Thursday, 27 January 2011

It's all about the charity

Want to do something good? Well head over to The McGrath Foundation ebay page, where you can bid on some exclusive pink caps signed by the players in the New Years Test from Sydney. Slightly telling that there are quite a few Aussie caps gone without a bid though...

(And if cricket isn't your thing, you can always bid on a wedding dress from Neighbours...)

Podcast - Yardy Wasn't Horrendously Tight

Everybody loves a bit of Podbean

A time-travelling podcast, recorded in a park. Hence the random bird noises. Anyway, Australia have been playing in some ODIs v England, and Will has been looking at who's winning and why. There is much name-dropping and place-dropping, but you've come to expect that. As always, tweets @shortmidwicket, blogs at and keep those emails coming into Very nice.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Podcast - Steve, can I have an autograph?

On flipping Podbean

A round up of all of the squads of the World Cup. Also, some live stuff from the Aussie nets in Hobart, and an in depth interview with all-rounder Steve Smith. Lovely stuff.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

England's World Cup Reaction

OK, so the squad's been announced. And I didn't do too badly. Knowing there was a 'shock' selection, I went left-field. I didn't go obvious.

So the changes to my squad. Jimmy Adams was a long shot, but he didn't make it. In his places comes James Tredwell as spin cover, but do England need three spinners? However, knowing that Graeme Swann has a new injury, and that his wife is likely to give birth at any stage of the tournament (with him probably to fly home at short notice), his selection is fairly understandable. And the other ('shock') selection is Matty Prior getting the nod ahead of Steve Davies.

While dropping Davies after only a few goes (and a good attacking innings only the other day) may seem harsh, some would argue that dropping Prior in the first place was harsh. Prior's certainly in form with the bat, with big scores in the Ashes, and then early in his Big Bash stint (which has now ended as Prior's coming up to join the ODI squad), but it is an about-turn for the selectors, who evidently believed at one stage that both Craig Kieswetter and then Steve Davies were better bets for the job. But whatever, no complaints.

So that's the 15 men England have chosen. Let's just hope they can bring it home. Sprit of '66 and all that...

England's World Cup Predictions

So England's World Cup squad announcement is almost upon us. The 15 brave boys who will be picked to go out and bring it home will already know who they are, and the unlucky ones will be out drowning their sorrows. But we, the public, don't yet know. So let me have a non-educated guess.

For my money, 13 of the 15 are in. Strauss as captain won't miss out; neither will Davies, Trott, Pietersen, Morgan, Bell, Bresnan, Yardy, Swann, Broad or Anderson. So all things considered, and with no further injuries, they'll be the first choice eleven. Collingwood, a man who has been a key part of England's ODI team for a long while should still make it, although now he's been dropped he may be sweating on his place. However, I'd heavily doubt he'd miss out, as he does offer an awful lot to an England team in lots of capacities. Also likely to go is Ajmal Shahzad. England clearly rate him, and he has taken his chances when he's been given them. Indications are that he'll go as well.

So from what I see, those 13 are shoo-ins. Or at least, I'd be surprised if any of them missed out.

But what of the other two spots in the squad? Currently out in Australia are Chris Woakes, Steve Finn, Luke Wright and Chris Tremlett. All men who have recently impressed out in Australia (and Luke Wright). David Saker has come out and said that England won't go with more than 4 seamers, so if Bresnan, Anderson, Broad and Shahzad are going, there isn't space for Woakes, Finn or Tremlett. Which means Wright's probably going. Wright, for all of the loathing I have towards him, is clearly seen as a useful individual who can fulfil numerous roles in the side. While is actually a pointless individual who can't fulfil any role in the side, the selectors and Andy Flower clearly rate him, so he's going. So that's 14.

As well as those taking part in the ODI series in Australia, there's a further lot of players who are in the preliminary squad. Those lucky enough to have an early glimpse at England's World Cup 15 have mentioned that there is a big shock inclusion. So whether that's an extra spin option in Adil Rashid or James Tredwell, or an all-rounder like Peter Trego (who I'd like in there ahead of Wright in any case) we don't yet know. However, by looking at the balance of the squad, it seems a little batter light. So I'd guess that England would look to bring in one of the specialist batsmen.

