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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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England don’t half test your stress levels.

If this Ashes series couldn’t be any more tense, Australia decided to step up to the mark and put in a more than decent performance with the bat at Old Trafford.

And despite a KP 100 – at last – and another Swann 5-fer, it remained the Aussie’s test. Clarke in particular the stand out man.

But lo and behold, the good old English weather made an appearance for what seemed the first time this summer.

Now I’m usually all “sun, sun, sun”, but when it comes down to it, I couldn’t have been happier on the last day when that rain fell.

Don’t get me wrong, I would have loved England to have won this third test and retained the Ashes in style (along with a 5-0 whitewash of course).

But all the same, I’m sure any England fan can’t deny that the fact the Ashes stay in England once again, is one amazing feeling. A view shared by the England team themselves.

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Yes, the test was a nervy one, in which England benefitted. For me the highlight however, was not necessarily the cricket.

Warner. The pantomime villain. The Manchurian crowd supporting their beloved Yorkie Joe Root as Warner came out to bat… it seems as though the Roses rivalry was soon forgotten.

It was Warner taking it all in his stride, playing along with the fans that I liked. Instead of an atmosphere being created, he merely added to the humour and intensity that an Ashes series brings between the teams and their loyal supporters.

So it may have been a subdued ending to what looked like an Australian win, but all in all, it sure does make the next two tests even more enticing.

The Ashes could still be drawn… but come on lads, I know there is more fight to come to #RISE for that series win!

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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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“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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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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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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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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