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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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“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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A series win under their belts after a 9-wicket victory, England have just one Test remaining, to secure a 3-0 success over their West Indian counterparts. It was great to see England wrap up another Test late on day 4, in doing so cementing their title as the World Number One Test side. Trent Bridge witnessed some great performances yet again, and it is fair to say that both sides saw varying levels of success… but England reigned supreme as they became dominant late on day 3 to reduce the West Indies to 61-6, certainly the turning point in the match. But, who do I feel were the stand out performers this time around… let me know if you agree!

  • Andrew Strauss – Excelled once again with another superb century, his 22nd in fact, showing once again that he definitely is not ready to put an end to his cricketing career. Along with KP (80), Strauss’ 141 steadied England’s 1st innings, and despite a batting collapse, took England past the West Indies 370. With some perfectly timed cover drives, Strauss highlighted how he has had such a prolific career, and in tandem with his captaincy, he surely was one of the keys to England’s success.
  • Tim Bresnan – For Bresnan the stats speak for themselves, 4 wickets apiece in each innings, along with a much-needed 39 runs in the first innings. Bresnan secured his 13th Test win for England in the same number of games, also taking the Man of the Match; he has continued to excel in every Test. It was in the 2nd innings where Bresnan shined and put England in prime position over the West Indies, as they were taken from 31-3 to 61-6, as Bres showed off his impressive reverse swing skills.
  • Darren Sammy – Just a seriously nice guy, the West Indies’ captain takes the result in his stride. Although disappointed overall, he undoubtedly should not be dissatisfied with his own personal milestone. After 26 Tests, Sammy finally recorded his maiden Test century, notching up 106 in a 204-run partnership with Samuels (117), enabling his side to put 370 on the board. Despite not capitalising on England’s collapse from 267-3 to 363-7, Sammy would be confident in knowing he put up a good fight to give his side a respectable 1st innings score.

So, it’s onwards and upwards for England, and as aforementioned, the final test to be played commences on 7thJune at the mighty Edgbaston. I am sure the West Indies will try to make the series 2-1, but hopefully the England boys will increase their series win, before taking them on in the following limited overs series. England will also be now starting to focus on the big challenge that faces them this summer, as they will face their competition in the World Test rankings, South Africa. With Steyn and Morkel, the batting line-up will for sure have to improve if they are not to collapse yet again; however, I’m sure England will have this covered!

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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Well I decided to start off with my personal favourite moments of the summer; there have been some absolutely great games, great performances, and great players to watch this year so I have had to carefully select what I feel to be the crème de la crème.

My top five moments of the International summer

  1. England becoming World Number One in Tests (obviously)
  2. Whitewashing India 4-0
  3. Stuart Broad’s hat trick at Trent Bridge along with his match saving innings
  4. Tim Bresnan having Sachin Tendulkar LBW for 91
  5. England’s prolific batting and wicket taking in general – they have all been fantastic

Well as I’ve already said, how can England becoming World Number One not be top of the list? England’s will to succeed from the outset of the Ashes last year has propelled them to become a force to be reckoned with, already T20 Champions, it has shown how far they can actually go. So to see them crowned Number One in Tests in glorious style by whitewashing the Indians was fantastic.

Then we have that test at Trent Bridge, on his home patch Stuart Broad almost saved the game single-handedly with an incredible hat-trick, along with scores of 64 and 44. Looking for the first time like they could win a test, India had the advantage over England this was before they realised the might of Broad back at full form.

I also had to include Tim Bresnan’s wicket, it was the pivotal moment of the game as several chances were denied to have Tendulkar out, and I would have loved him to have got a 100 hundreds just not against this all powerful England side.

My top five moments of the County Season

  1. The Leicestershire Foxes being crowned T20 Champions
  2. Warwickshire Bears finishing second in the Championship when they were nearly relegated last year
  3. Supporting two great teams, as well as being privileged enough to see them both play
  4. James Taylor having such a prolific career so far that he was chosen to captain the England Lions, as well as an England call up
  5. The climax of the County season, this year has been amazing roll on next year

So yep my top moment of the County calendar was the T20 trophy going to the Foxes. Classed as the ‘underdogs’ right from the quarter-finals it was great to see them comeback in such amazing fashion, they had it all, the class opening pair, the power-hitters as well as the death bowlers and fantastic fielders.