The specialist bats in the 30 man squad are Cook, Bopara, Hildreth, Lumb, Patel, Adams and Stevens. (If you don't know who they are, you should go and watch some county cricket). If the 'shock' selection is to be believed, it won't be Cook or Bopara. Patel probably done enough to improve his much maligned fitness, and Lumb is pigeon holed as a T20 specialist. I'd be amazed if Darren Stevens got picked, which leaves just Jimmy Adams of Hampshire and James Hildreth of Somerset. Both have had brilliant seasons domestically, and either would deserve a place in the squad. Based on absolutely nothing other than a hunch, I think Jimmy Adams will get picked, as he can act as an opener (in a squad where openers are few and far between).

So using my best detective and sleuthing skills, I've predicted the England 15 man World Cup squad. Will I be right? There isn't long until we find out!

1. Strauss
2. Davies
3. Trott
4. Pietersen
5. Bell
6. Morgan
7. Yardy
8. Bresnan
9. Broad
10. Swann
11. Anderson
12. Collingwood
13. Wright
14. Shahzad
15. Adams

Friday, 14 January 2011

Luke Wright, just go away

I don't like having to bag Luke Wright every time he turns out for England. I'm sure he's a nice enough, harmless guy, and probably gets quite upset when he / if he reads blogs like this or sees that he's trending on Twitter due to a hate campaign attempting to force him out of international cricket. I don't like having to do it. I'm bored of it. You must be bored of it. But what I'm most bored and tired of is seeing Luke Wright being carried by this England team, and offering nothing towards the end product of the team.

Cricinfo's profile of Lukey says he's a "crucial cog" in England's team. Is he bollocks. If this England team was a car, Luke Wright would be a hubcap. It improves the look of the car, but serves no other purpose. And gets carried along while other parts of the car do much harder, difficult and important jobs. While everything looks nicer and cleaner with hubcaps, don't forget that a car can function just fine without them. Luke Wright sits for some reason at number six, and acts as an "all-rounder". He doesn't bowl, and is frighteningly too far up the order, where he is often exposed for just not being a good enough batsman. He's also a bit of a liability in the field. Put simply, he just isn't good enough to be playing for England.

In the past I've banged on about how it's a disgrace that Wright has played 70 times for England over the past 4 years. But I can see how he may have been given a few games as a promising all-rounder, and hoped that he'd develop into a big player for England. Well, it's four years down the line, and he hasn't done that. And when he plays, it's stopping the promising all-rounders of 2011 from playing. If he's meant to be playing as a sixth / backup bowler - there isn't any point, as Collingwood is more than capable of doing that role. And if he's seen as one of England's top six one day batsmen, then I'm sorry, but whoever's selecting him is seeing something I'm not.

I have nothing against Luke Wright as a person. I'd have nothing against his selection if England decided to open with him or use him in a more prominent role with the ball. If England were picking him to fulfil an actual job in the team, such as either a batsman, bowler or even as an all-rounder, then I would judge his selection on the relative merits of what the team management were trying to achieve. However, at the moment, he is not being used as a bowler, or a batsman. Or even as an all-rounder. England would be far better off selecting someone who's likely to do a job in the team, rather than some bloke just because Andy Flower likes the look of him. Luke Wright related rant over. (Until he gets picked again...)

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Podcast - Not in the top six pricks...

Find other fun pods like this on Podbean

Hello, and welcome to the Short Midwicket Podcast. Or for those who didn't listen to the Ashes ones, welcome back! Will has a final cursory glance backwards at the urn (as England ride off into the night with it), and looks forward to the T20 / ODI series to come. Also looked at is the wider world of cricket (there's a world of cricket outside of Australia v England? Who'd a thunk it?), as South Africa / India and NZ / Pakistan are reviewed, as well as the spot-fixing court case. All of that crickety goodness crammed into only 25 minutes? It could only be The Short Midwicket Podcast!

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Welcome to International Cricket Chris Woakes!

