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It’s that time of year again, sleepless nights and endless caffeine intake to keep you up throughout the night to endure England (fingers crossed) win another Ashes series in Australia.

With the first test been and gone, I can definitely say the 2013/2014 Ashes Series has already bought its fair share of drama.

To start with though do I have to talk about the way we played, it was bad enough watching it let alone write about it? My pride just won’t take it.

We all know the result, Australia won. No in fact, Australia smashed us by 381 runs and although I hate to admit it, outplayed us by a mile.

Mitchell Johnson has seemingly come out of nowhere once again to baffle our top order, in fact our whole batting line-up come to think of it.

Not forgetting Warner, Haddin and Clarke who were the thorns in England’s side where their batting was concerned.

Though to be honest, just look at the rest of the batting from the Aussie’s, it’s not that impressive as England’s so, where are we going wrong?

It’s those few individuals that can make a match, a victory. England don’t have those key players, well they do, it’s just that they didn’t seem to show up on the day.

Now us fans could all sit here and look mournfully into our cups of tea, imagining the Ashes Urn being reunited with Australia once more… but it’s not all bad, trust me.

It wasn’t as if no one performed, Stuart Broad, pantomime villain to those Down Under showed glimpses of skill.

Yes we’ve seen the footage of how he should have walked earlier in the summer, and yes we know he shouldn’t have done it etc. etc.

But, to hear the Aussie crowd that predominantly filled The Gabba silenced after Broad’s first wicket, don’t say you didn’t enjoy that moment.

It is ironic and to my extreme amusement though that the 2nd highest run-scorer in our 1st innings (not hard I’ll admit), and 2nd highest wicket taker so far, was Broad.

The man who received article after article in the Aussie media, the man who the whole of Australia had written off before play had even begun.

If this doesn’t make you the slightest bit happy after the result… yet hopefully it is onwards and upwards for England, well it better be anyway.

I’ll be brave and put it out there, I think England can still win it from here even without our number 3 stalwart Jonathan Trott.

As you may know Trott has flown home due to a stress-related illness, so all the best to him. In his absence however, I’m sure the team will come back fighting.

Let’s hope next time round you’ll be reading about an England victory, they are much better to write about believe me!

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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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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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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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Well what a match that turned out to be? A close game, right up until the last few overs when a couple of things went England’s way, that turned a 1-0 series lead into 2-0, with England now unable to lose the series. An unchanged team, compared to Pakistan’s three, emphasised their comfortable position as they led the way in how to win an ODI in style. Again we weren’t spared from brilliant cricket, the batting, bowling and fielding were nothing less than fantastic, as two teams fought for victory. At one stage I did doubt that England would be able to cross the line, with Pakistan on the charge and England unable to take those vital wickets. Never fear though, for the likes of Cook, Finn and Kieswetter, each created match winning chances; as England managed to keep the boundary count down towards the end, bowling Pakistan out wonderfully for 230. Winning by a margin of 20 runs, who stood out for me today?

  • Alastair Cook – Supreme batting and captaincy from Cook yet again, with successive 100s he has become the first England captain to do so in ODIs. Despite losing KP and Trott by the 27th over, Cook remained on top and hit his way to a crisp 102 from 121 balls. Keeping the critics at bay, Cook really has proved his worth, and hopefully we will see him in great form on Saturday. Remaining calm at the presentation Cook isn’t thinking about a 4-0 whitewash, but hopefully this will be the case!
  • Ravi Bopara – Picking Bopara again as one of my star performers he has kept up his form, and I would now say cemented his place for the rest of the tour, with a rather speedy 58 form 66. Despite sending one sky high to Akmal on the last ball, Bopara played a great supporting role for Cook with yet another substantial partnership… these two Essex lads certainly know how to roll!
  • Steven Finn – What a bowler Finny is turning out to be? His improvement over the past year has been incredible, as he matched his last ODI figures of 4-34, however, this time clearing up the tail-enders when it really mattered. First having ‘keeper Akmal with Patel taking a superb low catch at cover to make the ever important breakthrough; Rehman was next with a beautiful swinging delivery, clean bowled. Then finally Gul and Cheema were soon gone, as Finn soared toward four wickets, sealing victory in the process, beautiful bowling all round!
  • Craig Kieswetter – Not featuring with the bat today, it was his ‘keeping skills that caught my eye. Captain Misbah was set to reach his half-century, Pakistan had a slight chance of winning the match had he stayed at the crease, yet he creates a big top edge off Broad, and sends the ball towering. Taking an absolute beauty, Kiesy running back behind him misjudged the ball’s landing, and at last minute dives full stretch. It was a stunner… no wonder Swanny launched himself at Kiesy as he lay bewildered on the pitch!

Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson also played their part in today’s game, Broad having Farhat run-out, as well as obtaining the captain’s wicket; whilst Jimmy had Hafeez caught at slip early on, then took the prize-wicket of Afridi late on in the day. An all-round performance from England yet again. Although it was a hard fought match, England were once more the team on top as they proved the extent of their cricketing ability. Two more games are left in the series, as Saturday approaches the question will be raised over whether or not England can make it 3 in a row. I believe they can, and predicting an unchanged team again, if no injuries occur, I feel that England are now definitely the team to beat. Another fantastic team performance has propelled them back into winning ways, and if such performances are repeated we will have no problem defeating any opposition. Despite losing the Test series 4-0 (sorry to remind you all), England can learn from their mistakes, and things should hopefully look up when they take on Sri Lanka from the end of March.

I’m already anticipating another great day’s cricket coming up on Saturday especially if today is anything to go by; England fans are once more in happy spirits so we can all rest assured that we have 2 in the bag. So I’m off for another day, and yet still after everything that’s happened in the cricket, I still can’t stop think about Craig Kieswetter’s catch – just outstanding! :D

Cook bats his way to glory! Photo Credit: AFP (espncricinfo.com)

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