July 2009
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Peter Siddle: Bring on the Ashes crowds

July 8th, 2009 by peter siddle in Test cricket, The Ashes and tagged , , , ,


Peter Siddle, the Australian bowler, is blogging weekly for thewisdencricketer.com throughout the Ashes.

We’re just about set for the first Test and we’re feeling confident. Having looked at the pitch it looks like a good cricket wicket – nice and hard, with a good bit of grass on there as well so it looks like it’s going to hold up for five days. Most wickets are pretty similar, if it seams a little bit then it’s going to spin, so there’ll probably be a bit of spin too, but we’ll have to wait and see how the weather and the game pans out to see if that will be a big influence.

We won’t be told about the team until just before the toss, but I’m hoping I’ve done enough to make the starting XI. My preparation has been pretty good – I was over here for the Twenty20s and had the extended period to get used to the conditions. I got through about 30 overs in Hove against Sussex, feeling comfortable and in good rhythm so I reckon I’ve done enough good preparation going into this series. The selectors spoke to me when they left me out at Worcester and while there were no guarantees I would be picked at Cardiff, they said they were happy with where I was and wanted to rest me and have a look at a couple of the other guys.

I have now played as many times for my country as I have done for Victoria in first-class cricket, due in part to injuries to my shoulder. It’s pretty amazing in a way and I consider myself very lucky, especially when a lot of guys play 50 or 60 times for their state before they get a chance, if at all. I have had mixed feelings ahead of this Test; on the one hand it’s just another game, but when you think of the history behind the Ashes and what it means for the English and Australian players to get that chance to play in an Ashes series you start to realise what a massive honour and achievement it is. By the time you read this the game will probably have started, but to be just half-a-day out now from having the opportunity to walk out for the first day of the first Test is mad. I just wish I didn’t have to sleep, I want to play it now! I’m not sure what we are planning to do first, but I hope we bowl first, it’s always easier to get your part of the game out of the way and get into the match and the series straight away.

It’ll be a pretty quiet night before the Test, my parents are over for it so I’m catching up with them for the first time over dinner, and my girlfriend is here as well. It’s always great to have your family with you – my parents came over to watch my Test debut in India when they took an emergency flight to Mohali, and this is their first time over in England.

When they’re not here it is great that we all get on very well as a squad – it’s a younger crew than have toured in the past so that helps, a lot of energetic young guys running around having fun. Phillip Hughes and I like to joke around and Mitchell Johnson does as well, we try to keep the boys entertained. Brett Lee and Shane Watson have their guitars with them, so there have been a couple of nights when a few of us have sat down and listened to them having a jam and a sing in the physio’s room (they’ve spent a bit of time there recently but it’s because it’s the biggest room!).

Brett’s injury is disappointing. Be it batsman, bowler or keeper it’s never good to see one of your team-mates go down, especially on the eve of a big series like this. After watching him in Worcester where he bowled unbelievably well in preparation for this Test he looked like he was back to his prime, bowling with great pace and rhythm. Hopefully he can be fit and strong and back for the second Test.

A big part of Brett’s success at Worcester was reverse-swing. It’s something that played a big part in 2005 so it’s something that we’ve worked on hard. England used it a lot better than us that time, but we’ve done our planning and our practice and it paid off for Brett at Worcester. Hopefully we can get it going here in Cardiff and throughout the series. Troy Cooley got Pigeon (Glenn McGrath) to come and talk to the seamers at Worcester for about an hour or so about fast bowling over here and wishing us luck. It’s always great to listen to someone with that sort of knowledge, and he made a little joke about us not standing on any cricket balls. . .

I’m looking forward to getting to know the English crowds. I copped a bit in South Africa, but I started to enjoy it and get used to how I’m going to get treated overseas. I’ve heard the Welsh crowds like to get a bit rowdy, so I’m looking forward to that, it should be good fun. We haven’t got any stick yet, so it will be interesting getting off the coach tomorrow to see how long it takes people to have a good yell at us.

Posted in Test cricket, The Ashes | No Comments »

Lawrence Booth: Why Andrew Flintoff is crucial

July 8th, 2009 by Lawrence Booth in England, Test cricket, The Ashes


If anyone has been able to agree on anything during this most fluctuating of Ashes build-ups, it’s the idea that Andrew Flintoff Is Crucial. The trouble is, people are agreeing for the wrong reasons. Because tempting though it is to regard Flintoff as the player Australia fear most (they, like most England fans, may be placing more weight on 2006-07 than 2005), it is nearer the truth to say that the effect Flintoff has on his own team could be the difference between victory and defeat.

Forget dodgy alarm clocks: the real issue with Flintoff is whether he has made the transition in his own mind from national treasure in 2005 to mantelpiece extra four years on. To expect a repeat of his performances in the period starting with the 2003-04 trip to the West Indies and ending with the last home Ashes series – in which time Flintoff averaged nearly 45 with the bat and under 25 with the ball – is to don rose-tinted specs. The worry is Flintoff is still wearing them himself.

The casual portrayal – and there have been plenty of those in the last few days – depicts a salt-of-the-earth northern lad who enjoys a beer, loves larking around with his mates, and generously invites his team-mates along for the ride. But that overlooks both the evidence and the whispers.

The evidence – presented often enough – says England are more successful without Flintoff. Stats should be treated with caution, of course, but to argue, as some have done, that Flintoff’s presence earns wickets for his team-mates at the other end does not bear scrutiny: if that really was the case, why do England do better without him? Defeat in the Test series in the West Indies (when he was available) and victory over the same team in England (when he wasn’t) were merely the latest examples in a long line of them.

Still, if you don’t like the evidence, try the whispers. Very well-placed sources have repeatedly told this blogger that Flintoff’s presence in the dressing room can be more hindrance than help. The undeniable charisma can become as overbearing as the need to be top dog. Kevin Pietersen’s ego may be equally large, but at least in his case the disruptive element isn’t there.

Flintoff is now regarded by the management as dispensable: the Ypres lie-in is being viewed as the last straw but one. England need the irrepressible bulldozer; they do not need a troublemaker trading on former glories. It won’t take much for the Cardiff crowd to respond to him. But his team-mates may feel they are owed rather more than one or two wholehearted spells of swing and seam. Like we said, Flintoff is crucial.

Lawrence Booth writes on cricket for the Guardian

Posted in England, Test cricket, The Ashes | 1 Comment »

The TWC Summit: Were England right to make Harmison an Ashes casualty?

July 8th, 2009 by TWC in England, Test cricket, The Ashes and tagged , , ,


It’s the first morning of the Ashes, and regardless of whether or not England choose two spinners in Cardiff one man will not be there. Despite his impressive performance for the Lions against Australia last week, the selectors decided against bringing Steve Harmison back into the England team, believing that his county colleague Graham Onions had done enough to keep his place. But was it the right decision? Our panel debate, and throw in their Ashes predictions for free. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in England, Test cricket, The Ashes | 2 Comments »

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