And with his first ever England appearance comes his extra-special reward; his name being changed to a nickname when he appears as a label on this site. For here until forever more, Christopher Roger Woakes will be hereforth known as... "Woakesy".

Well done Woakesy for getting picked - I've rated him for ages and have pushed for his inclusion for yonks. I even wanted him in my Ashes squad when I picked it back in October. Safe to say, I'm pleased he's playing, and I hope he goes to the World Cup. And I'm sure he'll take bundles of wickets in the future. And if he keeps his nerve like he did at the end of the T20 there - I'm sure a few runs will follow as well!

Interesting things to note:
*Chris Woakes is the first player to make his England debut since the introduction of this site
*Chris Woakes is the first player listed in the Luke Wright files to play for England
*Chris Woakes is the youngest chronologically to ever play for England (born 1989)

England's T20 Formula for Success

When winning the World T20, England went into it with a solid, structured formula that payed dividends. Two explosive openers. Three big-hitters who can also manouvre it in the middle. All-rounders 6 and 7. Two spinners 8 and 9. Two pacers at the end. And it worked. England have won their last 7 games with that now tried and tested formula, and can rightly claim to be the best T20 side in the world.

But of the original World T20 winning side, there will be some differences for this upcoming T20 series v Australia. Kiesy and Broady are crocked. Siddy's retired. And Lumby's seemingly out of favour.

Yes, England found success with the formula used in the Caribbean, but is it now time to move on? I've spoken before about the lack of point in playing Luke Wright, and if England are playing Bresnan, Yardy, Swann and two others (today Woakes and Shahzad; normally Broad and Anderson) Wright won't need to bowl. And today he picked up his fifth T20I duck - the most ever. So he doesn't bowl and he clearly doesn't justify selection with the bat. So why is he being picked?!

I don't want this blog to be solely a succession of either podcasts and posts about Luke Wright. But he's now played 69 times for England. 69! If he is batting at number six, England's selectors are basically saying that he's one of England's six best twenty20 players. I can think of at least 20 better than him. But I digress...

Ian Bell, as well as he batted today, probably isn't a T20 opener. His classy and elegant stroke play would be better served lower down the order. Paul Collingwood is similiar, while he can play the big shots, he's often better served manouvreing it and allowing big hitting Pietersen or Morgan to rack 'em up down the other end. Number 4 is arguably the most important T20 position - get off to a bad start and you can need to rebuild by pushing singles and keeping your wicket. Get off to a good start and you may come in and start going at 10 an over plus in the last few overs (when batting first) or chasing down a target batting second. I'd rather see Bell in at 4 as a safety net for the potentially brilliant (but also with the ability to misfire) KP at 3 (after a similiar tale with the openers); Morgan, who has the ability to knuckle down or set loose at 5, with cool-hand Collingwood at 6. Don't forget, Colly has the ability to lob down a couple of overs if the main five aren't doing it (another reason to drop Luke Wright...)

While England won the World T20 by being the best T20 team, there are still ways of improving. A slight rejig in the middle order can only be beneficial, and there would be less deadwood in there aswell. At the time of writing I don't know whether England managed to get the world record for the most consecutive T20 wins (am following the Aus/Eng game via Twitter as don't have access to a TV), but my foolproof plan should surely see England onto greater T20 success in the future!

My team:

Davies (wk)
Broad / Woakes
Anderson / Shahzad

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

England's Ashes Ratings

Andrew Strauss: 7
Straus started the series with a duck and a hundred, and sort of went that way throughout. A little hit and miss with the bat, but a couple of handy fifties bumped up his average to an acceptable standard. But most of Strauss's work came as captain - with great field settings, well thought-out plans and evidently top man-management, Strauss had a series to remember.

Alastair Cook: 10
I toyed with not giving Cook a ten because he went 'a bit quiet' for the 3rd and 4th tests, but to not give someone who made the highest amount of runs in Australia since Hammond full marks would just be me being contrary. A huge contribution in three innings victories - all the better for the stick he'd been getting over the English summer when some said that he shouldn't even have gone to Australia. Arise, Sir Alastair Cook?

