Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Ashes, about to rise again...

And I've decided to deliberately adjust my sleep cycle as it is showing here in NZ from 10.00pm to 5.00am, well 5.30am once you factor in Ricky Ponting's over rates :) So now I will sleep until 1.00pm each day before rising to do other things, such as job hunting for that next super exciting IT contract.

As for the cricket, one would have to say it's evenly matched, but who wants to sit on the fence. I am backing the underdog, England, ranked only 5th in the world at present. The 2005 series was truly a masterpiece and not just because the underdog won. There is no reason why this series can't be similarly competitive and compelling. Both sides have declined similarly in the 4 years since, yet one is always wary of that indomitable Aussie spirit which in my memory has always made them faster to the jugular and more tenacious fighting back than their opponents. In short, I can't see Australia playing badly or being easy to beat at any stage - if there are any capitulations it is likely to be England. Australia will always be naturally aggressive while England will have to rouse themselves from their all too regular mediocrity. So while on paper the sides look even, or even slightly favouring England, in reality Australia will be the harder team to beat.

Tactically, England must bowl aggressively, particularly with short pitched bowling and 2 fielders back, an age old tactic which South Africa mystifyingly failed to use in their recent series, and one which would work well on this Australian team, from 1 down to 11, many of whom either look vulnerable to the short ball or will hook in the air regardless of any traps. If the ball is swinging around they should pitch it very full yes, but they must definitely make use of the bouncer. Perhaps Flintoff will be an enforcer in this regard. As for Australia, they will do what Australia does, they will bowl aggressively and unrelentingly. And they will bowl short stuff.

Batting wise England will need to get off to solid starts at the top seeing off the new ball and allowing strokemakers Bopara and Pietersen to accelerate from there. The England tail is going to prove a real headache to the Australians who are without a wicket taking spinner. The Australian batting is bound to pile on the runs at some stage, the key for England will be to make use of early swing to nick out a couple and bounce out a couple more. It remains to be seen whether the conditions permit reverse swing to be a major factor, but England should not count on it.

It promises to be a most absorbing series, and I for one will welcome a few late nights in its honour.

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