swann took to the crease. The pair highlighted what the other batsmen had been missing out on putting on an incredible stand of 73 runs… as England’s innings drew to a close it was Broad who was the last man out, and amazingly it was he the number 9 batsmen who top-scored with 64. As important as this was this shouldn’t have been the case, and England looked in poor form. After finishing on 221 all out, it was now England’s turn to hedge their bets and try to keep India’s run scoring to a minimum, as every fan knew this would be a tough task… or was it?! The sun appeared to be shining on our bowlers over the next two days, and for Jimmy Anderson in particular it shone on his very first delivery to have Mukund caught in the slips leaving him on a golden pair in his next innings.

What was to come the following day was not to be believed, well not by me anyway. ‘The Wall’ and VVS Laxman put up a fight on the beginning of Day 2 with a partnership of 93, at long last Bresnan in for the injured Tremlett eliminated the threat opening the way for the star of the moment Broad. As Broad worked his way through the somewhat weakened batting line-up spectacular scenes were to be witnessed. After he had Tendulkar out early for the second time in the series, he was able to claim the now prized wicket of Yuvraj Singh who was becoming an increasing danger after hitting 10 fours to reach 62, which in turn brought captain MS Dhoni to the fore. Ball three of Broad’s over saw Dhoni caught at slip. Following ball Harbhajan Singh plumb LBW. The atmosphere in the ground escalated as they realised a hat-trick may be on the cards, Stuart Broad’s calm exterior was fool proof. Hat-trick ball, Broad’s feet pounded the dry earth, the ball was released full and straight… and it crashed into the stumps sending them cartwheeling across the ground. He’d done it, he’d actually done it! Stuart Broad had claimed a hat-trick; the tension of the spectators was evident as they filled the ground with screams and cheers, whilst I myself remained speechless (for a mere few seconds) and punched the air with sheer delight and disbelief. The overwhelming nature of this moment was one which was sure to last, but Broad was one whom must remained centred as he still had a job to perform. His heroics continued as India ended on 288 all out (Dravid top-scored with 117), due to a magnificent spell of bowling from the big-man of 5 wickets for 0 and ending on career-best figures of 6-46. Being one of many ‘number one’ fans of Stuart this was one day which will definitely live long in the memory.

As the test continued supporters and spectators alike were all a part of the controversial scenes that took place on Day 3. With middle-order batsmen now realising their full potential, it was Ian Bell’s turn in the limelight. Coming on early in England’s second innings at number 3 due to a shoulder injury to Jonathan Trott, Belly treated us to a wonderful display of batting as hit his way to 137 at tea… cue the dramatics. On the last ball before tea, Morgan had supposedly hit a four to end the session, I say supposedly as the fielder Kumar was unsure whether or not he was touching the boundary has he stopped the ball. So off walk Morgan and Bell assuming it’s tea, but unbeknown behind them the ball had returned to the middle, and was aptly used to whip off the bails as Bell had left his crease. Here the confusion mounts as the umpires must ask whether the Indians are appealing for a run-out, as they confirm they have it was rightfully so that Bell was dismissed because of the laws of the game. Boos filled the ground and tensions were clearly rising over tea, and continued as the Indians and the umpires remerged to the field; however the atmosphere changes when Bell is seen to be also coming back onto the field. We later learnt that after a discussion at tea the Indians had retracted their appeal as they felt it was against the spirit of the game, this is one decision which must be given full appraisal to as it was a tough one to make. Even after I have deliberated over the whole debacle though I still find the matter somewhat confusing… or that could just be me! Anyway all of this aside the day ended on England on 441-6 with a healthy lead of 374.

Day 4 began with high expectations and we were not left disappointed. England continued the attack to the Indian bowlers, again our lower order showed its worth with a quick 44 off 32 from Broad (including five 4’s and two 6’s). But the man who impressed in this innings was Tim Bresnan, his stroke making took him to 90 runs but he unfortunately fell short of his maiden ton and on Yorkshire day as well :) Finishing all out for 544, Ian Bell top scored with a superb but possibly tainted 159, giving England a great lead of 477 – surely this was enough? Bresnan this time the bowler of the moment in situ with Broad and Anderson tore, literally, through the Indian batting line-up… with a few threatening performances that were soon removed. One small hidden surprise that helped with the Indian collapse was that of sub-fielder Scott Elstone of Nottinghamshire who took two amazing catches which later threw him to stardom within the media – one day for him, and one name for us to remember!! Slowly but surely each wicket subsided and the world number one team were left all out on 158 to give England a comprehensive win of 319 runs… and more importantly a 2-0 lead in the series! As Broad fittingly took the final wicket he was nowhere to be seen as he became submerged by his teammates, and later took home the Man of the Match Award, but the looks on the faces of the England team said it all, their beaming smiles spread across the ground as well as to those supporters at home – I need say no more than I was absolutely and thoroughly ecstatic.

Hope you enjoyed this lengthy blog post, there is just so much I want to say. Hopefully coming up will be the reports on the T20 quarter-finals – who do you think will be progressing? As well as a match report of Day 1 of the Edgbaston Test as I will be there in person!

Photo Credit: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

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