Jonathan Trott: 8
Made hundreds, and made big hundreds. Trott loves playing against Australia. Trott, once dug into an innings, is incredibly difficult to remove, as his stupidly high average testifies. Wore the Australians down at the start of his numerous innings, and then punished them as they tired later on.

Kevin Pietersen: 7
Made a great double ton in Adelaide, but other than that didn't do an awful lot else. A couple of handy thirties and forties were added to the mix, but England's batting was so strong that those quick contributions were just adding to Australian misery. Seems to be much more integrated into the team ethic of this current England side, which can only be good for England going forward.

Paul Collingwood: 3
It seems harsh to give a member of such a dominant side (and one I gave a glowing tribute to only the other day) such a low score, but I could easily have given him a 1 based on his strong suit (batting), where he looked like he couldn't buy a run at times. However, Collingwood does offer more than that, with some spectacular catches, and two handy wickets (as well as other all-round team contributions), so I've knocked his score up a bit. But if Colly saw this website (unlikely) and his score, he'd be happier in the knowledge that the number 3 is also the number of tests won, and the number of Ashes he's won.

Ian Bell: 8
The monkey which has been on Ian Bell's back for his entire career has been lifted - poor performances against Australia. So often ridiculed and taunted, the new Ian Bell (circa South Africa 2009/10) stood up to Aussie jibes and silenced them with runs. His maiden Ashes hundred at the SCG meant a lot, and he was one of England's (many) shining lights throughout the series.

Matt Prior: 8
His keeping was superb, and his handy, quick runs down the order (at Melbourne and Sydney especially) adds massively to the balance of the team. Good enough to bat at six, but when he bats at seven, England have so much strength down the order.

Stuart Broad: 4
Will be disappointed that his series ended so abruptly, and will also be very disappointed with how few wickets he took. However, he bowled very well without taking wickets in the first two tests, and his contribution by adding pressure (leading to wickets down the other end) in the Adelaide win shouldn't be forgotten. He'll be also disappointed that coming off a 169 and calls for his promotion up the order he couldn't muster a single run in his two innings.

Graeme Swann: 7
While he may not have tore them apart (again), he certainly built pressure, and took handy wickets when his captain most needed them. Pitches were doctored as so to nullify him (showing his threat), and the gulf between Swann and Doherty / Beer / North / Smith was incredible. A big part of the team, and wrapped it up in Adelaide as well as taking key wickets throughout. And he gave us The Sprinkler.

Jimmy Anderson: 9
Many expected him to struggle, especially if the ball wasn't swinging. But his ability to hit the right areas early on, as well as generating a hitherto unseen reverse-swinger made him a potent weapon, and deserved the wickets he took. He led England's attack superbly, and the numerous sub-par Aussie scores are testament to his discipline and genuine skill.

Steve Finn: 7
A steep learning curve, but while he was expensive, he kept taking wickets, which is always a positive. Has much to work on and learn from, but he can (and will be) a brilliant test player for England in the future.

Chris Tremlett: 8
Arguably the best bowler of the three tests he played, the big question was why it's taken him so long to get back into the international arena. Using great pace and bounce to unsettle a fragile Aussie line up, Tremlett more than paid back the show of faith from the selectors, and may have pencilled his name in for the forthcoming few series.

Tim Bresnan: 8
Nobody expected much of Bresnan when picked for Melbourne, but his performance with the ball at the MCG was a great display of swing bowling which put a further nail into the Australian coffin. Then followed that up with a disciplined and dangerous spell at the SCG, pushing himself forward for selection in the next few series. Could play as either a specialist bowler at 8, or an all-rounder at 7, and if his batting during this series has any impact, the patient innings alongside Prior at the SCG should stand him in good stead.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

England Win, This is Cool

It's become cool to say that Australia were awful and England did just enough to beat them. It's become cool to say that England clearly aren't very good, and are just organised. It's become cool to say that this was a meaningless contest between 4th and 5th in the world. But it's not cool.

Yes, England have been organised and determined, but they've been more than that. Yes, Australia didn't play well, but they weren't allowed to play well. And yes, this series masy have been between 4th and 5th, but the Ashes will always mean more than rankings.