Moving on we have the Bears, an up and down summer in terms of not having their best limited overs season, they turned their Championship hopes around from last year and they almost, just almost, clinched the title. From nearly being relegated into Division 2 last year it was a delight to see them back to full force and relishing their return to form in the four-day game.

Then we have James Taylor, I didn’t really want to pick out one player, but at such a young age Taylor has already had a fantastic career with 1,000 first class runs for the third successive year. His efforts were finally rewarded this year with the captaincy of the England Lions, not only this but James was soon called-up to the England set up, making his debut against Ireland earlier this year.

So there you have it, my top moments of the whole summer, or more ramblings I should say. Let me know what you have most enjoyed about this cricketing summer, as there were so many great times I couldn’t include, please leave your comments below, I will look forward to them. Check back soon for part 2.

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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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Well since my last blog post England appeared to be losing their ability to bounce back during difficult games, going 2-1 down in the series, after Sri Lanka won by 6 wickets in the third ODI. England were facing a series defeat which would end their winning streak, after not losing a series since last summer… but the series was not yet over. I was sure I was experiencing déjà vu of the England of old but I kept my faith in them, and I was gratefully reassured with what was to follow.

After putting Sri Lanka in to bat at Trent Bridge earlier in the week, we were treated to what I would like to call a spectacle from England’s opening pair Jimmy Anderson – who struck in his first and third over with the prize scalps of Dilshan and Chandimal – and Tim Bresnan. After just 16 overs Sri Lanka were 5-57, leaving them on 174 in under less than 50 overs, with Jimmy and Jade Dernbach claiming 3-a-piece. England looked back to their prime form, and it got even better when the doubted Cook who ended up with 95* and Kiesy (Kieswetter), sped to victory without the loss of a wicket! I must say this was one great performance from the lads and made the decider at Old Trafford even more scintillating… again I must reinforce I am not bias, well okay just a tad.

So they moved on to Manchester, winning the toss Cook and Kiesy took to their crease, both needed to give England a head start as this was the series at stake – and they did just that. They put on 85 for the first wicket; this you would have thought might have put England in the driving seat especially with a Man of the Match award winning 72 from Trott. Both you and I would be wrong however, as in pure England style they suffered a mini collapse with 5 of the batsmen not reaching double figures. Dernbach and Anderson took the total to a reasonable score of 268 but we the batting line up of Sri Lanka they might have fallen quite a few runs short. I remained optimistic and hoped for a thriller and that was definitely what we got, after the first 3 wickets fell quickly the performers came to the fore and a loss for England was looking imminent. But a breakthrough by Swann led the surprise turnaround into our favour, as the match came to the decider Sri Lanka needed 17 runs form just 12 balls – over to Dernbach. I am telling you now I like him more and more by the day and this spell certainly helped, his magnificent slower balls and yorkers dismissed the final 2 batsmen in successive balls in amazing style!! The sheer ecstasy I felt was unbelievable, not only did England clinch a win but they won the series and I am a bit embarrassed to admit this, but I am still overwhelmed that we won. Not that I didn’t believe they could do, it was just the style it was done in like I have stated an emphatic win… pure class!

Still on a positive note England women won the ODI Quadrangular Series, beating Australia in the final by 34 runs, maintaining their number one spot! In other women’s news the great batsmen Claire Taylor has announced her retirement from International Cricket. After a career spanning 14 years Taylor played in 15 tests, 126 ODI’s and 27 T20’s, not forgetting she also lifted two world cups and won the Ashes. Also among her achievements Taylor was named one of Wisden’s fiver cricketers of the year, being the first woman to do so… in 2009 a MBE was also awarded to her for her great performances she brought to the sport. So I wish Claire all the best for the rest of her career!

Now you may have noticed from the title that certain records may have been broken, and it’s all to do with one man from Somerset! Can anyone guess who? Well it would be Arul Suppiah who made T20 history on Tuesday when he broke not just county but International records, by taking figures of 6-5. Somerset beat the opposition, Glamorgan, by five wickets further improving their chances of a quarter-final place. In other county news, in the T20 North Group it is certain that Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire will have a home quarter-final… who do you believe now will come out on top this year as the final is drawing ever closer?! I can honestly say I love both Notts and Leicestershire Foxes so I would love to see one of them at least reach the finals, Outlaws v Foxes now that would be a hard decision!

Until next time…

Photo Credit: Tom Shaw/Getty Images

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