England had the best team, the best plans, the best execution and the best fans. (That sounds like a poem, but it's not). Man for man, England outperformed their Australian counterparts (with the exception of Hussey ahead of Collingwood), but the key was that it was a team effort. Bowler's wickets were due to partnerships and the pressure they caused, and the runs were due to players who stepped up and anchored the innings. Yes, they were helped by wayward Aussie bowling and loose Aussie strokemaking, but England could only play against what they were put up against. Of course, organisation comes into it. Every bowler knew the plan for the batsman; the field they needed to set and the line they needed to bowl. And batsmen knew that certain bowlers would need attacking, and some would need defending until they were out of the attack. But organisation and planning only goes so far, it's about executing it out on the pitch. And England did that. This England team would give any other world team a run for their money.

England have strength in depth. Whereas Australia were struggling to find bowlers to put out, England had options coming out of their ears. Broad injured? No problem. Finn expensive? No sweat. Even Swann could have broken a finger, and England would have a test quality replacement waiting in the wings. There are currently two test quality spinners in Australia, and neither of them are Australian. The batting line up didn't need changes, but if it did, there were men available. But England didn't panic after the Perth defeat; they trusteed their batsman and gave them license to score runs. Which they did.

England were far and away the best side, and thoroughly deserved the Ashes win. While it wasn't a vintage, massively tight contest, when the key moments in the games came along, England won them. Heavily. England have won their first Down Under Ashes in 24 years, which out of everything else, is the coolest.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Podcast - Ashes: Sydney Day 4

Thanks Colly

On Podbean

The Paul Collingwood Tribute Post

In a way, it's just as well that England didn't take those final few wickets this evening, or the retirement of Paul Collingwood would have been swept under the carpet. Paul's never been the most flashy or media-hungry player, but it's right that we stand up and celebrate the achievements of a key part of England's recent renaissance.

Colly's biggest strength was his determination. When all would seem lost, he would often be the only one still holding out hope, and would guide England through. While he was never the most technically gifted player, Colly's strength was making the most out of his abilities. However, to see him as purely a nudger or a nurdler who was mentally strong is unfair, he possesses a great range of strokes (why else would he have played a record amount of ODI games and scored a record amount of ODI runs?). While he may not have the flair of a Kevin Pietersen or Ian Bell, Collingwood maximised the ability he did have through sheer hard work and bloody mindedness.

Collingwood made his test debut in 2003, two years after his ODI debut. Called into the test team after Nasser Hussain pulled out late with flu, Colly then went in and out of the test side over the next couple of years. While England enjoyed one of the most successful periods in recent memory without Colly, he did play his part in winning the Ashes in 2005, coming in for the last test. Yes, he only scored 17 runs, but they were the most important 17 runs he scored. Definitely worth that MBE.

Injuries and illnesses meant Collingwood was given his first chance at being a regular in the England team on the Pakistan / India tours over the following winter, and he earned his place with a few fifties, and his maiden test ton in Nagpur. Following this up with a 186 at Lord's against Pakistan the summer following that, Colly had established his place in the test side.

While the 2006/7 Ashes is certainly one to forget, Colly started it in form, with a 95 at the Gabba, and his most memorable score, 206 at Adelaide. Following the winter of discontent, Colly picked up more test tons, with two against the West Indies, before Colly was appointed England limited overs captain.

Colly has since credited his slump in form after his appointment to the pressures of the job, and he was forced to play a career saving innings against South Africa in 2008, after being dropped for the preceding test. But true to form (and his ability to always pull it out of the bag), Colly made a brave 100, keeping his place going forward, and scoring three centuries against India and the West Indies (x2) over the 2008/9 winter.

The innings which personifies Collingwood more than any is his vigil at Cardiff in the 2009 Ashes. With the game all but lost, Paul batted all day (gritty, gutsy, determined, etc) to save the draw. His persistence and refusal to give up gave England hope and without that innings, England almost certainly wouldn't have won the Ashes later that summer. Being a "good man for a crisis", Colly followed that match-saver up with two more saved-when-should-have-been-lost games in South Africa.

As 2010 turned into 2011, questions began to raise again about Colly's place in the team. Young, exciting batsmen were pushing for places in the team, and Collingwood looked out of form and out of touch. But he was still a big part of the team, whether that's with his dibbly-dobblers (who could ever forget him bowling Mike Hussey with what could be his final ever ball in test cricket?) or his superb fielding. The one handed stunner at Perth being a highlight. Dignified and popular throughout, Collingwood quietly announced his test retirement on the morning of day 4 of the 5th Ashes test.

His role in the team as a fill in bowler wasn't always utilised, but when it was, he was the captain's dream - someone who could hold up an end or take pressure off the frontline bowlers. And could chip in with a crucial wicket (again, I'm talking mainly about him bowling Mike Hussey). And as a fielder he was by far the leading light of his generation - a new generation where fielding was as important a discipline as batting or bowling. And Collingwood was easily the best out there. Whether it's as a slip to the spinner or at backward point, his fielding alone will be missed.

Colly's last year in test cricket has been difficult personally, but he's been lucky enough to be part of a massively successful team. With an away Ashes win all but in the bag, Colly has been part of a team that's made history, and the kind of bloke that he is would always take a win for the team above any personal triumphs. England fans will miss Paul Collingwood the batsman, Paul Collingwood the fielder; even Paul Collingwood the bits-and-pieces bowler. But the keenest he'll be missed is in the England dressing room, where they'll miss Paul Collingwood the man. Enjoy your retirement Colly (but not for too long, there's a one day series to win yet...)

Note - just saw an interview with Collingwood just as I was finishing writing this piece. Thanks Colly

And here's why you'll miss Colly

Day Four At the SCG

Before play started...: England dicking all over the Aussies

Where did it all go wrong for Australia?: They gave up the ghost

Where did it all go right for Australia?: They got England all out (eventually)

Where did it all go wrong for England?: No extra wickets in the extra half-hour

Where did it all go right for England?: The first three days, as well as today

Who won each session?: Morning - England. Afternoon - England. Evening - England.

Who's winning the game?: Not even a question of if, but when England will win this game.

Shot of the day: Tremlett's drive for four off Beer. Gorge.

Ball of the day: Anderson's reverse swinger to get rid of Uzzy

Man of the day: There are eleven men in that England team, pick one. I'll go for Collingwood, for no other reason than he should be remembered today.

And finally... Ashes Oddity: I queued up for 45 minutes, to pay for a $30 ticket for day 5. As play ended, the SCG decided to allow free entry tomorrow. Thanks.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Podcast - Ashes: Sydney Day 3

On that there Podbean

A good day in the lives of Alastair Cook and Ian Bell. A bad day in the lives of Mitchell Johnson and Ben Hilfenhaus. A seminal day in the life of Paul Collingwood. A historic day for English cricket. A good day for Will, who enjoyed singing along with the Barmy Army so much that he decided to do another podcast. The even contest of days 1 and 2 are long forgotten as England take control. Hoist up the John B sail, see that the mainsail sails...

Day Three At the SCG

Before play started...: Game in the balance. Evenly matched. Etc.

Where did it all go wrong for Australia?: Bowled a load of cack

Where did it all go right for Australia?: England went off for bad light at the end of the day. And they were partly involved in fundraising.

Where did it all go wrong for England?: Collingwood didn't give his traditional "save-my-career" century, Anderson didn't score the triple ton that I touted him to get.

Where did it all go right for England?: Knocking down the Aussie total, then adding a 200+ lead which should be enough to ensure a series win

Who won each session?: Morning - England. Afternoon - England. Evening - England.

Who's winning the game?: After two really tight days, England dominated this one, and are miles ahead in the game.

Shot of the day: Bell's lift over slips / third man for four. My favourite cricket shot.

Ball of the day: Siddle bowling Anderson. Full, straight, gone.

Man of the day: Ian Bell for getting to his first ton v Australia. It clearly meant a lot to him, and his reaction when he got to his century said it all. Honourable mentions to Alastair "Run Machine" Cook for breaking loads more records in his 189 (but runs for Cook almost a given now), and to Aleem Dar for proving beyond doubt that he is an absolutely massive lad.

And finally... Ashes Oddity: Some of the pink related outfits were interesting, but nothing as odd as the four Americans who stripped down to their Speedos. Nobody wants to see that...

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Podcast - Ashes: Sydney Day 2

On Podbean

A day full of thrills, spills, lols, and no-balls. Evenly matched again, and Will looks at why. As well as insightful and thought-provoking Ashes comment, Will looks at his new found superstar celebrity status. Remember, just think pink!

Day Two At the SCG

Before play started...: The first day was washed out at an intriguing stage. In the flipping balance.

Where did it all go wrong for Australia?: Middle order didn't offer a great deal.

Where did it all go right for Australia?: Tail wagged, and they took some important English wickets

Where did it all go wrong for England?: Looked a bit shell-shocked when Johnson and Hilf started smacking a few.

Where did it all go right for England?: Bowled Australia out for a probably below-par score, and set about knocking those down well

Who won each session?: Morning - England. Afternoon - Even. Evening - Even

Who's winning the game?: Again, really tight. Sticking my neck out; I'd say England at this stage. Just.

Shot of the day: Strauss's clubbed six off Hilfenhaus. You don't bowl there to Straussy.

Ball of the day: Hilfenhaus bowling Strauss. That's where you bowl to Straussy.

Man of the day: Oddly, Mitchell Johnson. Batted well (even making England look scared of him), and took two important wickets.

And finally... Ashes Oddity: The Hoff messing up the tea-time race not once, but twice. Anger followed from the participants, with batons being hurled to the ground. Ugly scenes.

An appropriate picture of Michael Beer...

This probably just about sums up his feelings about his afternoon. Captions please!

Monday, 3 January 2011

Podcast - Ashes: Sydney Day One

Off of Podbean

Day One at the SCG, and it could go either way. Let's just hope it doesn't go the way of rain. A bit in it for both bat and ball. A war of attrition. Generic cricket cliche. See you tomorrow!

Day One At The SCG

Before play started...: Ricky Ponting had an injury, so Michael Clarke stepped up as captain (unpopular). Ponting was replaced at 3 by Usman Khawaja (dayboo), as well as Michael Beer coming in for injured Ryan Harris (also making his dayboo). Ashes retaining England were unchanged.

Where did it all go wrong for Australia?: Didn't tick the scores along as quickly as they would have wanted. Lost wickets at key moments. Nobody went on and went big.

Where did it all go right for Australia?: Good partnerships being developed, Watson showing he's a proper opener, Khawaja showing he's test class.

Where did it all go wrong for England?: Didn't take as many wickets as they would have hoped with the muggy overhead conditions.

Where did it all go right for England?: Took wickets when it mattered, and bowled dangerously. Stopped any free flow of runs.

Who won each session?: Morning - Australia. Afternoon - Even. Evening - Just about England.

Who's winning the game?: Tight one. Both teams will feel there's a bit in it for them. Though with Khawaja falling last ball, I'd say England are ahead.

Shot of the day: Khawaja's pull off Bresnan for 4. Or Watson's drive for four (also off Bresnan).

Ball of the day: Bresnan's one to get rid of Clarke. Nice shape.

Man of the day: On debut, Usman Khawaja. Looked solid and assured at the crease throughout. Will be kicking himself that he got out in stupid circumstances.

And finally... Ashes Oddity: After enduring horrible, miserable weather in England over the past few months, I arrive in Sydney, and my first day of cricket is massively rain affected.

Notes from Sydney - Day 1

Things you won't have seen on TV.

The SCG DJ (the bloke who plays the records) playing Cheryl Cole's "Fight for this Love" and World Cup 2010 Anthem "Waka Waka (This time for Africa) by Shakira. Not knocking the tune-age, but seems an odd choice. But whatever.

The Aussie crowd signing "You are a w*nker" to Kevin Pietersen (admittedly, it did make a change from their other song), with KP clapping along then giving them a thumbs up.

A group of rowdy Aussie drunks heckling Paul Collingwood (who was over the other side of the pitch fielding in the slips), culminating with one of them shouting "Hey Paul, you look cold. Why don't you go and eat one of the pies you bowl". There's sense in there somewhere.

One of the lunch-time kids who are allowed to play on the outfield smashing 4 big sixes in a row of some one about half his age and height (bearing in mind the batter was probably only about 12 himself)

A wicket-keeper in one of the lunch-time games stumping someone by knocking two stumps out of the ground with the sheer force of his glovework.

An English fan being interviewed on the big screen, who then decided to give some abuse to the bloke interviewing him, the Australian crowd, and the Australian nation.

An overexcited England fan jumping up and punching the air for no obvious reason (that may or may not have been me)

Badges with Marcus North, Nathan Hauritz, Clint McKay and Tim Paine's faces on them in a massively reduced sale.

That's all from Day One. Stay tuned for actual stuff about the cricket, both in a blog and a podcast

Here's more stuff about my day

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Podcast: Ashes: Sydney Preview

On Podbean

Ricky's out! But Will is in! (Sydney, that is). Yes, it's the Short Midwicket Podcast, live from Australia. Punter is out, but in comes Khawaja and Beer (who, like Will, is visiting the SCG for the first time), and Clarke comes in as captain. So Will has a look at how they'll go. Also looked at are Ashes-retaining heroes England, as well as Michael Clarke's captaincy credentials, and a one-sided Fantasy Ashes. If you haven't noticed, I'm in Sydney. Just checking that you knew that. Anyway, until next time! From Will, Sydney.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

What Aussies Think

If you haven't noticed my blatant name-dropping and showing-off, I'm in Sydney. Actual Sydney, in Australia. Where the 5th Ashes test is, tomorrow.

If you're sitting there in England, I know the burning question on your lips is what do the Australians think of all of this? (If you're Australian, you probably know what the Australians think. And if you're from somewhere else in the world, you may or may not be bothered). So partly to continue showing off, and also to help give a total insight of the Ashes, here's an English perspective of the Aussie perspective of the Ashes. This is from what I've read in papers and overheard on trains. So pretty accurate.

Australians hate Michael Clarke

Australia's newest test captain has only an 8% approval rating, and is hated for a variety of reasons. From his wannabe celebrity status, to his breakup with the nation's sweetheart* Lara Bingle (*Note - in no way the nation's sweetheart), Pup is being ridiculed, disliked, vilified and generally "bagged" (I learned a new word) in the Aussie press. My humble view on it? If he was making runs, none of this would be happening.

Australians love Brad Haddin

The man who would / could / should be captain. But would he be so highly touted if he wasn't making runs???

Australians respect English players

Jonathan Trott is viewed as a latter-day South African-English Bradman; Strauss and Flower as some sort of dream team sent from above to lead successful cricket teams. Graeme Swann is seen both as a great off-spinner, and as a comedian (fair assessment). His latest Ashes Diary (you know, the one where he does the impressions of Richie Benaud and Tony Grieg) has been repeated many times on every news channel.

Australians think Kevin Pietersen is a dick

His "I resigned for the greater good, so praise me" quote has been added to the general public perception of the big ego (remember FIGJAM?), and while he's respected as a great player, he's still seen as a dick.

Ricky Ponting will be remembered for his three Ashes losses

While his vast achievements as both a batsman and captain have been recognised and celebrated, there is a general understanding that any captain that loses 3 (or at least isn't able to pick up the urn in 3) Ashes series will always be remembered for those defeats.

Usman Khawaja is the new golden boy

All of those marketing-speak phrases like "poster boy for a new generation"; "trail-blazer for many Australian communities" and such have been used for Uzzy. And a lot is expected of his batting.

Selectors don't know what they're doing

Picking Bollinger (universally popular) for Adelaide = bad move. Picking Doherty = bad move. Not picking Hauritz = bad move. 4 quicks at Melbourne = bad move. Steve Smith = bad move. Original 17 man squad = bad move. Michael Beer = bad move. Clarke as captain = bad move. Not much support for Hildrith and the boys.